Wear Pro-veg Buttons, A T-shirt, Or Hat

A short while ago, Mark Hawthorne posted a list of simple ways that anyone can advocate for animals. Here’s one of the ideas:

1. Wear pro-veg buttons, a t-shirt or hat. Bruce Friedrich has a great technique for engaging strangers in conversation about animals. He wears a shirt reading “Ask Me Why I’m a Vegetarian.” When someone asks, rather than launching into an angry diatribe about animal abuse, Bruce asks the other person, “Do you eat meat?” The person generally says, “Yes,” to which Bruce responds, “Why?” The person will answer with something like, “Well, I like the taste.” Bruce will then ask, “Well, what do you know about factory farming?” And so a dialog begins. I wear a button reading “Ask Me Why I’m Vegan” (which I coincidentally bought from Bruce at a PETA event years ago). I’ve learned to keep my responses simple, and I always keep some pro-veg literature with me, in case someone is interested in learning more.

Let me be honest about this one. I don’t wear pro-veg buttons, t-shirts, or hats very often. I think it’s a good idea to wear those things. And  I do wear buttons and t-shirts sometimes. But…


Years ago I remember reading a PETA magazine that suggested wearing t-shirts or buttons that promoted animal rights. A similar idea was promoted: wear the item so it can spark a conversation and change a mind. Trouble is, I never wanted to spark that conversation! It wasn’t that I didn’t want to speak up for animals, it was that I didn’t want to have to do it all the time. I didn’t want to have to defend my vegetarianism whenever it was convenient for someone else to “debate” or provoke me. Because let’s be honest, who is more likely to respond to t-shirts or buttons? The nice, curious person who is truly respectful or the angry, rodeo-loving cowboy?

Now I’m a little bit older, a little bit braver, but I still don’t often wear clothes that indicate I’m vegan. And I’ll never wear a shirt that says, “Ask Me Why I’m a Vegan.” I have limited patience. I can only handle so many questions, so many “debates,” and quite simply, so many strangers. So I wear small buttons that simply say “vegan.” They don’t encourage the meanies to provoke me, they simply state a fact. Sometimes I’ll wear t-shirts or sweaters. Those too will simply say “vegan” or “veg” or something similar. They are labels, not commands or requests.

I don’t think I’ll ever wear the question, “Ask Me Why I’m Vegan” …It’s just not my style. But a t-shirt that says “cow-hugger“? Sign me up!

One Response to Wear Pro-veg Buttons, A T-shirt, Or Hat

  1. I like wearing vegan message ware because it shows people that veganism is becoming more mainstream without me having to say a word. People think, “hey that guy is vegan and he looks pretty normal and healthy, maybe I should consider going vegan too.” Most people who read my shirts never say anything, but they get the message nonetheless.

    Occasionally, although very rarely, someone will comment about my vegan shirts. In my experience, most of the people who comment are actually quite nice about it. People tend to be friendlier in person than they are online. Some people who comment are former vegetarians and some are just curious and have valid questions about the lifestyle. It’s even better when there are a lot of people around because then they can overhear the conversation and might consider a vegan lifestyle too.

    Every once in a while someone will be rude or antagonistic. I usually just let these people talk. Rude people make for great examples of what a non-vegan is, so I just let the a-holes speak for themselves while I remain pleasant and unphased. Bystanders tend to think the rude meat eater is out of line and that the nice vegan is someone they might want to be like.

    A few days ago, a guy who saw my vegan shirt mentioned that he would like to have a shirt that said “meat-eater.” I replied “Really? Is that something you think needs to be promoted?” He fumbled for a second, perhaps realizing how ludicrous his position was, and then was quick to point out that he tried to go vegetarian once but it was too difficult for him. It started a nice conversation with the guy vowing to give the veggie lifestyle another try.

    I can understand the urge to keep my veganism in the closet. It is more comfortable not to have to defend my choices. But I figure that I ate meat for many years and caused a lot of animals to suffer needlessly. I am still very upset that I didn’t “get it” and wish that some wise vegan would have clued me in earlier. The least I can do now that I know better is to do my best to clue others in to the vegan lifestyle. The rather insignificant discomfort I feel when questioned about my choices is nothing compared to the suffering I caused, and others are still causing, by eating animals. I guess I am saying that I think I owe it to the animals I hurt to speak up whenever and however I can.


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