This is a tough post in that it relates to being vegan with no vegan family. It can be difficult making the change and keeping to it when your family don’t understand, don’t agree, don’t support, make jokes and don’t bother to research or read up on the devastating effects of living a life which includes animals’ products. It is also deeply disheartening.
My parents are my heroes and always have been. I love my mum and dad to bits and always will. They are divorced now and have been for a good few years and live in different parts of the country with their respective new partners (who are also awesome) but are still my Heroes.
I am lucky in that when I went vegan (at 30 years old) I was living on my own, I left home at 17 so had years of practice fending for myself.
The hardest part about being vegan when your family isn’t (whether you live with them or not) is that you have to watch and see your loved ones, your heroes contributing to a cause you are so passionate about. Seeing them eat and drink and wear the animals you work so hard to try and save. Some families see it as a phase, or think we are meant to eat animals or whatever reason/excuse they give. They don’t realise that when they try and make excuses for their consumer choices, we hear their excuses for animal abuse and death. This is the problem, there is such a big disconnect between animals and the products which come from animals that people don’t realise they are actually defending animal abuse and murder. With every purchase they contribute to suffering and murder. I know family members who wouldn’t look at or watch slaughterhouse footage but will continue to pay for people to recreate the scenes they so adamantly don’t want to witness. This is where issues occur. Just by saying the line about them defending animal abuse, they of course will feel they aren’t. I wasn’t vegan until I was 30 and for those 30 years I never considered myself contributing to animal abuse and murder, it seems silly now to look back and remember thinking that because I so clearly was. The same as if someone buys ivory they are paying for an elephant to die, if they buy bear skin rugs, they pay for a bear to be killed. But I genuinely didn’t think I was contributing to animal abuse. I’m not stupid, (some people may argue that) and I’m not the smartest person ever either (no one would argue that) I know the animals I ate came from somewhere, I know the leather I wore came from somewhere, from someone but my mind built this selective block where I could see an animal in the field and see a steak on the plate and not connect the dots of how it got from one place to another. I didn’t know the methods of killing animals, I didn’t realise the suffering. I knew they had to die but I had built this defence unknowingly in my head where I couldn’t see it.
I remind myself that this is how my family are; they will have the same blocks in their mind and wouldn’t consider themselves being a contributor to animal suffering and this is where the problems can arise big time. Personally, I have not tackled veganism with my family “properly” yet, because I have the worst fear that if I did, if I explained everything, showed the footage, statistics, World Health Organisation reports, UN reports on agriculture and they continued to live a non-vegan lifestyle, I would lose something for them. That is a horrible fear to have. I love my family; I would defend them to the end of the earth. I truly mean it when I say my parents are my heroes, they have been incredible in my upbringing and supported me so much through so much. I don’t ever want to lose respect for them or to have that wedge between us which, makes tackling veganism difficult. I hold vegan outreach stalls weekly remember, so I am pretty confident in talking about it to a variety of people from those who are already in agreement to those who think its funny or even to farmers themselves, so I am not scared of talking about it. I feel if I have someone with an open mind I can get them to at least see the consequences of their purchases no matter what excuse they may have. I stand outside slaughter houses and I can tell them that there is not a different entrance for those who were grass fed, organic, gluten free, red tractor, RSPCA assured (or whatever lies are told to deceive people) animals or those kept in a box. They all go in the same way and come out the same way. They go in scared, panicked and distressed and come out dead in packets.
I think this is the difficulty people have when it comes to family. The family members can feel attacked or preached to and the Vegan can feel their principals and ethics are not being taken seriously. This is why I try and be as friendly as possible when dealing with non-vegans, I try to be positive and relaxed. I have had gestures made to me, had vehicles driven at me and been subjected to abuse from farmers and will always try and respond with a calm smile and wave so they can see that they are the ones in the wrong. I will try and give no one ammunition to use against me and the cause; no one will be able to say “that damn vegan hippy was abusive, violent….” Etc and distract attention away from the animals. If you stay calm and peaceful, the other person will at some point realise they aren’t getting the reaction they wanted/expected and calm down a little which gives you opportunity to talk about things.
There is also a Vegan Pledge (not a household polish) where vegans will pledge not to sit with others who are consuming animal products. I have taken this, informally anyway, which lead to me spending the majority of Christmas day on my own. I am more than happy being on my own so it’s not a sob story and I much prefer being on my own anyway. But I couldn’t imagine being able to enjoy a meal while sitting with people I love and respect as they consumed the corpses of multiple animals. That may sound dramatic to those who aren’t vegan or haven’t made the connection to the animals, but when you have seen how the animals are kept, treated and murdered those images come flooding back when you see them on the plate, even more so when you see the people you love are the ones who with their purchase, signed the death warrant for those animals.
I think the key thing for any family members of vegans is to try and do what vegans do. Step back and look at things from the others point of view. Vegans look at the world through the eyes of the animals who suffer and are needlessly killed. If family members could look from the vegan’s point of view they would maybe realise why some things are hard for us. We aren’t being awkward or preachy. We are fighting to end an injustice which is hard when our loved ones contribute to the very thing we are fighting against. It isn’t that we want to put a divide between us. When we eat away from you we would love for you to try something on the vegan menu and show us that you care. It’s the easiest thing in the world to not do something. To not consume an animal is easy. Show us that you care and respect us by not eating the beings we are trying to protect, in front of us. We all have family members where we may have to be a little different. Either change how we talk, the language we use, respects a religious festival they are holding, go to a gathering for something we don’t agree with etc. So if it’s one meal out somewhere rather than force someone to feel bad and awkward for sticking to their principal’s maybe you could join them. Vegan options are so varied these days, try something new, show that bit of support. Please. It can get very lonely and disheartening when you are Vegan. You see the death and destruction to other living beings and the planet, you are highly empathetic and this can really fuck with your head mentally. To see your loved ones contribute to that is only going to make it worse. If you can remember next time you are with your vegan family member, show that little bit of support and respect for their principals. Veganism isn’t a belief it is fact. The facts won’t change, so educate yourself on them so you can understand their thinking. Most vegans were in your shoes and made the effort to read and research before going Vegan so they aren’t asking you to do something they didn’t. Hopefully when you have the facts you will make the right choice.
For vegans with family members who maybe don’t give you support….remember that unless you were very lucky, you were not born vegan and had to educate yourself to make the connection. Not everyone has made that connection yet. Help them make that connection; don’t go charging in with “WATCH EATHLINGS, MURDEROUS MUM!” or anything like that. Maybe adjust your style to the person, if you are feeling good or you get a compliment about how you look, take it gracefully and add something like “aww thank you, since I stopped dairy my skin has brightened up a lot” or “That’s so kind, I found all that meat was causing me to feel bloated a lot, since stopping it I feel great”. It doesn’t always have to be the attack and scare tactics of animal slaughter imagery. Show them the benefits; explain how it is good for them and not very restrictive.
I firmly believe that when we dive straight in with the animal abuse imagery and words we force people to put a defence up. Understandably so, we have attacked their personality and morals. They don’t believe they abuse animals and will fight you to say otherwise, a fight they wouldn’t ever be able to win, but you will get nowhere fast when someone is trying to defend their character. Best to encourage them with the benefits they may receive and once they are showing interest you can approach the ethical side and I guarantee you will get a better response from the majority of people. I have tried both approaches and the softly softly one works better, not just on family btw but anyone. You will need to gauge the person you are talking to. I could go all out straight into the animal suffering which, I think we all agree, should be enough. “There are alternatives to killing animals, have been for some time, stop killing animals, you animal killer”….that puts people backs up and I know we shouldn’t care BUT to be able to start a conversation it’s so much easy and well received if you can at least get them asking you stuff and keep them from trying to jump to their defence.
Anyway I am going a little off topic and starting on outreach tactics so will call it a day as I have droned on a bit.
If you have had any positive experiences with talking to family or have any tips, please let me know on here, twitter or Instagram.
If you are a family member of someone who is Vegan and have had experiences, good or bad, let me know too.