How should vegan advocates respond to a statement like this one below?
“Some people have bodies that won’t do well on a vegetarian or vegan diet no matter how well planned our diets or how many supplements they take.”
There are lots of ways to respond. How you respond is completely up to you. Here are four options:
1. Don’t argue, just make them think harder about it.
“Even though I’m a Registered Dietitian, I have a hard time with this sort of statement because the person always thinks they know more about it than a random leafleter, especially if their doctor, naturopath, Chinese medicine practitioner, accupuncturist, etc., told them they need to eat meat.”
“I think the best thing to say is, ‘If it wasn’t for your health, would you be a vegetarian?’ If they say yes, you can discuss it more and point them to VeganHealth.org. This can get them to at least admit that they should try a bit harder. Ask them if it would hurt their health to cut out half the meat they eat — most Americans eat more than the recommended amounts.”
Norris’ technique is to refocus the discussion on animals instead of on the individual who has nutrition worries. He aims to help get the person to recognize that animals deserve our consideration and that factory farming must be stopped and to encourage the person he’s conversing with to give the idea of animal rights/welfare more thought and effort.
2. Offer an alternative.
Sometimes when someone says they can’t go vegan for this or that reason, I offer them other options for helping animals. For example, I might ask if they think veganism is a good idea for people who are better able. If they agree that veganism is a good idea in principle, I might ask if they’d like to join me in encouraging other people to go vegan by donating to a peaceful vegan education campaign. If they’re not able or willing, I’d still like to keep them interested in animal rights and so I might offer another, more mainstream suggestion: “Would you be interested in participating in a demonstration against puppy mills?” They’re more likely to go vegan eventually if they’re participating in animal issues somehow, than if they think that if they can’t go vegan now they may as well not get involved at all.
3. Address their particular issue.
If they say they’re sensitive to wheat gluten, perhaps you want to suggest the Gluten-Free Vegan blog, The Gluten-Free Vegan Diet article at Veg Family, or The Gluten-Free Vegan: 150 Delicious Gluten-Free, Animal-Free Recipes cookbook.
If they say they cannot consume many carbohydrates, maybe you want to tell them about Carb Conscious Vegetarian: 150 Delicious Recipes for a Healthy Lifestyle cookbook or the Low Carb Vegetarian cookbook.
If they cannot eat legumes, offer alternative high protein foods like quinoa and seitan. Or explain that protein is widely available in many plant-based foods so if they simply eat a variety of the plant-based foods that they can tolerate, they’re likely to meet their protein requirements.
By now, with millions of vegans worldwide and with the ability to share information online, someone somewhere has probably successfully gone vegan despite virtually any obstacle. You just have to find that person and connect them (or their story) to the person who claims that “some people cannot survive on a vegan diet.”
4. Move on.
Some people are so set in their ways or so scared of change that they can’t think rationally about the topic of veganism. It’s not their fault. Often, they’ve been told that they must eat animal products by teachers, doctors, and other persons in authority. If they ever change, it will take them a long time to change. With these people, it’s probably best to simply move on. You can try again another day.