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Guest Post: Thoughts on Vegangelicals

This post comes from my Twitter pal Jennifer Mo over at it's Not Easy To Be Green. She brings up some very valid points and offers some good tips when approaching others about veganism. It can be a very slippy slope helping others understand the reasons for a compassionate vegan lifestyle. 

The reason I didn't go vegetarian the minute I got to university can be summed up in two words: militant vegans. You know, the ones that stand outside dining halls with "MEAT IS MURDER" signs dripping with fake blood. There were a lot of very angry, very in-your-face vegans at my university, and they put me off vegetarianism for years. It wasn't until I got to grad school in a different university, in a different country, that I had the headspace to think through the ethics of eating animals for myself. And then, the decision — for a lifelong animal lover who was nauseated by the sight, smell, and feel of raw meat — was an easy one.

Even though I've come to realize that veganism would be the most morally consistent path for me, even though I'm slowly inching away from the gorgonzola, I'm not a vegan. And part of it is because I still see the word 'vegan' and think of the aggressive, confrontational vegans I knew in college. They made a lasting impression on me, and not a good one.

There are so many good ethical, health, and environmental reasons to cut down on animal products that the desire to evangelize (or, perhaps, vegangelize) some of our own most deeply held beliefs is almost irresistible. But take it from someone who's been on the other side of the fence: nothing made me so likely to eat a hamburger as a run-in with a self-righteous vegan. However, there are better ways to go about promoting a plant-based diet. These are some things that have worked for (and on) me:

· Educate, don't lecture. If the subject comes up in conversation, I'll offer information on, say, the environmental impact of meat, or recommend Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals. But I'm also willing to let friends eat their hamburgers in peace. It's about conversation, not confrontation.

· Share awesome food that just happens to be free of animal products. It's an easy and highly persuasive way to make the point that good food doesn't need to contain animal ingredients. If you provide easy, tasty recipes and show how to cook them, your friends might even start eating vegetarian food on their own.

· Be careful with the labels. Plenty of people find the terms 'vegan' and 'vegetarian' alien, restrictive, off-putting, or frightening. For example, my dad will happily eat meatless meals my mom cooks without realizing they're vegan, but he'll grumble about my cooking because he knows I'm a vegetarian and therefore cook 'vegetarian food.' Actually, it's just food. And no one needs to identify with either 'vegan' or 'vegetarian' label to eat a primarily plant-based diet.

· Accept partial victories. Although many of us dream of a future without animal slaughter, we have to live in the real world. There are strong cultural and ideological ties between people and their meat-based diets. Just getting friends and family to eat more plant-based diets makes a big difference for animals and the planet.

· Respect other people's choices. Ultimately, you can't make people's moral decisions for them. And at any rate, the most enduring changes are the result of conclusions that people came to for themselves. Respect and compassion for animals should always be extended to humans as well.

Thanks Jo! Everyone subscribe to her blog over at Not Easy To Be Green and follow her on Twitter.
Posted in My Blog on 07/20/2010 08:05 am


  1. Great post. I've had a lot of the same experiences myself, although in college I actually became a vegetarian (not the sign-bearing, protesting type). Today I am "almost a vegan" but I wish there was a better name for that! Suggestions?


  2. Thank you for this reminder.  It's easy to get impatient and frustrated with the number of animals being killed unnecessarily for food, and easy for vegans to forget that being yelled at probably wasn't what changed our minds.  I try to walk a fine line, giving people information and gentle encouragement, but standing firm ethically.  Eating animals is not okay, but I do realize how hard it can be to change, and people need friendly support, not criticism.  I'm sharing this article with everyone.


  3. Great guest post. I agree about the label issue. At first I must admit I would lecture people now I just sit back and try to educate instead 🙂 It is hard sometimes because I get so passionate about healthy cooking and looking out for my loved ones health! Great tips 😉


  4. Thanks for all the comments everyone! Jo gives us great reminders of how to effectively help others and live by example. I know I was a crazy vegan when I first started learning about the cruelty and hate 8 years ago, and I quickly learned that wasn't going to work!

    We have to have compassion for all beings and realize that we were once in their shoes and we all were not given a choice growing up. Now we get to choose.

    I like to use the word "plant-based" over vegan.


  5. So.. your argument against doing the thing you know is morally right is "i don't like some of the other people who do it"? I mean.. come on.. that's completely illogical. Not only that, but I was vegetarian for 9 years and had to come to veganism on my own and once I did I *hated* that i hadn't known any vegans to kick my ass into doing the right thing far sooner. I mean, I've never held a sign dripping with blood, but I've certainly been to a protest and know plenty of people who became vegan (when they never would have otherwise) because of "vegangelicals".  I"ve noticed many people who use this term tend to be the ones who think intelligent discussion and debate are also no nos- because even engaging in a debate (usually one you don't even start) is too aggressive.  Your own immaturity is not a good enough reason for the rest of us to stop standing up for others.


    I will not respect someone's decision to hurt others. I would not accept someone's decision to rape others, to abuse children, to beat their spouses.. why on earth would I respect their decision to kill for pleasure? Do you even realize how messed up that sounds?


  6. I think there is a place for everyone in the movement. Some people will be reached best with in your face tactics and protests (especially younger people). Some will go vegan watching a documentary like Earthlings (I went vegan overnight after a friend suggested I watch the Meet Your Meat video on PETA), and some of those who thought "I could never go vegan" do so after coming to my classes, eating the delicious food, and seeing how I do it (by example). I don't think there is one right way, we must respect everyone's way even if it is different from ours.

    Jo is a real person expressing her feelings. If she could feel this way and be on the fence because of someone's tactics, then it's something to consider because that means there are plenty of other people on the fence. Whether you think it's illogical or not doesn't make it any less true.


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