Vegan-Curious Friends/Family: Supporting and Encouraging

More people are finding themselves getting curious about veganism, I am finding. And as a vegan, I am elated to hear people tell me they are considering stopping eating meat. But sometimes, we vegans can find ourselves a little exasperated at seemingly ‘half-hearted’ ‘attempts’ at going vegan.

Here are a few examples that you might recognize in sorts (and may or may not have happened to me!):

  1. So you get an email from your sister: She tells you she’s thinking of eating less meat and leaning towards Vegetarian/veganism, but says her kids are resisting. The family are doing ‘Meat free Mondays’ so far, but sometimes even that slips….

2. Your parents visit on holiday and, after hearing your info on a vegan diet and eating food you prepare, are interested in learning more about a plant-based diet for health reasons, but they are struggling not having their usual ‘treats’…

3. Your friend, who has never really shown any interest in being vegetarian/vegan before, is now (refreshingly!) asking questions that are not argumentative/defensive regarding eating meat. You can’t help but think about how many times (s)he has started arguments with you on this topic..

4. Colleagues at work, all omnivores, order a Beyond Meat (or similar vegan sub) at the Winter Staff party, and remark how it tastes “just like real beef”, and the launch into a discussion about ‘real meat’ versus fake, and meats they cannot “live without”….

So….How do you react? How should you react? Is there a best way to respond? Ignore, dismiss, rant, preach?

Well, you ‘could’ respond in any of those ways, but maybe, it might be wise, no matter how taken-aback or surprised you are, to take a minute to consider how to respond. To remind yourself why you are vegan, and even to think back to when you became vegan (or if from birth, consider why your parents brought you up this way and became vegan/vegetarian themselves)…

Everyone starts somewhere, and in my most humblest of opinions, I truly think the best approach is to listen, and to gently encourage anyone considering this move. Sure, you could point them to pictures and sites of animal cruelty, but that might not achieve what you are really hoping for at this stage. You could so easily put people, who are just getting into the idea, off. And as a fellow vegan/vegetarian, isn’t your main goal animal welfare and to help people to stop eating meat? I guess I am assuming/presuming here, but it is mine, I have to say.

So sure, your sister might still cook meat – but you don’t have to judge that, what you can do is encourage her, share your recipe books and links… Point her to great vegan restaurants, show her how easy cooking vegan for a family can be… And give her advice, like changing the curry/stir fry she makes to vegan and adding tofu…. Trying out good veggie burger alternatives, and to get the kids involved in taste tests “which tastes the best?” rather than “which is as good as meat?”, for example. Suggest she include more salads and place them on the plate (not in a bowl that no kid will touch!) with a delicious dressing and some bread maybe (*Tip: Keep on with this, and eventually, they may start to try it out!). Make things like Cornflake/Rice Krsipie treats with dark vegan chocolate (trust me: ALL kids, vegan or not, still love these!)… And encourage her to start veganizing things and even introducing new vegan items where they won’t compare to meat.

And your parents: Well, go easy on them – they are older and have harder habits to change… and if they are like my parents (or at least one of them!), then change does not come easy! My parents were interested in becoming vegan for health reasons. They are British, and grew up with meat and veg on the plate for EVERY meal. Encourage them again, support them, send them links: My Parents were keen to watch a couple of documentaries we had mentioned previously (What the Health, Forks over Knives) which showed the health benefits for people around their age, and they related and were excited to think this kind of a diet could improve their health dramatically. So they decided when going back to the UK after their visit, they would go veggie (or as close to vegan as they could manage)! However, a few weeks in, and I gently asked how the diet or lifestyle change was going. Dad was back on eggs (gets them free from a lady down the street, and likes his breakfast, he tells me). He was also off the Soy milk. I tell them to try a range as it takes a while sometimes, to find a product you like. He tells me that his friend told him Soy gives men enlarged breasts, and he looked it up and “it does”, and he is worried. Told him of the actual research, sent him links, but I am pretty sure he still avoids it… Can’t be looking like a woman, apparently! 😉 Ahhh…. deep breath. 🙂 My family are pretty informal, so my brother and I tease him relentlessly, and he takes it (he is the world’s biggest tease, so please don’t feel sorry for him!) It is all taken in good humour and not delivered in any mean way.

So the reason I am sharing is because, as veganism or plant-based or even ‘Meatless Mondays’ and ‘Veganuary’ get more common-place, we should try to celebrate and encourage and share, rather than rolling our eyes or being judgemental when someone is only slightly attempting or doesn’t comply with the vegan definition 100%. Some people will take time, some will wobble, some will go all-out, and yes, some may quit… But heck, some may even start to preach the benefits of veganism back to you! But it is OK… less meat consumption is good. Full stop.

When I was a youngster, I would get annoyed at the “I’m vegetarian, but I only eat chicken or fish” crowd…. But I like to think as I have aged, I have grown in tolerance and understanding. Of course, we could debate the impact of animal farming and meat consumption, cruelty, health, planet etc., and those are all very important issues… And I have spent many a weary evening debating in my youth. But if you have a friend/buddy who is considering going vegan… Please remember to encourage them, support them and show them you are proud. I think it will go a long way to helping them down the road.

I have been through all of these scenarios, btw… And the colleagues at the office party? Well, with this one, I simply smile and show I am happy they chose the vegan burger. Maybe I secretly cross my fingers or make a seasonal wish that they continue down that road… But I keep it to myself. Every time someone orders one of those, they create demand, more options are offered from the restaurant, more orders of vegan food purchased from the wholesaler, and more animals survive.

I hope this post is helpful and not ‘preachy’ or condescending in any way: It is merely my opinion, sharing my stories and experiences and offering a little advice. We are currently in very strange and strained times (pandemic, politics, social, etc.) – so wishing you, your families and friends and the animals you know. calm and peace. 🙂

I wish you all well in your advocacy of veganism…Keep smiling! 🙂

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