When you’re passionately vegan, it’s easy to become disheartened by what you see around you. Yes, you’re avoiding all forms of animal exploitation, but so many people are still contributing to it. You can control your own actions, but not other people’s. And you sometimes start to wonder if you’re really making a difference.
I’ve been there too, but I know this feeling is an illusion. The truth is, it’s impossible not to have an impact on the people around you with your choices.
It sometimes upsets me that my family and some of my friends still eat animal products. But it’s important to keep things in perspective. No, they may not all be vegan. But many of them have made significant changes, and it’s clear that I’ve at least influenced those decisions.
For example, I’ve introduced my family to a lot of vegan recipes, since we all like to eat together. When I’m home, we have vegan meals most nights. They’ve enjoyed some of the recipes so much that they’ll probably make them even when I’m not around. And my mum has learnt new tricks like using flaxseeds instead of egg in baking, and using nutritional yeast to add flavour to various dishes. She’s also discovered that she gets far fewer headaches when she limits dairy. I’d like to think that I’m at least partially responsible!
Likewise, a close vegetarian friend of mine switched to organic milk and eggs after talking to me about welfare standards. (In the UK, organic products have to meet higher welfare standards.) Obviously this is not ideal, as animals still suffer and are exploited to produce organic products. However, it shows that she’s thought about it and is willing to change her actions. She also tried veganism for a month, learning new recipes and trying new products. Though she didn’t stay vegan, the experience will undoubtedly continue to influence the way she eats. Additionally, organic products are often more expensive, so she likely eats fewer animal products as a result. She also insists that her parents buy organic when she’s home, which may make them think too. Every change creates a ripple effect.
Every time a loved one sees you eating delicious-looking vegan food, it will change their perceptions of what being vegan is. If you’re healthy and thriving on a vegan diet, people will notice. When people see how effortlessly you live vegan, they may realise it’s not as inconvenient and unattainable as they imagined.
Of course, there are two sides to every every coin. If you were to be rude, pushy and judgemental, it might turn those around you away from veganism. Likewise if you were to complain about how difficult it is to be vegan. But I’ve met very few vegans who do either of those things.
Even if your loved ones don’t seem receptive to veganism, you’re still probably planting seeds. Some people who seem downright hostile towards vegans do change, sometimes many years later. No-one is a lost cause.
If you still feel frustrated, try taking part in some activism. It’s very powerful to see someone make the connection as they watch slaughterhouse footage for the first time. I think everyone should take part in activism if they can. But if you can’t, or don’t feel comfortable doing so, rest assured that you’re still having a huge impact.
Have you influenced the people in your life without meaning to? Do you ever worry that you’re not doing enough? Let me know in the comments.