By Paul Payabyab-Cruz
You’ve likely seen someone holding up anti-meat signs with pictures of factory farmed pigs, or received booklets from strangers documenting the horrible conditions that cows and chickens endure. While this information is eye-opening, it is not what convinced me to go vegan.
Growing up, I tried being a vegetarian multiple times. I always gave up. It wasn’t until I started learning from documentaries and other vegans/vegetarians that I began easing into the animal-free diet I follow today.
I witnessed all the different people who were able to sustain this lifestyle. From athletes to people with chronic health problems to people who just wanted to change their diet. They helped me understand the dietary lifestyle beyond gruesome photos of tortured animals. Instead of making me feel bad, they showed me the benefits of veganism without pressuring me to change.
This is why I don’t preach veganism. However, I do still talk about it.
I wouldn’t go up to a friend who’s eating a ham sandwich and ask, “Do you know what they do to those animals?” More times than not, this attitude would illicit a defensive response and close them off to what I have to say. Admittedly, I think this is warranted. I’m reprimanding instead of informing.
Rather, I talk about my veganism if someone asks me about it. A friend will offer me an animal product and I’ll say, “No thank you; I don’t eat animal products,” coupled with a smile and gratitude for their gesture. With this comes a curiosity that sparks up conversation and opens the floor to honest dialogue. I find that people are more receptive to this approach because they are inquiring on their own. I’m not forcing information into their brains they didn’t ask for.
Choosing positive communication instead of being combative creates a free flow of information that is impossible when one has to defend themselves. I don’t believe I’m better than anyone else because of my diet, which is why I would never want anyone to feel bad about theirs. As compassion for life is the basis of many peoples’ choice to abstain from meat, so should it be in our relationships.