How to speak vegan (to non-vegans)



It’s the challenge that most vegans face at some time of their lives: explaining to loved (and not so loved) ones why you’ve decided to give up meat, cheese, eggs, milk and practically every pastry known to man. It’s pointless to blast hardened meat eaters with environmental facts (that food production already causes great damage to the environment, via greenhouse gases from livestock, deforestation and water shortages from farming, and vast ocean dead zones from agricultural pollution) and even less effective to remind them about the animals (56 billion killed per year.). “Don’t tell me! I don’t want to hear!” is the usual response, which most socially minded vegans try to attend to, while watching the same person tuck into steak or a wedge of Brie. Knowing what it’s cost the planet and the animals to produce them can hang heavy over most vegans in non-vegan restaurants. So how can we speak to those at different points in their journey? HowNow asks those who just might worked it out ….


Jessica Lohmann: “No one in their right mind wants this cruelty.”

Jessica Lohmann is a marketing guru with a background in the corporate world and a deep love of animals running through every aspect of her company, Ethical Brand Marketing.

“Creating change starts with respectful communication. Friend: “Why are you vegan?” Me: “Because I don’t want to support the cruelty in the food industry.” Boy, does this answer trigger. People either get defensive or start making excuses. Why? Let’s be honest, no one in their right mind wants this cruelty. So you only make excuses if you feel a little guilty, right?

Once the excuses start to fly though, the conversation can get tricky, so I’ve learned how to keep things peaceful by communicating respectfully, no matter how painful it may feel at the time, and to offer solutions, not judgement. Unfortunately, the conversations on social media turn into nasty road rage incidents. The ‘angry’ vegans point fingers and call the ‘guilty’ omnivores murderers and then the omnivores roll their eyes calling the vegan insane and closed-minded. In the end, no one wins, especially the farm animals. Just remember. As Mahatma Gandhi pointed out: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”  With a bit more tolerance on both sides, one day, we may be able to create positive changes to help enhance the quality of life for all farm animals. 


Tansy Hoskins: “People want to talk and ask questions.”

Tansy Hoskins is a freelance journalist, documentary maker and author of Stitched Up, a seminal book about the fast fashion industry.

“The mainstreaming of veganism in London is really exciting. There is so much curiosity from people who are interested in dipping their toe in the water or even immersing themselves. As a result, people want to talk and ask questions. It’s important to ask people what makes them interested about changing their diet and then listening to their answer. From that starting point – maybe it’s animal rights, or climate crisis, or personal health – you can build on a discussion that encourages them to stay on the path they have chosen. It’s important to embrace the curiosity. As someone who has been vegan for about twenty years, I have had to get used to being sought out as a source of random advice, recommendations for restaurants or vitamin pills, which plant-based milks are best, child nutrition, which countries to travel to, how to handle unsupportive family members and so on. I always try and help, or point out online resources when I have no idea about the answer.”


Kate Schuler is the author of Veganuary’s best-selling book How to go Vegan from which this extract is taken.

“Telling family and friends that you are trying veganism can lead to one of two outcomes. First, they might find this the most hilarious thing that hasever happened. You’ll have to put up with some truly original witticisms about wimpy vegans and eating grass. We know. Hilarious. But what is equally likely to happen is that you, as a fresh-faced new vegan, brimming with enthusiasm, will immediately start trying to persuade all your friends to join you in this plant-based adventure.

Let’s start with scenario 1: your terrifically funny friends. If you think they are likely to make you the butt of a million jokes before they just accept you’ve decided to try vegan, you could trynot telling them for a few weeks, so when they start up with the tired old clichés, you can respond:That’s old news. I’ve been vegan for ages and you didn’t even notice. That might just take the wind out of their sails. But, if it’s just your turn to be the target of their banter, rising to it certainly won’t make it go away. You will just have to laugh along, and take it on the chin. In time, they’ll lose interest, especially if they see you eating some great food, and notice you’re kicking their butts at the gym or out on the pitch. Besides, in our experience, those that laugh loudest are often the most interested. Give them a little space to ask the questions they are probably bursting to know and see how many of them in time follow your lead. You might be surprised.

Now, let’s look at the other possible outcome. You will be feeling so great on your plant-based diet; you will be sleeping better, looking better, full of energy and with a clear conscience. You may even be feeling a little smug about it all. That’s OK. When we switch to a diet that is good news for animals, great for the health, helps feed the world and protects the planet, we can all get a little exuberant, even evangelical. A word to the wise: self-righteousness doesn’t go down well, and nor does haranguing people about all the reasons why they are wrong to eat animal products.

If you don’t like being lectured, or having your faults, inconsistencies and personality flaws pointed out to you, you can be sure that others feel the same. The people in your life will be much more responsive to the benefits of eating plant-based foods when you’re calm and rational, not when you’re parked outside their house with a banner and a megaphone. Hot-headed arguments rarely end in anyone changing their views.

What does work is being a great example, and a nice person. Some of what you have learned may now be so obvious to you that it’s easy to forget there was ever a time when you didn’t know it, but for your friends and family this is a lot to take in. And the things that horrify us most can be the hardest to accept. It’s a difficult thing, after all, to accept that the diet we have always chosen has an impact on the world’s hungriest or causes suffering to millions of animals. If you blame others for these things, the shutters will come down, and they will tell you where to go. Exactly as you would if they had done the same to you.

Patience is key. Even when people hear about all the reasons that being vegan is wonderful, they will still worry about what they will eat. Inside, we might be screaming WHAT ABOUT THE ANIMALS? or YOU ARE KILLING THE PLANET! But we should never forget these legitimate concerns about missing out on favourite foods. If we’re honest, it may well have been our first reaction, too. And people are just scared of change. That’s normal, and OK. We were too.”

Sadie Cable is a freelance writer.

There’s the ones who like to say things to try and get you to bite (“mmmm bacon”), the ones who hate on you because they think you think your better than them now, and the ones who just make plain stupid remarks (“if we didn’t eat animals, we would be overrun” – enter facepalm here). But rather than getting into rows, defending your lifestyle choices or just outright ignoring people, let’s take a look at a few of the best ways to promote a cruelty free lifestyle.

Step 1: Be Normal. This one is key. Go to parties, go out for dinner, eat at people’s houses (even if you take your own food). Do all the things you used to do before going vegan. To change everyone else’s perspective around you, you gotta go stealth mode on them. Once you’re in, and people are trying your amazing food, seeing how positive you are,, they won’t even realise they are thinking it’s a pretty damn good lifestyle. Seed = planted.

Step 2: Educate. Talk to people, but don’t be preachy about it. Preachy vegans, preachy anything, is just annoying. Education will change the world, not shouting at ignorant people. Gage the person. Are they interested? Have they asked you questions? If you haven’t been vegan your whole life, think about what it took you to wake up, other people are still there. Get out there and spread the word, just try and avoid that row with Auntie Susan who is gunning for you because you don’t eat the same Sunday dinner as everyone else, there are no winners there.

Step 3: Positivity. Basically, focus on the good stuff. It can be hard when so many animals are suffering, and our planet is being savaged but all of us, as human beings, are drawn to positive, magnetic people that pull us in with their good vibes. If you show people you are happy, healthy and having a good time, who wouldn’t wanna get on your compassionate party bus?

This is an extract. For the full article, visit Vegan Life Magazine

Sean O’Callaghan is founder of the popular vegan blog FAT GAY VEGAN, as well as author of ‘Fat Gay Vegan: Eat, Drink and Live Like You Give a Sh!t

“The best way to share information about veganism? Be a good role model and practise what you preach. If you are firm and steadfast in your vegan lifestyle but approachable and compassionate when people ask you about it, you will be the best advertisement for veganism. Explaining what you do and why you do it is very different from telling someone what they are doing wrong. You can explain yourself in a kind and accessible way and look happy being vegan. It can be done!”

You May Also Like

Leading Through Storms

Leading Through Storms was born in 2019 in an ancient woodland site in Wiltshire called Hazel Hill. Picture: Hazel Hill. Once glance at the headlines and you will see that…
View Post