Luckily, my mother and sister have embraced the same lifestyle as me, and I don’t have to share a meal with my dad too often. I do have a second job and hobby, which gives me the opportunity to meet and try to influence other people when I am given the chance. Some of them are 100% immune to all arguments I present to them – I always start with animal cruelty, as this is the closest to my heart, and do get very frustrated when I get answers like ‘Animals were made to be eaten’. Therefore, I can imagine how much it would hurt me if I had to hear this from my mum, for example!
This is why I believe the best way is to learn from the experience of others,
who have faced the same situation as vegans having to deal with non-vegan family and friends.
Here are 5 seriously constructive approaches, offered by wise vegans we might just want to take note from.
Obviously it’s hard to sit and watch our friends and family still eat animals when we know how much they suffer. However, if we are going to help animals,
We have to use our time and energy as efficiently as possible on the animals’ behalf.
Therefore, what I have decided to do is not to focus on trying to change those most close to me. Instead, use Adopt-a-College as a way to reach out to those who are receptive. Why spend 30 minutes talking to a friend or family member who we know is never going to change, when we could be spending that 30 minutes handing out hundreds of leaflets to people, some of which will embrace the new information! I’ve had similar issues with co-workers and clients. The best way I found to influence them is to make it known that you are vegetarian, but not really bring it up unless they do, which inevitably they will. All three of my co-workers are now eating more vegetarian foods; I believe eventually they will go veg. In addition, I’ve had really good discussions with a few of my clients who have asked me about being vegetarian. The best way to get people interested is showing them how happy and friendly you are!
I have had the exact same problem ever since I went vegan,
and even when I was still just a vegetarian. Most of the people I know think I’m crazy for being a vegan, and it’s an awful feeling to have to know that the people I care about so much, who I know care about me just as much, could be so against the thing that is most important to me in my life!
However, if we think about it, we can understand where they’re coming from. People do not want to listen to the horrors of what is happening to animals, because it is too terrible to think that their actions are causing so much pain and suffering. Even if they know deep down in their hearts that horrendous things are happening to these innocent creatures, they feel they can clear their conscience of it all if they just try not to think about it.
Our job, therefore, is to do our best to show them the positive side of veganism,
instead of the negative side of factory farming. One of the best ways I’ve found to do this is to make delicious vegan dishes to bring with you every time you go to a big family event. Between the turkey and the brisket, someone is bound to try your stir-fried veggies and seitan dish, and chances are they’ll love it so much they’ll ask you what’s in it. (This has happened to me on numerous occasions — I’ve even gotten my carnivorous Grandpa to like my seitan dish! 🙂 ) This may lead to a whole conversation about the benefits of veganism, including environmental and health benefits. Don’t offer information about factory farms unless you’re asked for it, because this will just give you a bad reputation as being the pushy one who ruins happy family events.
Above all, hold your head high, and continue to stand up for what you believe in, no matter what. For many families, eating meat has been a symbol of happiness and merry-making; we don’t want them to see us as taking away that joy — we’ve just found a different way to experience it without hurting anyone else. We just see the world a little differently, and hopefully, through kindness and patience, we will be able to show them our side.
We must keep the door of communication open.
Continue to show them love and look for ways to connect with them. For instance, there are many ways that our views and their concern for sentient beings intersect, such as sharing in the loss of a beloved pet. Along the same lines, anyone who has accidentally hit a deer or dog while driving knows the devastation of being the direct result of that animal’s death. Being there for others at such a time and seeing your compassion and grief will be remembered. Their circle of compassion can widen when they relate these experiences to the death of other such creatures who are bred for the sole purpose of food production, leather or fur. Triggering these connections in their minds can be done lovingly even though we feel so desperate and urgent about the matter. If we are a continual dump truck of “gross pictures” or information that incriminates their culturally-accepted choices, they are overwhelmed in the wrong way. This all takes time as we live our life around others.
On a lighter note, there are the occasions we often dread, like holidays or birthdays, that need not be as stressful for us. Be creative and take the initiative! Make a shockingly delicious dessert for a family member or friend’s birthday with no strings attached. When the time is right, they may feel safe enough with you to take those first baby steps in the right direction. Because of your track record of showing love and concern for them, you will be there when the time comes, to reach out and lead them to higher ground.
After being a vegetarian for 13 years and a vegan for the last few, I have yet to convince anyone in my family. Over the years I have learned that it’s good to be open about it and answer questions, it makes people more responsive.
Trying to push it on them results in more stubborn attitudes.
I think energy is better spent leafleting — you reach many more people. Unlike those close to you the public won’t take your opinions so personally.
With very close family, I will ask how being around talk of animal suffering and veganism impacts them. How do they feel about it? How do they think I present information about animal suffering — is it effective or off-putting? What can I do to better reach people? In asking these questions, I learn things. Further, the family/friend is heard, which needs to happen before they are going to be remotely receptive to anything I have to say.
When the opportunity presents itself to plant a seed about animal suffering, I try to keep my statements brief and poignant
– a picture that I think is most likely to reach the person I am talking to. This may be pointing out that pigs are as smart as dogs, that dairy cows have their babies taken away and mourn year after year, that up to 18 hours of crowded transport to slaughter with no food or water is accepted practice. By picking only one or two things to say, so much is left unsaid, and that is hard to do. But going further with a reluctant or resistant audience is likely to lead to my being shut out, and the opportunity to plant a seed will be lost. For now, I view myself as one of several seeds someone will need before they really hear and comprehend how tragic the life of most animals is. I want to do my part in planting a seed so that when the next seed is planted — likely by someone I don’t even know — it will have a greater chance of being the one that takes root.
As a final note I would like to point out something important.
Remember, you cannot choose your mum, dad, your brothers, sisters, and grandparents – they are already there for you, and you have to make the most out of this relationship.
What about your life partner, though?
The most important thing is to be honest with yourself and be very clear whether you would be able to live with someone who doesn’t share your values and beliefs. For some families this might work, for others – not. If you are single and still have a choice – make sure you get this decision right!
Dea is passionate about pursuing gentle, pure living in all its forms. She’s a veg and fruit foodie, who loves to explore the healing properties of plant-based foods and then fully indulge in their sun-filled taste. She believes that “In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.”