By Psychologist, Clare Mann Bsc, MSc, MA, PD Dip Couns, Reg Psych. CPsychol
Clare is a psychologist, bestselling author and co-founder of The Animal Effect Communication Platform.
Clare’s advice for day fifteen:
Congratulations! You are half way through the 30-Day Vegan Challenge. I am sure you are learning a lot about yourself as well as vegan nutrition, recipes and communicating your experiences with other people.
Below are the tips I have shared to date. Re-read the advice from previous days for more information on each tip.
1. Create a daily ritual so you develop habits that support your vegan journey. Focus on becoming the person you want to be and don’t let anything stand in your way.
2. If you anticipate conflict, hold off having conversations about veganism with sceptical people. Learn as much as you can, so you will be well prepared in future.
3. At any time, you are moving towards a goal or away from it. If you mistakenly eat something that isn’t vegan, stop eating it RIGHT AWAY. Forgive yourself, don’t indulge in negative thought patterns or self-blame and keep going.
4. Regularly remind yourself of what influenced you to enter the Challenge. Focus on the WHY so your energy and intention is renewed and your health, purse, conscience and the animals will thank you for it.
5. When invited to dinner, ask people to support you by ensuring vegans are well catered for.
6. Preserve your energies and focus on the Challenge. You can always explain vegan ideology with confidence when you are experienced and feel more confident and informed.
7. Spend time around vegans or people sympathetic to your journey. You will learn a lot and be more able to tell people about veganism with more information
8. When talking about veganism with non-vegans, partner with people by using language that indicates that ‘we all are learning’ rather than indicating that you are special because you have stopped eating animals and they haven’t.
9. Tell your friends/family that you want to spend time with them even if you won’t be eating traditional foods. Explain your reasons, without overloading them or pressurising them.
10. If you anticipate conflict with others when answering questions about veganism, make a contract with them and refer to their agreement of it, if they become resistant or critical.
11. When other people become defensive about your choices, ask them questions. Get them to defend their perspective rather than providing more and more information in the hope they will suddenly understand you.
12. Don’t try to convert people to veganism in one go. Move them along the Continuum of Awareness in every conversation, appreciating that other sources of information influence their awareness too.
13. Stay positive and focused on the Challenge. Train your mind to support you and believe, ‘without a shadow of a doubt’ that your health and wellbeing is improving every day.
Clare’s advice for day sixteen:
As you continue on he Challenge, you will grow in confidence about the benefits of becoming vegan. Earlier tips suggested that you focus on you whilst on the Challenge and not overwhelm yourself with having to answer in-depth question about veganism. Avoid tricky debates about the ideology, because potential resistance or criticism puts extra pressure on you when you may not have the full information. As your confidence grows, you can learn to have those conversations easily. However, as you are half way through the Challenge, you might like to start preparing yourself for those discussions. A big tip is to listen to other people’s comments to ascertain their interests or concerns are and then tailor your response to that. I call this ‘Looking for the hooks’. For example, if someone asks you questions about getting sufficient protein and vitamin B12, it is likely that they are interested in the health potential of veganism. Thus, the hook would be health and wellbeing. If someone wants to know the extent of animal cruelty in factory farming, it is likely they have concerns about animal use and welfare. By listening carefully to them and responding to their concerns, you are more likely to have a constructive dialogue. If you push animal welfare concerns (because that is your primary driver), then you may, for example, alienate someone interested in job security if farming changes. There are numerous hooks upon which you can provide information about veganism. Broadly, these fall into the following categories: Anima Welfare and Social Justice, Diet and Health, Economics and Job Security (related to changes in animal farming), Environment (associated with climate change, land use and environmental impact of intensive factory farming), and Culture and Personal Choice. The latter has to do with concerns people have about traditions of diet and lifestyle (including animals in entertainment) and personal choice.
TIP: Listen closely to people who comment or want to know about veganism. Ask them questions to ascertain the hooks and use them to answer their primary concerns. Remember that multiple hooks can be identified where a person has numerous concerns e.g. Animal welfare and environment. Focus your answers on what people are concerned about to gain rapport and encourage people to have an ongoing dialogue with you about veganism. As you grow in knowledge and experience, you will become more proficient in encouraging other people to become vegan too.
Clare’s advice for day seventeen:
A vegan will regularly have their point of view challenged by meat eaters ie. carnists. Over the next few days, I will present typical statements that carnists make and provide you with suggested ways to answer. Keep in mind that many carnists make comments without knowing the full facts and may never have thought about where their food comes from. Your job is to open their eyes so they can make informed choices.
“I could never give up meat or dairy because I like the taste “.
The person is making a statement about taste preference. They may not realise the cruelty and speciesism inherent in meat and dairy production and need to be informed. If they do know, they are presumably making a statement that they don’t care or that meeting their needs are more important than the consequences for the animals, the environment or one’s conscience. They may also feel a level of guilt at being challenged and cover this up by showing bravado.
My tips on days ten and eleven suggested you ask questions and make a contract before launching into a response. Refresh your memory of these techniques. For this comment above, ascertain what they know about meat and dairy production and whether they believe that vegan food is bland and tasteless.
a) If they don’t know, answer: ‘I also like tasty food but learnt that meat and dairy production involves enormous suffering for animals and ultimately loss of their lives. Can I tell you more about this so you can see what’s involved? (Make contract)
b) If they give agreement: Share the information without judgement of their current choices. Offer to show them more information through literature/films etc to increase their understanding. If they resist the information, see C) below.
c) If they don’t care/don’t want to hear more: ‘OK, what you seem to be saying is that our taste buds are more important than animal suffering, enormous cruelty and misery to satisfy our tastebuds. (Note: the use of ‘our’ minimises their sense of feeling judged). I certainly don’t believe this is acceptable. I find that people don’t really know what is going on. Can I send you a link to (eg. Footage/film) so that you can see more on this and then we can talk again? I also wonder if you assume that vegan food is tasteless and bland. Vegan food is amazing and is fantastic for your health. How does it get better than that?
TIP: Ask questions and make a contract to tell the person more. Moderate your response and offer them more information. Avoid judging or getting angry, instead state your position and invite them to receive more information so you can have a more informed discussion about your respective views. Remember, you are moving them along a continuum of awareness in every conversation you have with them.
Clare’s advice for day eighteen:
If you ask any vegan, ‘What’s the question you are most asked? They’ll say, ‘Where do you get your protein?’ Then you will hear chuckles with saying ‘Why do people still hold the myth that vegans find it hard to get sufficient protein?’ The fact is that people hold lots of myths about the content and value of foods but rarely challenge them or seek evidence that support their assumptions. How do you answer the inevitable question in a way that informs and makes the person feel curious to find out more?
TYPICAL COMMENT: ‘The problem with a vegan diet is that it is deficient in protein. Where are you going to get your protein?’
ISSUE: There is a stated belief that a vegan diet lacks sufficient protein. The person presumably holds several myths (unquestioned assumptions) about how much protein is needed and that animal sources are preferable (or else they would be asking everyone the question). It is likely that they have never thought to question their assumptions and have accepted (through media and indoctrination from several industries) that protein deficiency in veganism is sufficiently prevalent to warrant the belief.
NOTE: First, comment on the question and avoid becoming critical of their assumptions. Do this by generalising and asking questions e.g. ‘It’s interesting you say that a vegan diet is deficient in protein, because a lot of people assume this. What makes you assume a vegan diet is deficient in protein?’ You put the onus on the other person to defend their position. You also invite them to give your more information and tell you whether they have in-depth knowledge of nutrition, have believed what they have been told without questioning or have a personal experience of vegans and their diets.
RESPONSE: a) If they are just making assumptions, then answer: ‘There are a lot of assumptions about how much protein people need and that a vegan diet just can’t provide the amount or type of protein the body needs. Apparently we don’t need as much protein as we are encouraged to eat by food manufacturers, nor do we have to get it from animal sources. We can get more than enough protein from plant-based sources but have to ensure that we have plenty of fresh wholefoods and not eat processed junk food. However, that’s the same for non-vegans too. One interesting thing I found out was that there isn’t a name for protein deficiency. That tells me that it’s probably so rare in even the average diet, that it doesn’t even warrant a specific term. If you are interested, I can send you some links to find out more’. (The latter removes the need for you to be the nutritional advisor – unless that’s your profession). b) If they know a vegan that wasn’t healthy, you can say almost the same thing but refer to their experience e.g. ‘It’s very easy to make the assumption from your friend’s experience of not being well, that the problem was the vegan diet. Some people adopt a vegan diet but don’t do their homework and just stop eating traditional sources of protein and instead eat a lot more processed foods. Over time they probably became unwell but it’s probably not to vitamin deficiency maybe. I am not a nutritionist but I do know people can be deficient in iron or certain vitamins if they don’t eat a vegan wholefood diet. It’s the same with non-vegan diets of course too. The best thing is to do ask an expert nutritionist who is open-minded about veganism. I say this because even professionals can dismiss certain things without looking any further’.
TIP: Highlight that there are a lot of myths and unquestioned assumptions about diet. Don’t try to be a nutritional expert and think you have to have in-depth knowledge of protein values in foods. Refer the person to a good vegan nutritionist and encourage them to consider that certain industries have might have a vested interest in people consuming more protein from sources they sell, because it sells products. By encouraging them to ask questions about these things, we encourage them to think about many other things they may have been hoodwinked about.
Clare’s advice for day nineteen:
TYPICAL COMMENT: ‘We’ve have been eating meat for years so why should we stop now?’ How can you respond? ISSUE: Numerous beliefs underpin this comment and further questioning would ascertain what specific beliefs they hold. There could be assumptions that if tradition/culture were challenged, conflict would result. Another assumption is that a specific tradition must be acceptable or else it would have been challenged. The blinkers may be on for some people who say, ‘Surely government or someone would speak out, if there was something bad behind it that was being done?’
NOTE: Many people don’t question their habits or those of others. They blindly follow or act without thinking. It isn’t until someone challenges those beliefs that they consider what beliefs they hold. A natural resistance occurs if the person feels that they are being criticised. Skilful communication is needed to open people’s eyes without them feeling they are wrong or responsible for widely held beliefs. One method to soften challenging information, is to acknowledge their statements and partner with them i.e. Indicate that societal beliefs influence everyone.
RESPONSE: a) If the person believes that tradition and culture shouldn’t be challenged, separate the arguments i.e. Culture from animal cruelty/speciesism: You can say: ‘You are correct; people have been eating meat and animal products for a long time. However, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t examine it and, if necessary, change it. I think there are many things that a culture does that support the culture and foster a sense of belonging and tradition. However, when these traditions cause harm, then I believe we should think again. For example, when it comes to eating animals, there are a lot of things people don’t know. Firstly, how animals are farmed, slaughtered and treated like property or objects. This results in horrible cruelty, which is unnecessary and morally indefensible. A wider argument regards what is known as ‘speciesism’. This is where members of a different species are not afforded the rights or considerations allowed to other species. For example, humans expect to have rights to live their lives free of pain and for their own right, whereas there seems to be an assumption that animals are the property of humans, as evidenced by our industrial use of them. Can I tell you more?’
b) If the person indicates that things can’t be that bad or would never be allowed, respond: ‘We’d like to believe that things that are wrong are brought to light very soon. However, there are a lot of people who have a vested interest in keeping things hidden and we wrongly assume that they can’t be going on. This is what I thought but when I became aware of how animals are treated as if purely objects or possessions, I started to look further. There are many examples in our history that when things change, we look back in horror, wondering how they were ever allowed to be different. For example, racism, sexism, ageism. What I have discovered is that ‘speciesism’ is something that has been occurring which, when people examine it fully, realise is totally unfair and unacceptable. Can I tell you more about what I know?’
TIP: Separate the issues of culture/tradition and speciesism. If you try to address them in one go, your argument will be diluted. Acknowledge what someone is saying in order to avoid any sense that you are resisting everything they say. Appeal to belief systems that were once acceptable and yet now unacceptable e.g. racism and sexism. This provides a platform upon which to discuss wider belief systems that change when it become apparent that there is a fairer way for a society to operate.
Clare’s advice for day twenty:
You may hear the comment
“As the population increases, it is necessary for our farming methods to be more intensive or we won’t be able to feed everyone. It’s the only sustainable way to feed the growing masses”.
ISSUE: There are a number of assumptions in this comment. Presumably, that current eating habits are appropriate and therefore new ways must be found to maintain the status quo. Another assumption is that intensive farming is sustainable. The reality is that these methods are highly unsustainable and have negative consequences for food production, environmental damage and health.
NOTE: Don’t assume that a person’s comments are coming from a knowledgeable background. People often assume that things are true when they have heard about them through the media, other people or propaganda. Your response must avoid making them feel foolish or ignorant for not doing their own homework. The way to avoid having this effect is to partner with them by using words like ‘we’ and ‘us’ rather that implying that you know more than they do. It is important to ask the person to explain what they mean, as this will provide you with more information to shape your own answer. (See previous tips to see the value of this in moderating your argument to their interest/knowledge). Find out, for example, what they know about intensive and factory farming methods.
RESPONSE: a) If the person believes that factory farming is necessary to continue the status quo, say, ‘Certainly with more people on the planet, we have more mouths to feed. Often, to do this, we try to intensify what we already do. We have been conditioned to believe certain things about the nutritional value of food. For example, we assume that the major source of protein is meat. This is not the only source as plant sources provide ample protein. However, it takes more resources to produce meat- based protein than plant based. This, in itself is an argument against intensive farming but there are also some unknown negative effects of factory farming that must be considered. Can I give your more information?’ (Give them more information about cruelty, use of large amounts of pharmaceutical drugs to keep animals in unnatural conditions etc). b) If the person indicates no knowledge of the unsustainable and damaging effects of intensive farming, say, ‘With growing population, we certainly need to feed more people. However, there are lots of myths about what’s sustainable and what’s not. Factory farmed animals are usually fed on foods like corn and soya beans. Thus the land that would normally create food for people, are used primarily for feeding animals. Apart from the unnatural diet these animals are being fed, it takes far more resources to create protein from meat than directly from the land. So this is a very inefficient way to feed the growing population. There are other issues that must be considered. For example, research from Princeton University and other respected universities, shows that the factory farming of animals for food is the number one cause of climate change. This is undesirable. If you would like to know more about this, I can send you some information. One great book which examines the whole debate, is ‘Eating Animals’ by Jonathan Safran Foer. Can I send you the details?’
TIP: Find out what a person knows about intensive farming and dispel the associated myths. Highlight that there are unquestioned assumptions of what constitutes a good diet and where protein comes from. Inform them that meat production is a very inefficient way of feeding people e.g. It takes considerably more resources to produce meat based protein than plant based. Highlight the negative consequences of intensive farming e.g. environmental damage, greater water usage and use of pharmaceuticals to keep animals in unnatural conditions.
Advice from Clare Mann for day 21:
A comment you’re likely to come across is ‘I feel ok about eating animals because I only get products from places that use humane methods of slaughter or farming like free range’
ISSUE: Presumably the person believes that methods associated with terms like ‘humane slaughter’ or ‘free range’ means that animals don’t suffer and although they are slaughtered for human consumption, everything has been done to ensure they have a quality of life and that their ending is non-traumatic. It is unlikely that they have looked into this in any depth or they wouldn’t make the statement because the reality is that ‘free range’ methods may be an improvement from intensive factory farming but still cause animal suffering. Anyone who has visited an abattoir or seen associated footage realises that farming and slaughter methods are not (and cannot be) pain-free for animals. Animals resist slaughter and are extremely traumatised by attempts to take their lives. Keep this in mind when you respond and avoid judging the person for what they presumably don’t know. Your job is to provide information and make them aware of their choices. (Ask questions to gain more information of their knowledge and tailor your comments accordingly)
‘I think a lot of people try to get food from sources that say they use more humane methods of keeping and slaughtering animals. I’ve found that we are often hoodwinked into believing that free range means animals roam freely under natural conditions until their death. When you look closely, you realise that ‘free range’ is a term given to methods that reach certain agreed standards that allow animals more movement and opportunity to display natural behaviours. These standards do not mean that these conditions are anything near what would be a natural environment for animals. Industries would like us to think animals roam freely, display their natural behaviours and enjoy their lives, but this is far from the truth.
As far as ‘humane slaughter’ is concerned, the industry would have us believe that animals go willingly to their deaths, unaware that they are just about to be killed. Whilst they might try to minimise suffering e.g. use stunning before slaughter or avoid prolonged death, animals are extremely traumatised when they know they are to be killed. Shortcuts are often taken to save money, and what happens behind closed doors (after a slaughterhouse has been given the ‘humane approval’), is far from humane. We could ask, ‘If these methods are humane, why don’t we use them on our domestic animals?’ We euthanize pets with a painless injection – this certainly doesn’t happen in commercial food production even if labelled ‘humane’. There is ample information and footage to back this up. Can I send you some more information on this?
Don’t assume the person mentioning humane methods of farming know anything about it. They most likely assume that certain standards are being upheld that minimise or remove animal suffering. Don’t become judgemental, instead focus on the industry cover up. The response above may not be said in one go. You could first focus on free range, then slaughter and domestic animals. Don’t feel you have to convince the person entirely from your response. Offer to send them more information and links to footage to support what you are telling them.