I wanted to write a little about this somewhat incendiary subject for a while now. I’ve learnt, since becoming vegan, that you don’t actually have to be a non-vegan to bear the brunt of “angry vegans” – us more moderate lot are also targets in the firing line. However, that’s a subject for a different day. What I want to talk about is whether this type of approach is effective. I say approach, because I don’t think it’s generalising to say that it tends to be the activist-oriented vegans who come off as “angry”. Own-business-minding vegans have little reason to get all shouty about the vegan thing. At this point, I’m going to do away with the click-baity term “angry vegan” and call them what they are – super passionate animal activists. They’re good people. They really are. They sacrifice personal relationships, status, social normalities, a comfortable place within our society, in order to keep pushing their message out there.
The thing is, at heart, every ethical vegan is an activist. I’m right there with them. I do want everyone to go vegan. I do judge people who keep eating animal products after they learn the truth. But what I’m interested in is what it actually takes to make a committed meat eater take the plunge and go vegan.
What does work?
So, my personal tack is being knowledgeable, approachable and receptive to all points of view. I don’t shoot people down off the bat. I understand that they aren’t equipped with the same depth of knowledge as me about veganism and they’re doing things the way they’ve always been done. These are not bad people. They’re exactly the same person I was 3 years ago. I wasn’t a bad person either. I simply wasn’t informed, educated or enlightened.
Where things can get tricky is if it’s simply ethics under discussion. It’s much easier to do the above if what you’re discussing is health or the environment. When it comes to ethics, it’s a bit harder to be receptive of the views of others. A great example of this can be found in the recent debates that Vegan Gains & Co have been having on YT. When he talks about nutrition, he comes with facts that his opponents simply cannot refute. When it comes to ethics, he frequently hurls frustrated insults, and removes any upper hand he might have had. I actually find these debates really difficult to watch.
So what to do? How do you hold a level-headed ethical discussion with someone when you’re essentially pointing out they are responsible for hideous deaths and torture? It doesn’t seem to matter how many times you keep reiterating “this is my own personal view” before dropping a cold, hard truth nugget, the other party will always put their guard up. I don’t have masses of advice about this, but one thing I would suggest, is that you put yourself back to before you went vegan. Really make that effort to recall your perception of veganism before you saw it in a whole new light. I’ll often say, when it comes to the dairy industry in particular, that I also didn’t realise that’s how we got milk. I level with the other person and I’m honest about times I didn’t know any better. I find that this is a good way to make them realise that you’re not some holier than thou, weird, crunchy, hippy freak. You’re just the same as they are, the only difference is that you acted on the information you’re giving them.
Really interested to hear about your experiences tackling this subject with non-vegans!