Self defence for vegan businesses
While conflict may not be your cup of tea, there will be times in your business when you’re called upon to defend veganism and its ethical principles.
From encountering anti-vegan comments on social media to facing loaded questions during presentations, or even finding yourself in a TV interview alongside someone with opposing views, it’s essential to be well-practiced in debunking common vegan myths.
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. But at times that means you’re going to be called-upon to answer awkward questions that might put you into conflict. 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?
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.
Where to find the answers
The first thing to remember is that you’re not on your own with this. We live in the information age and high-profile vegans such as Earthling Ed Winters (pictured) have produced free guides telling you all the responses to anti-vegan arguments. Such as Ed’s free ‘30 Non-Vegan Excuses and How to Respond to Them‘ PDF. And there is an influencer for every type of vegan. You might love the work that someone like Joey Carbstrong does with his street interventions: interviews that initially seem confrontational but he brings 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.
Anti-vegan arguments are easy to disseminate with a little bit of thought and knowledge. For example, someone might say that it’s right to kill animals and 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 in the middle of the savannah, 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’re 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.
See how easy it is? 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.
Handling (or maybe even courting!) conflict
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. One of our Vegan Business Tribe members, Steve and Mel from Vegan Muscle gym wear (pictured), 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 didn’t turn vegan myself until later in life. 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 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.
It’s why when I respond to anti-vegan comments on our Vegan Business Tribe 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, but then I tell them what I learnt (that I didn’t know) that made me reconsider.
And when you approach anti-vegan comments like this, you become the vegan that you wish you’d met before you went vegan. You become the person who would have helped you face your own hypocrisy earlier. Not by preaching and being combative, but by showing that you once held the same opinion but then learnt something that made you change your view of the world.
Online platforms can be a breeding ground for negative discussions and personal attacks, but when faced with these kinds of troll comments or augments it’s important to remain composed. Avoid getting caught up in heated arguments, let a comment sit there for 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 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 you.
And then lastly, if you 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 Vowels from Pixal Rose Hair Design who was invited onto breakfast news (pictured above) to defend veganism, 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 we talked about what kind of arguments might come up – and a number of them did.
Take the opportunity to educate
There might be other things that you don’t know about. 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 that milk is being used to make cheese instead of feeding that baby? You might even want to point out that the natural lifespan 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 do street campaigning and go along with them. Look for opportunities to speak 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.
A bullet point recap of what we’ve covered in this article:
- 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 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 the counter-arguments to 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.
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