After sharing No Meat Athlete Matt Frazier’s excellent “10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Went Vegan” on my personal Facebook page this afternoon, I was delighted to find a private message from a close friend in my inbox: “I saw your article you posted on being a vegan, and I’m curious: Why did you decide to become a vegan?“
For the last many months, I have mostly welcomed and occasionally dreaded this question, vacillating between wanting — desperately! — to share the issues that matter to me and are constantly on my mind, and fearing the conversation in which I, too polite to go on and on, demur and fail to represent the vehemence of my position.
But, as I mentioned, this was a close friend, and we often have discussions of this sort of importance, so I permitted myself a little rambling, and told her my long story, and some of my reasons.
For those of us who spend long hours (and months and years) deliberating over decisions such as this, the simple question “Why?” is almost always welcome. With the exception of those moments in which I am pressured by social obligations (for instance, I often warn people that they don’t want to ask me about veganism while they are eating animals), I am generally eager to discuss the things that matter to me. What many people don’t expect is just how eager I am.
Those who don’t regularly make decisions of this magnitude are not in tune to the challenges of living every single day as a vegan, deliberately — and often to the offense of those around us — rejecting what most people find “normal.” They don’t realize that outright mockery and provocation of vegetarians and vegans is gleefully encouraged (!) by anyone who won’t bother to learn more about it. To those with non-specific diets, concerns like how to navigate holiday gatherings are completely foreign.
So when an outsider willfully enters that world, if only just for a moment, I am overjoyed. When someone is genuinely interested in learning more (not just confused and antagonistic), I am glad to share my experiences.
After going on at some length about the process that led to my current lifestyle, I stopped myself from creating an extensive reading list for my friend and recommended only two pieces: the above video of a conversation between ethicist Peter Singer and biologist Richard Dawkins, and Jonathan Safran Foer’s brilliant book Eating Animals.
What I’ve learned is that all it really takes to move someone’s mind is one question. Even if that question is simply “What’s a vegan?”, the answer is sure to open minds just a tiny bit. I always hope that the question leads to more questions and more research and meaningful change, but if all it leads to is a bit more mindfulness, then that is enough.