What Do You Do When People Attack You For Being Vegan?

Does everyone turn on you when you say you are vegan? Sometimes just being in the same room at mealtimes is all it takes. Don’t let it get to you; it isn’t personal. Despite the fact you will be bombarded with questions about where you get your protein, whether your shoes are leather and what you would do on a desert island, it doesn’t even have anything to do with your vegan values or your personal vegan journey. At that moment, they really don’t care about you. It is all about them.

Is there anything that would make it worthwhile for you to allow them to vent? What if it helped them go vegan sooner? Well, it will. As long as they aren’t being abusive, then the best thing for you to do is let them vent because this is part of the process they need to go through to go vegan. Maybe not today, or this month, it might not even be this year, but it is a step that needs to happen. If you care more about animals than your own feelings, then you will realise this is a positive step for them because they are confronting the situation.

“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”
— Arthur Schopenhauer

Most people’s antagonism is fueled by the cognitive dissonance and subconscious guilt they feel for being complicit in animal abuse in some way they haven’t quite worked out yet. This is a good thing because it shows they do care, that they feel uncomfortable about the consumption of animals and your presence is making their discomfort more acute.

Their ranting might appear like it is directed at you; however, they are really verbalising an internal debate they have probably had a few times with themselves while creating the intricate structures of their mental compartmentalisation. By letting it all come out in front of you, they are in fact asking for your help to overcome the obstacles they have constructed that stop them from living in alignment with their true inner values. They know they cannot figure it out on their own, and they are tired of having these ideas bouncing around in their head, so they throw them out at you and say “Well you’re the vegan, you deal with it.”

The most effective thing you can do is to listen sincerely. Rather than taking offence, genuinely validate their concern by repeating it back to them and taking the focus off of yourself and turning it back onto them. An example of an accusation could be “You think you are so pure eating a vegan diet, but plants have feelings too!” Validate the essence of their statement, but not the sarcastic tone, by saying “I understand how you could believe that following a vegan diet means you have to be pure, but you don’t have to be perfect to be vegan. You just do the best you can to reduce suffering. And as I am sure you are aware plants do not have a nervous system so they do not experience suffering.”

Give them rational, non-judgemental information. Take the opportunity they have given you for vegan education and ignore everything else. Try not to get caught up in a verbal tennis match debating the grey areas, or lose sight of the principles by slinging insults at each other. Let them know there is no such thing as a perfect vegan and nobody knows all the answers.

The fundamental point to get across is that animals have rights, and where it is possible and practical we do what we can to end the violation of the animals’ rights to life, liberty and bodily integrity. Offer them solutions and let them know there is an extensive vegan community who are willing to help them on their journey. In a non-vegan world those solutions may not always be ideal, but we are all doing our bit to create a more compassionate and ethical world.

Nine times out of ten, when you use this approach their attitude will soften and become less confrontational. There are only a few people who really don’t care, who will solidly stand their ground. Don’t grant them rent-free space in your mind. Give them some information or a website to visit and move on.

The good news is that there are thousands of people who truly want animal suffering to end, and they are really interested in all the fantastic benefits a vegan lifestyle has to offer them! Save your energy for them.

Talking to people about veganism is really fun! Photo © Karen Johnson - The Elated Vegan.

Do you want to help end the suffering of animals? Find out more about What You Can Do. Thank you for being vegan. Now, let’s all try to be Elated Vegans!