Navigating social situations as a vegan, especially a new vegan, can be intimidating and anxiety-provoking. You may wonder what to say or how to act and what people will think of you. And if you’re a non-vegan you may wonder how to react around vegan guests.
Navigating social situations can be one of the more challenging aspects of veganism, especially for new vegans and those considering going vegan. It’s one of the major concerns I hear from people: How will I eat out, what will I tell my friends, how can I still be social? Well, everyone’s journey into veganism is different, so there is no one answer. Some vegans refuse to eat in situations where animals and their byproducts are being served while others simply eat their vegan meals alongside omnivorous ones. Author and speaker Colleen Patrick-Goudreau addresses this dynamic often in her writing, so last time I spoke with her, I asked her to share her take on the matter. Let’s hear from her and then and then I’ll come back in and share some of my own thoughts. [tweet this]
For Colleen’s full thoughts, and me being absolutely ridiculous in the opener/closer sequences, check out the video above, but here are some nuggets:
“If they’re our friends and family we probably love them and they probably love us, and we want them to be happy, and they want us to be happy. So, we have to find a place where we can meet and enjoy each others company regardless of how we’re manifesting our values. That’s what being vegan is for me, it’s about manifesting my values of compassion and kindness.
“As far as the specifics of social situations, you know, I just know that things get better, that people just relax a little bit after some time. And when they see that we’re serious about it and we’re not such a ‘P.I.A.’ about it because in the beginning we are. We want everyone to hear what we’ve learned and we want people to change, we want people to see what we see, and that’s all good, it’s all part of this process. But when our family and friends kind of realize that this is something that’s passionate for us, that it’s something we care about, and it’s just part of who we are, everybody relaxes. And when we can let that process happen, and trust that it’s going to happen, and just be who we are, and not worry about how other people are taking it, think things just go a lot more smoothly.”
I hope you enjoyed hearing Colleen’s approach to dealing with social situations as a vegan. Her method may resonate with you or it may not. As I said before, everyone finds their own path with this. You may take the route of someone like Gary Yourofsky and tell your family and friends that if they eat with you, they eat vegan. Or you may find something akin to Colleen’s approach feels best.
The main concern that vegans seem to have is how others will perceive us: What they will think of us, and how that effects us socially. Of course, there’s also to consider that your social awkwardness may have nothing to do with your diet. I’ve been vegan most of my life, but I’m pretty sure I was socially awkward even in utero.
Here’s how I look at it: any social awkwardness (which I have a lot of) or perceived rejection that I endure is nothing compared to what the animals are going through. And is my social acceptability really worth taking the life of an innocent being? Should they suffer and die so I can be socially comfortable? [tweet this]
Imagine encountering the animals you’re about to consume and saying, “hey there… you seem nice and all but if I don’t kill and eat you, then people might say I’m weird.”
For me, there’s nothing that could ever make me comfortable in situations where animals and their byproducts are being consume, and I’m okay with that. I would be concerned if I was comfortable.
Of course, most non-vegans don’t see what we vegans see. And if you are a non-vegan who does see it, then you, my friend, may just be the next vegan! Where we see the slaughtered corpse of a sentient being, they see sandwich fixings. Where we see a mother’s heart-wrenching loss, they see cheese dip. Where we see live baby chicks ground up en masse, they see an omelet.
As I said in my video on whether vegans hate non-vegans, it’s hard for us vegans to remember that many of us were once there as well. We didn’t know any better. This does not excuse the insane and unnecessary behavior of killing other beings for our meals. There is never any excuse or justification for what we do to animals. But it can be possible that some non-vegans truly don’t know any better.
It’s up to you to determine what you’re comfortable with and what you’re willing to endure. But it’s no one’s choice to determine what the animals are willing to endure.
And just a note–if your family or friends belittles you and your choice to not harm other beings, don’t stand for that. Compassion should never apologize to aggression.
I’d love to hear from you on this matter: If you’re vegan, what has been your experience being in social situations with non-vegans? If you’re not vegan, how do you perceive vegans at social events? For both sides, do you feel imposed upon? Uncomfortable? What have been your strategies to navigate these situations? Let me know in the comments.
— Emily Moran Barwick