When I first made the switch from veggie to vegan, I felt a strange mix of excited to try new things and enjoy food even more, but also deflated about how vital, yet widely ignored, the cause was. Eating meat and consuming at an unsustainable rate is still very much the status quo, and this is hard to wrap your head around when you’ve come to an eye-opening decision to hugely lessen your contribution to it. To quote Mr. Morgan (if you know, you know), it “must be tough.” I can concur – it is.
However, witnessing shocking cognitive dissonance and the prioritisation of profits over planet on a daily basis gets easier, I promise! Perhaps I am less of a misandrist pessimist than I thought I was, because over the last two years of being vegan, I’ve managed to adopt a fairly positive mindset and approach. An unexpected side effect of this has been that I’ve been able to influence the people around me; from Twitter friends citing me as having inspired them to make small changes in their lifestyles, to my mum and stepdad doing veganuary and pretty much quitting meat for the long-term, my actions have had repercussions and it’s one of the best things about being vegan.
I’ve written before about how a positive attitude towards vegan advocacy can really make a difference. I thought I would go in a bit deeper and provide some useful tips on how to promote veganism in a mindful and positive way.
1 | Don’t give unsolicited health advice
As tempting as it can be to attribute clearer skin / a stable mood / physical health to a vegan diet, this is an inherently problematic point of view. If someone is struggling with acne, or mental ill-health, or a physical condition, it is categorically not your place to ask them what they eat or suggest they cut out certain food groups entirely. You likely don’t have a true insight into their medical history, nor is it probable that you are qualified to offer nutritional advice – and to be honest, it wouldn’t matter if you were. If someone has not asked for your opinion on how a plant-based diet might help with their ailment, then it is not your place to offer it.
2 | Be encouraging of the changes people are already making
I truly believe that the world is moving in a positive direction when it comes to environmental and animal welfare concerns – there’s that optimism again! It can be hard to believe when you consider that the people in power seem to have a shocking disregard for the future of humanity; on a smaller scale, though, consumers are adopting more conscious habits, and businesses are responding to the demand for vegan and ethical alternatives. Change is happening, folks.
While you may see yourself as having reached the end of your vegan journey, others will just be starting out on theirs and may not even have a switch to veganism in their minds right now. Even as vegans, we often feel pressure to be “perfect” in other ways – from dressing ethically to only supporting independently-owned cosmetics companies – and it’s honestly exhausting. If someone has gone vegetarian, that’s great. If someone is going to replace their makeup with cruelty-free alternatives when the time comes to do so, this should be highly commended. If someone is still eating meat but dedicating a lot of their time and energy to being more eco-conscious in other areas, that’s a worthwhile venture.
My point is, we should encourage everyone who is making changes to live more ethically, however small we might perceive those changes to be ourselves. Not only will they feel galvanised to keep going, they might even end up taking more positive steps and inspiring others around them to do so, too.
3 | Always be intersectional in your approach
Intersectionality has greatly informed my feminism, and is essential to it. Understanding the intersecting needs and situations that different people experience is key to promoting veganism in a fair and positive manner. Instead of spreading absolute messages about how everyone can go vegan but some people just don’t want to, take time to educate yourself on how mental and physical ill-health and financial and geographical situation can hinder people’s ability or desire to opt for a vegan diet. Veganism is about showing a greater level of compassion for all living things – make sure you apply this to human omnivores, too.
Steph’s post on Intersectionality and ethical living offers a useful pause for thought on this topic.
I wanted to keep this fairly short because I feel like these 3 tips encompass several behaviours. Applying these main principles to your conversations about veganism will instantly make you more approachable and aspirational, and will lace your words with inspiration and positivity about how wonderful vegan living can be. Also, you’ll avoid being a dick. Who wouldn’t want that?
Special thanks to everyone who responded to this Tweet. Your honesty and openness helped me come up with these tips.