Thankfully I am in a position where my family members are supportive of my vegan lifestyle, but that isn’t to say that my journey hasn’t been free of snide comments, ‘Did you know…’ statements and concerns for my health. We’re all going to deal with this to some degree, but some families really don’t make things easy for a budding vegan.
My advice for anyone dealing with a worried or defensive family is to avoid being too emotional and angry; it just makes you seem hysterical and non-vegans tend to use that for their ‘All vegans are extreme’ shtick.
We as vegans do want others to give up meat and start thinking critically about what we put in our bodies, of course we do, but that’s not always possible. All of us would love if our families/friends/partners adopted a vegan lifestyle, and there are things you can do to make that possible. However, there are also things you can do and say that will make that kind of change almost impossible.
Calling meat eaters murderers, constant preaching and angry outbursts aren’t the way to get through to meat eaters, in my opinion.
To assure family members that are concerned for your health, gently inform them and be patient with them. Yes, you’ve probably heard the protein and calcium questions many times before, but that’s just our lot in life. We will continue to hear these kind of questions for a long time, questions we may consider silly or stupid, because many people do not know anything about nutrition short of ‘a banana has potassium’. And most people certainly don’t know much about veganism.
Educate the people in your life who care about you, but don’t do it with a ‘holier than thou’ attitude.
What you can do is sit down with your family members and explain to them that it is your choice to be a vegan, that you are vegan because you don’t believe in eating animals/ you want to improve your health/ you care for the environment or, most likely, all three. If you’re asked to provide proof that the vegan diet helps all of those things, you can offer to send them some links on facts about veganism or you can start a discussion on it there and then. Arm yourself with facts and knowledge and you will be fine. People argue against facts, but they can’t realistically do it forever without realising they’re wrong. Something will eventually get through and they will accept that what you’re saying is true, particularly if they look into it themselves. Patience is key.
Another thing you can do is offer to cook a vegan meal for the people in your family. This will help as many people have the misguided notion that vegans have a very pitiful choice of food. As vegans, we know this is absolutely untrue and I personally have never had such food variety in my life, having stuck to the basic Irish meal of spuds + meat + gravy for most of my life.
For those of you who are teenagers living with parents who don’t ‘allow’ you to be vegan, there aren’t a lot of options, I’m afraid. I’ve seen a few comments from teens on other forums and blogs where this is the case, and I feel very sorry for the people who have to deal with angry parents who don’t want to understand. What you can do is talk to them like I suggested above, but if that doesn’t work you can slowly phase things out. You could say things like ‘I’m not really a fan of red meat’ or ‘Dairy makes me bloated’ or ‘I’m cutting down my meat consumption to lose some weight’ or ‘Last time I ate chicken I got quite sick and I’ve gone off the taste’.
It’s sad that some people have to bend the truth just to pursue something they strongly believe in, but this kind of approach does work. If your parents think that you’re not eating something because you don’t like it or because it makes you feel unwell, they’re more likely to accept you omitting it from your plate. If you don’t feel like doing this, you can just do whatever you can until you move out. Every little helps; things like buying cruelty free makeup and skincare products, signing petitions against animal cruelty, and buying vegan snacks with pocket money. You’re still making a difference.
How do you deal with unsupportive families? Let me know in the comments!