The Problem with Veganism

Not Cruelty-Free
It will serve the animal protection movement well if the so-called vegan community concedes that our lifestyle is not cruelty-free. It may also serve the cause of promoting freedom for animals well if we avoid a debate over who causes more harm to animals, human health, and the environment and shift the focus to inspiring people to show more compassion for animals which in turn achieves desired outcomes. We need to pit ourselves against our friends, family, and neighbors less, eliminate their reasons to feel defensive and resist change, and work smarter to find common ground to benefit animals. The psychology of persuasion is an art, and we should heed its lessons.

Our Cruelty Footprint
People who don’t eat animals still bear responsibility for cruelty to animals. Examples abound. We have a carbon footprint that contributes to greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. Our wood furniture came from a tree that was cut down and disrupted animals’ habitats. The gasoline we use came from an oil company that caused harm to marine and wildlife. The plastic we use often winds up in our waterways polluting our marine ecosystem. Sugar we eat wreaks havoc on Everglades wildlife. Millions of animals such as mice and rabbits are killed every year when land is prepared for crops like wheat, soybeans, and corn. The lives of those small animals are no less valuable than the cow, pig, chicken, or turkey. While we can logically argue that the life of an animal on a factory farm involves confinement and a more extended period of suffering before death and that factory farming contributes to even more killing of animals to grow crops to feed the animals people eat, it is unlikely an argument that will make inroads with naysayers.

Meat substitutes are also highly processed which requires considerable land and energy to produce. Many beers and wines contain dried fish bladder and gelatin made from pig and cow hooves, candy contains cochineal extract made from crushed beetles, and many refined sugars include bone char. I’m personally responsible for approximately 18 tons of CO2 per year. While less than the 27 tons of CO2 emitted by the average American per year, it is still much higher than the worldwide average of 5.5 tons of CO2 per year.

Instead of using an inaccurate term such as cruelty-free to describe our lifestyle, we should humbly advocate for the freedom of all animals and the significant reduction of confinement, abuse, and killing in as many ways as possible. The idea that we live a perfectly kind life because we don’t eat animals or buy products tested on them or pay to see them exploited is flawed, turns people off from the movement because they don’t believe they can live up to these standards and doesn’t hold up against scrutiny. We support many industries that cause harm to our health, environment, and animals, including our cell phone, car, cable, airplane, and electricity companies, to name a few.

The Importance of Imperfection
The good news is that we don’t need to be perfect to advocate for animals; only thoughtful in our actions, reflective in our thinking, and open to learning new information. This is yet another reason why it’s counterproductive to be so obsessive about a drop of fish oil, for example, winding up in our food. When we make such an uproar about something minuscule in comparison to our overall negative impact, the lifestyle does not appear attractive to someone who may wish to try it. It seems like a nuisance. Most people don’t want to live a complicated life; however, given a choice to live a relaxed life while doing right in the world, many people will seize the opportunity. Consider the irony that you’re at a restaurant, return food with fish oil, and then pay someone $50 for your meal who then, in turn, uses your money to buy animal products.

By expressing outrage over a drop of fish oil in our food and returning the dish in the presence of people who consume animals, we paint an unflattering picture of our lifestyle. We will successfully save the drop of fish oil (or not because it will only be discarded) but potentially fail at the opportunity to save thousands of animals by alienating others. Our conduct may make us feel good because we think we’re passing our own purity test, but it’s not in the best interest of animals. If we instead inspire someone at the table to stop eating animals, we will save hundreds of animals per year and potentially thousands of drops of fish oil.

Disarming Advocacy
People who don’t eat animals have the best intentions, but we do not serve our cause well if we elevate ourselves to a status that fails to represent reality. We need more humility, pragmatism, and grace and less grandstanding and amnesia about our lives prior to departing from cultural norms. For those who find transparent inconsistencies in our advocacy, we lose credibility. Think of how differently we might be received by the billions of people who eat animals if we presented our plea as follows:

We support freedom for all animals. We try to avoid causing harm to any and all animals, but we are not perfect. We try to make decisions every day that spare animals from confinement, abuse, and death. Sometimes it’s easy — for example, not attending the circus, zoo, or a seaquarium, buying products that haven’t been tested on animals, not wearing fur, leather, or wool, and not ordering or making food made from animals or their byproducts such as steak, hamburgers, eggs, and cheese.

At the same time, we realize the wood we buy, the plastic we use, and even the vegetables we eat all contribute to some form of disruption of our ecosystem, suffering, and death. For us, it’s not about being perfect but about trying to make the world a more humane place by reducing our harmful impact. If you care about your health, animals, and our environment, perhaps you will try as well. We will not judge you for falling short because we all fall short of our goal but instead we will aim to provide you accurate information and inspire and support you as you learn the truth about the impact of the decisions we make.

The Psychology of a Word
Ask people the following questions and listen to their answers:
1. Do you care about animals?
2. Do you care about our environment?
3. Do you care about your health?
4. Do you want to be a vegan?

You will likely receive an affirmative answer to the first three questions and a negative response to the final question even though a positive response to the first three questions embodies the label in the final question. Why? Psychology. Word association. People don’t want to be labeled or cornered into a commitment. Set aside how you feel. Assuming others will feel or do as you do is faulty thinking. If you only eat plant-based food and live in the United States, your selfless actions for animals represent a small percentage of the population. To advocate effectively, you must think like those who don’t think like you. Focus on acts of kindness in your advocacy rather than a label that may be viewed as extreme or untenable. I don’t own any t-shirts with the word “vegan” on them. Instead, my shirts have a message that appeals to people’s desire to do right or to eat more healthful food. For example: “Animals are my friends. I don’t eat my friends.” Another shirt I wear reads: “Animals are here with us, not for us.” Some of my shirts are simple and straightforward: “Eat More Kale.” These are common sense, non-threatening, specific, and compassionate pleas that appeal to people’s most fundamental sense of decency and pique their curiosity.

I avoid using the word “vegan” because I believe it has a negative connotation with many people who view it as fanatical and too difficult. Dissenting opinions welcome. I respect people’s right to embrace the word, tattoo it on their body, and scream it from their rooftop. I understand the arguments in favor of it. I prefer to describe the way I live my life in a friendly way without any labels that may repel people. I don’t need to call myself a “vegan” to stop eating animals, not to wear leather, or to refuse to go to a zoo.

A Vegan World
I often hear people say that they want a “vegan world” and insist that veganism is an all or nothing proposition — either you’re on board, or you’re not. I have even seen people debate the arrival time of the so-called vegan world, with predictions as soon as 2015. Unfortunately, many people who call themselves “vegans” live in places where there are high concentrations of “vegans” in comparison to other parts of the world. These good-hearted, dedicated, and optimistic people seem to be removed from the reality of the world’s eating habits and use and exploitation of animals for other purposes. They also seem to fail to understand that if veganism was an all or nothing proposition with no acceptance of incremental acts of mercy for animals (for example, people choosing to eat fewer animals and perhaps eventually graduating to vegetarianism), it would cost the lives of billions of animals.

There are more than 7 billion people in the world. Millions of those people take pleasure in causing animals pain. They don’t care about animals, and it’s possible many never will. The idea that somehow billions of people will adopt “veganism” in a few years is unrealistic. Short of a catastrophic environmental disaster that necessitates changes in animal agriculture or a sustainability issue of some other magnitude, we are engaged in a decades-long battle to inspire the masses to choose compassion over cruelty. Our goal should be to make the world more humane, not to make it perfect because the former goal is achievable and will engage more people in the process.

Although polls vary, approximately 1 million of more than 300 million Americans state they only eat plant-based food. The population of people who make thoughtful decisions that benefit animals is growing, and we should take great pride and satisfaction in that fact knowing that it contributes to less suffering, but we should also keep expectations realistic and avoid hyperbole if we expect to be taken seriously. I appreciate people who follow “Meatless Monday” or have expressed that they have reduced their consumption and exploitation of animals. Even though there is no label for them, I still praise their progress. They are part of a growing community of people who show a degree of concern about animals and whose actions reflect their interest in doing better.

Many people take absolute positions in their advocacy and voice enormous frustration if people don’t commit to full-fledged allegiance to the “vegan” lifestyle. These advocates miss the importance of the impact of gradual change and individual acts of kindness performed by people every day in a myriad of ways. When people tell me they gave up eating cheese, I embrace their decision. I don’t berate them for still eating cows because I understand it’s a beginning and given that the vast majority of people still eat and drink everything animal, they have now put themselves in the company of a small group of people relative to the world’s population who are not “vegan” but are thinking about decisions they’re making every day to show more compassion for animals, their health, and our environment. That’s a giant step forward that will likely lead to more realizations and progress. We should embrace every step that benefits animals rather than demonizing people who fail to attain a cruelty-free perfection that doesn’t exist. We can suggest that we cause less suffering but if we pretend we cause no suffering, the movement suffers. If the movement suffers, the animals suffer with it.


47 thoughts on “The Problem with Veganism

  1. Thank you so much for that! No matter how much we read, or how old we are, there is still room for learning something new ! Very though provoking piece! Look forward to your next one !

  2. This is by far one of the best blog entries I have read at Andrew’s Corner. I totally agree with this position. The term vegan has become something to the connotation if a cult and fanaticism and finds quiet often opposition the though of it because people don’t want to be associated with those extremes with negative social repercussions. No matter how many animal products we avoid we are still responsible for the indirect harm we cause, as Andrew say, when using gas, or the wood in our furniture, or our boat ride… We also engage in activities that impact for that matter people. Many of us struggle to make ends meet, and we need to go for the cheapest choices in the market. Cheap choices sometimes are the result of modern slavery, child labor, unfair trade, sweatshop working conditions, low wages, so on and so forth. I love Zoe Weil’s (author and founder if Institute for Humane Education) MOGO philosophy, Try to Do THE MOST GOOD AND THE LEAST HARM to people, animals, and the environment whenever we have to make choices on our daily lives. This philosophy leaves room for imperfection, and for those things we have no control of. Great article Andrew. Thank you!

  3. An excellent post and so important for everyone to understand. The self- righteousness that is so common among vegans is doing so much harm and creating unneccessary rifts. I live almost vegan but would, even if entirely vegan, never ever want to label myself as such.

  4. Very well put, Andrew. I agree with you, and my years of trial and error have confirmed what you write. If we are to effectively participate in the animal protection movement, we need to put the animals’ best interests first and keep that in mind as we go forward with our advocacy. Thank you for your contributions.

  5. Loved your article. I no longer say Vegan … just, “I do not eat meat,” and SMILE. Some people ask me questions and I answer with a smile. I do not accuse nor try to change. A bit of information is enough … and a few people have changed. But not many. I live in a heavily meat place … Texas BB is everywhere along with their BBQ cook offs. I am turned off with nasty vegans. Thanks for the article.

  6. I’d enjoy talking with you at the right time perhaps, but I just want to point this one statement out “…and most alarming, millions of animals such as mice and rabbits are killed every year when land is prepared for crops like wheat, soybeans, and corn. The lives of those small animals are no less valuable than the cow, pig, chicken, or turkey.” While growing grain crops does kill and number of individuals from other species, most grains by a wide margin, are grown to feed farmed species. Consider inverting the statement, a vegan diet will reduce the number of individuals from other species killed in growing plant crops for aniamal agriculture in the United States: by 80 percent (corn), 22 percent (wheat), and 75 percent (soybean) crops. Corn and soybean crops occupy a combined 145.2 million acres of U.S. habitat.

    I don’t apologize for the terms vegan and veganism any more than I do carnist and carnism, or catholic and Catholicism, etc.) They are important, useful, and necessary. Stating I’m a Democrat or Republican can be problematic but we adapt. The admonition to not talk politics at the dinner table is a principle I apply to dietary choices in “mixed” company. Other means of expression as you exampled are fine, but so is vegan. We tailor our messaging as best we can to the individual audiences we dialogue with, but not at the expense of agreeing animal agriculture is humane, just, or environmentally sustainable. It can come later in the conversation, but not denied.

    When nonvegans see a person who looks “normal and respectful” wearing a tee with the word vegan, it helps to reduce the stereotype of “this is a threat” that we too easily internalize and then end up becoming apologetic for what we are trying to share. Internalized homophobia by a person who is gay was seen as a serious problem during the movement for our human rights. It was important that we talked about and helped people with that self-defeating behavior. Yes, these are different movements in many respects and I think you are correct in identifying that our behavior is critical to creating change. However, I wouldn’t categorically charge that we should internalize an “apologistic” psychology and refuse to wear our Vegan identity, however humbly. See Karen Davis’ article at (United Poultry Concerns) about the issue of apologizing for what we seek.

    I find referring people to documentaries that they can experience in the comfort of their own homes to be effective. One of the bright lights is the number of these tools that are becoming available.

    As to the number of vegans, statistical data can be a problem for us to present. Polling for the veg count has changed over time (the way they are worded especially) as you know. Determining how many vegans and vegetarians there are is confounded by survey margins of error, the sample size, and the tendency of survey respondents to define themselves as vegetarian when they are not. Some survey respondents call themselves vegetarian because they do not eat red meat but do eat chicken, duck, or fish. The Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG) corrected this self-identification problem in their 2006 third-party professional poll that now lists animal-origin products by name. VRG began asking respondents if they ever ate a disqualifying item like red meat, fish, chicken, dairy, eggs, and fish. Under the more precise polling questions, their 2011 poll found that about 2.5 percent are vegetarian and another 2.5 percent are vegan. The 2010 U.S. census revealed there are over 312 million people (including children) in the United States. Still. we are millions strong in the U.S. alone, and growing. The 2012 poll, ( does state a 1% figure for the number of vegans. However the VRG goes on to state these important considerations:

    “In theory, with probability samples of this size, one could say with 95 percent certainty that the results for the overall sample have a sampling error of plus or minus 2 percentage points [which would explain the difference in polls between the years—Will]. Unfortunately, there are several other possible sources of error in all polls or surveys, including refusals to be interviewed (i.e., non-response), question wording and question order, and weighting. It is impossible to quantify the errors that may result from these factors.

    Four percent of U.S. adults were found to be vegetarian. With U.S. adults 18 and over numbering about 230 million, we can estimate the number of vegetarians in the U.S. adult population, based on this poll, to be approximately nine million adults. Vegans included in the vegetarian figures would be around 2 million people. If you take into account the margin of sampling error of the poll, we can estimate the number of vegetarians in the U.S. population to range from approximately 5 million to about 14 million adults. With margin of sampling error, vegans could range as high as 6.9 million.

    – See more at:

    Many of us are troubled by the turnover rate of veg*ns who revert to carnism. Bit that’s another blog. Your post was excellent and gave me a lot to think about. And thank you for the all important Florida march. We in the NW U.S. know Lolita, who is imprisoned at the horrific Miami Seaquarium, will be represented in the event. .

  7. You took the words right out of my mouth Andrew. The word “vegan” is taken about as seriously as Hare Krishna, Jehova’s Witness and Amish. Vegans live in our own bubble and forget that we’re only talking to ourselves. If we want to recruit new vegans, we must no longer use that word. Saying “Go Vegan” to a stranger is about as effective as saying “Will you marry me?” the first time you meet them. It doesn’t work, and it seems insane. To get someone to commit to a marriage, take them out a few times, ease them into getting to know you… don’t just say, “Hey miss, excuse me, you don’t know me, but will you marry me?” Or how many of us have become Jehova’s Witnesses when they knock on our door? I bet zero. I bet it’s never happened. And if you saw a billboard that said “Go Amish,” would you go Amish? Of course not.

    Over lunch with a non vegan friend the other day, she noticed what I was eating and asked, so you’re vegan? I said, “Yeah, but I would never use that word because…” she cut me off and finished my sentence, “…because it sounds like a cult?” “Precisely,” I answered.

    We do not need to call ourselves anything other than “normal people.” We just happen to not use or eat animals and dairy. But we’re still the same old people we were, just a lot nicer and more thoughtful. But we don’t need a new name. And if you really want to have a name for “vegans,” I suggest “mainstream.” Yep, I’m “mainstream” because I don’t eat or use animals or dairy. Who gave the carcass munchers the right to be called mainstream? They’re anything but normal. We’re the ones living normally, as nature meant it to be. So I refuse to call myself something other than a “normal human being.” The word “vegan” implies carcass munchers are normal and we’re the weirdos.

    Why is that important? Because the goal is to recruit more and more people who don’t use or eat animals. And we can’t accomplish that if society sees us as weirdos.

    1. I live with a vegan. She was vegetarian for years – watched earthlings (we both did ) BAM! now “we” r vegan. BUT I am not. I am trying the no meat/eggs/dairy life – out of the cruelty angle. But A tiger eating deer is not cruel. Man who is hungry catching fish to eat is not cruel. Anymore than a bear catching same fish at same stream. If man is hungry, he will eat whatever he can to survive. We learned how to collect eggs, use milk, and raise animals for food. Also to grow crops. Keeping animals for food was easier than hunting. Not all aniamls could be “fooled” like this. Not all animals lent themselves to being sheppared. Sure, we are nice to them – until slaughter day. It’s a horrible lie. But easier than hunting – which was easier than growing food. Or at least having food (meat) for times when plants/grains would not grow. That is how we survived. Everything eats evrything else. A cat playing with a mouse may be cruel – but barely. Cruelty, is the EVIL – yes – evil work that is done in the meat/dairy/egg industry. Absolute abuse and harm. The aggression needed to detach one’s self from the animals’ pain and kill it. Even worse – let automation do everything: in the door, along the belt, thru the killer, along the processors, and to the stores in nice clean packages. We don’t even need to be in the building anymore. But our greed (for meat at one end, and $$ at the other) did this. That’s why the industy became a giant. Our quest must be to be better than this! But make no mistake – there is no normal. We are not meant to be in harmony with anything. We are opportunists – just like every other liviing thing. We have “won” so to speak on world domination, and now we are going to town (and maybe self exterminating as nothing keeps us in check anymore). There is no such thing as natural balance. It’s all about who’s/what’s winning at the end of the quarter. But the game never ends. One day, something will take our numbers back down to next to nothing. Maybe asteroid, maybe war, maybe disease, or maybe we just ruin the planet. If there is one thing that seems true in the natural world; a population unchecked will grow and max out – then crash. Are we smart enough now to prevent this? No. No animal is. No life form can do this. Biology pushes a species to evolve to dominate. We can’t help it. We just happen to be winning at the moment. We exploit the weak. We always have. There may not be a clear ultimate goal for mankind, but we’re trying things. I guess we have to wrestle with who we were, what we are, and how we will be in the future. If we don’t eat any animals, peace could finally descend on us. But you can’t fight for peace. Leave the meat eaters alone. Tolerance is the key. Unless they come for your pets. Then you could shoot them. *sigh* This peace thing is going to be hard…
      On a final note: I think I will try to just not tell anyone what I am eating. I hate labels anyways.
      Take this with a grain of salt. (makes evrything taste better).

      1. Hi Dean,

        If animal advocates “leave the meat eaters alone,” they are no longer animal advocates. Inspiring people to stop eating animals is part and parcel of animal advocacy. I’m a very realistic advocate but I would never say “tolerance is the key.” We should never tolerate people killing animals. Even setting animal welfare aside, the consequences are too great to remain silent.

  8. Very interesting. I have been vegetarian for a year. Recently, I have been working more and haven’t had time to cook meals or prepare lunches. I eat boxed macaroni and cheese and eat chips and candy instead. I’m hungry all the time and I don’t have the time (or it’s not a priority in my current lifestyle) to prepare meals for myself. Oh, did I mention my husband pretty much eats ONLY meat and every meal has to have some sort of meat in it? So, I have to make 2 different dinners, pack 2 different lunches, make 2 breakfasts, and if we go out, it’s always a fight.

    So, I have come to the conclusion that I am not going to be vegetarian anymore, and I’m ‘giving up’ my conquest to become vegan. This article is helping me with the guilt.

    1. Hi Heather,

      Thank you for sharing your story with us. What was the reason you decided to eat plant-based foods?


      Andrew Kirschner, Ed.D. 2013 Florida March Against Cruelty to Animals Join us in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on November 16, 2013.

      1. Well, one -for my health. In short, I have a problem with factory farms, and how the animals are treated while they are alive

        1. Thank you Heather. You are right that eating plant-based food is healthier. I’m also glad to learn that you care about animals. I hope you did not construe my article as a reason to justify eating animals. To the contrary, while eating plant-based food doesn’t absolve us of cruelty, it saves so many more lives, it’s healthier, and it reduces our carbon footprint. I hope you will at least consider a balance in your eating plan and an eventual return to plant-based foods. Have you tried finding any online support groups? I know many people in your situation who can provide you guidance and support.


          Andrew Kirschner, Ed.D. 2013 Florida March Against Cruelty to Animals Join us in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on November 16, 2013.

          1. Well, I want to-but I work so much right now, it’s just not something that is feasible. I plan on quitting my day job this year, so it is in the plans to become vegetarian again next year, but then it will depend on finances

          2. Thank you for keeping hope alive for the animals Heather. Everything we do makes a big difference. None of us are perfect but when we stop eating animals and their byproducts, we save hundreds of lives. Where there is a will, there is a way. I’ll be rooting for you. In the meantime, here is a list of other ways you can show kindness to animals. I hope you find it helpful.


            Andrew Kirschner, Ed.D. 2013 Florida March Against Cruelty to Animals Join us in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on November 16, 2013.

  9. Heather, you said you were hungry all the time. You also said you eat boxed mac and cheese. Unfortunately Kraft can get away with adding all kinds of additives like yellow food coloring to the dry ingredience for sauce. Also GMO products have made me “hungry” all the time too, like soy. Don’t give up there are many good gurus like online who can guide sensible eating.

  10. “…and most alarming, millions of animals such as mice and rabbits are killed every year when land is prepared for crops like wheat, soybeans, and corn. The lives of those small animals are no less valuable than the cow, pig, chicken, or turkey.”

    I’m glad you didn’t include humans in the list. Some vegans like to place humans on a continuum with other species in terms of equality. This is highly questionable, since the world’s animals have evolved with hierarchies well in place. Now if the statement would be qualified with the ability to feel pain and suffering, then that holds credence.

    Nonetheless, some animals do suffer more during slaughter than others. A vegan once asked me what the difference is in eating horsemeat versus anything else on a buffet. Well, take for instance the difference between a chicken and an 1100 lb., “flight” animal, such as a horse…. The suffering is immense to a horse who cannot be stunned instantly and who over 40% of the time wakes up when being butchered.

    It is distressing that horse slaughter is on the verge of coming back to the U.S. after nearly a 7-year absence. During this time, we’ve kept a whole species out of U.S. slaughter houses, and this may now be coming back. The Bureau of Land Management also knowingly sends our wild horses to slaughter and refuses to investigate.

    A judge in New Mexico will have a decision on the opening of Valley Meats in Roswell, NM at the end of October. This decision will determine two other horse slaughterhouse openings and many more in the U.S. We need to pass the SAFE Act. HR1094 and S.541 to stop this.

    In case you’ve been wondering, I am a vegetarian for decades and don’t use dairy, eggs, leather or wool either.

      1. What point are you trying to make Linda besides scolding me again ! You allready posted this to me on facebook. I am only agreeing that the behavior that Andrew upholds is topnotch. I dont see anyplace here where he said that vegans only are allowed to read or comment on his blogs. He is not judgemental or finger wagging and instead is willing to help people along. You dont know me. So, quite finding ways to judge me.

  11. Veganism is about compassion and kindness to all beings. It is do no harm as much as possible! People find all kinds of excuses to not go or be vegan….eating animal products hurt us and the science shows that the amount of animal products needed for human survival is exactly ZERO!
    And you will love the great health you have after you choose vegan foods!

  12. Excellent!!!!! And so spot on. This is how I try to live and show the world. I hate the word Vegan and use it less and less because it turns people off. I am sharing this article! Thank yoiu!

  13. Thank you for such a wonderful post Andrew. I am new to animal activism and wondered if you had any advice on how to deal with strained relationships with family and friends over speaking up for animals. I recently sent one of your articles to one of my best friends who had posted pictures of her foie gras dinner. I did not accuse her of anything. In fact, I mentioned what a caring person I knew she was and that I thought she might be interested in learning the truth behind this dish. She lashed out at me accusing me of being judgmental and that if I want to keep my friends, I should refrain from talking about people’s food choices.

    I have other friends who have also received very negative commentary from friends and family just by posting petitions or photos of animal abuse on FB. I realize this is part of the road. But, I find that this sometimes holds some people back from going full force with their activism. Any thoughts on dealing with loss of long-time friendships and relationships over our activism. I personally know I will never stop advocating for animals, but we all have feelings and long for companionship and sometimes it seems a very lonely road…

    1. Hi Rosie,

      Thank you for your advocacy. When you talk to people about ending the abuse of animals, they are almost unanimous in their support. When it involves a decision that affects them directly, it’s common for them to become defensive and distance themselves from it so they don’t have to change their lifestyle.

      Your challenge is to disarm them and help them to understand that they can continue their lifestyle while making more humane decisions that preserve their health and our environment while showing compassion for animals. Become a student of effective advocacy. Read books on the topic, attend workshops, watch videos, read websites and blogs, and speak with like-minded people for advice.

      It is a lonely road but remember that you are advocating for the great moral imperative of our time. Followers have plenty of company. Leaders often stand alone.

      All the best –


      1. Thank you once again for your amazing words Andrew. I agree with your advice wholeheartedly. I have been immersing myself lately in material that will fuel my passion to help animals and also keep me strong emotionally. It is a fine line we walk to advocate effectively and also act in a way that benefits the animals rather than our ego. I’ll be attending a 6 day Tony Robbins seminar next week where the focus will be on integrating ones value system with their life goals and purpose in life. I look forward to coming home with renewed strength and a drive to take more action. Thank you again for all you do!

  14. This is THE BEST blog on this topic I have ever read and I feel very passionately about Andrews words and agree with him wholeheartedly. I am always striving to reach people in the very best way I can to entice people toward trying a cruelty free lifestyle and I have always found it more effective to not use labels and yell ‘Go vegan!’ at people. I get incensed when I hear vegans saying they refuse to have friends on Facebook or in real life who aren’t vegan because that shoves us away in a little corner and prevents us from spreading the love and raising awareness to those of us who think differently and we only end up hurting the animals by preaching to the converted. What any movement needs are people who are the voice of reason. As the saying goes, anything too far left or right of any spectrum will fail and in a world with so many cultures and differing personalities moderation is the golden keep to moving forward and what will get us toward a more compassionate future a lot quicker. The ‘you’re either with us or against us’ mentality which a lot of vegans unfortunately possess is harmful to the cause and only pushes normal people away from the ‘group’ and makes everything seem too difficult, on the fringe and unappealing to the masses and it will never get us anywhere. The high standards a lot of vegans have will not get us anywhere either because it only makes the whole thing seem too hard for people who don’t even know where to start. Andrew your words are true words of wisdom and if people really are in it for the animals and not for themselves, they will listen and learn a lot from this wonderfully written and common sense blog. Many thanks and please keep spreading this important message. I have never labelled myself either and whilst so many vegans turned against me or disliked me for it I stood alone in my stance with no desire to change that, because all I have ever cared about is the animals I try to help and I have always wanted what is best for them. It is possible to light the way for others without bashing them over the head with the constant use of labels or by telling them what to be, and gentle guidance with clever and appealing awareness raising always gets results. The key is to knowing every day people want to try living in a kinder way and a healthier way without labelling themselves and stepping away from the masses. Sociologically that is a fact and once we realise this and show the way instead of telling people who to be and what to do all the time we will start to see real progress, really fast.

  15. Reblogged this on The Paw Report and commented:
    My Reblog of The Week. This honest and well-stated post needs to be read.


    “Think of how differently we might be received by the billions of people who eat animals if we presented our plea as follows:
    We support freedom for all animals. We try to avoid causing harm to any and all animals but we are not perfect. We try to make decisions every day that spare animals from confinement, abuse, and death. Sometimes it’s easy — for example, not attending the circus, zoo, or a seaquarium, buying products that haven’t been tested on animals, not wearing fur, leather, or wool, and not ordering or making food made from animals or their byproducts such as steak, hamburgers, eggs, and cheese.
    At the same time, we realize the wood we buy, the plastic we use, and even the vegetables we eat all contribute to some form of disruption of our ecosystem, suffering, and death. For us, it’s not about being perfect but about trying to make the world a more humane place by reducing our harmful impact. If you care about your health, animals, and our environment, perhaps you will try as well. We will not judge you for falling short because we all fall short of our goal but rather we will aim to provide you accurate information and inspire and support you as you learn the truth about the impact of the decisions we make.”

  16. i would have to say i disagree whole heartedly. using the term vegan implies a philosophy of non-violence and the ethics of not intentionally harming others for personal pleasure or profit. to me, without this aspect it becomes all about health and self serving interests, exactly the opposite of what is stated in this article. the fact that no one can be perfect does not mean that we should not try our utmost to do the least harm possible. quotes from some great minds in history bear this out:

    “A principle is a principle, and in no case can it be watered down because of our incapacity to live it in practice. We have to strive to achieve it, and the striving should be conscious, deliberate and hard.” – Gandhi

    “A human being is a part of the whole, called by us the ‘Universe’, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security.” – Albert Einstein

    i find this recent article by Will Tuttle to be much more in line with what should be strived for in our advocacy:

  17. These are complex issues that most of us grapple with in trying to live ethically. Andrew, You have raised so many points that have just been debated on a post in my blog that it feels synchronous that I am now reading your well articulated arguments. Thank you. The most we can try to do is to live in a mindful, compassionate and respectful way and hope that others will follow. I agree, we do not need labels to define who we are.

    1. Thank you Emy. Here is a post from Faunalytics that everyone may find insightful.

      More and more, consumers are shifting towards plant-based eating, whether by eating veg*n, or simply cutting meat out of any given meal. In fact, a good deal of research is indicating that consumers are most interested in reducing their meat consumption but not necessarily cutting it out altogether. According to a new study from Datassential, While about 1% of people identify as veg today, only about 2% want to identify that way in the future. By comparison, about 71% of people identify as meat-eaters today and only 55% want to identify that way in the future.

      With numbers showing that there is a trend towards meat limitation rather than elimination, the reasons are perhaps not surprisingly oriented towards health and nutrition. 31% of consumers believe meat is “no longer essential to the human diet,” however, the main reason that consumers continue to consume it are protein and taste. Based on this, competing effectively with meat will require that plant-based foods hit those two targets, and change people’s perception in the process: 50% of people are concerned about their protein intake if they were to go meatless, and 44% of consumers fail to limit their meat consumption due to taste.

      The study notes that people “don’t yet trust” plant-based foods, but one new avenue to get people to reduce their farmed meat consumption is through cellular agriculture — also known as lab meat, in-vitro meat, or clean meat. About 25% of consumers are interested in cellular meat, milk, and eggs, with social welfare and health being key motivators. Interestingly, the study notes that people who want cellular agriculture are also the same people who want natural foods and non-GMO foods. Although this seems counterintuitive, the researchers believe that it may be because their motivation comes down to social good–helping the world in some way. Still, cellular agriculture struggles to gain traction, perhaps because it’s not yet widely available: only 10% of people are familiar with it, and the majority of those people (37%) are “tech enthusiasts.”

      For animal advocates, some of this may be hard to swallow: while we may want people to eliminate animals from their diet altogether, helping people to limit their meat consumption may yield better results. If taste and health are the pillars of people’s choices, and the concept of social good can reinforce these, there is a great deal of potential to make serious gains in reducing the amount of people relying on meat that came from sentient beings. No matter what your opinions on the results, the study provides a lot to discuss and consider, and we have a link below where you can view the related slide presentation in its entirety.

  18. Thank you for a thought provoking article. I am one person who has been turned off by Militant Vegans. They are intolerant I feel. I posted I was cooking Vegetarian for my daughter and her family (I am staying with them for a year so their baby does not have to go into day care so soon) who are normally meat eaters. There is no meat in their house and they like my cooking. BUT when we eat out they eat their meat. My husband, on the other hand, tends not to eat meat around me, and desires it less. The only thing I tell people is that I choose to not eat animals. And I smile. Once in a while it will open a conversation but not usually. Thanks again.

  19. I am not a vegan or a vegetarian. I have an 18-year-old daughter ( one of six daughters), who has recently embraced a vegan lifestyle. While living in the home provided by her hard-working parents, surrounded by comforts and opportunities she had nothing to do with, she embodies the judgmental, arrogant stereotype that “veganisim” holds for many. Our desire is for her to treat her “meat eating” family with at least the same amount of respect she desires. She chooses almost daily to put her dietary choice above her relationships.

    If you want to advocate against animal cruelty, I can get behind that. Would even contemplate major lifestyle changes. But when this issue becomes a divisive issue in a family, I believe it harms the cause entirely. It’s not just about tolerating “meat eaters,” It’s about respecting other’s right to disagree or come to their own convictions through their own process. That’s how you influence others. Don’t be arrogant. Don’t think more highly of yourselves because of your ” enlightenment. ” Share when asked and be an example through your kindness and respect for people – not just animals.

    1. Hello Rebecca,

      Thank you for sharing your story with us. I’m sorry that you’re having difficulty at home. You’ve made a few points worthy of discussion so I’ll address each of them separately.

      1. You seem to resent your daughter. You made the decision to have her, thus, providing shelter, food, etc. is your responsibility. When you say she had “nothing to do with” her lifestyle, how could she? She is a child. While I understand that you want her to be grateful, you may be well served to simply embrace the fact that as her parents, it’s your legal and moral responsibility to provide for all of your children and I’m sure you do a terrific job. Continue to lead by example and take the high road. Most children don’t appreciate what they have at such a young age.

      2. Your daughter is still a child so you should expect that her enthusiasm may cause her to have a visceral reaction when others don’t follow her lead. Many adults act the same way. I did before I realized it isn’t productive. Try as best as you can to understand that these reactions are born out of a passion for mercy for animals. It’s an emotional issue. We should not be too critical of someone who is advocating for compassion. Right? It’s not as if she is advocating for her own self-interests.

      3. It’s common for people to put veganism above family. It’s hard for people to understand how someone can continue eating animals after they learn about the horrors of animal agriculture. It’s a very emotional and personal issue. I would advise you to do the best you can to understand your daughter’s point of view. She is disappointed in you because she loves you and expects better from you. If she didn’t care about you, she wouldn’t care so much about what you do.

      4. I wouldn’t expect an ethical vegan to “respect your right to disagree.” Most, if not all, ethical vegans see confining, abusing, depriving, transporting, and slaughtering a farm animal as unjustified and indefensible. So while you have the legal right to continue to eat animals, most vegans aren’t going to respect your belief that it’s all right to do that to animals any more than we would respect someone’s right to needlessly harm any individual. It’s a moral conviction. It’s not like respecting someone’s right not to eat kale. There are brutal consequences to your decision. You seem open-minded so perhaps you will one day see the issue more clearly and make the transition. To be honest, I have family who have read books, seen videos, etc. and didn’t make any changes in the way they eat. I definitely view them differently. It does say something about people when they learn and make no effort to change.

      I wish the best for you and your family. I hope my answers help bridge the gap. Thank you again for sharing your story with us.

    2. I agree with you. We all need respect especially when we’ve done so much for our children. But don’t forget, 18 year olds are ready to graduate or are moving onto higher education where they need to be independent. Your daughter has found a way to differentiate and separate from her childhood. We all take this separation very personally. I started on my road to vegetarianism back at the age of 12, then again intermittently between 15 – 17 and finally when I was 20 with my parents disapproving and family making fun. I realized that consuming dairy was not only cruel but wreaked havoc on my system about 10 years ago. You do what you feel is right for you, but let your daughter do what is good for her. This means that respect has to be shown on both sides.

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