Talking With Non-Vegans About Veganism: Five Principles
by EVOLVE! Campaigns on Saturday, September 25, 2010 at 9:52pm
I find being vegan very easy. I don’t even have to think about it, it’s just who I am now. Once I knew the truth there was no way I could take part in the exploitation of animals and once I changed my lifestyle there was no way I could or would go back to my old ways, nor would I want to. No matter how much I thought I liked milk chocolate or cheese or whatever other excuse people come up with, I didn’t miss it for a second once the switch clicked on in my head and I realised the suffering my food choices inflicted upon animals. Suffering is one of my least favourite words in the world, it makes me shiver. Animals suffering so that I may take pleasure in their produce, well, the thought is simply abhorrent. And so to me, like I said, being vegan is easy. In fact I take more pleasure from my food (and other products I purchase, for example non animal-tested cosmetics, toiletries, cleaners etc.) because I am now conscious of the fact that my choices cause no harm.
But I am also aware that most of the people I come into contact with on a daily basis don’t feel the way I do, or at least are not living their lives in a way that tells me they do. That is the part of being vegan that I don’t enjoy. Feeling like an alien in a foreign land when it seems so simple and so right and so very normal (in my mind) to be living this way. Why hurt animals when you can easily live without doing so? Why do non-vegans get so upset and so vocal about cases of cruelty to single animals like dogs and cats, such as the case of Mary Bale putting the cat in the wheelie bin, and yet turn a blind eye to the billions of animals being subjected to hideous conditions in industrialised production facilities while consuming the flesh of slaughtered beings on a daily basis without a qualm?
How do vegans come to terms with this happening all around them? How do we even begin to try opening the eyes of other people to the truth we know and understand? I suppose it’s important to remember that we were once them, unless of course we were lucky enough to have been born and brought up vegan. Once upon a time I too called myself an animal lover and yet I consumed animal products. I didn’t make the connection, I don’t know why I didn’t and thinking about it now is difficult. But I changed. And all it took was reading about the cruelties involved, about the fact that ALL animals feel love and pain and fear, ALL want to live, none would choose to die… and that in suffering we truly are ALL equal. My heart expanded, my eyes opened, I thought about it and bam, I totally got it!
I can only hope that the message I try to spread about veganism will be heard by other people and then they too will go on to help and educate others. Veganism begins with a change of heart but goes on to make such a difference, in so many ways.
On this subject, I found the following blog very interesting and helpful. ~RC, EVOLVE! Campaigns
Commentary #19: Talking With Non-Vegans About Veganism: Five Principles
Posted by Gary L. Francione in Blog, Podcast
In this Commentary, I address a topic that I have been asked to cover by a number of you: how do we talk with non-vegans about veganism?
I present five general principles:
Principle #1: People are good at heart.
Our default position when we talk with people ought to be that they are good at heart, and interested in, and educable about, moral issues. There is a tendency among at least some advocates to have a very misanthropic view of other humans and to see them as being inherently immoral or uninterested in issues of morality. I disagree with that view.
Principle #2: People are not stupid.
There is a tendency among animal advocates to believe that the general public is not able to understand the arguments in favor of veganism and that we must “go easy” and instead of talking about veganism, we should talk about vegetarianism, “Meat Free Monday,” “happy” meat and animal products, etc. I disagree with this very elitist way of thinking about other people. There is no mystery here; there is nothing complicated. People can understand if we teach effectively.
Principle #3: Do not get defensive; respond, don’t react.
Yes, some people will try to provoke us or will ask questions or make comments that we find insulting or that we take not to be serious. If someone is really not interested in what we are saying, they will, as a general matter, walk away. Treat every comment and question—even the ones you find abrasive, rude, or sarcastic—as an invitation being offered to you by someone who is more provoked (in a positive way) by you and engaged than you might think.
Principle #4: Do not get frustrated. Education is hard work.
You will get the same question many times; you will be asked questions that indicate you must start at the beginning with someone. But if you want to be an effective educator, you have to answer every question as if it is the first time you heard it. If you want others to be enthusiastic about your message, you have to be enthusiastic about it first.
Principle #5: Learn the basics. You have to be a student first before you become a teacher.
Many animal advocates become excited about abolitionist veganism and the next thing that happens is that they set up a website or start a blog that is motivated by the right feelings but not informed by clear ideas. Before you teach others, learn about the basics. Take advantage of abolitionist vegan resources, such as the videos, pamphlets, and other materials available on this site and materials available on other abolitionist sites such as animalemacipation.com and the Boston Vegan Association.
The sad fact is that the biggest obstacles to vegan education are the large, new welfarist groups that have become partners with institutional animal exploiters to promote the consumption of animal products by giving various forms of “animal rights approval” to animal exploitation.
These new welfarist groups are part of the problem; they are not part of the solution.
I hope you find the Commentary to be useful. As I indicate, I will be pleased to do future Commentaries in which I address further issues related to vegan advocacy depending on the feedback I receive on this Commentary.
Go vegan. It is easy. It is better for your health and for the planet. But most important, it is the morally right and just thing to do.
Gary L. Francione