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Conflicts of Consistency: Militant or Gentle?

This article originally appeared on PETA Prime. It is part of an occasional series exploring questions of consistency and other moral dilemmas facing vegans and animal rights advocates.

What’s the best way to win people over to a healthy and compassionate vegan lifestyle?

At one end of the spectrum, there is the militant, confrontational route. This is the in-your-face approach and might very well include a war of words, a heated discussion, or a rage of passion for compassion. While this may be ideal for those with the fortitude of a criminal defense attorney during cross-examination, for most of us, we would do well to remember that a wise person (that would be us!) never argues with a fool because a stranger would not be able to tell the difference.

At the other end of the spectrum, there’s the more gentle and nonconfrontational approach. This is when we quietly set an example by how we live our lives as vegans—truly live and let live (for all animals). As subtle as this is, it is powerful. Others do notice that we don’t just talk the talk, but actually walk the walk.

So which is the best approach to engaging those who may not yet share the same cruelty-free diet you’ve chosen to adopt? Well, like so much in life, the answer is probably somewhere in the middle. There may be times when some confrontation is called for and other times when it does more harm than good. It’s usually easier to persuade people with polite arguments rather than with heated rhetoric. It’s just like that age-old saying: “You can attract more flies with honey agave than with vinegar.”

Sometimes we have to push the envelope a bit, especially if someone hits a raw nerve. That happened to me recently with a family member, as told in “The Cake and the Controversy.” These situations can become opportunities to have a respectful exchange, to educate, and to do some vegan myth-busting!

As “vegangelists,” there is a very fine line between coming off as informed, committed, and compassionate advocate and coming off as a holier-than-thou sanctimonious zealot. Here again, living the ethical example goes a long way. A close friend recently told me how much she respects me for consistently practicing what I preach—respect for all animals.

For those of us who embrace a vegan lifestyle for all the right reasons—for animals, for the environment, and for our own health—the stakes are high indeed. Unfortunately, for the committed carnivore, the steaks are high as well—a high priority—and switching to grains goes against the grain for them!

What’s your take on the best approach?

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  • Susan P. says:

    I find the “shock”, “in your face” type of attention, intellectually insulting and do not see how you can attract support by using this tactic. Logical, compassionate persuasion, built on respect for a person’s ability to ultimately evolve, will fuel the fire for a more compassionate understanding between ourselves and the animals we share earth with. We are all little children that need to be taught to appreciate what is here. It cannot be shoved down their throat! Try doing that with a two year old and see how far you get!

  • Chelita Garcia says:

    WOWWW THIS IS SOMETHING THAT REFLECTS WHAT HAPPENED TO ME TODAY XD OMG!! LOVE IT!!

  • jaki lucas says:

    i feel the best aproach to this matter is to appeal to peoples hearts and give them the facts sumtimes its ignorance not evil

  • Carla Benjamin says:

    Sometimes I think direct action is the only way,some people honestly believe that animals are lower than us,recently when my 10 year old was trying to explain to his friends mother why he’s a vegetarian she tried to explain to him that animals don’t feel pain the same as humans,as I said he’s only 10 and has a better understanding of the world than most adults,you can’t change everyone,I just hope these ignorant people are a dying breed,explaining things to them won’t help,they leave you with no other option than direct action

  • Obese.Vegan says:

    Gentle is the best and most effective way. Inviting friends to Vegan friendly restaurants and with you to animal rights protests (Like say for circus elefants). They will begin to see the importance of health and the way consuming meats are actually hurting their body. It may take a while, but it will be more meaningful to them, and to you!

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