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Talking to Non-Vegans




an exchange of diverging or opposite views, typically a heated or angry one.

Having discussions about veganism with non-vegans can be challenging, they can easily turn into an argument and involve a lot of emotions. People can become angry and feel the need to defend their position, no matter what the counter argument is. But, having open and respectful conversations is crucial for promoting veganism, for encouraging understanding and, potentially, causing a lasting and positive change. By using empathy and evidence based arguments, with a focus on common ground, we can have conversations that will make people reflect and potentially influence people to consider plant-based choices.

people having a discussion
Conversations about veganism don't have to be oppositional

Using Empathy and Understanding

Before getting into a conversation with someone it's important to approach them with empathy and understanding. That is to see things from their point of view, whether that is understanding that living in a non-vegan way is a habit, it can be cultural, or it can be that they believe that it is essential to eat animals. Ask people why they eat meat, drink milk, wear leather, buy wool. Some people think that, if you don't eat meat, you'll die when in most cases your health will be improved by removing meat from your diet. People believe that drinking milk makes your bones stronger, the inverse being that not drinking milk makes bone weaker, science has shown otherwise. When it comes to wearing leather, people will tell you that natural materials are better, but they don't know about the amount of water used, the chemicals used in tanning that get washed into waterways, causing pollution. The chemicals used in the curing and tanning are highly toxic, for the people working with them as well as the environment. In conversations show respect, gently show people the evidence for the what you tell them, but don't use the facts to beat them down or make them look stupid, no one is going to listen to that.

Using Evidence and Facts

When having your discussion, rely on evidence and facts to support what you are saying. Don't just talk about your personal story, prepare in advance by being familiar with key statistics, scientific research and ethical considerations. Stay up-to-date with the news, popular and unpopular opinions about veganism and plant-based diets. Presenting well researched information can increase the chances of your message being heard. Scientific papers, case studies and research can be found on websites like Pubmed and Google Scholar and when reading papers always check for any conflict of interest. The dairy industry, the egg industry and even supplement companies will pay for studies that will support their message, messages that aren't always scientific, but will drive sales of their product.

Find Common Ground

Try to find common ground with the person that you're talking to, identify what values you have in common, whether it's health, caring for animals or climate change; focus on the areas where your views are aligned. By finding the opinions that you have in common you will create an easy starting point for your conversation that will show them how veganism intersects with many different ethical, environmental and health issues. Highlighting where your thinking is the same will make someone less opposed to hearing what you have to say and make them less defensive.

Do Not Judge or Condescend

Keeping conversations as positive as possible, avoiding judging the person that you are talking to, is another way to make someone more open to listening. Do not criticize or shame non-vegans for their choices. Emphasise that veganism is a journey, no one gets it completely right, veganism isn't about perfection, it's about consciously trying to do better, for yourself, the planet and everything on it. Tell people about your own vegan journey, that you haven't always been vegan, about the challenges that you had, what made it easier and how you overcame them to get to where you are today. But, also let them know that everyone's journey is different, your story is not their story, that they can approach veganism in a different way and still be doing something really positive.

Listen and ask Questions

When you are talking to people make sure that you are actively listening, not just waiting for them to stop speaking so that you can say your piece. Ask them open ended questions, encourage them to explain their views to you, this will help them to explore their beliefs as well. By showing genuine curiosity and really listening you will create an environment where the other person feels heard and respected and will open them up to a more meaningful conversation. You will also learn more about why people are resistant to veganism, helping you when speaking with people in the future as you can prepare to counter their opinions.

Share Personal Stories and Experiences

Personal knowledge is a valid topic when talking to non-vegans and your story can be a powerful tool for connecting with people. Share your experiences, your story of why and how you went vegan, tell them about how going vegan positively impacted your life, both in your body and in your mind. Telling your story can make the idea of going vegan more real to people, make it something that really can be done. You can also use your story to support people, you can recommend documentaries, books and websites. If you are part of a group, or know of a group that may help them, you can show them how to join. There is also the practical aspect of veganism, what food to eat, dairy replacements, how to get all of your nutrients, how to cook good food and apps that can help with the practical aspects of vegan life.

Having positive conversations with non-vegans requires empathy, evidence based arguments, the ability to listen and a focus on finding common ground. By approaching the conversation with an open mind, with understanding and respect, you can have a conversation that will encourage reflection and inspire positive change. You must remember that this is not about winning an argument, this isn't meant to be an argument at all, it's about opening people's minds to what veganism really is, how it changes your life for the better and the positive effect it has on the world. With patience, empathy and thoughtful communication we can contribute to a more compassionate and sustainable world, one conversation at a time.


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