It is a wonderfully empowering thing to realise the degree of choice that we have in our lives by making informed choices about what we eat. This is usually reflective of a long process of considered thought and it is not uncommon to feel a little special. Indeed, we may feel very wise. This can be a bit much for other people to bear as the proverbial zeal of the converted leads us to find a way to drop our capital-V Veganism into any conversation on any subject. And, to not know when to drop the subject.
I don’t presume to dispense advice here, nor do I intend a lecture, but there are some thoughts I would like to share about how we can better communicate with our omnivorous brothers and sisters and with each other.
It’s not about your ego.
- Don’t be angry.
- Don’t judge.
- Don’t accuse.
These tendencies play into the hands of those who would fit us into easy stereotypes and render us easily dismissed as malcontents.
- Don’t be self-righteous.
Nobody wants to be ‘converted’. Implicit in any attempt to do so is the presumption that you know better; that the person to whom you are speaking is ignorant, misguided, or worse. If we pose discussions as a battle of ideas which ‘we’ must win and ‘they’ must lose, we create opposition, resistance, and discord. We are not proselytising. Veganism is not a religion. It requires neither a ‘leap of faith’ nor unquestioning belief.
On the contrary, questioning is to be encouraged! The facts are on our side: we have the advantage of logical consistency.
Lead by example.
- Do stay calm. We are, after all, arguing against domination and aggression.
- Do encourage.
If someone is interested in what you have to say, if they are even remotely considering making the move to a cruelty-free lifestyle, be supportive. Although you’ve been asked: “But where do you get your protein?” more times than you care to remember, rolling your eyes and embarking upon a lengthy monologue about nutritional misinformation, Big Meat propaganda, and the supposed stupidity and ignorance of the population at large is not an appropriate response.
It is an opportunity missed. Sometimes, that one lingering concern about protein, iron, B12, maintenance of muscle mass, etc is all that’s holding that person back from making the move to a better way of life.
- Do be patient.
There will be people who take it upon themselves to ask question after question regarding various extreme hypotheses. They belong to broadly two camps: Those who are trying to ridicule you, and those who are genuinely testing the consistency of your ideas. Becoming impatient, angry, or overly emotive will serve only to entertain the former and disappoint the latter.
- Do be tolerant.
If you are a vegan talking to a vegetarian, bear in mind that you have far more in common than you differ. Telling them that they lack commitment or are somehow not the ‘real thing’ will either infuriate them or make them feel inferior. Neither are particularly helpful to anyone.
If you are a vegan talking to another vegan, resist the temptation to ‘out hardcore’ them by splitting hairs over, for instance, who does or doesn’t eat honey, or whether they’re too much/not enough of a radical or activist. That is not to say that these things should not be discussed, just that it’s all about approach. It is better for us to co-operate than it is to compete, and what is the point of worrying about The Great Rights and Wrongs of this world if we are mean and petty in our dealings with each other?