Even though it's 2013 and ex-Presidents, former heavyweight boxing champions, and Oscar-winning actresses have put veganism at the forefront of dietary discussions, vegans can still often feel like freaks when the questions and comments start rolling in. Talking with non-vegans can be frustrating. But it can also be really enlightening. Still, to make sure it's not infuriating, you might want to brush up on some talking points before making everyone at the table feel uncomfortable.
Tips for Vegans
- Stop bringing it up. While that may seem like a bit of a chokehold, the truth is, meat-eaters rarely sit down to lunch with people and announce: "I eat meat." How awkward would that be? So why force the issue? If it comes up naturally, so be it, but there are likely lots of other things you can talk about and ways to share with others.
- Remember when you weren't vegan? While more and more babies are being raised vegan, chances are good that you made the decision on your own at some point. There was a moment where it all "clicked." And even though animal welfare concerns are now more widely discussed than ever, a lot of people are simply misinformed or ignorant for a number of different reasons. Be compassionate with others and know that most people are simply doing their best and they're also open-minded to new information when it's presented without judgment or attitude.
- Find shared food interests. Some vegan food can scare non-vegans off. You probably had to get used to tofu at first, too. So try to find items that you can both enjoy like hummus and chips or a gorgeous fruit salad. Share and connect over food that unites rather than separates.
- Be honest. You will inevitably get those tough and often awkward questions (more on that below). It's helpful to share as much as you can without being offensive. Whether you went vegan for health or ethical reasons, being able to clearly and honestly explain your dietary choice can be really helpful to others who aren't that familiar with veganism.
- Be informed. Nobody likes exaggerations or lies, and it can quickly erode a conversation (and a relationship) if it's clear you're not speaking intelligently (or truthfully) about an issue. It certainly doesn't do any service to the animals. How are they treated? What laws protect them? Why is plant food so healthy? Answers are only ever a Google search away…
We know. You love meat. But some of your tactics are hurtful. If a vegan is in your life, please consider the following:
- Please stop asking us about where we get our protein. If you don't know that beans, grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and even fruits contain protein, you're just embarrassing yourself.
- Don't tease. Making the shift to veganism can be very difficult and emotional for people. You might not agree with our decision, but please don't make fun of it.
- Why does it bother you? Often, meat-eaters will interrogate and bully vegans (beyond just teasing). What someone else eats doesn't really have anything to do with you. In fact, the less meat a vegan eats, means there's more for you. Ask yourself why you feel so compelled to push the issue. Is it really about the animals?
- Remember, you eat plants too. The truly totally carnivorous human is pretty rare. The truth is, we all eat plants, and a lot of them. So before you declare that you could never go vegan or are a "meat-eater," remember you're actually an omnivore. You have a lot more in common with vegans than not.
- Be informed. Just like vegans need to be able to support their position, non-vegans should be just as informed. Blanket statements like "we need meat," "fish don't feel pain," or "factory farms are totally humane" only make you look grossly misinformed and can cause frustration and impatience.