13 Sep 2015

How to Help Family & Friends Become Vegan


Once you've been vegan for a while, and you've cooked a lot of delicious vegan meals, your family and friends might start to feel a little curious. At first, they might think you're crazy for avoiding meat, eggs and cheese - but eventually, they might start wanting to try some of your cooking. They might comment on how delicious it is, and how they can't believe it's vegan. They might, even, mention that they would be vegan too, if only they didn't love meat and cheese so much!

And that's the catch. A lot of people are 'potential vegans'. They care about animals, they care about their health, and they like to eat delicious food, just like vegans do. But there's a few issues that get in the way. Addiction and tradition are two examples I've come across often.

"For many people, eating meat is normal. It's something they've grown up doing, and something they never thought much about before."

Let's start with tradition. For many people, eating meat is normal. It's something they've grown up doing, and something they never thought much about before. When meat-eaters talk to vegans, however, they're forced to think about it. These thoughts affect different people in different ways. Sometimes, they'll get defensive. Sometimes, they'll be curious. And sometimes, even, this initial defensiveness will lead to curiosity. This gives vegans the opportunity to show their curious family and friends just how awesome it is to be vegan.

The concept of not eating meat seems (from what I've seen and heard) to be really difficult to comprehend for a lot of people - especially older people. People who grew up in a time when food was scarce can be confused or even offended by the idea of being 'picky' about food. I can understand that, but in actuality, it's not about being picky. Veganism, to me, is about wanting to cause as little harm to animals, people and the environment as possible. So it's a super positive thing, and we can hope that these people will eventually catch on to that. Make sure to let them know.

Help your family learn that all families matter

So, next, let's move on to addiction (a word I'm only using for lack of a better one. If you can think of a better term let me know! I know this isn't really comparable to other, more serious forms of addiction). Cheese has addictive qualities. I've written at length about this in another post, so if you're interested in the addictive nature of cheese, head on over here to find out more. In summary, it can be difficult to give up cheese, but there are lots of alternatives to try, and after being vegan for a while you likely won't ever want to eat cheese again. My post about transitioning from vegetarianism to veganism, found here, has lots of information about cheese alternatives.

Today, I watched a really interesting and informative video by Unnatural Vegan on this topic that I encourage you all to watch. Here it is:

Some vegans probably won't agree with the message in this video, but I think it's totally true, and it's something we should all consider when introducing veganism to non-vegan family members and friends. Unnatural Vegan's message works super well in conjunction with the points I've made in this post.

To summarise Unnatural Vegan's points, most people who eat meat aren't evil. They just don't think the way vegans do. But that can change. I imagine most vegans - including myself - find it impossible to fathom the idea of eating or using animals ever again. We don't understand how anyone could ever want to. And, as someone who hasn't eaten meat since I was six years old, I find the idea of seeing animals as food even more difficult to comprehend. But most vegans ate meat at some point in their life, and most vegans took a while to fully transition into an animal product-free lifestyle. What I'm saying is: the majority of people care about animals and have the potential to be vegan. In most cases all they need is some education, friendly encouragement, and time to reconsider everything they've been taught about animal agriculture. Then, the path to veganism will be the obvious choice to take.

"Veganism isn't hard. It takes getting used to, sure, but it's not hard at all, and if you do it properly you'll never want to go back. Make sure your friends and family members know this."

So the best way to help your family and friends become vegan is to be friendly, helpful and encouraging. Appeal to their best interests. Understand that they probably do care about animals and probably don't really want to eat them. They just need to be made aware of all of the delicious, healthy, fulfilling and nutritionally sound alternatives. Cook for them and show them how awesome vegan food can be, or take them to your favourite vegan restaurant. Perhaps more importantly, make sure they know that the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, and Dietitians of Canada have all certified veganism as appropriate for all stages of the human life-cycle (including during pregnancy, infancy and old age). [source 1, 2, 3]

Veganism isn't hard. It takes getting used to, sure, but it's not hard at all, and if you do it properly you'll never want to go back. Make sure your friends and family members know this. I know it can be difficult sometimes, but try to be understanding. Support and actively encourage any tinge of interest your family members and friends may show. Take any opportunity to educate. Help them realise how amazing veganism actually is. It's getting easier by the day - more and more vegan options are popping up in restaurants and supermarket chains around the world. Now is a great time to act. Make a difference in the world, and help someone you love become vegan today!