Hello and welcome to episode 103 of The Vegan Business Tribe Podcast with myself David Pannell, co-founder of Vegan Business Tribe. And if you have a vegan business, or are thinking of starting one, then Vegan Business Tribe is here to support and inspire you not just to build a vegan business, but to build a SUCCESSFUL vegan business.
And today, after 103 episodes of the Vegan Business Tribe Podcast, we’ve finally done it – we’ve finally launched the video version of the podcast alongside the audio version, so if I’m looking you in the eye now on YouTube then hello, and apologies that you have to look at my face, and if I’m just talking to you in your ears, then hello as well, and be grateful that you don’t have to spend the next 25 minutes looking at me too! But moving forwards, we will be simultaneously recording the video version of this podcast at the same time as recording the audio version so that we can take this amazing vegan business support and advice to a much wider audience. We have built up so many fans on the podcast over the past couple of years, but we’re kind of nowhere to be found on YouTube – and to be honest the advice I give everyone else when they ask about launching a podcast is to make sure you record video with your podcast, so here we are.
And just to mention that we could not do this without the support of our three amazing sponsors of this episode, who are Vegan Accountants, The Vegan Publisher and Mad Promotions. And you’ll hear more about our sponsors later in this episode – but I just want to say, don’t just skip the ads! Because all our sponsors are ethical vegan companies just like you. I know the founders of them personally, I’ve worked with them all and they are also members of our Vegan Business Tribe community, so they’ve helped out a lot of our members with their vegan businesses too.
And, if you are signed up to our wonderful Vegan Tribe community, then you might have seen that one of our members, Kelly Vowels from Pixal Rose Hair Design, had an absolutely massive win – she got invited onto national breakfast television to defend each and every one of us, because the title of the segment was the ‘death of veganism!’ The station she was invited onto was one of the more confrontational right-wing news channels in the UK, and the reason that they were announcing the death of veganism was because a number of high-profile vegan brands have closed down recently – with the most recent being Meatless Farms in the UK, that had (the previous day) announced lay-offs and that it was going into administration. So the news channel saw that as the opportunity to talk about how all these vegan brands were going out of business due to lack of demand, and how veganism is dying off – and the only thing standing between this right-wing news station the reputation of veganism, was our Vegan Business Tribe member and local hairdresser Kelly.
And she knocked them dead.
It was beautiful to see. Because Kelly, not only is she an amazing vegan entrepreneur in the beauty industry, she’s also a boxer and a power-lifter. So when the other guest “expert” argued that you can’t get all the nutrients you need without eating animals, all Kelly had to do was to apologise for inconveniently continuing to exist.
But the reason that Kelly was such a great defender of veganism was because she knew all the answers to the typical anti-vegan myths. The other guest highlighted all the insects that are killed in vegan food production, and Kelly pointed out that almost half of all crops are grown to feed animal agriculture, so if you’re so concerned about the impact of crop production on insect life, then the way to reduce it is to just eat the plants ourselves instead of feeding them to animals to kill – and, oh, we’d also save all those animals too.
In fact, I nearly spat out my drink when Kelly looked the anti-vegan guest in the eye and said ‘So you’re coming at me as some kind of insect activist now are you?’. It was genuinely glorious.
But there was still the wider question that needed answering about why so many vegan brands are struggling at the moment. How can we say that veganism is still continuing to grow when brands like Meatless Farms are going into administration? Well, fortunately, Kelly had contacted me the night before she was due to appear on TV to find out, because she knew she was going to be asked about it. And this is a complicated subject, but these premium vegan brands are not struggling because of lack of demand, they are struggling because the opposite is true. There has been SO MUCH of a shift towards people buying vegan and plant-based that consumers are now not willing to pay premium prices for products that they are now buying regularly as part of their weekly shop.
Especially in a cost of living crisis, few people are going to spend £3.50 on a litre of branded oat-milk when you can buy the supermarket’s own-brand plant-milk for 59p if you just look at the shelf below.
Who’s going to pay £5 for a pack of two premium-brand plant-based burgers when you can instead buy a pack of 8 supermarket own-brand for £2.30? And this is what is happening across the industry. Kantar data shows that in the UK, sales of premium plant-based meat brands have declined by 10% over the past year, but sales of supermarket own-brand meat-free products have grown by nearly 15%. So goodbye Impossible Burger and Otley, hello store own-brand plant-based burgers and soy milk!
And this was what Kelly was able to point out live on national news. Vegan: 1. Right-wing news channel: Nill. And in fact, a few days later we learnt that VFC, or Vegan Fried Chicken, founded by Veganuary founder Matthew Glover and chef Adam Lyons, had swooped in to buy Meatless Farms, rescuing them from closure.
But I want to ask you, how well do you think you’d have done with being able to answer those arguments? If someone had challenged you about all the insects that are killed in the production of your food, or said that vegan brands closing down just showed that there was no demand any more and that veganism was on the way out, would you have known how to put them straight?
Because you might not get invited onto national television to defend veganism, but what about when a customer tells you that avocados are not vegan? Or that we are supposed to eat meat because we have canine teeth? What if you get one of these comments on one of your company’s social media posts? What if you are giving a presentation and someone with strong anti-vegan views decides to interrupt? How much time have you spent educating yourself so that you are able to dispel myths about the cause you are so passionate about? And have you practiced how to do it in a really constructive way that’s going to make the person you are talking to actually consider making a change themselves, instead of just viewing you as a preachy vegan?
Being a vegan business owner means you’re not just running a business; you’re also advocating for a cause. That’s why we’re doing this, our businesses are our form of activism. And it’s not just about being well-versed in the arguments and counter-arguments surrounding veganism – by finding out the truth behind some of these often-quoted myths, you will better understanding the foundations of veganism so that you can better connect with those customers who are on the same mission as you are.
And you’re not on your own with this. We live in the information age and high-profile vegans such as Earthling Ed Winters have produced free guides telling you all the responses to anti-vegan arguments. Just Google ’30 Non-Vegan Excuses and How to Respond to Them’ for Ed’s free PDF. And there is an influencer for every type of vegan, myself I love the work Joey Carbstrong does with his street interventions. They initially seem confrontational but he is so good at bringing people around to his way of thinking with facts, his compassion towards animals and his knowledge of the food industry. You will see him use the same structure in his conversations time and time again to lead someone through an ethical thought process and let them come to their own realisations.
So find an influencer who’s style of argument fits your own. Whether someone really direct like Joey, or someone more considered and thoughtful like Ed, and let them teach you. Watch their videos, learn how to answer all the really common anti-vegan myths, like about the number of insects and small animals killed in the production of plants and vegetables.
Another example is when someone says that it’s right to kill animals to eat them, because that’s what lions do. At first, you might freeze, because on the surface it seems right. Wild animals kill other wild animals and eat them. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t survive. But it’s actually a hugely ridiculous argument. We’re primates, not felines, just like our monkey cousins that almost exclusively eat plants and fruit. Gorillas live mainly on a diet of shoots and leaves and no-one is asking them where they get their protein from. Do you know what else lions do? They poo out in the open, so I guess you’re advocating against toilets too? They also kill their rival neighbours, so do you think a court of law would take your defence of ‘well, lions do it’ when you’d been convicted for bashing your neighbour over the head with the lawnmower? I mean, when has ‘acting like an animal’ ever been a desirable thing to do? We have moral decision-making abilities that animals don’t, and we’ve also got Tescos selling vegan meal deals two minutes from where we live.
You see how easy it is to disseminate these arguments with just a little bit of thought and knowledge and how ridiculous they are. You need to make sure that as a vegan activist (which is what you are if you have a vegan business!) that you don’t have to stop and think about these arguments, that you already know the answers.
As a vegan business owner you are going to come under a lot more scrutiny so it’s essential to stay up-to-date with the latest research, news, and developments in the vegan world. Like what’s going on with premium vegan brands struggling right now, Apple also had to readjust their expected growth this year, but no-one is saying it’s the death of the smart phone and everyone is going back to writing letters instead.
Find some vegan influencers you like, subscribe to vegan news outlets like Plant Based News and Vegconomist. You might even attend some of the sector’s conferences – the more you invest in your learning and your knowledge, the more effective an advocate you can be for your vegan business.
OK, so we know this is important, but it’s not always easy to do either. Some vegan companies actually make activism a huge part of their business strategy. Another one of our Vegan Business Tribe members, Steve and Mel from Vegan Muscle gym wear, set up a second YouTube channel where they go out on the street and talk to people about veganism. And it’s hard to argue with Steve and Mel about veganism being unhealthy, because they are the fittest people you have ever seen. Or it might be that you’re not the kind of person that wants to go out looking for conflict, but you want to be able to handle difficult questions and skepticism while staying true to your vegan ethics. So let’s look at how to equip ourselves with the tools to handle these situations confidently and compassionately.
First, it’s important that you approach these situations with a calm and open mindset. You will never convince someone to change their mind if you can’t sympathise with the other person’s perspective and the reasons behind their objections to veganism. For example, I find I do extremely well with non-vegans because I was none-vegan myself for most of my life. I only turned vegan when I was around 40, so if someone tries to taunt me by talking about bacon, for example, I can confidently tell them that I’ve probably eaten more bacon than they have.
It’s why when I respond to anti-vegan comments on our social media posts, the first thing I say is ‘Yeah, I get it’. And I do, I know what thought processes I had to go through on my own vegan journey. I always considered myself to be an ethical and compassionate person, while I was eating a bacon sandwich every day. So when someone presents an argument against veganism, I understand where that argument is coming from because I probably had those same thoughts myself ten years ago.
And when you approach anti-vegan comments like this, you become the vegan that you wish you’d met before you went vegan, the person who would have helped you face your own hypocrisy earlier. Not by preaching and being combative, but by showing that they once held the same opinion but then they learnt something they didn’t realise that made them change their view of the world.
For example, let me tell you about a chat I had on social media last week. We’ve got a couple of adverts running at the moment promoting our Vegan Business Tribe lead magnets, and because of the way that Facebook categorises what it thinks people are interested in, some of those adverts inevitably get shown to non-vegans. And because of that, as you would expect, our adverts sometimes get anti-vegan comments.
And as much as I can, I engage with those people in a really positive way, because I get it. I understand where their views come from because I used to have similar views myself, I’m sure you probably did too before you learned what it was you learnt that made you turn vegan. So I’m always really friendly, I never dismiss their view and I put my name at the end of the comment so they know who they are talking to. And the comment I responded to this week on our social media was from someone who said that vegans were so preachy, and that we’d have more effect if we didn’t try to force our views on everyone. And, I mean, the advert he commented on was just promoting a PDF guide on how to start a vegan business, so hardly undercover footage from a slaughterhouse.
So I followed my normal strategy and this is the response I gave. I said, “I get it, that’s what I used to think before I was vegan. And you’re right, sometimes vegans do come across as preachy. But that’s because over 200 million land animals are killed every day in our food system. To put that figure into context, if you killed humans at the same rate, every single person on the earth would be dead in less than 40 days. I didn’t know that before I went vegan, but surely, that just can’t be right?”
And the person’s replied a few hours later, and he simply said: “wow – I didn’t know that”.
Now, I don’t know that person. Was he going to run out into the street and declare he was turning vegan tomorrow? Probably not. But I’d taken a point of conflict and used it to plant a seed. Maybe they think of that 200 million figure the next time they were walking past the animal corpses in the the supermarket. Because it’s not about winning arguments and proving you are right, it’s about creating positive change. With the operative word there being ‘positive’.
Online platforms can be a breeding ground for negative discussions and personal attacks. Trust me, when some of our Facebook adverts have had photos of me and my wife Lisa on them I’ve received all sorts of comments about me being bald because I don’t eat meat or that I look unhealthy because all vegan food is junk food, and it always makes me laugh that quite often these comments are made by people sho’s profile photos shows another bald overweight middle-aged man, so pot, kettle and all that! But when faced with these kinds of troll comments or augments, it’s important to remain composed. Avoid getting caught up in heated arguments, just let it sit there a while if it’s got you riled up and come back to it later. And when you do respond, do so thoughtfully and respectfully, make sure you know your facts and remember you’re not trying to win an argument, you’re trying to plant a seed.
You have to also remember that your responses not only influence the person you’re engaging with but also impact the perceptions of the wider audience. These are open forums, so lots of other people see the conversation. In fact, more often than not another vegan will jump on and will have already responded to a comment before I see the notification.
And then lastly, if you fo get faced with challenging questions or objections during public speaking engagements or TV and radio interviews, preparation really is key. Like our VBT member Kelly on the breakfast news, she already knew the answers to the most common anti-vegan myths. We actually had a group discussion in our Community Hub the day before Kelly was due to go on TV and I said I bet they come up with the insects argument, and they did!
But there might be other things that you don’t know about, so again, like Kelly, go find out. If you hear an argument against veganism that you wouldn’t know how to respond to, go find out the answer and file it away in your mind for later. Memorise some facts, like how many animals are killed each day, or at what age pigs are usually killed for pork and bacon, and if you don’t know – Google that question and brace yourself for the answer. We’re genuinely eating babies folks.
The next time someone says “they don’t kill the cow to make cheese you know!”, ask them why they think that cow is producing milk in the first place? When do humans and every other mammal produce milk? And ask them what they think happened to the baby cow if instead that milk is being used to make cheese instead of feed that baby? You might even want to point out that the natural life span of a cow is about 20 years, but they are typically killed at three years old in the dairy industry and replaced with their more ‘productive’ children.
Take opportunities to try out dispelling these myths when you can. Maybe even get involved with some street activity yourself – go find out if your local vegan group ever go out campaigning and go along with them.
Look for opportunities to speak, like Kelly does, to change people’s minds about veganism. Arm yourself with statistics, personal stories and common sense arguments and maybe you’ll become the vegan that you wish you’d met before you went vegan yourself.
OK, so let’s have a recap of everything we’ve just learnt on why it’s important to know your facts and stats as a vegan business owner:
As a vegan business, you need to be able to address common anti-vegan arguments and myths, whether it’s responding to customers, engaging on social media or being invited onto your local TV or radio station.
You don’t have to work out the answers yourself. Download Earthling Ed’s free ’30 Non-Vegan Excuses and How to Respond to Them’ PDF, or watch how vegan street-influencers like Joey Carbstrong walk people through ethical thought-processes.
Stay informed about the latest research, news, and developments in the vegan sector through resources like vegan news outlets and attending conferences.
Approach challenges with a calm and open mindset. People are just airing thoughts and opinions that you likely had yourself before YOU went vegan yourself. So tell them that you understand and then tell them what made you change your mind.
Engage with anti-vegan comments positively, using them as an opportunity to plant seeds. Be the vegan you wish you’d met before you turned vegan.
Avoid heated arguments online. Remember that your responses are not only read by the person who commented but everyone else who sees it too. Be friendly, knowledgeable and focussed on influencing the person positively rather than trying to win an argument.
Preparation is key. Familiarise yourself with common anti-vegan myths and objections, and look for opportunities to try them out. Maybe your local vegan groups do some street advocacy that you can join in with or maybe you can even make activism part of your marketing strategy – like Steve and Mel from Vegan Muscle.
And that is it!
So, even if you’re the kind of person that completely avoids conflict, being confident in being able to bust vegan myths means you can avoid a lot of that conflict in the first place. If you’ve been in this situation, please let me know – email us on email@example.com
or if you’re already a member, then share it with the other members in our Tribe Chat channel in our Community Hub.
And remember, if you are not already signed up with us over on veganbusinesstribe.com
then you are missing out on the most amazing and active vegan business community you could ever hope to be part of. I know how isolating it can be running a vegan business, in fact sometimes it can just feel isolating being vegan, so come and dive in and get the support you need to make an even bigger impact, connect with hundreds of other vegan business owners from around the world and take your vegan business to the next level. We are your Tribe!
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I really appreciate you giving up your time to be here, but now go, bring about that vegan world, and I will see you on the next one!