It’s a known fact that vegans are the kind of annoying, self-important people that make you want to tear your hair out when you’re around them, right? Well what if I told you that there were vegans out there that didn’t call you murderers, didn’t tell you about their diet as soon as you met them and didn’t make gagging sounds when they saw you eat burgers?
This is a guide for everyone out there that has made the transition to a vegan lifestyle or is thinking about it, but wants to retain their friendships after making the switch in this tricky polarising time.
1. Don’t call meat eaters murderers
Name-calling is not only completely ineffective but it’s also rude and is the past-time of kids in the playground, not grown adults trying to have mature debates about ethics. Calling someone a murderer is never going to change what they are doing, in fact it will probably strengthen their resolve to ‘murder’ as many animals as possible because you just gave them a brand new source of hatred. You!
So if you really want to save animals rather than calling omnivores murderers, why not start a debate about how we can revolutionise the agricultural industry to be carbon sinks, or even just how to make the best vegan chicken pie?
2. Don’t be judgemental
This goes for both omnivores and other veggies/vegans. Judging people for how they look, act, eat and talk is unfortunately an automatic human reaction. However, that doesn’t mean that you should air these judgements at every possible moment. You might see someone on the train that’s wearing the worst hat you’ve ever seen (think faux zebra pattern with a neon pink bow, green sequins and tassles for days – if this was you I’m sorry and I’m glad your happy in your body and your hat). But even if this hat literally made you want to gouge your eyes out you wouldn’t go over to them and tell them that. Why? Because not only would that be rude but it would probably make them feel terrible and impact their confidence, and that’s not a nice feeling to give or to receive.
In exactly the same way don’t judge omnivores for the decisions they make. It’s their body and they can choose what goes in it, and we have to respect that this is their choice. No amount of judgement will change that and will just turn them against other veggies and vegans (even those they have never met), making a very difficult and hostile environment for those of us simply moving through the world trying to not cause too many ripples.
The same goes for judging other members of the veggie/vegan community. So you have been vegan for 20 years, go to animal saves every month and drive an electric car. Great! That doesn’t give you some kind of magical moral superiority to lord over everyone else, especially not those that are trying to be veggie or vegan but aren’t quite there. For so people cheese holds them back (it did hold me back for many months!), maybe they can’t afford it or maybe they live at home and their parents would never accept it. You don’t always know what’s going on in someone’s mind or life, so just tone the judgement right down and everyone will thank you for it.
3. Don’t be an angry vegan
You’ve probably got that one friend or family member that’s always angry about something, and that can be riled up with one word right? Do you take them seriously? Do you listen to anything they say past the first line of their rant?
It is exactly the same with angry vegans. You can write a well-written, factually based 10 page essay on the ethics of raising and slaughtering animals, but if you write it as an angry rant no one will bother reading past the first line. The best way to get your point across is to be well-measured, sensible and to give space for them to talk and respond. Don’t talk at them, talk with them and see the change in how they interact with you when you treat them with respect (even if inside you are seething at what they just said or presumed!).
Now having read this far you are (hopefully!) saying something like ‘SEE this is the kind of vegan I don’t mind! They are always just so judgemental and hateful, if they were reasonable and respectful of my choices then I wouldn’t mind them. If only they could be more like Bea’
But the fact is that nearly everything I’ve written so far I don’t believe. Asking a vegan to be okay with your choices is asking them to choose between friendships and their morals. The things I say everyday about veganism to my friends in order to be welcoming and respectful make me want to slap myself. I say so many things I don't believe to keep friendships, make veganism seem more accessible and to ensure a respectful dialogue (not that most people are respectful to you when you tell them your vegan). Here are just some of the nonsense things I say every day, and what my conscience is screaming at me when I do:
- It's your body, your choice - How about the body that they are frying in your saucepan? Did they get a choice?
- Yes some vegans just need to stop being so angry – Well it’s pretty hard not to be angry when over 200 million animals are needlessly slaughtered around the world every single day, simply because they taste nice (although it’s the plant-based flavourings added to them that actually make them taste like that)! I will stop being angry and judgemental when people stop choosing taste over life.
- No one should call meat eaters murderers or other names - Now while I agree that name-calling is ineffective and just plain rude, I understand that insult. I see animals as equal to humans, and they are animals just like us with feelings and a desire to live. When animals are sent to a slaughter house their throats aren’t slit in self-defence, we abuse our intelligence and power in order to hurt and kill them, other living breathing beings, as we want. If that’s not murder then take back my English Literature A-level back because apparently I didn’t understand how to use a dictionary. The only difference between human animal and non-human animal slaughter is the word ‘human’. There isn’t a difference in the pain they can feel as they possess central nervous systems, and many animals have a huge emotional capacity. Watch a video of pigs screaming as they are gassed in the slaughter house and tell me they don’t feel pain, or watch a mother cow running after a trailer as her calf gets taken away so we can drink her breast milk and tell me they don't feel.... I’ll wait.
- Plus you know, the fact that processed meats like bacon, sausages and chorizo are class 1 carcinogens, meaning they definitely cause cancer and other red meats are class 2 carcinogens meaning they probably cause cancer. Check out the World Health Organisation’s website for more information on that, and they will link to the hundreds of studies they assessed in order to draw such a conclusion.
So the fact is that every day I make a choice. I make a choice to sanitise my views and become the nice, non-judgemental, helpful vegan that people like to interact with. It’s effective as an activist and it helps me move smoothly through life, especially as I attend an agricultural university at which there have been actual hate crimes against vegans that mean it was very dangerous to start the veggie/vegan society I run. It still remains to be seen whether we will be able to continue safely in an environment that is so hostile towards us, and this is the lovely sanitised version of us! I have helped three people move to oat milk from dairy, inspired my family to reduce their meat intake and my boyfriend has come to his own decision to be (nearly 😉) vegetarian and cut out most cheese which 2 years ago would have been laughable.
So whilst I am the ‘kind of vegan people actually like’, most of it is a lie, and it takes an emotional and mental toll to censor my views in order to make them palatable and likeable for others. So by all means dampen down your true views in order to help show people the death behind the products they eat and to keep yourself safe, but make sure you have a space or a friend with which you can be honest and open about your true views. Plant power!
The quote we learnt recently from one of the first proponents of animal welfare really sticks with me, and I hope it is one that everyone thinks on:
“The question is not ‘Can they reason?’ nor ‘Can they talk?’, but rather ‘Can they suffer?’”, and there is no way to ethically kill something that does not want to die.