One of the commonest questions I’ve gotten over the past 30 years is how to convince a loved one – often a spouse – to stop eating animals. It is a difficult issue, and I’ve struggled to find a satisfactory answer.
Today, though, it is much easier to answer this question. The key is to change the issue from “How do I get my partner to believe what I do?” to “How can my partner’s diet cause less harm?”
One mistake I made early on was to think that the only diet worth promoting was exactly what I ate. Spicy Thai dishes, vegetable-stuffed peppers, quinoa and mung beans – making extended family eat meals like these led to upset stomachs, resentment, and an even worse opinion of vegans and veganism than they had already.
Contrast this with people who don’t care about pushing personal philosophy, but simply want their family members to eat fewer animals. For example, we have friends who make their family’s Taco Tuesday meals with Gimme Lean Ground Beef. No one has ever noticed the change – except, of course, the cows who haven’t been killed.
Currently, most people have a negative view of vegans and veganism. Sadly, this is partially because some vegans are like I was – pushing vegan food that others might find “weird” and “unsatisfying,” all the while convincing many people that veganism is an intolerable deprivation.
We are extremely fortunate to live in a time when we have the ability to put aside our personal preferences and simply give people what they want! I have seen this work over and over and over.
For example, I was once working with MBA students at the University of Arizona on marketing research into attitudes about vegetarianism / veganism. After preliminary research, they created categories for individuals; one category was “hard core meat eater, will never consider changing.” On the last day of the research project, the owner of the local veg restaurant brought in “chicken fingers.” One of the students who had listed himself as “hard core / never change” exclaimed, with genuine surprise, “Hey, I could eat this!”
Ellen, who has never eaten “real” meat, would take Boca chicken nuggets to events in high school. These nuggets – never labeled “vegetarian” – were always scarfed down immediately. Once, a Science Olympiad teammate saw Ellen eating a nugget and exclaimed in shock, “Ellen! You’re eating meat!!” They couldn’t believe the nuggets were entirely plant-based.
So if you live with a meat eater, don’t try to convince them to “go vegan.” Just feed them what they want! If they don’t like Gardein’s Ultimate Beefless Burger, try the Beyond Burger. If they don’t like Beyond’s chicken strips, grab Tofurky’s! Tofurky’s sausage not a hit? Try Field Roast’s next. And I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like Gimme Lean’s sausage or Tofurky’s deli slices. There are so many “roasts” out there that you’re sure to find one everyone loves! My homemade seitan and gravy has satisfied the holiday demands of hard-core meat eaters, leaving everyone happy – especially the animals!
In the end, it is easier to agree on food first and worry about details like philosophy and purity later. We only care about the bottom line – that people aren’t eating animals, regardless of their reasons.