Does being vegan mean doing outreach?

October 25, 2010

I strongly believe that there are people who either never go vegan or stop being vegan because they don’t want to do activism, and they’re worried they’re going to have to pose naked for PETA. OK, maybe not so much the second part. Anyway, in case you needed someone to say it out loud, none of that’s in the basic job description, but you should be aware that one way or another, you’re going to be doing some outreach work…

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Amanda October 26, 2010 at 1:11 am

I hardly see myself as an activist since my reason for being vegan is because of serious food sensitivities I developed after being on the perscription, “Accutane” as a teenager. all meats, all forms of dairy, eggs, canola oil, and seseme seeds just to name a few, put my digestive system through hell. So when people ask me why I don’t eat eggs, or why I can’t have any fish, My response is, “Because I don’t want to crap my pants”. This tends to end any potential argument about being vegan, and I can go about my life. In this regard I feel I have it easy because omnis will willingly join me at vegan restaurants without feeling peer pressured to be there.

Erin October 26, 2010 at 2:02 am

I just figured out a sneaky way to do my outreach. I’m the organizer for a parent’s group, primarily infants and young children, and I offered to do a healthy cooking tutorial in response to many people praising what I bring to potlucks or what they see me feeding my daughter. I said up front that I’m vegan, and that I’ll help them learn family-friendly recipes that are healthy and cholesterol free. Of course I’m going to pick delicious and easy meals to overcome what I think many people think is the biggest deterrent, “Isn’t it hard?” I’ll be teaching other parents with toddlers who probably already feel overwhelmed by dinner how to make easy food without a box or animal products.

Haley October 26, 2010 at 6:27 am

Yeah, I thought I would not be all activisty until a friend on Facebook posted the word bacon as his status.

Oh, the conversation that ensued. He ended up declaring I was oppressing his right to eat meat by saying exactly what that meat came from. *facepalms*

tomb7890 October 26, 2010 at 10:35 am

The Merriam Webster dictionary describes a vegan as “a strict vegetarian who consumes no animal food or dairy products; also : one who abstains from using animal products (as leather)”. I think that’s pretty good. In part because there’s no talk of talk. Veganism is defined by certain behaviour. Which I feel is the key to why the practice is potentially so potent a tool of influence. A vegan is (contrary to the bizarre yet common barb) the antithesis of the hypocrite, one who holds others to higher standards than oneself. We show this each time we say “no thank you” to the tempting treats passed our way by well meaning omnis.

In the book Becoming Vegan, in their chapter on vegan diplomacy, the authors Davis and Melina write, “Make your example your most powerful ally…it is amazing what you can accomplish without saying much at all.” Perhaps Erin is showing us how this works! Best to all.

Colleen October 26, 2010 at 11:14 am

Amanda: Oh, Accutane. I was on that crazy shit when I was a teen as well. I remember hearing about all kinds of frightening potential side effects, but food sensitivities wasn’t one of them.

tomb7890: Well said!

Jason October 26, 2010 at 12:15 pm

Amanda: thanks for the comment, and for the reminder that people go vegan for all kinds of reasons! I once dated a girl who was vegetarian because she didn’t like the taste of meat. That was it. Our community has all kinds of sub-groups that most of us (myself included) are barely even aware of.

The rest of you: I love waking up (yes, after 11:15, rough week!) to seeing so many ideas, thanks for keeping me motivated both for videos and for veganism!

Drew October 26, 2010 at 3:23 pm

I appreciate your point that you don’t need to be an always-on activist to be a vegan. Obviously it is not a requirement of the diet. 🙂 That mental can easily lead to burn-out.

That said, if you decide to include vegan advocacy or animal rights activism into your life, it can be very easy and manageable. The group Vegan Outreach is a great example of hundreds of people doing a little bit of volunteering to have a big impact together. They encourage people to spend a couple hours handing out booklets about factory farming on college campuses. If you were going to spend 1 hour doing activism, this is likely one of the most effective uses of your time.

VeganSkeptic October 26, 2010 at 5:44 pm

While you’re entirely correct that activism isn’t required for veganism, I think that if we are doing it for the sake of the animals than activism is possibly even more important than our own personal veganism (although it is admittedly difficult to be an effective activist without being vegan). If someone gets four people to go vegan but hasn’t made the switch themselves, they have still had four times the impact for the animals that the individual who only went vegan themselves had.

I love the emphasis you put on how everything we do around people who know we are vegans we do as representatives of veganism. I couldn’t agree with this point more. Non-vegans will hold our actions under scrutiny often as the only vegan they know, and each of us can make a large impact in either direction simply by how appealing and reasonable our own lifestyles appear.

Amanda October 27, 2010 at 2:38 am

Colleen- There’s actually a big lawsuit going on now against the makers of accutane, because many people developed ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, and many other nasty digestive diseases. Most of these cases were people who were on it for a year or more. Some people’s reactions were so bad they had to have part or all of their colon removed. Scary stuff!

Natalie Quirk October 28, 2010 at 6:29 pm

My husband and I are ex-SAD eaters who have made the commitment to eat vegan for a variety of reasons. Health was a HUGE factor as I was at risk for Type 2 diabetes [I found out about that at the age of 21!] and high blood pressure for him. Then we interned on a farm and saw first hand how animals were being used which just didn’t sit very well with us. Sprinkle in some documentaries about the current food industry and the combination put us where we are today: happy AWARE vegans!

As for outreach, we never really thought about it before this month when a conversation came up about it. We really are practicing what we preach, every single day. This isn’t one weekend out of the year that we march up and down in front of a building with signs in our hands. With every single day comes a choice and a responsibility to not only stay vegan, but to stay aware of how we are either adding to or taking away from the positives of veganism.

We’re currently writing a blog at to help other who were like us ease into [or at least entertain the idea] veganism, for whatever reason. We weren’t really concerned with helping others make changes in their life because we were so focused on ourselves. But if we don’t help to at least offer the information, entertain questions, dispel myths and explain the many facets of this lifestyle, than what’s the point?

Jason October 28, 2010 at 10:36 pm

Hi Natalie, I just skimmed the front page of your blog, and that’s a great variety of meals you’ve got there! Thanks for the inspiration, HINT HINT to other readers, check it out!

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