Veganism is too counter-cultural. I don’t want to be that awkward person at a party asking if everything is vegan!
I’m not going to ask my mum what’s in her cooking and refuse to eat it if it’s not vegan, she will crucify me!
Awkwardness is part and parcel of standing up for what you believe in. If you’re not willing to stand up for veganism, what other moral convictions will you cast aside when it becomes too awkward to express them? In order for our actions and morality to matter we’ve got to voice it when it’s important. Otherwise you are just following whatever is socially acceptable rather than thinking critically about your opinions.
This was a big part of the reason that I was vegetarian for a year prior to going vegan. I felt there was a lot of stigma with the word vegan and didn’t want to be associated with it. I didn’t want to be mocked, and I didn’t want to have to explain myself under the attention of numerous people. I was embarrassed. Eventually I realised a number of things:
- Opting out of what I believed as a moral conviction because I was scared to associate with it was not the best version of myself. It was a betrayal of my core values.
- You get to choose how to act as a vegan. You can be as quiet or as loud as you like, you can be as compassionate or outraged at carnists as you like. Be the vegan you wish you had met. No-one can take your v-card away.
- The impression you have of veganism almost certainly comes from the most vocal/controversial portions of the community. If you don’t identify with that, that’s fine, there’s the vast majority of the vegan community you haven’t heard from.
- The outrage you see from the most controversial activists is very justified. If 70 billion humans were being killed needlessly every year we would judge people who weren’t outraged.
- You don’t have to approve of all actions of all other vegans. There is tonnes of internal debate and saying “I don’t agree with that” is absolutely fine so long as you still don’t use animal products!
- You being the vegan you want to see in the world is a chance to change people’s mind about veganism, it is an act of activism in itself to share your form of compassion and discussion with other people, even on a very low-key level.
Family in particular can be really hard to tackle with veganism, in part because many families use food as an expression of love. If not handled carefully, even a highly-non-confrontational passing on a plate of food can come across as rejection of it as ‘not good enough’, which can make the parent in turn feel inadequate or rejected personally.
What you put in your body is your choice, however. You should never feel obliged to consume anything you don’t feel comfortable with just to please some-one else. When approached with honesty and compassion, and crucially clarity that it is not a rejection of their cooking, of their love, or of them, an understanding can usually be found. A great way of dealing with it is offering to cook for your family in order to A) show them that vegan food is not just lettuce and grated carrots and B) that you are willing to put in the effort to show some goodwill.
Friends & Colleagues
Social situations can be tough in general, especially when you don’t know the crowd’s disposition towards veganism. Remember to take into account your own level of comfort with attention, and desire to talk about veganism when choosing your approach. It can be a great opportunity to talk about veganism with a new crowd, but you’re no less vegan if you aren’t comfortable with the spotlight on you and choose to fly under the radar as much as possible.