So last week I wrote a post about how we can encourage more people to go vegan, but today I wanted to share what you should not do. As arguably this is more important than what you should do! The last thing we want to do is put people off from going vegan, so take a look at the tips I have.
So this may sound obvious, but it’s amazing how common it is in the vegan community. Don’t be aggressive. People hate being told off, they don’t want someone shouting at them (or tweeting at them in all caps) telling them that they’re a murderer and an all round terrible person because they eat meat. I’m sure that this approach has worked for someone, but I’m fairly confident that it’s putting off more people than its persuading. People respond to you if you’re nice, friendly and subtle.
One example of this aggressiveness which I think is particularly damaging is the group Direction Action Everywhere. These are the people who walk into meat-serving restaurants with signs while screaming about how horrific the meat and diary industry is. I’m not disagreeing at all that it is horrific. But this approach leaves the people in the restaurant feeling extremely defensive. They’re likely thinking why would I want to even listen to these people who have come in and decided to ruin my meal and attack my diet. We have to consider the way people behave, people don’t like being ambushed.
Another example of how not to convert people to veganism comes from my university town, Guildford. There is a woman who walks all around the town centre holding up a range of signs with vegan messages on. She approaches people and tries to talk them into veganism. She is known across the town as ‘crazy vegan lady’ and has got in legal trouble numerous times for her ‘vegan outreach’. For reasons including trespassing in a local school (yep she was trying to convert the school kids!) and protesting at an armistice day ceremony. If anyone sees her they try their utmost to avoid her.
Acting in these kinds of ways only encourages us to be seen as strange and militant. I admire the passion, but this is not how we want to be seen. We want veganism to go mainstream, we want it to be seen as normal. We don’t want it to be strange. If it’s perceived as normal, then normal people will be more inclined to look into it and get involved. And most people are in fact, normal!
It’s important that when we want to encourage people to go vegan we don’t have the ‘all or nothing’ attitude. The truth is, most people are willing to reduce their meat intake, or maybe cut out dairy. But a lot people feel that veganism as a whole is too overwhelming. This sucks, but we need to encourage people to do what they feel they can. 100,000 people who do meatless Mondays have more of an impact than 10 people who are fully vegan. A lot of people say ‘I would go vegan but I couldn’t give up cheese’ we should respond and say ‘okay well do exactly that, eat mostly vegan but have cheese if you really want too.’ If the person then goes on and does this, they will have much more of an impact than if you had said ‘that’s not good enough you need to be 100% vegan to have an effect’. And you never know, in time the people who start out only giving up a few things might end up going fully vegan in the future. Sometimes people just need time to get comfortable.
There are many ways to eat healthily while eating a vegan diet. We really should not be promoting a specific type of a vegan diet. This will only discourage people. For example, a couple of years back the ‘high carb low fat’ diet was extremely prevalent and advertised as if it was the only way to be healthy on a vegan diet. This isn’t true, people can eat vegan very differently and still be healthy. Adding extra guidelines only further pushes people away from a diet which many people believe is already restrictive.
That’s my advice for how NOT to convert people to veganism. I just feel that we need to consider how people behave and how our minds work, as humans we’re not always as rational as we think we are. If you wanted to check out the things you should do to convert people to veganism, check out my blog post about that here.