Thursday, 13 May 2010

Should Vegans be Vocal?

No matter how long you’ve been vegan for, we’ve all been there. That awkward conversation when someone realises that your lunch is missing something. Animal Products. You hold your breath through the three second silence which follows, as the information processes, and questions immediately begin bubbling up in your audience.

What do you eat? Why don’t you eat eggs? What about honey?
And then there are the snide comments. Your diet is bad for you. Your body needs meat. Why are you doing this to yourself?

I’ve been vegan for almost five years, and was vegetarian for six years before this. That’s over ten years without meat, and confirmation enough that my body does not, in fact, need meat. That avoiding dairy does not leave my bones crumbling beneath me, and that eating a diet which is low in cholesterol, rich in fruit and vegetables, grains and pulses- as well as scattered with decadent desserts- does not leave me hungry, withdrawn and craving animal products!

It must be similar to my own thought process when I consider what people with certain allergies eat. My immediate thought is that of sorrow and mourning of fresh, crusty and fluffy filled breads, spaghetti, cakes. I know that the Free From sections of supermarkets are packed with gluten and wheat free products, but I don’t really know how up to scratch they are- and restaurants must be even harder. But you learn what’s good, what’s bad and where to go to get the best Free From products.

So I wonder- when people are staring, and pestering and judging, should we be vocal and explicit in our replies, or should we be reserved in our responses?

Generally my response is to answer a couple of questions politely and simply (no graphic descriptions, gory home truths, pointed fingers and accusations). I try to balance a convincing case, with a non judgemental argument for the animals.

At other times I can get a little carried away. When a friend asked how I would feel if a doctor told me I had to eat meat, for health reasons- my mind raced and I blurted out a disjointed and panicked response, along the lines of it being my worst nightmare, and how disgusting it would be to eat meat. Whilst others tucked into their BLTs.
It’s just how I feel though- but should we be this vocal? Is it helping us, to distance ourselves from meat eaters? Sometimes I think that some are born with this moral stance- I can’t help but believe that I was born to be vegan, and that it would have happened eventually, and that some are meant to eat meat whilst others are not. My parents and grandparents ate meat. My friends all ate meat- I had one friend who was vegetarian, and her sister was vegan. This was the only contact I had with a meat- free menu, at the time that I went vegetarian. Hardly enough to convince most, but what she taught me really stuck. At the time I saw veganism as extreme and fairly unnecessary, but it wasn’t long before I began researching and chatting to other vegans. Again, the information really stuck in my mind, and once learnt was not easily forgotten. Sometimes I think that because I was lucky enough to learn the truth behind my meals, others might need to learn this information too.

So what do you guys think about voicing your veganism? Do you explain in graphic detail the truth behind meaty meals, or keep to a reserved response?


  1. My tactic is to explain about how I drifted into being vegan. Researching the best foods to eat for some health problems I had led me towards a mainly vegan diet, the health problems went away, I bought vegan cookery books and looked at websites and in the process learned more about farming which is actually what now keeps me vegan 4 years later. I steer away from graphic details unless someone directly asks. I love to share good vegan food with friends, family and workmates as often as I can. I think showing people that you love food and that you don't feel deprived but are doing what feels right for you makes people curious and maybe think about what they eat a bit more.

  2. I do think vegans should talk to people about veganism. We can save so many animals by being vegan but so many more by talking to people about veganism. But that being said, it's not easy to do this! I can relate to many of your experiences..when I get emotional, I babble so my biggest challenge is staying calm! And considering that I am normally a calm person this is a bit weird that I have this problem.

    The Boston Vegan Association has an amazing pamphlet available for vegans to do advocacy work. The argument for veganism is starts with getting people to first agree that animals should not be harmed (most people will eagerly agree to this especially in relation to cats and dogs) but then talks about how the dairy/meat industries cause horrific harm to animals. It hard for them to disagree with this because they have already agreed that animals should not be harmed. This approach has worked so well for me. Disclaimer that I volunteer for this group but I'd still think it was awesome =)

  3. In general, I encounter two sort of people: those who are genuinely interested and who are asking for a longwinded discussion that usually ends with me sharing a recipe or two, and those - very few- that are trying to ridicule me. It's easy to recognise who is not up to a proper discussion anyway. For any stupid comment or questions, I usually have an answer that shuts them up :)

    I don't go out proclaiming that I'm a vegan and am not evangelical about it, at least not in everyday life (AR activism is a different thing and big part of my life. just not at work/parties/whatever). I answer questions when asked and try to win over those that don't ask any with food.

  4. I totally know how you feel. People here in Hawaii look at me like I am crazy. A lot of times they are just at a lose for words. They just stare at me for a few seconds like I am an alien and then say, "So...What DO you eat?" I am usually nice about my answer and non confrontational, but that is just me in general. If someone asks questions about it and I can tell they are genuinally interested, then I will go more in detail into it. I also run a no-kill animal rescue so I run into idiots all the time. I would say that it just depends on the person and situation, but that is me :)

    I am following your blog now. Great post! Check my blog out as well, and follow if you like.

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