5 tips on how to deal with your non-vegan family during the holidays
Most vegans were not raised by vegan families. Most of us, therefore, still spend our holidays with a majority of non-vegan relatives, at tables filled with meat and other animal products. Often, this also means being questioned and challenged about our vegan diet and lifestyle.
This is not to say that every non-vegan family is insensitive or unsupportive, but we all know it can be tiring sometimes. Especially for those of us who are younger or lower-income, and might not be financially able to bring our own food to holiday events or have a say in what should be in the fridge the rest of the year.
It is important to keep in mind, however, that a lot of us vegans were once the ones questioning our friends or relatives about their veganism, before we went vegan ourselves. Here are five tips on how to deal positively with your non-vegan family during the holidays:
1. Don’t place blame
Discussions about animal rights can get heated easily and can trigger a lot of emotions, especially when we are new to veganism. Don’t let the argument get personal, as non-vegans frequently take the subject as an attack on the moral systems they have held their entire lives. Instead, tell them how it made you feel when you started researching and realizing what happens to the animals that you cared so much about and how it made you feel to realize that you were supporting a system that tortures and murders those same animals. Seek their empathy before anything else.
2. Don’t get aggressive
If a debate becomes unavoidable, keep your emotions in check. We all know that it can be tough to do that when millions of animals’ lives are on the line. But remember that in order to convince others to switch to veganism, your arguments must be effective above anything else. If you let the emotions take over and get aggressive, people will start wanting to avoid talking to you about veganism and, in doing so, will have fewer chances to interact with the arguments and ideas that will make them more likely to go vegan themselves. Remember that a debate about veganism has the potential to save animals’ lives, so be reasonable and responsible about it.
3. Do your research
Everyone—non-vegans and vegans alike—have spent their entire lives being bombarded with propaganda about the supposed necessity for humans to consume animal products. Arguments derived from that misinformation often arise when non-vegans feel that they need to defend their lifestyles. Therefore, it is imperative that you do your research so you don’t get confused and emotionally overwhelmed in a debate: know what is scientifically accurate and what is not. Consistently being on the lookout for information has the added benefit of making you more confident in your own veganism.
4. Lead by example
If you don’t feel like engaging in draining and emotionally demanding debates, try to lead by example. If possible, take initiative and volunteer to prepare meals for the holidays. You can surprise everyone with great vegan recipes! A lot of people tend to stick to the traditional, and may not be familiar with a vast number of plant-based ingredients. Show them that veganism can open doors to new flavors and cuisines.
5. Plan ahead
Don’t let your family get the impression that your veganism will be an inconvenience for them. Plan ahead of time what you’ll be eating during the holidays, and if you’re financially able, make or buy your own food – and, of course, try to suggest in advance that they are welcome to eat it as well. If you are not financially able to do that by yourself, ask for help from a vegan friend or a relative who is receptive to the idea of veganism. Don’t let the prices of vegan restaurants and vegan-targeted products fool you: veganism can be cheap and affordable. Every culture has its own variety of plant-based food that already make up many of the components of popular daily meals. Today, there is also a great variety of vegan recipe channels and websites that take different financial limitations into consideration. Again, do your research and plan ahead.
Even though your family may not be vegan, keep in mind that it was them who raised the person who one day became vegan for the animals. Let them know that. If you are reading this piece, it is also because you care about them and want them to have a deeper understanding of your principles and values as a vegan individual. Let them know that they raised you so you would respect life in all levels, shapes and forms. Let them know that you are grateful for that and want what is best, not only for the animals, but for them as well.
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