I’m sure that most of you are aware that I follow a vegan lifestyle, primarily for the environment but also for ethical reasons. Since transitioning to this lifestyle almost one year ago I have learnt so much about the implications of livestock farming, and – like many other new vegans – I have been shocked and appalled by the industries that I once supported so blindly. It is only natural to want to share this information with others, but a common dilemma faced by vegans is how to achieve this without just being seen as that crazed, “preachy vegan” at the dinner party. I’ve therefore put together these three tips on how to broach the subject with your omnivorous friends and family – through a lot of trial and error I’ve found that these approaches are usually more effective in making people open to discussion without embarrassing either party. I hope they help!
“Raise your words, not voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.”
Firstly, don’t get angry. I know all too well just how infuriating it is to discover what a disastrous impact farming has on animals and the planet, but shouting at people won’t help them to see your point of view. We respond to confrontation by being defensive, so rather than listening to what you’re saying, anyone on the receiving end of your anger will simply close themselves off to your opinion entirely and most likely argue back.
Instead of arguing against your friends and family, talk to them like you’re on their side. Rather than shouting things such as “I don’t get how you can eat that dead cow!”, try saying “Hey, I watched this documentary last week and found out that producing one pound of beef uses the same amount of water as six months’ worth of showers. I had no idea, how crazy is that?” Taking a neutral ground and sharing discoveries together will likely make them a lot more open to listening, and may even encourage them to engage in a discussion about the topic if they don’t feel like they’re being targeted for their choices.
I’ve found that sharing some facts with my family have led to us having some interesting conversations about farming and our eating habits. Whilst they remain omnivores, I think that I’ve done a good job of not making my parents feel scrutinised for their actions, and I’ve really appreciated how interested they’ve been in learning about the implications of eating animals. Before you lose your temper with friends, remember that most of us started off eating animals ourselves too.
“Don’t waste your time trying to explain yourself to people who are committed to misunderstanding you.”
– Shannon L Alder
It’s also important to know when to share information and when not to. Ideally, don’t start talking about how awful dairy farming is when you’re at a cheese fondue party – I know that meal times can be the most difficult and enraging situations, but people aren’t going to respond well if you start criticising the things on their plate. Save it for another time when food isn’t involved and your friends won’t have anything physical to be defensive about.
Equally important is choosing who you start a conversation with. As the quote above suggests, some people simply won’t be willing to listen. Before I had met real-life vegans and learnt about the motivation behind the lifestyle, I myself wrongly believed vegans to be extreme, restrictive beings that lived on celery sticks and were so pale and malnourished they looked like the living dead. How wrong I was! Whilst veganism might seem perfectly logical and wonderfully fulfilling to you now, it’s likely that others still have these misconceptions and won’t even consider veganism a realistic choice. Our governmental advice has been based on studies funded by the meat and dairy industries for decades, meaning that western societies have been brought up on the “meat and two veg” principle and taught that milk will allow our schoolchildren’s bones to grow strong (not true). Opening someone’s eyes to the biased nature of these beliefs won’t happen overnight, and some people will always refuse to see things from another perspective, let alone change their ways. Don’t waste your time getting exasperated by these people – save your words for people who are open to learning more and on whom you can have a much more positive influence.
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
– Mahatma Ghandi
The final piece of advice that I’d like to offer is in my opinion the most important. Not only is the above quote one of my favourite mantras, it is also incredibly wise and effective: be the example. When I joined Instagram and started blogging I wasn’t vegan, but one of the most significant influences on me making the transition myself was being exposed to other “normal” people thriving on the vegan lifestyle. I quickly realised that vegans weren’t scary or weird, and there was in fact a whole community of them out there living abundantly and enjoying life. And they weren’t just eating celery sticks! Very quickly, veganism became something that seemed achievable to me, and I found my beliefs became more aligned with those of other vegans. Soon I was asking myself why I wasn’t vegan, rather than why they were.
Think about it – whenever you find yourself wanting to travel somewhere new, buy a new piece of clothing or read a new book, it’s usually because you’ve seen someone you know or admire doing that exact thing. You’ve witnessed someone enjoying something, so thought that you should try it too and see how happy it makes you. It’s just the same with lifestyle choices: if you saw someone thriving on a lifestyle that they clearly loved, they felt amazing on and they were passionate about, you’d want to see what all the fuss is about. Eating an abundance of plant-based foods energises and nourishes your body and is amazing for your skin, so people may notice how great you look and how much energy you have. They may notice how happy and peaceful you feel once your actions and beliefs are aligned. In short, you can be a glowing example of how fulfilling and rewarding veganism can be, both physically and morally. You’ll attract far more people by living positively and radiating compassion than by angrily confronting others. Be the role model you wish you’d had when you were younger.
I really hope that this advice helps some of you who may be struggling with communicating your feelings to non-vegan friends and relatives. If you have any other tips or want to share your own stories then please message me or comment below, I’d love to hear them!