I have interacted quite a bit with judgmental, harsh, inconsiderate vegans this week and I just can't not write about this topic. The vegan lifestyle is becoming more popular and people are opting for more plant foods in their diets; but being vegan is still very new to alot of people so it's important to be caring, compassionate, and understanding in order for the movement to continue to surge. Changing your diet and eliminating food groups can be scary, jarring, and difficult at first but if you have people around to guide you, it can be an easy transition.
The vegans that I have encountered in NYC are a passionate bunch; they are members of animals rights groups, they have many vegan friends, they join protests and speak at functions. They also post alot on social media about veganism and they are wonderful advocates for the animals. But what some of them lack is understanding for the non vegans and the ability to throw it back to before they themselves were vegan. We all probably ate meat growing up, I know I did, and dairy was a huge part of my life. I came to veganism after I was vegetarian for many years so it wasn't as difficult for me than if I had consumed meat. I was hungry, yes, I didn't always know what to make to eat or what foods were out there but I received Alicia Silverstone's cookbook, the Kind Diet, for Christmas and that was it for me, I was inspired. I was shy to talk about my veganism because I was the only vegan around and I felt funny discussing such a radical lifestyle. Then I thought if I moved to NYC, I would join protests and have all these vegan friends and now I'm realizing that's not my reality. Protests embarrass me, at least the ones I've seen, and they put vegans in such a bad light. It's one thing to discuss your lifestyle with others and offer information when asked but graphic, loud, disruptive tactics that force veganism on others is not the way to go. Nor is judging someone because they haven't switched to veganism or remarking how they're "only" vegetarian. Any time someone gives up meat, even if it's only for meatless monday, they are helping to save animals.
I used to find it hard to understand why people would continue to consume animals products even after they have the knowledge that animal products are detrimental to our health but I have since let it go. I let go what others are doing and focused on myself. If someone isn't inspired to be vegan, it won't happen. If they look at it as a diet rather than a lifestyle, they won't stick with it. I became vegan for animal welfare; my experience is different than the vegan in the apartment next to me. Everyone's journey to veganism is different and it hurts the movement when vegans act like bullies.
So, how do you deal with judgmental vegans?
1. Realize they are passionate but may not know how to channel their feelings. So they get angry with you or force their opinion on your and are just a general nuisance. Calmly explain that you would like a non-aggressive lesson in veganism.
2. Ask the person when they became vegan and why; when they share their story, they will calm down and reflect on their experience.
3. When you feel judged by someone, calmly explain that you are doing the best you can and want to give up all animal products eventually (or whatever your goal is). Firmly state that you don't need someone judging how you live your life.
4. Lastly, try to have minimal contact or avoid a super judgy, super preachy vegan. If you feel comfortable, tell them why you would rather not talk about veganism with them and why you prefer to learn about veganism on your own time.
When we feel passionate about something, our emotions run high, we may raise our voice or become angry if others don't see our point. That's only bad if we channel the anger into attacking others. The compassionate, understanding vegan who educates others and shares their own experience with veganism is going to help non vegans alot more than if they shove their views down people's throats. It's all about the approach and some vegans just don't get it.
What has your experience been with fellow vegans? Do you feel you are a judgmental vegan?