Some might think that the most difficult part in going vegan is the change in lifestyle and eating habits one undergoes to avoid animal cruelty. But with so many great alternatives and resources available these days, you might find it surprising to learn that the real challenge most vegans deal with is actually trying to navigate established relationships with non-vegan friends and loved ones, and dealing with the pain of seeing them supporting animal cruelty.
What do you do when your friends or family are not interested in learning about the consequences of their animal consumption? How do you react when they refuse to learn about the way animals are treated for entertainment purposes, and yet take their children to the circus, or ride elephants on their vacation in Thailand? How do you maintain important relationships when your loved ones won’t show compassion or perhaps even ridicule you for choosing to live the way you do? What do you do when you are hurting over the consequences of their choices?
Below are four tips on how to hold onto relationships with non-vegan family and friends:
1. Lead by example
I have turned more people vegan (or plant-based at the very least) than I can count simply by being a walking example of the benefits of veganism, or displaying how enjoyable a vegan lifestyle can be. Sometimes, I don’t even have to say a word other than the declarative phrase “I’m vegan” when someone asks me why my skin glows or how I stay in shape.
Being an unwavering ethical vegan and sticking to my convictions so intently while still being able to enjoy mainstream social activities like social outings to restaurants, barbecues and house parties, has also inspired many others to explore the world of ethical veganism and animal rights. Whatever gets the job done!
2. Don’t be preachy
Remember, veganism is about non-violence and compassion, and we must try our best to exercise our compassion toward our human friends as well as our animal friends. Going on the offensive usually puts people on the defensive and the end result could be that they focus on defending their choices instead of listening to what you have to say.
Invite your friends or loved ones out to try a great vegan restaurant or have them over for some delicious vegan fare that you prepare. The intended result is to sway others toward the plant-based lifestyle, so walk softly and speak gently while educating and tackling the veganism debate. You catch more flies with honey (or, better yet, maple syrup), or… you know.
3. Leave veganism out of certain relationships
If you want to hold onto certain relationships, you may have to make your stance known and then leave your veganism at the door when you engage certain people. Perhaps engage with them in activities that do not revolve around food or have the potential of causing conflict or debate.
It’s not ideal whatsoever, but some relationships just need to be handled with kid gloves if they mean enough to you. If they don’t, then sayonara sista!
4. Remember that you were not born vegan
I know it’s hard to recall, but there once was a day when you were not a vegan. And if you have been vegan since birth, thank your trailblazing parents and consider yourself blessed.
We are all on our own journeys in this lifetime, and some may come to the awareness that veganism in our modern society is the only ethical way of life a little late. We cannot push or pull or force others to join the vegan movement but we can gently educate and lead by example with the hopes that their times will come.
Cover image: Shutterstock. Modification: TVW.