Being vegan often means the world is against you. Which isn’t entirely surprising, considering you’ve taken a stance and chosen a lifestyle that makes people uncomfortable; it often makes them look at their own choices and they may, deep down be not entirely comfortable with them. There are ways to survive as a vegan, which are especially important if you live in a city or town that’s not entirely ‘vegan-friendly,’ like the one I live in.
Being sure of your opinion and doing research to back it up is vital, like knowing if you’re a welfarist or an abolitionist. It’s also important to understand all the different reasons for being vegan (environmental, ethical, health). Some people choose all of these reasons for being vegan, while others may pick and choose. Understanding where your ethics lie and doing research will help you when you’re faced with hard questions. People will attack your beliefs and if you are not sure of where you stand, you may start to question them.
Another challenge I’ve faced in my city is the lack of vegan cuisine. A few useful tips that have helped me are first off, knowing when vegan food is going to be served and being prepared for when it’s not. If it’s not being served, eat ahead of time, or bring a vegan dish to surprise your party with how great they can taste. Bringing Clif Bars, or ReBars or any kind of vegan-friendly energy bar with you at all times helps in emergency situations. Of course one of the biggest challenges with vegan cuisine in a limited city is getting your vitamins. I find that loading up at breakfast with hearty oatmeal & hemp hearts and a kale & berry smoothie gets me most of the required vitamins for the day, that way I don’t have to obsess as much throughout the rest of the day.
Understanding that you can’t change the whole world, and that some people have a mad hate-on for vegans no matter what you say is also pretty key. When I get into debates about why I’m vegan I try to keep that in mind. My goal is not to change a person’s mind, it’s to present my argument as logically and coherently as possible. People have it in their mind that vegans are preachy and sanctimonious, so breaking that stigma is sometimes a little more important to me so that my argument might actually be heard and not dismissed. It’s like voting: You can’t force everyone to vote, but your vote does matter, and expressing your reasons for doing so in a diplomatic and non-pushy manner can often be the most convincing argument you can make.
Being vegan is a lifestyle choice and it’s not going to be easy. Giving up meat and animal products and bi-products is the easy part – it’s facing the everyday challenges of the onslaught of arguments from friends and family and the lack of available services that is the real challenge. Just stay true to your beliefs and remember that this isn’t abstinence, if you eat cheese one day because it’s the only thing around it doesn’t mean you have to start all over. Becoming vegan is a learning process, and no one is perfect at it. Check out vegan blogs that are chalked full of recipes (like my personal favourite, Angela Liddon’s), and don’t take yourself too seriously!