…and not strident!
Marcel is a close friend of mine who is vegan sympathetic, but still eats seafood. The rest of the time, he is on a plant-based vegan diet and has been for years. He is one of the healthiest people that I know. This week we got together and he had an observation that I thought was worth sharing with my vegan readers, so I asked him if we could get together and have a chat about it. He said yes!
First a little bit about my friend (that’s not him above, but it could be!) Marcel has been an independent business man for the bulk of his career. He has owned businesses from investment companies to fiber optic networks to performing art studios. Marcel was a vegetarian for two years back in the early nineties and was raised by forward thinking people who had many friends who were vegetarians. He still believes that vegans and vegetarians are forward thinking people!
Marcel what were your early perceptions about vegetarians? As a kid my parents friends that were vegetarians were always so healthy and compassionate. They were inherently kind people! I enjoyed spending time with them. Would they bring food over? YES! They would always bring food that was always different and exotic. It would smell delicious and it would be tasty. I remember it being such an adventure!
So obviously your early experiences were positive?! Do you think that this helped influence your later decision to go vegetarian and now, I almost consider you a vegan since you don’t eat animals with four legs or dairy? Yes, absolutely. I think that people in general have a fear of vegetarianism and veganism. I was raised without that fear, so it’s an easy crossover for me and I know that it should be an easy crossover for anyone. I truly believe that. A vegan meal is every bit a “comfort food” than those meals that come to mind when that phrase is used. Furthermore, its simply good for the planet! There’s a greater good involved in being a vegan. I agree!
We got together today to talk about something that’s been on your mind, and mine as well, about how to best communicate and relay the beneficial message of adopting a plant-strong vegan diet, so let’s talk about that. Yes, one thing that I’ve noticed about the vegan/vegetarian crowd is that there is a kindred spirit and passion behind the cause. Conversely I have noticed that at times that crowd can be strident in their message. Yes, but don’t you think that’s because we, myself included, feel this is such an urgent cause and message on behalf of the animals and our earth? No doubt and I agree with that! I understand it. It resonates with me, but I am afraid that it can be a turnoff when a stance is taken that can oftentimes put even a sympathetic ear on the defensive. I liken it to the powerful tool of guilt and Catholicism. I say that with a satirical note, but it’s true when someone starts talking about animals dying and the planet perishing. This can be off putting because lord knows the average person doesn’t want any animal to die. I have to interject here, Marcel, because if they don’t want any animal to die then why are they eating them? What makes one animal a pet and others a meal? How do you make this distinction? Well, that’s my point, for people to understand this equation it’s about assimilating all the issues that are involved with these types of choices. I think that for the majority of people out there the greater point is to help them move in a direction of a plant-strong diet, which for most is a long process, but a very worthy cause not just for their health but for the planet and for the animals. I agree with you on that!
How do you think vegans/vegetarians can best help “move the needle on the meter” in the right direction? To me, the best educators are those that embrace the equation versus getting up on a soapbox. What I mean by that is they enthusiastically communicate their joy about being a vegan. For example, they give anecdotes about how it has changed their life for the better. Frankly, there’s nothing more fun than sharing a great new meal or recipe! It’s true that factory farms are horrific and every bit a part of the discussion, but I believe that it shouldn’t be used in the form of guilt. It’s a sad and terrible story, but it doesn’t need to be the overwhelming theme. I agree, but I do think that people need to be made aware of these horrors that are happening on a daily basis, so that people can make informed choices. For a lot of people they need to be confronted with the reality of factory farming and it’s horrors, not to forget the use of GMO’s (genetically modified organisms) plus all the other things that are found in most meat, like hormones, pesticides and antibiotics. That’s all true and it’s very important information, but I think that in the initial stages of going towards a decidedly more plant-based diet that people can be overwhelmed and turned off.