We’re excited to be launching a new series on our blog The Vegan Dialogues. We want to debate the big issues that veganism faces in 2018 and acknowledge the nuances, challenge our assumptions and develop the discussion further. We’d like to provide a non-judgemental, respectful platform for those with a variety of different opinions and positions to discuss their points of view.
How do you talk about your veganism to those who eat meat?
Today’s topic is, how do you talk about your veganism to those who eat meat? If we all share the same goal of hoping to reduce and eventually end animal suffering, how best do we achieve this? We’ve been musing as to whetherthe key could be in how we communicate with others about these issues that are so close to our hearts. Perhaps it’s the case that pointing the finger of blame provokes a defensive response, and the debate remains a stalemate between those imploring “Go vegan!” on one side, and those shouting “But bacon!” on the other, with no progress being made. But on the other hand, if we are too passive and polite, maybe change will happen too slowly to make a real difference to the animals that are suffering today. We want to ask, how do you talk about your veganism to those who aren’t vegan?
Fiona Oakes: Animal Advocate Extraordinaire!
We’ve asked internationally successful athlete and esteemed lifelong animal advocate Fiona Oakes for her point of view on this topic. If you have yet to discover her, Fiona Oakes is a true animal advocate having dedicated her entire life to the promotion of veganism and animal welfare issues beginning age 3 when she became a self inspired vegetarian progressing towards veganism age 6 years. She is a Triple Guinness World Record holder – records she set in 2013 being the fastest woman to run a Marathon on every Continent and the North Pole subsequently re-breaking 2 of these records in 2014. Fiona runs purely to promote and showcase the benefits of a vegan lifestyle in a positive and proactive way and to silence the doubters, myths and misconceptions surrounding plant based living working in harmony with sporting excellence. She is also an Elite Marathoner having won numerous Marathons and placed in 2 of the World’s Major Marathon Series with a PB of 2hrs 38 minutes and a highly accomplished ‘ultra’ athlete having completed the notorious Marathon des Sables – often described as the ‘toughest footrace on the planet’ – 3 times. A retained Fire Fighter and accomplished and highly acclaimed public speaker, Fiona always considers her primary role and vocation in life to be sustaining and growing her animal Sanctuary, Towerhill Stables, which she started over 21 years ago. The Sanctuary is run on an entirely not for profit basis and provides a forever home and Sanctuary to over 450 animals rescued from many dire situations including abuse, cruelty, neglect and exploitation. Currently she is the subject of the Documentary – Running for Good – being made by Cowspiracy and What the Health Co-Director, Keegan Kuhn the filming of which both at home in the Sanctuary and abroad racing, has taken up much of Fiona’s ‘spare’ time. I think we can all agree, Fiona’s commitment, dedication and passion is phenomenal! Here is Fiona’s perspective on the question, how do you talk about your veganism to those who eat meat?
My life has been a living demonstration of animal rights. I come from an era before Social Media and easily accessible information sharing. This has obviously impacted on my personal approach to promoting veganism. For me, I have always believed actions speak louder than words and form a universal language which everyone can understand. Through my running I have always sought to promote veganism in a positive way – it’s the reason I am out there. No need for words when you are proving your point in a Vegan Runner Vest – winning races and breaking world records. People can see, for their own eyes the benefits of plant power. Likewise at my Sanctuary, where I care for over 450 previously unwanted, abused and neglected animals. People can come and can see the world we are all striving for and the proof is there in front of them that it can happen and is a viable option, where all can live together in peace and harmony – human and non-human alike. Self-inspired vegan at 6 years old and 40 years on, still achieving, my actions leave no need for verbal rhetoric. I have experienced no ‘light bulb’ moment as to my veganism, there has been no epiphany and I can offer no ‘before and after’ comparison. My approach has been to illustrate by actions what can be done, what should be done and how well it can work by actually going out there and proving it.
Fiona raises very interesting points about moving beyond rhetoric, which can often be so problematic, and instead proving that veganism in the way forward through example and action. We’ve certainly found ourselves lost in the Facebook comments section debating facts and figures from the UN report on farming for what seems like an eternity, but you cannot dispute the outstanding success that Fiona Oakes is having as a world-class athlete. Fiona’s example is a powerful way of communicating the message of veganism for those who are not vegan.
Louise: The Soft Sell
Our second opinion is from Louise, a close friend of the Beyond Skin team for many years now. Louise has been vegetarian since the age of 14, and eventually progressed to veganism at the age of 21, after being introduced to veganism through friends and finally researching it herself and becoming very passionate about the issues of factory farming, industrial killing and moral philosophy. Ten years on, here is her perspective on the question, how do you talk about your veganism to those who eat meat?
No-one from family are vegan or vegetarian, so I became very self-conscious about being the stereotype of being “the vegan at the BBQ”, lecturing people on the environmental impact of cattle farming and the inhumane farming practices used to make their burger (because I totally did that quite a few times!). And I noticed that when I did that, people seemed to switch off, or find a way to refute what I was saying. We seemed to have set up an interaction designed for us both to be in opposition, rather than finding common ground. So I wanted to develop a way of talking about veganism and the suffering of animals in a way that people might engage with the ideas positively, rather than reacting defensively. One quote in particular that was a real catalyst for me was a quote (I think! You can never trust memes) by Malcolm X, saying “Don’t be in such a hurry to condemn a person because he doesn’t do what you do, or think as you think. There was a time when you didn’t know what you know today”. So whenever I talk to those who eat meat, I always try to establish a common ground, and discuss the environmental and ethical implications of meat without being confrontational or judgemental. I wanted to start an open-minded discussion in the hope that it might spark them to research it for themselves, and find their own personal motivation to stick at their journey towards a kinder, more sustainable diet.
Louise’s gentle approach sounds like a good way of developing connections with those who aren’t vegan, and side-stepping that initial awkwardness of being “the vegan at the BBQ”, which we are certainly familiar with! Hopefully Louise’s discussions will inspire people to explore these issues themselves.
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In my opinion, X is one of the greatest revolutionaries of all time. He was incredible and inspiring. He loved his people. He subscribed to the awakening of the minds of the melanated kind, for which he fought incessantly and admirably. He overcame struggle and hardship on an immense level. Despite the odds stacked against him, he promoted righteousness, veracity, intrepidness, and liberation of the mind from mental slavery. X was against frivolity and foolishness. X was a martyr for what he believed in and what he stood for. Rest in power to one of the greatest activists this world has ever seen. He had knowledge of self that could never be deprived from him. He understood what it meant to be unapologetically himself and true to his values. I enjoyed reading his book too in the past.
We’d like to say a big thank you to Fiona Oakes and to Louise for taking part in our first Vegan Dialogues, and we highly recommend you donate to Fiona’s animal sanctuary, Towerhill Stables, follow Fiona on Instagram and check out the Fiona Oakes Foundation.
Join the discussion!
We want to know, what do you think? How do you talk about your veganism to those who eat meat? Is how you interact with meat-eaters different on social media than it is in real life, and why? How do you interact with someone who’s trying to reduce their meat consumption? How do you interact with someone who’s vegetarian? We would very much value your comments, as we hope The Vegan Dialogues to be non-judgemental and respectful, and so any and all contributions are welcome. Join the discussion in the comments section!