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A Few Minutes with Author-Activist Nick Cooney

NickCooney_Headshot_2013_closeup copyPlease know Nick Cooney. He is the Director of Education at Mercy For Animals, a national non-profit animal protection organization, and founder of The Humane League. His work has been featured in hundreds of media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, TIME magazine, and National Public Radio.

He’s also the author of Change Of Heart: What Psychology Can Teach Us About Spreading Social Change, and Veganomics: The Surprising Science on What Motivates Vegetarians, from the Breakfast Table to the Bedroom.

Recently, we connected with author-activist Nick Cooney to speak about his latest book, How To Be Great At Doing Good: Why Results Are What Count and How Smart Charity Can Change The World.


Hi Nick. How is the response to your new book different from your first two?

I’ve actually gotten a much bigger response to the new book than the previous two. I think the topic of How To Be Great At Doing Good – namely, how we can save more animals and do more good for the world by making more calculated decisions about where to donate and how to volunteer – is one that really resonates with people. After all, who doesn’t want to protect way more animals and reduce way more animal suffering without spending one dollar more in donations or one hour more of our time volunteering? It’s actually very easy to do that – this book is about how to make it happen.

frontcoverWhat’s one of your favorite recurring comments about the new book?

One of the key points in the book is looking at the “cost per good done”; for animal advocates, that would be the “cost per animal spared”. How much does it cost to actually save the life of an animal, or to spare an animal from a lifetime of misery inside a puppy mill, factory farm, animal testing lab, or so forth? Some animal protection programs spend $10,000 for every animal they protect. Others spend less than $1 for every animal they protect. The most frequent comment I’ve gotten is shock that some animal protection programs do so much more good for animals with your donation than others. It’s a big surprise to realize just how much is on the line when we decide which groups to donate to.

Your Number One Tip for anyone going on a book or media release tour?

It’s a lot of work – so only do it if you think that it’s a good use of your (and your audience’s) time. Also, try to focus on the audience that needs to hear your message; don’t just preach to the converted.

Do you have a fourth book already in mind or even in the works?

Ha, no. Hopefully there won’t be one for awhile – it’s a lot of work, especially when it’s coming on top of a full time job that you care a lot about.

What book would you most like to see another vegan write?

Actually, one of the things that we’re working on right now at Mercy For Animals (where I work as Director of Education) is getting more factory farming and vegan lifestyle books out on the market from major publishers. So, those books that I want another vegan to write – we’re actively working to make that a reality. The first one is going to be a book by MFA’s Founder Nathan Runkle on factory farming, the birth of MFA, and the battles to create a better world for farmed animals. It’s going to be awesome.

Are you able to easily get fellow authors, peers, friends, etc. to join you for an all vegan meal?

Sure – who doesn’t love vegan food? Actually it’s pretty easy because given what I do most of my friends are already vegan.

How would you describe where veganism was in 2010? And where it is now in 2015? And where it will be in 2020?

In 2010 it was more mainstream than it was in 2005. In 2015, it’s more mainstream than it was in 2010. So we’re heading in the right direction. It’s not clear that the number of vegans and vegetarians has gone up too significantly in the past five years, but it seems like it has increased a bit, especially among younger people. And we’re rubbing off on others: per capita meat consumption in the U.S. is down 10% from what it was in 2005. I certainly hope that trend continues to 2020 and beyond!

Veganism aside, what is exciting you the most in today’s world?

I’m particularly excited by the potential of technologies such as cultured meat production (growing meat from tissue cells – meaning no live animals have to be involved) to make animal farming obsolete. Just as automobiles made horse drawn carriages a thing of the past, I’m hopeful that cultured meat production and similar technologies will make animal farming a outdated, expensive, and unwieldy (aside of course from cruel) thing of the past.

Who in the world most needs to see and ‘get’ Vegucated?

Well everyone of course! But we should keep our eyes broader than just the U.S. and the rest of the English speaking world. Meat consumption is very high in Latin America, and is increasing dramatically in China and India, which both have massive populations and booming middle classes. Another thing Mercy For Animals is doing right now is focusing a significant percentage of our veg advocacy work on those three international regions, to try to help stem the tide of those increases in meat consumption and bring awareness of the benefits of veg eating.