Do you have friends who seem to care about animals but aren’t vegetarian or vegan? Do they post stories on Facebook about cruelty to pets but seem to overlook the cruelty to farmed animals like pigs, chickens, cows, and fish? Do they ask for help in finding homes for shelter dogs but do nothing to support anti-cruelty initiatives for farmed animals? Does it make you cringe when you see this, wondering to yourself why they “Love One But Eat The Other?”
Many vegans are afraid to speak up. They worry that doing so will threaten the friendship. But if you keep it civil and focus on the animal cruelty then the discussion doesn’t have to put friendships in jeopardy. Remember that all relationships involve some conflict. The problem isn’t the disagreement. The problem is the resolution. If there isn’t any resolution (where both parties feel respected and heard; where apologies are given and accepted; where there’s mutual agreement to move forward rather than linger in past hurt) that’s where the problems lie. But if you converse with respect and care, you won’t jeopardize the friendship. If you just make sure to try to understand their perspective then these conversations will be more productive. To do that, ask questions and try to remember how you thought before you went vegan.
Another technique for creating positive change in others is to acknowledge that any reduction in animal product consumption is a win for animals, the planet, and human health. Of course we want people to go all the way and go vegan. But we shouldn’t let our long-term goals cloud our interpretation of short-term successes. Many people are more receptive to learning about animal cruelty and adopting vegan eating if they don’t feel like it has to be “all or nothing.”
Lastly, choose your battles. You may not want to take every single opportunity to advocate for farmed animals. So sometimes you may want to limit the discussions to a one-on-one basis rather than with a group of nonvegans; this way the playing field is more even and you can have more of an impact. Or you may want to have the discussions in private email rather than publically on Facebook. Sometimes you’ll want to just sit back and let others do all the talking so you can better understand their perspectives and so they feel respected. Moreover, you don’t want to interfere with any actual progress they’re making on behalf of companion animal cruelty. You do want to support them in that!
Now, with the above said, here are some ideas for how to respond. When a nonvegan makes a commitment to help end cruelty to companion animals, you can take that opportunity to say…
- “Aww that makes me so sick when people are cruel to animals. Did you know that the same kind of suffering happens everyday on factory farms?” Then you can show them the short film, Farm to Fridge and ask them what they think.
- “Bravo to you for standing up for companion animals! Now are you ready to take the next step and stand up for farmed animals too?” You can follow up by asking them to boycott factory farmed meat or go vegetarian a few days a week. Give them a goal that feels realistic to them. Don’t ask them to change everything all at once if that’s going to feel too overwhelming to them. Instead, give them a target within their reach.
- “All kinds of animal cruelty are wrong. I’m really glad that we have some laws that protect pets. Did you know that farmed animals like pigs and chickens don’t have any significant legal protections?” You can follow up by offering information about how to join an organization like MFA, HSUS, or ALDF so they can participate in legal campaigns to increase protections for all animals.
- “It’s our moral obligation to prevent needless animal cruelty. That’s why I support what you’re doing to raise awareness about animal cruelty. That’s also why I’m vegan.” Here you can offer a veg starter guide or offer to loan them a vegan cookbook. This would be a good place to tell your story about how you made your transition to veg*nism.
Got other ideas for good responses? Feel free to share them in the comments below!