By Kitty Jones, VRG Intern
Everyone is different and thus the way in which you approach people will always be situational. There are so many reasons to adopt a vegan lifestyle and your decision to be vegan has a ripple effect on those around you. It is estimated that if someone goes vegetarian they will be saving 30 animals each year, if they go vegan they save 100 (these are not perfect numbers and depend on the individual’s eating habits). These tips can apply to both your friends and family.
Most people haven’t thought of going vegan because they simply don’t know about the issues. The first step is to educate your friends about why this is an important switch to make. Sometimes it can be frustrating or difficult to explain why veganism is important. Documentaries can be very helpful in conveying the vegan message. Throughout the years I’ve shown my friends Peaceable Kingdom, Earthlings, Forks Over Knives, Vegucated, Fowl Play, and short videos like Meet your Meat and 10 Billion Lives. I feel these videos have a profound effect on people’s perceptions about veganism and their responsibility to change the way they eat.
Consider where a person is at and try not to overwhelm or preach to them. When I first went vegan I could hardly stop talking to everyone about it. This is a stereotype about vegans and can be a huge turn off for potential vegans. You don’t want to inundate your friend with too much vegan information or too many vegan rules. It may be less intimidating for your friend if you stick to the basics instead of quickly going in to ingredients like honey, lactic acid, or shellac.
Make and eat vegan food with your friends and lead them by example. The way to one’s heart is often through their stomach. Try adapting their favorite dishes by replacing the animal product ingredients with vegan ones. This works with most meals and helps people realize that their life doesn’t have to turn upside down when they change to a plant-based diet. I often host vegan potlucks at my house, where vegans, vegetarians, and meat-eaters alike get together and enjoy vegan food. You may also try taking your friend grocery shopping with you and showing them what kinds of food they can buy when eating vegan. For extra encouragement you can give your friends recipes or cookbooks to take home and try out. Having recipes in their kitchen gives them incentive to use them!
I often host vegan bake sale fundraisers and potlucks. I have my friends on various diets help me cook and bake vegan goodies, because that in and of itself is a form of activism. Those people are physically making vegan food and it’s becoming more normal to them.
Encourage them but don’t alienate them. You don’t want to make people feel like they have to be vegan or else they’re not cool or a part of some elite club. That kind of pressure can backfire and make people resent veganism. It can also push people away if they feel like veganism is all or nothing. It sounds elementary, but everyone slips up sometimes and if your friend does, remind them that it’s okay and to try again. Every time we eat we’re making a choice. If your friend accidentally eats something with dairy or eggs in it, they can simply make sure to avoid that product at their next meal.
Introducing your friends to the idea of vegan living is definitely planting seeds in their lives. For those interested in going vegan, the best thing you can do is to lead by example. Be patient; share what you know and your food.