Monday, 11 June 2012

Answering questions from non-vegans

By Cathy, Vegan Pledge Buddy 2010, 2011 & 2012, and Vegan Campaigns volunteer since 2009

For many people, one of the most challenging aspects of going vegan is how to deal with reactions from other people. Although these may be genuinely interested and supportive, there are times when you might encounter defensiveness. There are however constructive ways to deal with the whole spectrum of reactions and questions that arise – especially if we remember that every encounter of this kind as an opportunity to convey our reasons in a positive way. This short post explains some of the things that help me whenever I'm asked about why I'm vegan. 

~ I look for common ground, which is surprisingly easy to do: after all, hardly anyone thinks cruelty, inequity or trashing the planet are a good thing. In fact, most people share the exact same values that underlie the vegan philosophy. It’s then just a matter of being able to help people make those connections, and start to question the belief system that underlies their complicity in the industries that exploit animals for food. 

~ Even if somebody seems completely closed-minded, I hope to leave an impression on them as an example of a healthy and vibrant vegan who has chosen to tread gently in the world through making this fulfilling choice. Through that, I may just plant a seed which will get watered over time by other exposure to the reasons to be vegan.

~ I take heart from many vegan and vegetarian advocates who offer ongoing inspiration. Some I know in person; others are public advocates whose message I wish to see filtering far and wide through the human consciousness. Just a few examples are Melanie Joy, Marc Beckoff, Kathy Freston and Philip Wollen. There are many quotations from thinkers throughout history who have looked ahead to the day when we treat the interests of other animals with equal consideration. A wonderful website for this is herbweb, which is the source for the pictures and quotations in this post. These never fail to inspire me. 

~ There are lots of resources that I find helpful, in keeping me up-to-date on the facts, discussing the issues and maintaining hope that change is coming. As a podcast aficcionado, two of my favourites are Vegan Radio (US) and The Vegan Option (this UK podcast is London-based, and includes an episode on the Vegan Pledge 2011). There are many great websites out there too; the one I visit most often for regular and reliably good content is One Green Planet.

I also remember 
that I’m in good company. As Philip Wollen points out in the video linked above, there are over 600 million vegetarians in the world: more than the population of the entire EU. We are part of a growing movement, whose time has come. Here in London, we're lucky to be at the epicentre of this movement, with like-minded people to be found all over the place!   
~ In my case, I’ve also come to feel that it’s ok for me to state unequivocally that I'm vegan for ethical reasons, rather than quietly writing it off as a personal choice. Although that might be the path of least resistance, I suppose I have come to feel that peaceful and constructive resistance against this scale of oppression is both acceptable and appropriate. But that doesn't mean I have to make the whole conversation really gruelling. In fact, I always explain veganism as a positive choice that helps animals, people and planet, while offering a wonderfully full, healthy and abundant lifestyle. My motto is 'the best things in life are cruelty-free'. 

~ And finally, here's a nice little quip, courtesy of Snargleplexon, that makes me smile:
How many vegans does it take to change a light bulb?
Ten. One to do it and nine to convince people it really is that easy.

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