I’m writing this in the hopes of finding some common ground between people divided by their views on food. I am in no way placing judgment on anyone, and I feel that, because I’ve experienced both spectrums, I have gained some insights that are worth sharing. The following survey solidifies a believe I’ve held for a few years, which is that vegan extremists, who maintain an all-or-nothing type of attitude in regards to cutting out meat, are actually pushing many people away from even considering this as an option.
Now, I am not saying that I don’t agree with veganism, because I do. And I am not here to downplay any of the incredible health benefits that can be gained from adopting a vegan diet and lifestyle, because there are many. I merely wish to say that judging or even hating people who choose to include meat in their diets, both ethically produced or factory farmed, is just adding fuel to the fire. It won’t work.
“Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
It is important to have compassion toward people who make different choices than you do, even if you strongly disagree with them. If you are a vegan, have you ever asked yourself what you were thinking before you adopted your vegan lifestyle? Many are simply unaware of the atrocities that are taking place on factory farms or of the health benefits that can be gained from switching to a plant-based diet. Others still don’t place as much importance on these things as you do, and may instead value the food traditions of their family and culture. And still more have other reasons entirely, and it’s not our place to judge. It is important to understand that by getting too emotionally triggered when you talk about why people should give up meat, you may be inadvertently putting them off even considering it.
A recent survey conducted on 2,363 omnivores from the UK quizzed people on their diets and their attitude toward switching to a vegetarian or vegan diet.
Of those surveyed, two thirds of the group said that they had considered becoming a vegetarian or vegan in the past year after learning about some of the health benefits of cutting out meat or seeing various videos or images from the meat industry.
So, why didn’t they follow through?
The five most common reasons for not adopting this lifestyle change were as follows:
- I like the taste of meat too much (81%)
- Meat substitutes are too expensive (58%)
- I’d struggle with meal ideas (50%)
- My family eat meat and wouldn’t consider going vegetarian or vegan with me (41%)
- The attitude of certain vegetarians/vegans has put me off (26%)
Even though the other reasons were more common than the last, 26% is still substantial, and represents something that we can all help shift together. And part of that involves asking ourselves why it’s so important for people to give up meat and animal products entirely rather than reducing their intake. Isn’t it worth it for people to at least try cutting back? Isn’t that a huge step in the right direction? I believe it is.
Researchers asked those who gave this answer what people had done specifically to turn them off, and the top responses included that “they were too aggressive to those eating meat” and “they consider their way to be the only way.” Another 25% of the respondents said that they had been lectured about their diets — a tactic people should know by now is ineffective. Nobody enjoys being lectured to.
Sometimes We Have to Take Baby Steps
I have written about animal rights issues for about five years now, and I have learned exactly what the above survey has concluded. Aggressiveness and absolutism about food choices actually make people less willing to change. I used to say that the only answer to this issue was for everyone to quit consuming meat and animal products, but I have since learned that there are many, many other options. And no one is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ in regards to the decisions they make about their own diets.
Encouraging others to cut down their intake or make more ethical purchases (I know, there is no humane way to consume meat, but I’d prefer people consume animals that enjoyed a happy, healthy life than the alternative) are more reasonable approaches you can take. Offering plant-based meal ideas and sharing your favourite recipes would also help, as many people simply don’t know what a meal looks like without meat in it.
Try preparing an epic vegan feast and inviting your meat-eating friends over for dinner — in my experience, this speaks far louder than any harsh words. Show people rather than telling them how delicious vegan food can be, and let them make their decisions for themselves.
If meat lovers began to try out a plant-based diet, even for just a few meals a week, they might just begin to see how delicious, inexpensive, and full of variety it can really be, and over time might notice and appreciate some of the health benefits for themselves.
What Else to Consider?
When talking to people about veganism, it is important to keep the other factors that prevent people from adopting this type of lifestyle in mind. If they believe it’s too expensive, then you can offer tips and tricks that you have learned for making this diet more affordable. If they think it’s too time consuming, share ways you’ve learned to make simple and fast meals.
It’s also important to consider how much disinformation is out there in regards to our health, and also the insane amount of lobbying from the meat industry. Our governments and the media do a pretty good job of convincing us that we need meat to be healthy, so many people are simply misinformed. There is so much heath information out there, and so many different diets all claiming to be the best, but no one diet is perfect for everyone, so it’s no wonder that people are confused.
Something I think we can all agree on, however, is the notion that we need to be eating more whole foods, and certainly more plant foods. Even more simply put, we need to be eating more fruits and vegetables! The more fruits and vegetables we are eating, the less meat we are consuming. That change alone would be a huge step in the right direction.
Benefits of a Reducetarian Lifestyle
Nowadays, if I’m promoting anything it’s generally a reducetarian lifestyle. What does this mean exactly? Just as it sounds, it means reducing your consumption of meat and other animal products. Cutting down the amount of meat we are all consuming is a much easier pill to swallow, and won’t seem as daunting to the self-proclaimed carnivores. This approach may also encourage people to put the money they’ve saved on buying meat every day toward buying more ethically sourced products, which in turn supports better business practices.
The best thing we can all do is to check our emotions at the door, remain compassionate, share from the heart, and stay humble. There is no right way — there are many, many ways, and we are all just doing the best we can!
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