We all have them: those stubborn family members or friends that could ‘never give up cheese’, or insist on including meat in at least two out of their three daily meals. The people that we’ve given up trying to discuss animal welfare with, knowing that whatever points we raise will be swept away by the same hand that reaches for a second helping of meat at Sunday dinner. Frustratingly, we’ll often give up hope of converting those closest to us before we do with anyone else, whether it be because we ‘know what they’re like’, or we simply don’t want to cause an argument at home. But what if, instead of accepting that these loved ones will never give veganism a chance, we remained patient and hopeful?
It was less than a year ago that I wrote about maintaining a romantic relationship with a meat-eater and, while it inevitably came with its own tribulations, it could absolutely be done. This evening, I’ll be returning home to the very same man that I wrote about, except for one substantial difference; he’s now vegan, and hasn’t so much as touched animal products in months.
My boyfriend was one of those that I had dismissed as a permanent non-vegan. When we started dating, his intake of animal products was undoubtedly reduced (more drastically so, once we moved in together), but he could never seem to detach himself entirely from meat. He understood and accepted responsibility for the implications of supporting the meat industry, even if only occasionally, and admitted that his enjoyment of consuming meat products outweighed the many benefits of potentially turning to veganism.
I had, for a long time, solemnly accepted his choice; it was something we had discussed before officiating our relationship, and I had already agreed that it wasn’t a deal breaker to me. Of course, there were times that it was difficult; no matter how respectful or discreet he was when consuming animal products around me, there were still countless discussions, debates and heated arguments about his decision to support an industry that I had disowned. And, while I knew that if I forced an ultimatum upon him, he would rather give up animal products than end our relationship, I would never want to emotionally manipulate someone into making the right decision. If he was going to turn to veganism, he would do it his own way. In the meantime, I would remain patient; trusting that the compassion and understanding that attracted me to this man in the first place, would inevitably lead him up the same path to a cruelty-free lifestyle that I found myself on almost a year and a half ago.
What is important to note is that ‘patient’ is not synonymous with ‘silent’; it wasn’t that I just quit talking about veganism altogether. On the contrary, I implemented vegan meal-planning at home, ensuring that we would both get to experience new, delicious recipes from the comfort of our own dining table. I got him to try the latest meat replacements as they hit the supermarket shelves and new vegan dishes as they were introduced to some of our favourite restaurants. If his reluctance to turn to veganism was about taste, then it was up to me to show him that he didn’t need animal products to enjoy his food.
And then on one chilly evening in late February, as we sat eating dinner in one of our local pubs, he said something that I thought I may never hear. ‘You’re right about all this, you know,’ he said, ‘You are right. I’m going to do it. It’s the right thing to do.’ Well, I nearly choked on my three bean chilli – I couldn’t believe it! It hadn’t taken tears, it hadn’t taken threats; while it may have taken over a year to do it, being patient and adapting the way I went about promoting veganism to appeal to his individual needs had proven to be the most efficient method of persuasion. Since that day, my boyfriend has hit the ground running; he’s a die-hard Earthling Ed fan (‘What would Earthling Ed do?’ has become a frequent train of thought in our house), promotes the cause to his work colleagues, and suggests we dine at every vegan restaurant we can find. He also happens to be the first non-vegan that I have managed to officially recruit since turning vegan myself, so I can’t help but consider this to be a personal victory, too!
This is why I implore you not to give up on your non-vegan friends and family members, no matter how hopeless it may feel. Instead, try to pinpoint exactly what is stopping them from making the change. For my boyfriend, it was the taste of meat; so surrounding him with delicious vegan food was the final push he needed to switch to veganism. My dad, on the other hand, admits that he can’t bring himself to watch slaughterhouse exposés because seeing what happens to animals before they are repackaged as meat products would really upset him. This already shows that animal welfare does affect him emotionally, but ignoring the truth has been easier than facing it. Persuading these two people to give up animal products would require two entirely different approaches, different timescales, and a lot of patience. But I don’t believe that anyone I love is too far gone to see the beauty of a vegan lifestyle, and that with time, we are all capable of doing the right thing.