How to support those who are vegan if you’re not vegan yourself

My blog isn’t dedicated to veganism (despite my blog name word play on the mindfulness book ‘chicken soup for the soul’), but it is about positivity. It’s definitely important to support others. Being vegan can be challenging, mostly because of a lack of understanding by other people and its social stigma. I thought I could talk about it a little more below!

Veganism is a lifestyle which is vast becoming a lot more popular. Three years ago I didn’t know any vegans. Now, I can name ten! It is however the cause of a lot of heated debates, especially where welfare and ethics are concerned. This aside, many of us have friendships or relationships with those who are vegan but may not understand it themselves. Regardless, you can still support those who choose to live this way! I have compiled some handy tips on great ways to support and better understand your vegan loved ones.

  • Understand that being vegan isn’t just about diet, it’s a lifestyle. 

Although there are people out there who just choose to eat a vegan diet, for the most of us we try to be vegan in as many aspects as possible. This includes the things that we wear, to the make up that we buy, to the toiletries we use. I will only buy and use products that do not contain animal products and are cruelty free (i.e. not tested on animals). Whether that is toothpaste, surface cleaner or foundation – if it’s not vegan I don’t buy it.

  • Vegans may still have non-vegan household items or clothing.

When you start transitioning into veganism, haven’t been vegan for very long or do not have endless finances in which to replace all of your non-vegan products – many of us still have items that aren’t vegan. It could be a pair of leather boots or a bottle of bleach in the cupboard. It takes time to know exactly what products are OK or not and to replace belongings. A lot of people are vegan for environmental reasons and so simply throwing things away is seen as wasteful.

  • It’s impossible to be vegan 100%. 

We know this. Being vegan isn’t about perfection, it’s about doing the best you can for the cause. We live in a non-vegan society and so it’s pretty impossible to live a totally vegan lifestyle. The car I drive has leather inside it and I get on aeroplanes and cruise ships. Regardless, it doesn’t mean that anyone deserves disrespect for this reason, and neither is veganism a ‘lie’.

  • Don’t tar us all with the same brush. 

There are vegans out there who are involved in animal activist extremism and terrorism. There are vegans out there who constantly upload videos of animal torture and slaughter. There are vegans out there that will shame you whilst you’re tucking into a beef burger. It’s true. But we’re not all like this and it counts as the minority. There’s no need to take an instant dislike towards us because of the actions of a few!

  • Be flexible with dining plans

So, you’re going out for dinner with a few of your friends and Susie is vegan. It’s obviously not a good idea to take Susie to KFC, even if you really want to go because it’s your favourite eating place. Although Susie made the choice to be vegan, she shouldn’t have to go anywhere she can’t eat. Similarly, it’s not a necessity that you all have to go to a vegetarian/vegan only restaurant.

There are so many restaurants that offer vegan options, even those known to be ‘meat’ restaurants like Nandos or Handmade Burger Co. It really isn’t hard these days to find something to suit both worlds. In pubs it may be a little harder. As a general rule, if a pub or restaurant does not have a vegan option on the menu already, then the likelihood is Susie isn’t going to get a great meal. Ringing up before is generally a good idea, though sometimes this doesn’t work in your favour. (Try having a restaurant saying they can easily accommodate you for afternoon tea and cakes, then hand you a plate of pickles and a slice of bread!).

Of course, sometimes things are arranged in big groups or for special occasions and we don’t have a say in where we go. And most of us suck it up, have a bowl of chips or the 100th salad, and that’s fine. But if you can be more flexible to help your vegan friends, then that’s even better!

  • If in doubt, don’t buy it!

It’s great having wonderful friends and family who want to buy you presents on birthdays, just because, Christmas etc. And it’s very much appreciated! However, and I’m sure lot’s of others have this problem, I still get lots of gifts that aren’t vegan. And of course, it’s understandable that this happens because yes, it is difficult buying for someone who lives a specific lifestyle when you don’t live it yourself! I’m sure most people would prefer to buy someone a present that they can actually use rather than re gifting to someone else or donating to charity shops. So overall, if you don’t know if something is vegan or not, it’s probably best you don’t buy it! Or, you could just ask the receiver, other vegans or shop assistants.

Many (but not all) toiletries/household products/food/make up that are vegan friendly will state if it is vegan and not tested on animals. These are safe bets! I’ve felt really bad when people gift me non-vegan presents and so don’t usually mention it if I can’t wear/use/eat/drink it – though that might be the Brit in me!

  • Avoid talking about veganism all the time/ speaking in cliches.

I know that when I see certain people the topic of my veganism is going to be brought up without fail. It’s great to talk about it, however sometimes it gets a little too much. I guess, it would be nice to get through a meal without having to justify my lifestyle. Others like to debate at any given chance they have with you, which can get rather wearing. If you genuinely want to discuss with me calmly and logically about being a vegan then it’s completely fine. But I don’t want you to tell me all the reasons I’m wrong for the 10th time whilst I’m trying to enjoy my risotto.

As for cliches, I’m talking about things like ‘what do you EVEN eat?!’, ‘where do you get your protein/calcium/B12 from?!’, ‘what if you were stuck on a desert island?’, ‘vegetables have feelings too you know’, ‘but lions eat meat’, ‘top of the food chain’, ‘vegans are weak’ statements. These are generally given not because someone is interested in what you actually eat but in more of a jokey to offensive way. Not only do most of us hear these sorts of things often, but there’s not really a response to give.

Also the line ‘I want to be vegan too, but *eggs/cheese/steak/someone else cooks for me*’. Again, this is also something I hear a lot. Don’t get me wrong, there are situations where being vegan may be harder for one person than an other. But usually, the person saying it maybe agrees with veganism to some extent and feels a bit guilty – so gives you an excuse so you don’t look at them in a bad way. Truthfully, if that person genuinely did want to be vegan they’d do it in all other ways except for *eggs/cheese/steak/when someone else cooks for me*. It’s fine to not be vegan, and I for one do not look down on anyone who isn’t (I’d have no family or friends left otherwise!).

To conclude: 

I hope this is useful! Especially with the increasing numbers of vegans, it’s great if you don’t know too much about it to support your vegan friends/family. Whether you agree with it or not, changing lifestyle completely because someone believes in something is challenging, but an achievement to be proud of.  There’s no need to make anyone feel stupid, embarrassed or inferior for their beliefs after all!

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