Vegan for a reason
Hey kids. FGV is on a rant.
Have you noticed the rise in bloggers and commentators trying to tell us that when we draw a line in the sand with our veganism that we refuse to cross, we are doing a lot of harm to the vegan movement? Some of these bloggers even go as far to suggest to that being an inflexible (i.e. dedicated) vegan contributes to the suffering of animals.
How do they arrive at this conclusion?
The idea some pundits are spouting runs something like this: if we make veganism appear a difficult choice to embrace with rigid humourless rules, people won’t want to go vegan therefore we are responsible for them eating animals.
Enough of this bullshit!
I have been vegan for approximately 16 years and I’m sure if you ask my friends to name one thing they admire about me, they would probably say something related to me standing up and being vocal for what I believe in.
So instead of eating food that your friend made with dairy cheese, nibbling egg-riddled birthday cake in the office or drinking an isinglass conditioned beer shoved under your snout at a party, take a few seconds to consider what your choices mean to you. Remind yourself of the wonderful moment when you decided to reduce harm by adopting a vegan lifestyle.
Turn a non-vegan offer of food and drink into an opportunity to stand firm in your decision to live compassionately. Your friends, family and co-workers will understand and be supportive (this might take a bit of time in some cases). Anybody who ridicules or rejects you when you offer a polite explanation of your choices is not someone you want to hang around anyway. People who love you will fall in line because they love you.
Of course there will be the occasional snarky comment and passive aggressive eye roll but as it is with most forms of insult giving, this is really about that person and how they are managing their own sense of self worth.
Plus, we are vegan to challenge one of the most systemic and pervasive injustices in the history of the planet. We are going to get kick back because our veganism is a contradiction to every single thing people have been socialised into thinking is right. It can be tough to be the only vegan person in your circle, but I truly believe we have more chance of spreading compassion by standing steadfast and leading by example.
Victories for animals are hard won. They are not coerced out of people by us being apologetic or non-verbal about our vegan choices.
Here are some examples of how and when you can politely turn down a non-vegan offering. These situations are real and they happened to me:
Before I was a blogger, I was a primary school teacher. You might think handing back non-vegan end-of-year presents to parents is the highest form of insult but every time I did, it ended up being a friendly conversation with genuine goodwill expressed by both sides.
One gift consisted of a container of expensive cheese. I waited until the young person was out of earshot before expressing my gratitude to the parent for having been thought of by their family. I explained it was because they were so kind that I felt they would understand and appreciate me being honest why I wouldn’t eat the cheese and that I would rather it didn’t go to waste.
The parent was gracious and appreciative of my honesty. The next day, the student arrived with a vegan-friendly gift and spoke to me of the conversation that took place in their home the night before. He had discovered what vegan means and why some people don’t eat animals. Other students picked up on this conversation and they all wanted to know more. Some of the savvier kids asked about my shoes and this gave me the platform to sensitively explain how veganism ran through every decision I made, even my shoes.
When the next teacher gift-giving season rolled around, every single gift from my students was vegan-friendly. Yes, my stance resulted in less animal products being purchased! Parents would often tell me about a vegan meal they had been served or a new cafe near them that was serving vegan cake.
I won’t lie and say I unflinchingly turned down that first present, but look at the upside of that situation!
During a holiday a few years back, Josh and I booked into an AirBnB lodging and found the host had left cheese for us in the fridge. Yes, cheese again! Knowing that we would be staying longer than the life of the cheese, I messaged the host to explain we wouldn’t eat the cheese due to our vegan status. The host was appreciative to get the cheese back before it spoiled and also inundated me with a massive list of vegan options in the area he had discovered thanks to vegan friends.
Josh and I were invited to a party in Los Angeles many years ago. It was in a super cool part of town with industry types and plenty of wannabe industry types.
I reached out to the host before arriving to check if I could bring my own beer. He said there was no need as beer was already bought in. I explained why I wanted to bring my own beer and he was super happy for me to bring a carton along. In fact, he was worried that he hadn’t thought of his vegan guests in this regard before.
He proceeded to march around the party after my arrival to explain there was now vegan beer available if anyone wanted a can! There were a lot of funny, engaging and friendly conversations about vegan beer that night.
In my role as a party planner, I am often having to explain vegan food and drink choices to bar and pub owners. This can be a tough situation but I’ve never once been turned away or ridiculed.
The only real kick back I see is when managers feel embarrassed that they don’t know what vegan means and how it relates to alcohol.
I never make them feel bad for not knowing and I go out of my way to assure them it is the norm for them not to know. I always offer to go through their drinks list with or for them, marking whatever I know is suitable for vegans. In some cases, this has resulted in the establishment keeping a separate vegan drinks menu for whenever it is needed.
Barnivore is a brilliant online resource for checking the vegan status of drinks and a craft beer shop in Leeds even has it opened permanently on their store computer for the very purpose of helping vegans shop for beer. I’ve recommended it to bar managers who have then written the URL on the chalkboard for future reference.
If we make excuses or keep our compassion hidden to stop other people from feeling confronted or challenged, we will make less progress in our fight to improve outcomes for animals. I sincerely believe we need to be visible and vocal.
Stand strong and assured in your veganism. Be kind and compassionate to non-vegans when you explain your stance. Resist the pressure to do something you really don’t feel comfortable with just because you don’t want to give veganism a bad name.
Live true to your beliefs, treat people with dignity, and work hard to reduce harm whenever possible. Do all of this and you will be the best advertisement for veganism the world has ever seen.
You can be unapologetically vegan AND a nice person who people admire. I’ve seen it done. xx