So a few weekends ago I set out from my apartment to meet my friends at Fomu, an incredible vegan ice cream shop, and as I walked over the hill to the bus stop I saw quite the spectacle. Even without my glasses (and I really can’t see far without them) I could make out the massive “GO VEGAN” sign being brandished by people wearing life size animal mascot costumes.
I was at first amused and then immediately irritated. This is why people have negative opinions of vegans. They assume that all vegans want to preach at you and go all activist on yo’ ass and make you into a vegan too.
As I got closer I saw their signs and the pamphlets that they were handing out and I snapped a pic of the giant pig holding fliers, because I wanted to post it here. The man next to the pig holds out a flier to me and says, “a flier for the photo?” and I smile and reply, “oh no worries I’m actually already a vegan!” to which he immediately snaps back- no longer friendly- “but you are wearing leather shoes. and your bag is leather. so maybe you should take this,” to which I maturely and eloquently responded by shouting, “OH MY GOD WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?” and stalked off, angrily typing out a text to my friend [“I don’t want to kill pigs, but I have no problem hurting a man dressed like one!”].
THIS IS WHY I AM SO FRUSTRATED WITH THIS WHOLE “VEGAN” IDENTITY THING. Because I feel like other vegans don’t accept me to begin with, and now I am being chastised by a stranger for STILL not being good enough. These people who dedicated their Saturday afternoon to handing out paper materials (most of which were thrown in the closest recycling bin or on the ground) should be HAPPY that somebody on their team walked by. BUT NO. They are so self righteous and holding everybody around them to incredibly high standards and it’s not productive!
First of all- handing somebody a flier that says “go vegan” with sad cows and chickens on it will NOT change anybody’s mind. More on that in a minute.
Secondly- Shouldn’t we all be on the same side? If you want me to change my ways don’t attack me. There’s already so much anger stewing around in this world and if there’s anywhere that I don’t want it to infiltrate it’s from one vegan to another. This is just ridiculous.
Back to the “first of all”- so after seeing all of the people throwing away the fliers or crunching them into balls to shove into the depths of their backpacks, I started really thinking about how to even convince somebody to go vegetarian, let alone vegan. The best way to start exploring this was to reflect on my own decision and what caused me to take factory farmed meat out of my life.
I had always run around declaring that, “I COULD NEVER GIVE UP MEAT I LOVE CHICKEN NUGGETS om nom nom nom” and not thinking twice about where my meat came from. I saw viral videos about the treatment of chickens at KFC and labeled them “false propaganda” and assumed that these videos showed the most exaggerated of conditions. I tuned out whenever somebody mentioned the poor labor conditions, chemicals, or corrupt legislature that all surround our food, specifically meat.
About 13 months ago now I was fortunate enough to spend 10 days learning about food systems in America and around the world. People talked about the benefits to the world of going vegetarian and the messed up system we have. I again told myself that it wasn’t all true and ignored this information. My mind was closed to it. But then I read an article. Just one article that didn’t sit well with me. It was the article about farmed salmon and how they have to be dyed pink because they are actually gray. This one fact bothered me enough to crack the walls that had closed my mind off to giving up meat.
It took 6 weeks for me to change my mind. But over those 6 weeks I read books, watched documentaries, and searched internet for more articles. Finally, the walls fell down completely and I was open to it.
If we want to convince vast amounts of people to give up meat we can’t hand them fliers and hold signs that say GO VEGAN because they are going to get annoyed and ignore it based on the venue that they received the info in. You have to level with people on a rational level with common sense, in a setting where they want to receive information. If somebody doesn’t want to hear what you have to say then they will ignore you. Period.
We have to change our methods or we will continue to speak to deaf ears. Engaging people in rational and mature conversations will open their minds, but bullying them will not. Stop talking at people and start talking with them.