Are you interested in being vegan, but you don’t want to annoy others or be rude to the meat-eaters around you? Are you worried about coming off as “preachy” or “holier than thou” just for being vegan?
The way you can be vegan without being annoying is to lead by example. If you live a good life while being vegan, that’s one of the most effective forms of activism. People will start asking you about veganism, instead of you pushing it on them.
In this post, I’ll dive into some more depth about what it means to lead by example as someone who has made a vegan diet a very positive part of your life. I’ll give some tips about how to not be annoying or preachy to your family and others non-vegans that you talk to.
Leading by Example as a Vegan
Some people may disagree with me on this, but I actually think one of the most effective forms of “vegan activism” is just to live a good life while being vegan.
If you can be a vegan who is healthy, active, smart, kind, friendly, and happy (or even just a few of those), that will do a lot to make veganism look good to the people around you.
You will likely influence your spouse, friends, or family members to try a vegan diet, too, even without saying much about it at all. If you’re vegan and it’s having a positive impact in your life, others will be able to see that, even without you saying a word.
The Tao Te Ching is a spiritual text that has a lot to say about leadership. It talks about leading others without even speaking.
You don’t need to boast, yell, or make a big scene. Just be a kind person and be vegan, and eventually, the people around you will become curious about it.
Everyone knows that being vegan takes effort, so they will wonder why you make the effort, and they will eventually look into it or ask you about it.
How Vegan Athletes Lead by Example
This is why it’s so powerful when athletes are vegan. Even if the athlete doesn’t say much publicly about their diet, eventually it comes out in an interview.
Then people realize, “Wow, you can be that strong as a vegan? You can have that much endurance as a vegan?” And just from their example, perceptions of veganism change in an instant. And the athlete didn’t have to yell or make any big protest.
You might think that your own example will have no impact compared to a pro athlete.
But even if you’re a private person, your closest friends and family will eventually find out you’re vegan. And if you’re making it into a positive part of your life, they will likely respect it and be curious about it.
Deciding How Much You Want to Say About Being Vegan
Some people are warriors for veganism. They want to bring up arguments about it at every Thanksgiving dinner with their family. If you’re reading this page, that’s probably not you.
But maybe you do have beliefs about ethical issues related to animals, or maybe you do have an amazing story to tell about how veganism improved your health. So it can be hard to decide how much you want to speak up, versus keeping to yourself.
This is a personal decision, and there’s no wrong answer. You’re not a bad vegan if you decide you want to keep quiet about your veganism. It’s okay.
Just live a good life and be vegan, and that is already a form of vegan activism (if you want to call it that). At the same time, I don’t think it’s necessarily rude to talk about why you’re vegan. You can find ways to talk about it that are honest and heartfelt.
I recently wrote this article about “militant vegans.” One of the topics I covered is that fact that, sometimes, I think people just use the term “militant vegan” to shame any vegan who speaks up.
Having an “Elevator Pitch” When People Ask Why You’re Vegan
No matter how much or how little you plan to speak up about your vegan diet, it’s worth considering what you want to say when someone asks why you’re vegan. Because that will probably happen!
If you don’t think in advance about your answer to the question of why you’re vegan, you might fumble over your words and feel like an idiot afterward. You might regret that you missed the opportunity to explain why this matters to you.
So think about why you’re making this commitment. As an example, here’s my vegan elevator pitch. When people ask me why I’m vegan, I respond something like this:
“Originally, I went vegan because I just saw some factory farming videos that were really disturbing to me. I felt bad for the animals, and I just didn’t want to support that industry anymore.
Over time, I came to appreciate some health benefits I experienced, too. And I found that the philosophy fit well with other views I have about respect, freedom, and minimizing harm.
Overall, it just feels like a positive thing in my life, so I keep going. I like being vegan. It works for me and feels right for me.”
Obviously, you would say what your reasons are. But you can see how it doesn’t need to be argumentative or rude, yet it can still communicate strong reasons and mention that veganism is a positive part of your life.
Your pitch might change over the years. I know mine has, several times. There are a lot of ways to look at veganism, so it might come to mean different things to you over the years.
Respecting Different Opinions When Talking to Non-Vegans
If you can understand and respect where non-vegans are coming from, then naturally you will not want to be rude to them, and you will come off as less annoying or pushy
Try to remember what it was like not to be vegan, and try to have respect and understanding for that person.
Appreciate that there could be many reasons why someone chooses not to be vegan, or even why they choose to insult or criticize vegans. Maybe it all stems from a bad experience they had years ago—or something else you’d never guess.
Even if a non-vegan is being really rude to you, appreciate that you don’t have the full context for what it’s like to be them and why they believe what they believe.
When Meat-Eaters Are Rude, Try Not to Escalate the Situation
Meat eaters can say some pretty rude things to vegans. Honestly, some meat-eaters feel threatened just by the presence of a vegan. They assume you’re judging them, even if you’re not.
Sometimes, meat-eaters may feel like your presence is an implied challenge to their ethics or health choices. They might feel a need to argue with you, “defending” why they eat meat, even if you didn’t bring it up!
My approach to situations like this is to be aware of my tone and try to make it clear that I’m not attacking them in any way. Sometimes I’ll agree with some small point they’re making, so I don’t come across as antagonistic.
I’ll say, “I totally understand! Some vegans are way too pushy about it.” I try to keep the mood light and make it clear I’m not judging them. After they realize you’re not judging them, they will likely calm down a bit themselves.
Don’t Take It Personally When People Attack Veganism
When it comes to politics and philosophy, including veganism, people have strong opinions. But it’s not personal. There is just a war of ideas that is playing out. You’re just the vegan who is present in the room. But it’s not about you.
This is just a war of ideas that is happening between much larger forces. It’s a war that was going on long before you went vegan, and it’s going to continue for a long time.
Personally, I don’t think you need to fight in the war of ideas with your words—unless you really want to. Your example as a vegan living a good life is already a stronger argument than anything they can say.
If veganism is working in your life, there’s no way for them to refute it. So you can change the subject, or just say something very minimal. There’s no need to take a big stand necessarily. Your positive example will win people over in the long run.
Suggest Restaurants That Have Vegan and Non-Vegan Options
When you’re dining out with a group of people, there will usually be at least one person in the group who thinks vegan food is weird. Often times, you’re going to want to compromise by choosing a restaurant with vegan and non-vegan options.
Indian restaurants and Ethiopian restaurants can be great ones to suggest when you’re eating with a group of non-vegans. There are meat options but also plentiful vegan options.
I also like Japanese restaurants because I can usually get vegetarian sushi, spring rolls, and soup, but there are plenty of options with fish, as well.
Italian restaurants are usually a bit less vegan-friendly, but you can usually get the pasta with a marinara sauce. Just ask the waiter not to include any meatballs or other meat in the sauce. American-style diners are often less vegan-friendly, but not always.
Finding a Restaurant You Can All Agree Upon
There’s a great website/app for finding vegan-friendly restaurants if you don’t already know what’s available in your area. The app is called Happy Cow.
The app for your phone is great because it has a map that shows where all the restaurants are spread around town, and it lists how far each one is from you currently. It often includes pictures of the food, reviews from other vegans, and details like, “Try the buckwheat pancakes!”
Usually what I do is just start naming off nearby vegan-friendly restaurants from Happy Cow. I’ll list them all off, and see if anybody says, “Oh, that sounds good” or “I didn’t know that place had vegan options, let’s go there!”
Most People Will Respect Your Choice to Be Vegan
It’s unavoidable that some meat-eaters will be annoyed by your presence just because you’re vegan. But the majority of people will respect you for having the integrity to follow a diet you believe in.
Many people will say, “I couldn’t do it! More power to you!” They will recognize that you’re making sacrifices and putting in an effort to change your life. That will earn respect from a lot of people, even from people who are not vegan.
If you keep all these things in mind and you just know for yourself that you don’t want to be annoying as a vegan, then you can do it. It’s not hard. Just lead by your example. Actions speak louder than words.
Two More Recommendations for Your Vegan Journey
1. This is the best vegan multivitamin I’ve found in 13 years of being vegan. It has vitamin B12, vitamin D, omega-3—and nothing else. Translation: It only has the nutrients vegans are actually low in. Read my full review of Future Kind’s multivitamin here (with 10% discount).
2. This is the best vegan starter kit I know of. It’s a bundle of 9 beautiful e-books that help you transition to a healthy plant-based diet—the right way. The advice is spot-on, and it has print-outs and checklists that make it easy to implement. Read my full review of Nutriciously here.