This is an article that I specificially wrote for www.organicathlete.org
to be included in their monthly newsletter, but I wanted to include it here too.
I hope that you will find it very helpful and it will enhance your ability to speak to others about your vegan lifestyle. -Robert Cheeke
Presenting Veganism by Robert Cheeke April 5, 2005
How many times have you been asked, “Where do you get your protein?”
Or what about, “Well, then what Do you eat?” These are common
questions that non-vegans have for us on a daily basis. They are
fairly easy to answer because anyone who knows anything about
nutrition knows that protein is one of the easiest nutrients to find
in human nutrition; and to answer the latter question, all you have to
do is tell them what you eat or more simply, tell them the foods you
avoid and that you eat everything else.
But what if you are preparing to give a presentation to a group of
people; do you know what kind of approach you would take and how you
would answer questions?
In my experience, the best way to approach any animal rights or
veganism presentation to non-vegans is to be prepared for the
questions you know will be asked and come across as a nice person just
sharing your lifestyle with them.
Nobody wants to hear that they are doing something wrong, so keep
everything positive. Rather than giving statistics about how meat-
eaters will die sooner than vegans, say that vegans live long healthy
lives, taking in all required nutrients to stay active and maintain
great health. Rather than talk about factory farming conditions, give
examples of animals that are treated well and that more should be
treated that way.
When you present yourself be sure to smile, laugh, be enthusiastic,
make great eye contact, thank people for their questions, and offer to
help them find an answer if you don’t have the answer they are looking
for. Make the group laugh, that will help them relate to you as a
human, and as a nice person, rather than the guest speaker who is
there to discount their lifestyle and condemn their eating habits.
When possible, avoid any kind of direct argument. Debating can be ok
depending on the setting but I wouldn’t recommend it. Give your
presentation and allow time for questions rather than a debate.
To help create a clear picture of who vegans are and what they do,
eat, and stand for, share part of your life with them. Talk them
through a typical day explaining what you eat. Start from morning
describing your meals up until you go to sleep that night. Bring in
examples of vegan alternatives to common foods like yogurt, milk,
meat, energy bars, cheese, treats, etc. Pass the foods around so they
can read the labels and get familiar with what is inside and so they
can see some healthy alternative foods they could be eating. Be sure
to read some highlights from the label of an example food. Such
as, “high in protein, no trans fat, no cholesterol, may reduce risk of
heart disease, etc.”
Come to the presentation prepared with some literature, such as Why
Vegan pamphlets or Vegan Starter Packs from Vegan Outreach. This will
give the group of people something to read while you field questions
and it could possibly create more questions based on the information
they read from the brochures or books.
The best thing that you can do is surprise the group you are speaking
to by not being what they expect. Most non-vegans will hear of a
vegan coming to speak at their class, group, school, function or
whatever the event may be, and immediately imagine a radical
environmentalist, angry at the government and meat and dairy
industries who will be preaching their ethical and moral values to
anyone who is not like them. This is what they expect in most cases,
so it is up to you to surprise them.
Come across as being just like them. Find some common ground and
perhaps even make it clear at the beginning that you are not there to
preach at them or that you are not trying to change their eating and
lifestyle habits. After hearing that, they will take a sigh of relief
and listen to what you have to say. If you open up with telling
people that eating meat is wrong, you might as well turn around and
walk out the door because you will no longer be heard by anyone in the
room and you will probably do more harm than good for the vegan
movement. Be their friend, relate to them, understand that yes,
animal products probably do taste pretty good, but explain why we may
want to consider other nice tasting foods that could be a bit
healthier and cause less environmental destruction.
If you come into contact with someone in the group who is aggressive
and tries to argue with you, quickly diffuse the situation by thanking
them and move on to the next question. You will be admired for your
control and the aggressive questioner, rather than you, will become
the “bad guy” in the eyes of the crowd. The group will probably have
more respect for you and they’ll be able to empathize with you since
you are the minority but handling yourself well through tough
My experience tells me that a non-aggressive, non-threatening,
friendly, enthusiastic approach works wonders when it comes to talking
with people on the other end of the environmental spectrum.
When you finish your presentation, realize that there are plenty of
other questions that the group probably has but didn’t have time or
the confidence to ask, so always leave them with some contact
information such as an e-mail address where they can contact you to
learn more about veganism.
Upon conclusion of your visit, always thank the group for inviting you
to share your lifestyle with them and stay around afterwards to
address individual questions that someone may not have wanted to ask
in front of a group.
If you take this enthusiastic, friendly, fun, gracious, non-
threatening approach you will be making the most of your potential
impact on the non-vegan community. You’ll be surprised how many
people may think really hard the next time they visit a fast food