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  • Presenting Veganism


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    Presenting Veganism
    by Robert Cheeke, Vegan Bodybuilder, April 11th, 2005

    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 commonquestions that non-vegans have for us on a daily basis. They arefairly easy to answer because anyone who knows anything about
    nutrition knows that protein is one of the easiest nutrients to findin human nutrition; and to answer the latter question, all you have todo is tell them what you eat or more simply, tell them the foods youavoid and that you eat everything else.

    But what if you are preparing to give a presentation to a group ofpeople; do you know what kind of approach you would take and how youwould answer questions?

    In my experience, the best way to approach any animal rights orveganism presentation to non-vegans is to be prepared for thequestions you know will be asked and come across as a nice person justsharing your lifestyle with them.

    Nobody wants to hear that they are doing something wrong, so keepeverything positive. Rather than giving statistics about how meat-eaters will die sooner than vegans, say that vegans live long healthylives, taking in all required nutrients to stay active and maintaingreat health. Rather than talk about factory farming conditions, giveexamples of animals that are treated well and that more should betreated that way.

    When you present yourself be sure to smile, laugh, be enthusiastic,make great eye contact, thank people for their questions, and offer tohelp them find an answer if you don't have the answer they are lookingfor. Make the group laugh, that will help them relate to you as ahuman, and as a nice person, rather than the guest speaker who isthere to discount their lifestyle and condemn their eating habits.

    When possible, avoid any kind of direct argument. Debating can be okdepending on the setting but I wouldn't recommend it. Give yourpresentation 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 themthrough a typical day explaining what you eat. Start from morningdescribing your meals up until you go to sleep that night. Bring inexamples of vegan alternatives to common foods like yogurt, milk,meat, energy bars, cheese, treats, etc. Pass the foods around so theycan read the labels and get familiar with what is inside and so theycan see some healthy alternative foods they could be eating. Be sureto read some highlights from the label of an example food. Suchas, "high in protein, no trans fat, no cholesterol, may reduce risk ofheart disease, etc."

    Come to the presentation prepared with some literature, such as WhyVegan pamphlets or Vegan Starter Packs from Vegan Outreach. This willgive the group of people something to read while you field questionsand it could possibly create more questions based on the informationthey read from the brochures or books.

    The best thing that you can do is surprise the group you are speakingto by not being what they expect. Most non-vegans will hear of avegan coming to speak at their class, group, school, function orwhatever the event may be, and immediately imagine a radicalenvironmentalist, angry at the government and meat and dairyindustries who will be preaching their ethical and moral values toanyone 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 andperhaps even make it clear at the beginning that you are not there topreach at them or that you are not trying to change their eating andlifestyle habits. After hearing that, they will take a sigh of reliefand listen to what you have to say. If you open up with tellingpeople that eating meat is wrong, you might as well turn around andwalk out the door because you will no longer be heard by anyone in theroom and you will probably do more harm than good for the veganmovement. Be their friend, relate to them, understand that yes,animal products probably do taste pretty good, but explain why we maywant to consider other nice tasting foods that could be a bithealthier and cause less environmental destruction.

    If you come into contact with someone in the group who is aggressiveand tries to argue with you, quickly diffuse the situation by thankingthem and move on to the next question. You will be admired for yourcontrol and the aggressive questioner, rather than you, will becomethe "bad guy" in the eyes of the crowd. The group will probably havemore respect for you and they'll be able to empathize with you sinceyou are the minority but handling yourself well through toughsituations.

    My experience tells me that a non-aggressive, non-threatening,friendly, enthusiastic approach works wonders when it comes totalkingwith people on the other end of the environmental spectrum.

    When you finish your presentation, realize that there are plenty ofother questions that the group probably has but didn't have time orthe confidence to ask, so always leave them with some contactinformation such as an e-mail address where they can contact you tolearn more about veganism.

    Upon conclusion of your visit, always thank the group for inviting youto share your lifestyle with them and stay around afterwards toaddress individual questions that someone may not have wanted to askin front of a group.

    If you take this enthusiastic, friendly, fun, gracious, non-threatening approach you will be making the most of your potentialimpact on the non-vegan community. You'll be surprised how manypeople may think really hard the next time they visit a fast foodrestaurant.
    Robert Cheeke
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