Bullying is a huge issue these days. It seems like almost every day, we hear about someone being teased, physically threatened in school, or sometimes, something even worse. I remember my middle-school days all too well. I was made fun of for my appearance as well as for being shy, a nerd, and a Buddhist. There were days when I’d fake being sick—just so I could avoid the mean girls at school. I even remember one incident in seventh grade in which a group of girls chased me down the hall and threw their textbooks at me, just for being the quietest girl in our gym class. Sounds pretty ridiculous, right?
Something we don’t often talk about, though, are the cases in which kids are bullied for being vegan. It’s so sad that people with the kindest intentions are picked on and even alienated because of their beliefs. While we may not be able to stop bullying overnight, we here at peta2 have put together the following list of tips on how to deal with it—just in case you find yourself in a similar situation:
Recognize why they’re doing it.
People bully vegans for two main reasons: (1) They don’t understand why anyone would want to stop eating animals, and it’s easier to mock something you don’t understand than it is to face it. (2) They know their current lifestyle choices contribute to someone’s suffering, and they’d rather be in denial. Think about it: If they didn’t feel guilty, why else would it bother them so much? #TruthHurts
Let them know that you don’t expect them to change.
While it’d be WONDERFUL if everyone in the world ditched animal products, it’s unlikely that it’ll happen anytime soon. Remind your friends that just because you choose to live a certain way doesn’t mean you expect them to follow. People are less likely to get defensive if they don’t feel threatened.
Don’t be afraid to be real.
At the same time, while you can’t expect everyone to change instantly, you should expect your friends to RESPECT your beliefs. A true friend is someone who’ll understand that you have certain values—and if something is important to you, the people who care about you shouldn’t make fun of it, period. You can simply tell your friends: “Hey, this is my life, and I’m not expecting you to change yours. But please respect what’s important to me.”
Remember that your values belong to YOU.
Don’t ever let anyone make you feel that what you believe in is stupid or pointless. You have the right to your own opinions, just like anyone else. In reality, there will ALWAYS be someone who disagrees with you. If it’s not about being vegan, it’ll be about politics, religion, etc. People love to debate and argue, but that doesn’t mean that what you’re doing is wrong. You’re making a difference every day through your kind choices, and while you may not be able to meet all the animals you help save, you’re sparing them unimaginable suffering. If they could thank you, they would.
Show them the benefits of your lifestyle.
Lots of times, people don’t want to hear—or don’t even care—about animal suffering. It’s the whole “out of sight, out of mind” thing. During your conversation, casually slip in the benefits of going vegan (e.g., clearer skin, better health, less or zero B.O., less gas hehe, helping the planet, etc.). With that said, though, don’t fight fire with fire. Rather than running around screaming at people for what they’re not doing, show them how happy you are as a vegan and kill them with kindness.
Plant the seed.
Cook delicious vegan dishes, host documentary movie nights, invite your friends to fun vegan-friendly events, etc. Basically, show ’em little by little how fun it can all be. I once dated someone who had absolutely no interest in being vegan, so we didn’t talk about it much—but one night, I hosted a Vegucated movie night, and he ended up going vegan on the spot and never looked back. So you just never know!
Seek support from an adult.
Unfortunately, there are times when things just go too far. If you’re in a situation that makes you uncomfortable or feel threatened in any way, please tell your parents, a teacher, a school counselor, a youth leader, or any other trusted adult. Just remember: You are NOT alone, and there are people who want to help you!
Join a community of like-minded people.
It’s likely that all your friends aren’t into animal rights, but it def helps to have some who are. It makes a world of difference to have that extra support. Join (or start!) a campus club, participate in meet-ups, find online forums, follow fellow vegans on Instagram, or join the PETA Action Team and start making tons of vegan friends!