Being vegan is a peaceful protest but it's a very visible one. You don't have to say a word about animal rights or diet, you can smile sweetly whilst people discuss the steak they are going to have for their dinner that night, you can politely refuse milk chocolate saying 'it's ok, you get to have my share now!', you can bring your own food to dinner parties so you don't have to stress the host. In fact, you can be the nicest and friendliest person in the world, never calling anyone out on their behaviour no matter what. However the simple fact that you exist as a vegan in this world that is mostly made up of non vegans is enough to make others think for a minute - 'Hang on, am I doing something wrong?'
This is of course why veganism is one of the most peaceful and effective ways to fight oppression. The more vegans that exist the more that others will see that we come in all different shapes and sizes, from different backgrounds and cultures, and they can see that its possible to live great lives without harming animals. For some people, the fact that someone they think is cool is vegan is sometimes reason enough to make them consider it themselves.
how dare you make me think!?
Sadly, most vegans know that it's usually not as simple as that. As human beings, when we are confronted with the idea that we might be doing something wrong, usually our first reaction is not to think about the fact that it could be wrong and instead to get defensive of our actions, scrambling around to gather any abstract reasoning to justify them. Of course it's much easier to do that than to spend time reconsidering and evaluating the ethics of our choices in life. Let's face it; veganism seems pretty daunting on the outside because of the emotional connections that we have with food and the worries we might have about our diet, money and how we might be treated socially, not to mention the emotional pain and guilt of caring about animals in a world that consumes them.
The different (and increasingly creative) ways that non vegans shit on veganism never fails to amaze me. Whether it's your boss making constant protein jokes in the staff canteen, your family members trying to offer you 'wisdom' on why it's wrong to be vegan based on dubious articles and false facts they liked on a facebook page, or new friends that you meet that take your veganism as a personal attack on them and rudely tell you why they eat meat and why you should too without you ever calling them out. Some days it can be a struggle to navigate through the various social difficulties that come with being someone who differs from and actively questions what others deem as 'normal'.
It's hard not to get angry when we live in a world where we care about animals and see their suffering yet get chastised for peacefully not taking part in it. I totally understand those vegans who say 'I'm done with humans!' or those who snap and say 'I'm through with being nice about my veganism!' calling meat eaters out in whatever way they deem necessary because it IS painful to witness animal suffering. However time has totally shown us that reactions like this ALWAYS seem to do more harm than good adding fuel to the fire of hate against vegans. This was shown this week when a butchers van in a town in Denmark was vandalised with the words 'murderer!' and 'go vegan'. As you can see here it didn't make anyone consider animal rights or feel bad about the slaughter of animals, instead all it did was make people eat more meat to annoy vegans. No good for anyone.
It's really important to consider our own personal methods of handling and coping with these confrontations both for our own emotional and mental wellbeing and also in hope that these anti vegan warriors will possibly calm down and realise that they are not facing any personal attack. Maybe they can get over the fact that you are vegan and just be your friend and even better if your awesome reaction to their anti vegan argument leads them to consider veganism themselves.
Top tips for coping with haters.
1. Have a support system of cool vegans around you.
This could mean a few close friends that you can meet for a beer to talk things through with or venting out your frustration in one of the great vegan facebook groups. It's important to connect with vegans that inspire you with their kind and eloquent responses to non vegans rather than those that always get you fired up to fight!
2. Have a set of well thought out responses to common anti vegan statements.
If you already have the answers there and can provide links to resources where non vegans can read more you can simply say 'this is my stance on the matter, if you want to read more about why I feel this way click here'. Most of the time anti-vegans won't even bother reading or acknowledging your replies or resources so it can be very tiresome to sit and write a new well sourced response every time, it's usually best to have something saved. Your vegan friends can usually help you out here.
3. Online abuse?
The internet is an absolute cesspool of hate, badly researched viewpoints and oppressive images and language. It can often be a very triggering place. Especially when for example, you just want to share the fact that you are excited a new vegan bakery opened up in your city on your facebook page and someone decides that by doing that you are attacking them personally for not being vegan, deciding to hijack your good news post with an anti vegan statement. It's very hard but its important to try and weigh up whether its worth engaging with this person, ignoring them or actually deleting their post because it's harmful or oppressive. My favourite response when I actually do respond to online anti vegan statements is to ask where people get their sources from or keep asking why they feel a particular way. In asking them about their viewpoint instead of responding with an opposing one it is less likely to become a shouting match and they usually realise themselves that their sources are unreliable and become a little more reflective.
Of course, sometime you are just faced with such undiluted hate, stupidity or stubbornness that the best choice for your own emotional wellbeing is just to block, hide, unfollow or delete. We have to take care of ourselves, and getting involved in or being subjected to a constant stream of anti vegan aggression takes it's toll on all of us. If we let that happen, it doesn't take long before we can't help but be the stereotypical 'angry vegan' character that non vegans love to hate and vilify as a reason against going vegan.
4. Channel your frustration into doing something good.
Every time I hear that 'plants have feelings too' or 'lol bacon though' or 'real men eat meat', it makes me annoyed, sad and frustrated. But these days I use those emotions as fuel to keep working my ass off on Vegan Norway. We are making a difference by making veganism more accessible through peaceful, helpful and engaging activism. In the long run, this is a million times more effective in the fight for animal liberation than an upsetting argument with a stubborn person. So the days when I feel most sad about the ways animals are treated and the oppressive views of others, those are the days when I'm working my hardest on the app.
5. Theres more to you than veganism.
Sometimes we feel like people pigeonhole us as 'the vegan' as if that is 100% our personality and it's all we care about but ofcourse it isn't. We all have rich varied and interesting lives and sometimes its good to take a break from thinking about veganism and make time for your other hobbies. Connecting with anti vegans over these other hobbies might make them stop being so rude to you about your veganism too.
'Wow Jeff is also into the same black metal bands as me, thats so awesome. Maybe he is a cool guy after all and not just one of those hippy vegans. Maybe veganism isn't all hemp and woo woo. I might read up on it.'
If there are social situation where you absolutely must interact with people who are too stubbornly anti vegan to handle, you can at least get them off the subject by talking about other stuff.
6. Vegan Humour
Sometimes things are just so ridiculous in life, the only way to process them is to have a good laugh. The way that vegans handle silly anti vegan statements with humour instead of being enraged can really change other peoples opinions on vegan stereotypes and non vegans even end up laughing along with us in the end.
7. Kill 'em with kindness
Know people who think that all vegan food is disgusting and try to tell you that you need meat to survive? Usually these people have never tried vegan food. Why not cook or bake something delicious for them? Their apprehension to try your 'hippy vegan food' will soon be forgotten but once they taste how delicious it is, it could be a revelation to them.
8. NEVER use other methods of oppression, violence or aggression to make a point about animal rights.
That is just not cool and totally undermines the good work that everyone else is doing in trying to show veganism in a positive light.
18 kilos of cucumbers?
To finish, I thought I'd give a great example of how the vegan community in Sweden used humour to react to an absolutely ridiculous anti vegan article published in DN.Åsikt - the debate website of the Swedish news company Dagens Nyheters. The (translated) title of the article was 'The only wisdom is to be carnivores - Man is created to be a healthy meat-eater and vegetarians are wasting the earth's resources and their own health.' In the article the writer explains that in order to get the 2500 calories that a man needs every day vegetarians would need to eat 18 kilos of cucumbers whereas we only need 0.25 kg of meat and 0.25 kg of butter per day to take in 2500 calories.
Obviously this is a ridiculous statement, and the man went onto write about how damaging it is that vegetarians eat so many cucumbers when they could just 'save the planet' and eat meat. If you read Swedish you can catch the whole article here, and here is a link to it translated into english.
Instead of getting angry at this mans stupidity, vegans all across scandinavia responded to this article in the best way possible, by showing how ridiculous it would be if anyone ate 18 kilos of cucumbers a day.
What a fantastic way of handling an infuriating situation!