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Finally, a resource for the family members of vegans!

From enhancing understanding to conflict resolution, Taft offers a myriad of starting points for improved communication between non-vegans and their vegan family members. A must-have book for anyone seeking to improve their compassionate communication skills.

Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, bestselling author and creator of The 30-Day Vegan Challenge

Mom,Dad, Im Vegan
A Guide for Understanding Your Vegan Family Member
Casey Taft, Ph.D.

Copyright 2013 Vegan Publishers. All rights reserved.

Mom, Dad, Im Vegan: A Guide for Understanding Your Vegan Family Member Copyright 2013 by Casey Taft, Ph.D. Published by Vegan Publishers, LLC Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts 02130 All rights reserved. Digitally produced in the United States of America. No part of this E-book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without written permission from the publisher, except by reviewers who may quote brief excerpts in connection with a review. E-book ISBN: 978-1-940184-00-5

www.veganpublishers.com Comic illustrations by Bizarro and Joy of Tech, used with permission. Designed by Green Vegan Media.

Casey Taft, Ph.D. is a staff psychologist at the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in the Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System and Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine. Dr. Taft has published more than 100 journal articles, book chapters, and scientific reports focusing on issues related to the family, with a particular focus on developing and evaluating interventions to enhance family functioning and prevent conflict. He has received grant funding for this work from the National Institute of Mental Health, Department of Defense, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Department of Veterans Affairs. Dr. Taft has won prestigious awards from the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, the Institute on Violence, Abuse and Trauma, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He is associate editor of the journal Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, and is on the board of directors of the War Writers Campaign, which promotes social change surrounding veterans issues through writing. Dr. Taft has chaired an American Psychological Association task force on trauma in the military and has consulted with the United Nations on preventing violence and abuse. A vegan himself, he sees the prevention of violence toward animals as a natural extension of this work.

Preface6 1. Introduction 8 2. Defining Veganism 9 3. Veganism on the Rise 10 4. Reasons for Being Vegan 11

Table of Contents

5. Common Misconceptions About Veganism

Health11 The Environment 14 Treatment of Animals 15 Vegans Do Not Get Enough Protein Vegans Cannot Get Vitamin B12 from Non-Animal Sources Vegans Do Not Enjoy Food as Much as Those Who Consume Meat and Dairy Being Vegan Must Be a Difficult Sacrifice A Vegan Diet is More Expensive Than a Non-Vegan Diet Vegans Are Extremists Vegans Do More Harm to Plants Than Non-Vegans Vegans Do Not Care About People Vegans Are Always Trying to Push Their Agenda on Non-Vegans Vegan Men Are Feminine Veganism Is Wrong Because Humans Are Naturally Carnivorous Vegan Pregnancy Raising a Vegan Child Veganism in Teens Veganism in Older Adults 19 20 21 21 22 22 22 23 24 25 25 27 29 31 31 34 34 35 36


6. Considerations for Veganism Across the Lifespan


7. Communication with Your Vegan Family Member


Developing the Proper Mindset for Good Communication Tips for Listening to Your Vegan Family Member  Expressing Feelings Around Issues Related to Veganism De-escalating Conflict and Preventing Arguments 

8. Specific Challenges in Communicating with Your Vegan Family Member

Communication Dos and Donts with Your Vegan Family Member


37 38 39 40 41 42 43

9. Conclusions 45 References46

Communicating with a Vegan Spouse or Partner When You Are Not Vegan Supporting Your Pregnant Vegan Family Member Talking to Children About Ethical Issues in Veganism Talking to Your Child or Teen Who Wants to Go Vegan  Advocating for Your Vegan Family Member  Communication with Vegan Family Members Around the Holidays 

was inspired to write this book by the challenges my wife and I experienced communicating with loved ones about our vegan lifestyle. Despite our collective background in family communication, we both encountered barriers to having positive discussions about veganism with family members. When we found out we were pregnant, we felt an even stronger need for our family to understand veganism, since we planned to raise our child vegan and wanted a supportive environment. Some family members also had questions about veganism, but were perhaps too afraid to ask and risk insulting us. I thought it important to provide resources to family members so they could learn more about the topic and to enhance communication. I searched for books geared toward family members of vegans and came up empty. That is when I decided to write a brief book to provide families with information on vegan perspectives and to facilitate greater communication regarding this lifestyle choice. I received further inspiration from reading and hearing of story after story of vegans who felt disconnected from family members as a result of disagreements over their veganism. There are numerous blogs online about veganism flooded with posts focusing on hurt feelings and sadness around poor communication with loved ones. Some of these posts describe the complete severing of ties with different family members due to conflict around this issue. Others focus on concerns about rejection related to telling family members that they wished to go vegan. I present modified excerpts from a number of these blog and website posts throughout this book to help give non-vegan family members some insight into what your vegan loved one may be thinking and feeling. I also present some excerpts of posts from family members of vegans to help you see that you are not alone in some of the challenges you face in understanding and communicating with your vegan loved one. You may wonder, Is it really necessary to read a book on veganism? Nobody has asked me to read a book about their Weight Watchers diet or other dietary choices. As I will discuss, veganism is about much more than just food. It is about pursuing a lifestyle that is based on compassion toward all living things, and may be thought of as a set of guiding moral principles or a spiritual path for many. Just as Buddhists or Christians would want you to understand the roots of their beliefs, so do vegans. However, veganism differs from other lifestyles and religions in that differences are apparent every time vegans and non-vegans sit down to eat together, which is quite often. Thus, as you may have already seen or experienced, there is considerable opportunity for disagreement and conflict since we, as humans, eat so frequently. Even if you have no conflict or disagreements with your vegan family member, there is always more closeness to be attained by learning more about something that is so important and meaningful to your loved one. Or perhaps you or a family member are thinking of going vegan and are simply looking for a resource to learn more about it and to get some information surrounding its common tenets and health aspects. My hope is that vegans will also use this book as a starting point to begin discussions with family members. If veganism is difficult to discuss with loved ones, it can be easier to simply provide information and let your family member learn more about it on their own before coming together to have productive conversations. When one reads a book alone, there are none of the communication barriers that can get in the way of true understanding when one person is trying to convey information to another. I will be discussing several such barriers in this book in sections related specifically to communication about veganism. This book is not intended to convert non-vegans to veganism. On the contrary, my overarching goal is to assist family members in understanding the reasons many people choose veganism, by providing useful information and tips. After all, increased understanding and communication is what improves relationships and brings families closer together. Thus, ultimately, this book should be helpful for both vegan and non-vegan family members and the family unit as a whole. It can be useful for understanding vegan children or adults, those who aspire to be vegan, and/or those who plan on raising vegan children. If you are yourself vegan, you may wish to offer this book to your loved ones prior to having more extensive communication around the vegan lifestyle. This book is also not intended to serve as an exhaustive research review on veganism. I discuss scientific evidence around issues of veganism, particularly with respect to nutrition and the health and environmental benefits of veganism, because I think that it is important to provide a perspective that is based on science to the greatest extent possible. It is beyond the scope and purpose of this book, however, to review all of the available research on any particular topic, since many topics I cover are the subject of entire books by themselves. Further, for virtually any topic in science or philosophy, one can find contrary research findings or come to different conclusions. Therefore, 6

you may find yourself unconvinced that the vegan perspective is right or best, and that is what I fully expect! Again, whether you agree or disagree with any information I present is not really relevant; what is most important is that you have some knowledge background on veganism and are better equipped to have informed, respectful conversations with your vegan family member. When reading this book, I ask that the non-vegan reader keep an open mind and withhold judgment. It is natural to focus on dismissing or arguing against reasons for being vegan because you have chosen a different path that you feel is right for you and that is based on your own experience. Or maybe you feel judged by your vegan family memberyou may think that because she thinks it is wrong to eat animals, and you eat animals, she must think you are a bad person. If you feel judged and defensive, it may be harder for you to make that extra effort to understand her vegan perspective. I ask you to keep in mind that vegans are not vegan to make you feel bad; they are vegan because they feel that it is the right choice for them. Your vegan family member is simply asking for understanding from you about her lifestyle, not your own conversion to veganism. I ask that you embark on reading this book with a mindset of truly trying to understand the vegan lifestyle. Having an understanding mindset is the primary key to improving communication and closeness. I do not expect you to agree with the choices your vegan family member makes, but hope that you strive to understand them better. You have chosen to at least begin reading this book, so you are already halfway there. The information that I present is based on the available literature as well as my own experiences as a vegan, my training in mental health, family counseling, and clinical and medical research. I am not a dietitian or a medical doctor, however, and I do not claim to be a nutritional or medical expert. This book should not serve as a substitute for advice from medical professionals for any specific medical or dietary problem. If you are interested in more indepth, expert resources focused on vegan nutrition, there are a number of excellent books available, such as one of my personal favorites, Vegan for Life.

1. Introduction
he first portion of this book focuses primarily on educating the reader about veganism and the vegan lifestyle. I will begin by defining veganism for the reader since there is often confusion about what it means to adopt a vegan lifestyle. I will discuss some recent trends in veganism and common reasons for becoming vegan, address some common misunderstandings and beliefs about veganism, and talk about the evidence behind those common beliefs. Next, I will discuss veganism across the lifespan, with a specific focus on health, lifestyle changes, and navigating some challenges to a vegan lifestyle. I will then shift to discussing ways to enhance communication with your vegan family member in order to facilitate even greater understanding, beginning with general tips for better communication and reduced conflict, and moving on to more specific tips for communicating with vegan adult, children, and teen family members. I also provide specific tips for communicating during holiday situations that can prove especially challenging.

2. Defining Veganism
efore I can discuss issues related to veganism, it is important to have a good understanding of what it means to be vegan. At the most basic level, a vegan does not eat or drink anything that is derived from an animal. This means all animals, including fish and insects (for example, bees and their honey). Vegans also avoid foods that are processed using animal products, such as refined white sugar and some wines. Vegans also typically choose not to purchase or otherwise consume non-food items that are made of leather, fur, beeswax, or anything else with animal or insect origins. Most vegans also avoid products that are tested on animals. It may be helpful to distinguish what it means to be vegan versus vegetarian. Both vegans and vegetarians do not eat animal flesh. The defining difference between a vegan and a vegetarian is that a vegetarian will consume dairy (such as milk, butter, and cheese) and eggs, and may also consume honey. Vegetarians may also be less likely to avoid purchasing or consuming other non-food, animal-based products. Not everyone neatly fits into a vegan or vegetarian category and most people who identify with these groups fall somewhere along a continuum with respect to the degree that they consume or use animal-based products. For many, going vegan is an ongoing process. It may begin with attempting a vegetarian diet and then progressing to veganism. Others may try veganism before they adopt it a number of times before they adopt it as a long-term lifestyle. Ones degree of veganism may also change over time as a function of awareness. For example, I did not realize just how many of our daily-use toiletries and other products contained animal-based ingredients until I was vegan for quite some time. The more I have learned about products that are and are not vegan, the more of an effort my wife and I have made to only use or consume products that do not contribute to the harm of animals. It is critically important to keep in mind that veganism is about more than what one eats or consumes. Being vegan is not simply about going without things or restricting ones diet. To be vegan means to choose a lifestyle that attempts to reduce the suffering of other living beings and to make the world a better place for all. It is about embracing a respect for all forms of life and bringing an awareness of that respect to the world. For many, it can be thought of as an ethical or spiritual path toward greater compassion. This is important to keep in mind when attempting to understand the perspective of your vegan family member. When you reject the vegan lifestyle, your vegan family member may feel as if you have rejected their core beliefs, ethical principles, or spiritual beliefs, and not just their dietary choices.

3. Veganism on the Rise

n July 2012, Gallup Poll respondents were asked for the first time if they were vegan as part of their Consumption Habits survey. Results from 1,014 Americans indicated that 2 percent of respondents identified themselves as vegan. This percentage may seem underwhelming, but consider that this means that there are approximately six million vegans living in the United States. While we do not have good data on changes in the rates of veganism over time in the United States, a larger nationally representative telephone survey of 5,050 respondents, conducted in 2008 by Vegetarian Times and the Harris Interactive Service Bureau found that only one-half of one percent of Americans identified themselves as vegan. Although these two surveys used different methods, they both used nationally representative samples and statistical weighting methodology, providing confidence that the rates obtained represent the true rates of veganism that would be found if sampling the entire population of the United States. Based on this available data, taken together these surveys suggest a four-fold increase in veganism over this four-year period and signs indicate that this increase will continue. There has been a virtual explosion of restaurants that are exclusively vegan, including vegan food trucks, around the country in the past five years. Major bookstores such as Barnes & Noble now have vegan cookbook sections, and there is an increasing number of top athletes, power lifters, and celebrities, as well as a former U.S. president (Bill Clinton), who have joined the vegan ranks. Schools at all grade levels and universities are now instituting meat free days, and a number of universities are also opening vegan dining halls. A recent video of Microsoft CEO Bill Gates made the rounds on the Internet when he discussed how animal-based products will eventually give way to non-meat alternatives, noting that scientific advances in vegan food production will make these products cheaper, healthier, and better for animals and the environment. In short, while veganism was relatively unheard of in the not-too-distant past, the movement is rapidly gaining steam and is now in the mainstream of American culture. Old views of veganism as a fringe or radical concept are fading as we learn more about the benefits of a vegan lifestyle and as vegan options become more plentiful. It is important to keep this in mind when you talk to your vegan family member, because some views about veganism are rooted in outdated ideas about the vegan lifestyle. Though the term vegan has only been around for about 70 years, there were a number of important historical figures who strove for a vegan lifestyle, including Percy Bysshe Shelley, Henry David Thoreau, and Mahatma Gandhi, even though there were specific challenges to maintaining a vegan diet during their lifetimes that do not exist for most people today. Many other great thinkers in history were vegetarian, including Pythagoras, Sir Isaac Newton, Benjamin Franklin, Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison, Srinivasa Ramanujan, and Albert Einstein. The following are quotes by some great historical figures around issues related to the use of animals for food.

I have since an early age abjured the use of meat, and the time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look upon the murder of men. Leonardo da Vinci My refusing to eat meat occasioned inconveniency, and I have been frequently chided for my singularity. But my light repast allows for greater progress, for greater clearness of head and quicker comprehension.
Benjamin Franklin

Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages. Thomas Edison I do feel that spiritual progress does demand at some stage that we should cease to kill our fellow creatures for the satisfaction of our bodily wants. Mahatma Gandhi So I am living without fats, without meat, without fish, but am feeling quite well this way. It always seems to me that man was not born to be a carnivore. Albert Einstein 10

4. Reasons for Being Vegan

Being vegan is a big part of my identity but not the only part of who I am. I dont try to force people to see my way but I do get upset when people try to poke fun at my lifestyle. My brother calls me a vegan freak and tells me that Im not a part of the family anymore and my sister no longer invites me over to her house for dinner. It really hurts sometimes, but being vegan makes me feel like I am doing something to make the world a better place and that makes me happier.

n understanding your vegan family member, it helps to understand why she made her decision to become vegan in the first place and why she continues to be vegan. In all likelihood, she was not raised vegan, so what was it that led her to make that lifestyle change? There are three primary reasons that people switch to a vegan lifestyle: health, the environment, and the treatment of animals. Not every vegan cares equally about these three things, and often it is just one of these reasons that leads someone to make the change to veganism. For many vegans, though, these are all important reasons to maintain a vegan lifestyle. We will now briefly review each of these three primary reasons to provide you with the vegan perspective.

When I was 88 years old, I gave up meat entirely and switched to a plant-foods diet following a slight stroke. During the following months, I not only lost 50 pounds, but gained strength in my legs and picked up stamina. Now, at age 93, Im on the same plant-based diet, and I still dont eat any meat or dairy products. I either swim, walk, or paddle a canoe daily and I feel the best Ive felt since my heart problems began. Benjamin Spock, M.D. Many people go vegan due to the lifestyles health benefits. There used to be a common sentiment that plantbased diets were unhealthy, extreme, and potentially dangerous. Such notions have now been debunked by a wealth of available medical and nutritional research data that suggest the opposite is true. The following excerpt is from the American Dietetic Association in 2009:

It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes. This position paper from the American Dietetic Association also included a review of the research evidence and concluded that vegetarian diets meet current recommendations for key nutrients including protein, Omega-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc, iodine, calcium, and vitamins D and B12, though in some cases supplements or fortified foods can prove useful. The statement that such meals should be well planned is, of course, true for any diet; those who consume meat and dairy also need to make sure that their nutritional needs are met. Evidence indicates that those who follow a plant-based diet are leaner and have a lower body mass index (BMI) than meat eaters and experience less weight gain. Those who do not consume meat also exhibit lower cholesterol levels and cardiovascular disease risk, as well as lower blood pressure and hypertension risk and decreased risk of heart disease mortality, cancer, diverticular disease, cataracts, and dementia. Research data also demonstrates a link between a vegan diet and relatively high concentrations of antioxidants found in blood plasma, which may explain the lower rates of chronic diseases in vegans and may also reduce exercise-induced oxidative stress. There is even some evidence linking a vegan diet to greater protection against allergies in children, and vegan diets have been recommended for reducing acne as well.
113,123 98 19,123 123 94,123 4 5 50,58 50,61 22 36 119 114 40 73


In order to truly examine the impact of going vegan on health, it is important to consider the results of randomized clinical trials that randomly assign research participants to a vegan diet versus another diet. Such designs are the most scientifically rigorous and can most definitively show that a vegan diet had a causal effect on a particular outcome. Fortunately, several such studies have been conducted to examine the benefits of a vegan diet. Let us review some randomized clinical trials that have examined the potential impact of switching to a vegan diet to prevent or reduce the development or effects of a variety of health issues. There is considerable evidence that switching to a vegan diet leads to weight loss. For example, one randomized clinical trial among 64 post-menopausal women found that those assigned to a vegan diet for 14 weeks lost more weight than those assigned to a National Cholesterol Education Program low-fat diet for 14 weeks. These changes were found at both 12-month and 24-month follow-ups. A vegan diet has also shown to be helpful in managing type 2 diabetes. For example, Barnard and colleagues randomized 99 individuals suffering from type 2 diabetes to receive a vegan diet versus a conventional diabetes diet based on 2003 American Diabetes Association guidelines. It was found that the vegan diet was relatively more successful in improving glycemia and plasma lipids. More recently, in a 24-week randomized trial, 74 patients with type 2 diabetes received either a vegetarian diet or a conventional diabetic diet. Results indicated those on the vegetarian diet improved insulin sensitivity relative to the conventional diabetic diet. Those in the vegetarian diet group were also almost nine times as likely to have decreased their diabetes medication at follow-up than those in the conventional diet group. Dr. Dean Ornish and his colleagues conducted important research that has shown that switching to a plantbased diet may actually help reverse coronary heart disease. In a landmark study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Ornish et al. conducted a randomized controlled trial among 48 patients with moderate to severe coronary heart disease examining the effect of lifestyle changes that included a very low-fat vegan diet. More specifically, patients were randomly selected to receive either the diet/lifestyle changes or usual care, and they were followed over five years. Interestingly, results indicated a reduction in coronary atherosclerosis among those in the vegan diet/lifestyle changes group while those receiving treatment as usual experienced a progression of their coronary atherosclerosis as well as more than twice as many cardiac events. More recent research suggests that those receiving the vegan diet and lifestyle changes experience a delay in their need for surgical procedures for their heart disease. Dr. Ornish and colleagues have also conducted several randomized controlled trials examining the impact of very low-fat vegan diets with lifestyle changes on patients with prostate cancer that similarly suggest a reversal of disease progression. In an early study, 93 patients with prostate cancer received either no treatment or the lifestyle change intervention involving the vegan diet. It was found that those in the vegan diet group showed a reduction in prostate specific antigen (PSA) of 4 percent at the one-year follow-up and none required further conventional treatment, while those in the no-treatment control condition experienced a PSA increase of 6 percent and six patients required conventional treatment due to progression of disease. In a subsequent study publishing results
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at the two-year follow-up, it was found that 27 percent of untreated control patients and only 5 percent of patients receiving the vegan diet/ lifestyle change intervention required conventional prostate cancer treatment. Beyond possible general health benefits from a vegan diet, exposure to animals used to produce food, as well as exposure to animal waste, has led to public health problems such as mad cow disease, avian flu, and swine flu, and exposure to pathogens that lead to outbreaks such as Campylobacter, Salmonella, Listeria monocytogense, Helicobacter pylori, and E. coli. Further, stressful conditions on animal farms has contributed to widespread use of antibiotics in animal feed in the United States to prevent disease, with 84 percent of all antibiotics consumed by livestock, which contributes to antibiotic resistance in humans who ingest the animal products. The American Medical Association, the Infectious Diseases Society of America, and the American Academy of Pediatrics have all recommended the end the use of antibiotics on farms in the United States, to no avail.
35 3,66 37,72 56


The Environment
It is increasingly obvious that environmentally sustainable solutions to world hunger can only emerge as people eat more plant foods and fewer animal products. To me it is deeply moving that the same food choices that give us the best chance to eliminate world hunger are also those that take the least toll on the environment, contribute the most to our long-term health, are the safest, and are also, far and away, the most compassionate towards our fellow creatures. John Robbins The global population has more than doubled over the past 50 years, and as per capita income has grown, so too have animal food production and the use of huge assembly line, confined animal feeding operations known as factory farms. For example, domesticated chickens in the world now outnumber humans more than three to one and have increased by more than 500 percent over the past 50 years, while wild animals have decreased in numbers during this time by about 25 percent. A staggering 10 billion land animals are raised and killed for meat and dairy production each year in the United States. About 30 percent of the Earths ice-free land mass is now used for the purposes of animal farming, according to a report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Some are shocked when they learn about the harmful environmental consequences of animal farming and the benefits of veganism with respect to the environment. In its landmark 2006 report, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations concluded that the livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global. Livestock produce more than half of all global, human-induced greenhouse gas emissions, higher than emissions from all of the planes, trains, and automobiles in the world combined. Most of these emissions come from methane gas (via animal belching and flatulence), which is 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. It has been estimated that switching to a vegan diet has a greater positive environmental impact than buying a hybrid car with respect to greenhouse gas emissions. Animal farming takes a heavy toll on our natural resources. Water is used in animal farming for drinking water, irrigation for animal feed, as well as other purposes such as hide removal and washing carcasses. Nearly half of water consumed in the United States is used for livestock, and the amount of water utilized to produce meat is 100 times greater than the amount of water utilized to produce wheat. A recent report from leading water scientists at the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) concluded that the world would face a catastrophic food shortage due to lack of water resources by 2050 if humans do not significantly cut down on their consumption of meat, and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has similarly called for a switch to vegan diets to avoid this outcome. Raising animals for food also requires considerable grain to feed the animals. Livestock in the United States consume more than seven times the amount of grain than humans consume directly, and 70 percent of all grain used in this country is consumed by livestock. Animal food production contributes to water pollution. Livestock produce approximately 500 million tons of manure every year, and three times more raw waste than humans. Some factory farm operations produce as much waste as an entire city, waste that often cannot be assimilated by the available land. This leads to excessive fertil92 1,57 32 109 39 32 83 31 11 96 118 47 116 116 28 79 57


izer use and storage of waste in huge open-air pits that emit pollutants into the air and that often leak or spill, with waste runoff introducing pathogens, heavy metals, and nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous to surface water and groundwater and depositing into rivers, lakes, and coastal waters. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 2000 National Water Quality Inventory, waste from animal feedlots on farms is a major contributor to water quality impairments and has a number of negative human and ecological health impacts. The report indicated that 29 states identified animal farming procedures as causes of water quality impairments. Further, nearly 150 global dead zones have been identified where marine life cannot be supported due to depleted oxygen, primarily caused by increases in chemical nutrients in the water such as those introduced by manure and fertilizer from factory farm pollution. Animal food production also contributes to air pollution, primarily due to the decomposition of organic carbon and nitrogen compounds in animal waste. Emissions not only place farm workers and nearby residents at risk for various health conditions and even death, but can also reach those in areas that are hundreds of miles away. The meat and dairy industry substantially contributes to deforestation, since large amounts of land are needed for animal agriculture, such as for animal grazing and to grow animal feed. Nearly 60 percent of all of the land used for agriculture in the world is used for beef production. Deforestation contributes to 15 percent of the worlds greenhouse gas emissions, since carbon dioxide is emitted into the air when forests are cleared and burned, contributing to global warming.
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Treatment of Animals
To a man whose mind is free there is something even more intolerable in the sufferings of animals than in the sufferings of man. For with the latter it is at least admitted that suffering is evil and that the man who causes it is a criminal. But thousands of animals are uselessly butchered every day without a shadow of remorse. If any man were to refer to it, he would be thought ridiculous. And that is the unpardonable crime. Romain Rolland Before you begin reading this section on the treatment of animals, please be aware that it discusses practices in raising animals for food that are considered disturbing by most people. I suggest that you skip to the next section if you do not wish to read such material. Despite its disturbing nature, however, I felt it important to provide a full discussion of the topic because this is a central and fundamental reason for going vegan. Many vegans will tell you that they stopped consuming animal products because such consumption contributes to the needless suffering and killing of animals. A common vegan perspective is: If I do not need to contribute to animal suffering and death, why should I? Given the growing evidence that veganism is associated with better personal and environmental health, vegans will argue that there is no benefit to consuming animal products. They do not think that taste alone should guide the food choices people make, meaning that because one enjoys the taste of animal meat or dairy does not make it an ethical choice to consume such products. Currently, more than 99 percent of all farmed animals raised and slaughtered in the United States come from factory farms. Unfortunately, animal mistreatment and cruelty is endemic to factory farms, where animals are viewed simply as commodities for food production and not as living beings that think and feel and suffer, just as humans do. A full treatment of the topic of animal mistreatment and inhumane practices on factory farms is beyond the scope of this book. Below, however, I provide some examples of routine, accepted, legal practices on factory farms:

1. Egg-laying hens are packed into a wire pen so tightly that they cannot spread their wings and so peck at each others bodies. De-beaking, or the trimming of the birds beak, is carried out on factory farms to prevent such pecking, which is painful and prevents the animals from engaging in normal preening, foraging, and eating behavior. 2. Pigs back teeth are clipped off with metal pliers, the ends of their tails are cut off with scissors (docking), and their genitals are castrated, all without anesthetic, to prevent them from biting each other, leading to severe pain and stress in the animal.


3. Pregnant pigs are forced to spend their pregnancy stuffed into a small metal crate where they are unable to move and commonly develop skin lesions. 4. Young calves on dairy farms are taken from their mothers for veal production and confined to small wooden crates where they cannot turn around and must lie in their own waste. 5. Male chicks on dairy farms, useless for egg production, are routinely killed in high-speed grinder machines.

Numerous undercover investigations have reported instances of other cruel and inhumane treatment. For examples of these investigations and their findings, see the Mercy for Animals website (www.mercyforanimals.org). This website also provides accounts of former factory farm workers and the horrors they were exposed to on these farms. To help provide a sense of what occurs on factory farms, below are excerpts taken from an account by Virgil Butler, who worked at a Tyson plant in Arkansas. This is one of many accounts of horrific treatment of animals on factory farms. Be warned that this story involves graphic content of violence toward animals.
One of the most recent problems that I observed was the night shift superintendent, turning down the stunner and ordering the employees to leave it down. This machine is the device that is supposed to stun chickens before they are killed. Turning it down results in the chickens missing the killing machine and evading the killer behind the machine, so that they end up being scalded to death by water in the scalding tank. The scalding tank loosens up the feathers so that they can be picked out. The chickens are supposed to be dead before they reach this point I was responsible for trying to slit the throats of the chickens the machine missed on the nights I worked the killing room. Our line runs 182 shackles per minute. It is physically impossible to catch them all. Therefore, they are scalded alive. When this happens, the chickens flop, scream, kick, and their eyeballs pop out of their heads. Then, they often come out the other end with broken bones and disfigured and missing body parts because theyve struggled so much in the tank. Sometimes, when we had a line broken down, they would be left hanging upside down in the stunner in the water to drown We were extremely shorthanded, due to the horrendous working conditions. This led to a high turnover rate with inexperienced, frustrated workers under pressure to keep the production numbers up. If production fell, it would mean overtime work, so the belt speed was turned up. This resulted in the belt becoming overloaded in the area where the chickens awaited shackling, which ended up smothering hundreds of chickens a night. I heard a supervisor say, I would rather smother a few hundred goddamned birds than to lose time because of empty shackles. (This was said in late July 2002 when temperatures in the hanging cage were exceeding 100 degrees in the middle of the night). I have witnessed a fellow employee build dry ice bombs (made by putting dry ice and a small amount of water in a plastic Pepsi bottle and screwing the lid down tight) and putting it on the belt with live chickens during break time. This results in a high-pressure explosion that rips the chickens bodies apart and scatters them all over the room. This occurred numerous times. I have also seen a fellow employee rip the heads, legs, and wings off of live chickens, or just stomp them to death on the floor because he was aggravated. This occurred on a regular basis for about the last year and a half that I worked there. I have also witnessed a forklift driver run over the chickens on purpose, then laugh about it. These kinds of incidents were ongoing and repetitivejust a part of a regular nights work. We were given thousands of chickens to hang that were above the size limit we were used to In the process of hanging the live birds, we were forced to break their legs to get them to fit into the shackles. This was unnecessary. The shackles could have been spread out to fit the larger-sized birds However, one of the supervisors decided that it wasnt necessary and didnt want to lose the production time to do it.

Most vegans do not believe that free range or grass fed farms are an ethical alternative to factory farms. While it is true that animals on these farms may be spared some of the cruelest practices found on factory farms and 16

spend more of their time not kept in cages or small, enclosed areas, they still spend much of their time confined and experience inhumane living conditions. Further, more land needs to be cleared and more predator animals need to be killed on these farms to protect the lot. Humane farms are simply not sustainable since there is not enough land and other resources to meet the demand for meat and dairy using these methods. For example, if all cows in the United States were raised on grass, it would take up approximately half of the land in the country, and the cows would also emit more methane gas than grain-fed cows. Finally, and most importantly, in the end these animals, just like animals on factory farms, are killed and do not come close to living out their natural lifespan. For example, veal calves and beef cattle are slaughtered before the age of two when their natural lifespan is 15 to 20 years. Some may wonder why a vegan would not instead choose to be a vegetarian if their main motivation is ending mistreatment toward animals. A primary reason is that the dairy industry contributes to animal mistreatment and killing just like the meat industry. Many of these practices were described previously in this section. In addition, to obtain cows milk, the mother cow is artificially impregnated by the farmer through the insertion of the farmers arm far into the cows rectum and forcing an instrument into her vagina. Resulting male calves are forcibly taken away from their mother, often as the mother cow and calf cry out for each other, and the calf is painfully castrated and slaughtered after a period of solitary confinement. Other painful procedures are also often used to extract the milk from the cow, milk that was intended by nature to be provided to the baby calf. The mother cow is finally slaughtered after living out only about one-fifth of her natural lifespan when she is weak and tired from being forced to continuously produce milk over her lifetime. Below is an account from an undercover investigator for Mercy for Animals, Cody Carlson, at the largest dairy farm in the Northeast, Willet Dairy.


Working at that farm, I learned that their 5,000 cows spent every day crowded in barren, manure-filled concrete barns. They were kept perpetually pregnant through artificial insemination, and routinely pumped full of antibiotics and hormones like rBST. Further, the cows were rife with swollen joint infections where their legs rubbed against the concrete, and suffered from heavy, inflamed udders. I watched every day as more cows collapsed at four or five years of agea fraction of their natural lifespanand were either left to die or shipped to slaughter. As for the many calves born as a by-product of dairy production, if they didnt freeze to death in an unattended tin shed, they were also shipped to slaughter within days of birth. These cows were being abused, neglected, and overdriven like disposable milk-producing machines. As a maintenance worker, I mainly replaced the long steel cables that dragged V-shaped manure scrapers down the filthy concrete barn floors. It was hard, dangerous, and disgusting work, but my day was brightened by the cows that surrounded me to watch me work. We were each grateful for the distraction. Despite their ailments, they were affectionate, playful, and highly social.


Unfortunately, my supervisor did not think as highly of them. Phil had worked at the dairy for 20 years, and was a reservoir of sadistic anecdotes. When curious cows approached us, he often attacked them mercilessly and for no reason at all, using whatever tool happened to be in his hand. When I told management about his abuse, they laughed knowingly. He likes to get real rough with them, one said. Take his anger out on them. Despite the owners knowledge of the way he treated the cows, Phil was never disciplined. Unfortunately, his attacks were so spontaneous and unprovoked that I was only able to catch one on film.

It is estimated that the number of farmed fish slaughtered for food globally is between 37 and 120 billion and rising each year. Despite scientific evidence that fish feel pain and are surprisingly intelligent animals, there is no humane slaughter requirement for fish. Now more than half of all fish that are consumed globally are raised on farms, where they spend their lives in crowded, filthy tanks or enclosures that may contribute to parasitic infections, diseases, and injuries. Fish caught in the ocean also often experience severe conditions, as they are dragged in huge fishing trawls along with rocks and other debris from the ocean depths which may rupture their internal organs and pop out their eyes. Fish often die before they are slaughtered through disease, slow suffocation, or starvation, and they are often cut open while alive. Slaughter methods also include the use of carbon dioxide to asphyxiate the fish and electric shock.
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5. Common Misconceptions About Veganism

Even though I have an advanced degree and have done a lot of research into veganism, I have friends and family members who constantly treat me like I am completely ignorant for being vegan. They tell me things like, A vegan diet cant give you the nutrition that you need to be healthy and Humans were meant to eat meat because they have canine teeth. I used to try to give people more accurate information when they would say stuff like that, but I have given up trying because it seems that people believe what they want to believe.

number of common misconceptions surround veganism, and vegans have likely heard them all countless times. The more you know about these common beliefs and the evidence for or against them, the better you will be able to understand and support your vegan family member. I feel that it is also important to discuss these misconceptions here since they are often used as a reason to dismiss veganism as a reasonable lifestyle choice. In this section, I will discuss the ones that I most often encounter as well as the evidence undergirding each of these beliefs.

Vegans Do Not Get Enough Protein

Vegans regularly hear the question, Where do you get your protein? The idea that one cannot get enough protein without consuming animal meat and dairy is a commonly propagated myth that vegans are frequently reminded of by wellmeaning non-vegans. There are, in fact, abundant sources of protein that vegans commonly consume, including beans, soy-based items, and various other plant sources such as seeds and nuts. It may be surprising to learn that all plants contain protein and common vegetables are excellent sources of protein. For example, broccoli contains more than twice the protein per calorie of steak, and spinach is about equal to chicken and fish in protein per calorie. Nutritional research suggests that protein needs for vegans are slightly higher than for omnivores because plant protein tends not to be assimilated quite as well as animal-based protein, but vegans have no difficulty meeting their dietary requirements assuming they consume People in the United States enough calories. often consume much more protein than is necessary, since the recommended daily allowance of calories from protein is only 10 percent. There is no research evidence suggesting any benefit of consuming greater than 10 percent of calories from protein, even for athletes, though needs may differ across individuals and training goals. There is actually evidence indicating that diets too rich in animal protein may be unhealthy. For example, one study of elderly women found that consumption of a high ratio of animal to vegetable protein was related to more bone loss and risk of hip fracture. Another study suggested that high intake of animal protein accelerated kidney function problems in women with mild renal insufficiency. Some have also suggested possible links between high
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consumption of animal protein in Western diets and obesity. There used to be a common conception that vegans and vegetarians needed to consume complementary proteins, like beans and rice, together, so that foods with incomplete essential amino acid content could combine to form a complete protein. More recently, however, the author of this theory as well as the larger nutrition establishthough eating a variety of protein ment has rejected this idea based on a lack of research evidence to support it, sources is optimal.
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Vegans Cannot Get Vitamin B12 from Non-Animal Sources

Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin used to synthesize red blood cells and maintain nervous system health. A B12 deficiency can lead to neurological problems, weakness, and fatigue. It is a myth that B12 is animal-based and can only be obtained by consuming meat and dairy, since it is produced by bacteria commonly found in the soil around plants and is also found in animals that consume these microorganisms. Our human ancestors had an easier time of getting B12 because they lived more closely with other animals and food and water was not purified like it is today. Another misconception about B12 is that vegans are at high risk for B12 deficiency. There is indeed evidence suggesting that vegans have lower B12 concentrations than non-vegans. However, a lack of B12 consumption is very rarely the cause of a B12 deficiency in a normal vegan diet, with some experts estimating odds of less than one in a million. The human body requires very minimal amounts of B12less than any other vitamin. Rather, a B12 deficiency is almost always caused by a digestive problem such as celiac disease or Crohns disease where there is a disruption in ones ability to absorb nutrients. Dr. John McDougall, physician, nutrition expert, and author of several books including The McDougall Plan (1983) and director of the nationally renowned McDougall Program, discussed the B12 controversy in his newsletter. He describes how even in the rare and highly publicized cases of apparent B12 deficiency linked to poor diet in vegans or vegetarians, the individual also suffered from various other vitamin deficiencies and/or absorption problems that confound the link between B12 intake and disease. As he notes, some experts believe that all cases of B12 deficiency have such confounding factors. McDougall summarized his view of the B12 controversy in vegans as follows:
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Take a moment to compare the possible consequences of your dietary decisions. You could choose to eat lots of B12-rich animal foods and avoid the one-in-a-million chance of developing a reversible anemia and/or even less common, damage to your nervous system. However, this decision puts you at a one-in-two chance of dying prematurely from a heart attack or stroke; a one-in-seven chance of breast cancer or a one-in-six chance of prostate cancer. The same thinking results in obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, constipation, indigestion, and arthritis. All these conditions caused by a B12-sufficient diet are found in the people you live and work with daily. How many vegans have you met with B12 deficiency anemia or nervous system damage? I bet not one! Furthermore, you have never even heard of such a problem unless you have read the attention-seeking headlines of newspapers or medical journals. Other nutrition experts highlight the importance of vegans ensuring adequate B12 to prevent milder B12 deficiency that leads to a rise in homocysteine, an amino acid, over the course of several years. Research shows that homocysteine imbalance may be linked with cancer development, autoimmune diseases, vascular dysfunction, and neurodegenerative disease. Regardless of the specific level of risk of B12 deficiency, vegans should ensure sufficient B12 levels by taking a B12 supplement or consuming foods enriched with B12, such as soy milks, rice milks, and cereals. B12 supplementation is particularly important for pregnant or nursing women, because B12 in a womans body is less available for the baby during this time. The elderly are also at higher risk for B12 deficiency due to absorption problems. Vegans are perhaps in an even better position than non-vegans to avoid B12 deficiency because they are often more aware of the need to take B12 supplements, and this possible protective effect takes on greater importance in the elderly as B12 absorption problems become more common. In other words, vegans heightened awareness of B12 may serve them well, relative to non-vegans who generally do not think much about B12.
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Vegans Do Not Enjoy Food as Much as Those Who Consume Meat and Dairy
Im sick of hearing people refer to my diet as rabbit food despite the fact that I love French fries, devour vegan pizza and nachos, and frequently indulge in fine dark chocolate and coconut ice cream sundaes! I recently went to a party and noticed a batch of cookies that a friend had made. I complimented her on how good they looked and that it must have been fun for her to make them because her kids had helped. At that moment her husband grabbed one of the cookies and made a big show out of savoring it in front of me and then sarcastically remarked that it was too bad I couldnt have one.

Most vegans will tell you that the notion that vegans do not enjoy food is the furthest thing from the truth. With so many new vegan options appearing in supermarkets and restaurants, vegans no longer have to sacrifice their enjoyment of food. Many of the vegans that I know consider themselves foodies and make a point of exploring new vegan restaurants and recipes. One notable vegan, Kristin Lajeunesse, has been travelling the country on donations for over a year eating only at vegan restaurants to promote vegan dining and the different food options that are out there for vegans. Her blog is called Will Travel for Vegan Food (www.wtfveganfood.com). She has dined at hundreds of 100 percent vegan restaurants in her travels, and she has the pictures and reviews to document the mouthwatering vegan meals and treats she has enjoyed.

Being Vegan Must Be a Difficult Sacrifice

I cant tell you how many times I have had people ask me how I live without cheese especially when vegan macaroni and cheese and pizza tastes so much better to me than the non-vegan versions I used to eat. Kraft from a box and those limp, overly greasy slices from Dominos just seem gross now.

I often hear from my non-vegan friends and colleagues that they could not possibly survive without meat or dairy, or that it must be very hard to be vegan. The truth is, many or most vegans will tell you that they found the transition to be relatively easy, and that they began to notice feeling better physically almost immediately when making the change. There are very few non-vegan foods that do not have a vegan counterpart these days, with nondairy cheeses and mock meats readily available and a variety of vegan substitutes for non-vegan ingredients. Some research evidence similarly suggests that switching to a vegan diet is no less difficult than switching to other healthy diets. For example, one study examined issues related to the acceptability of different diet choices among overweight, post-menopausal women who were randomly assigned to receive either a low-fat vegan diet or a National Cholesterol Education Program Step II (NCEP) diet. The researchers found that acceptability of both diets was high, although those assigned to receive the NCEP diet felt that they were more constrained by their food choices when switching to this diet and foresaw difficulty in continuing the diet beyond the completion of the research. Those in the vegan group did not report these concerns. Non-vegans will often ask vegans if they can or cannot eat certain foods. As Colleen Patrick-Goudreau wrote in Vegans Daily Companion:
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The people asking if I can eat something are not trying to be malicious; if anything, they are being considerate, and I always let them know that I appreciate theyve remembered Im vegan. But also, I dont want to miss the opportunity to offer them a different perspective about what it means to be veganthat it is indeed about choice and not deprivation or willpower. 21

A Vegan Diet is More Expensive Than a Non-Vegan Diet

Some argue that they cannot change to a vegan diet because they claim it is too expensive. This is another myth. Commonly consumed vegan foods such as beans, tofu, tempeh, fruits, vegetables, and nuts are relatively cheap, and generally cheaper than most meat or dairy options. Vegan options when dining out also tend to be less expensive than non-vegan options. Expense is not a justifiable reason for rejecting a vegan diet.

Vegans Are Extremists

I was on a date, and when I told the guy that I was vegan, he just looked shocked, and then asked me if I was one of those crazy people who broke into science labs to let animals out of their cages.

While vegans on the whole are probably more likely to be more politically progressive than the general population, they come from a range of backgrounds and belief systems. Examinations of veganism across different economic groups have not been conducted to my knowledge, but the aforementioned July 2012 Gallup Poll showed that vegetarians were fairly equally distributed across educational and political groups, though women were slightly more likely to be vegetarian than men and unmarried adults were more than twice as likely as married adults to identify themselves as vegetarian. Vegans are likewise not a single monolithic group, but rather represent the broad range of people that you see in your everyday lives. The view of vegans as an extremist group can be held or promoted as a way of delegitimizing the vegan lifestyle or beliefs about animal mistreatment. I hope that at this point in your reading of this book, it is clear that there are plenty of valid reasons for choosing a vegan lifestyle, and these ideas are not particularly radical.

Vegans Do More Harm to Plants Than Non-Vegans

Most vegans regularly hear jokes about how vegans kill more plants than non-vegans, suggesting that eating plants and animals are morally equivalent. While this is typically raised in a joking fashion, or in a way that attempts to get under the skin of vegans (and it does!), I have heard non-vegans seriously argue that vegans do more harm than good because they contribute to the killing of so many plants! This is factually incorrect, since the production of animal-based food necessarily leads to the use of more plants than would be needed if those plants were simply consumed directly. Regardless, the simple fact that plants do not have pain receptors or a central nervous system is usually enough to end arguments over plant torture and needless killing. Here is an excerpt from a post by Gary Yourofsky, renowned animal rights activist and lecturer, on the Veganism is the Future website: Allow me to explain further how absurd it is to think that plants are akin to animals in any way. My wife recently visited her parents and noticed the 20-year-old cactus in her childhood bedroom wasnt doing well. After perusing some gardening sites for tips, we CUT the cactus in half and set it out to dry in the sun for three days. We re-planted it with a Dracaena plant and now it is 22

thriving. If you truly believe that plants and animals are one and the same, then cut a human baby in half and see what happens. Better yet, go to your local hospice center and heal them by cutting everyone in half. The truth is that if this website discussed the suffering of carrots and tomatoes, or I gave speeches about cashew cruelty, or I presented footage of people picking apples from a tree and raged about the apple-plucking, you would be laughing your ass off and texting your friends about my insanity. Even from the meat-eaters perspective, its just illogical to speak of giving rights of freedom and bodily integrity to insentient plants while causing sentient animals to suffer and die by the billion! Plantsunlike animalsare insentient beings void of central nervous systems, lungs, hearts, kidneys, intestines, blood, ears and eyes. They do not defecate or urinate either. Nobody screams in horror when his or her neighbors are mowing the lawn (grass is a plant, too). But if neighbors were slicing pigs into pieces on the front lawn, there would be tears, physical interventions and the proper authorities would be summoned to stop the bloodshed.

Vegans Do Not Care About People

It is a common misconception that vegans care only about animals and do not care about people. An August 2012 blog by Anjali Sareen on The Huffington Post helps to illustrate this issue and her reaction to it: Youre vegan? Why do you hate people? I get asked this question on a fairly regularly basis, and yet each time it catches me off-guard. I always have a hard time imagining a persons initial reaction to my plant-based diet and crueltyfree lifestyle will be anger and irritation. Im never quite sure how to respond. The honest answer is that I dont hate people and actually, veganism harmonizes perfectly with a lot of very important human rights issues. My lifestyle philosophy is about uplifting the worldnot, as many believe, uplifting animals at the expense of the world. As this passage illustrates, caring about animals and caring about humans are not mutually exclusive. Rather, a vegan perspective is exactly the opposite; it emphasizes kindness and compassion toward all living things and bettering ones health and the environment to improve conditions for humans and other animals now and in the future. It is also important to note that the treatment of animals and the treatment of other humans are inextricably linked. Overwhelming evidence shows that animal abuse is more prevalent in homes in which family violence occurs, and cruelty to animals is a precursor to violence and criminal behavior later in life. Further, as discussed in Gail Eisnitzs book, Slaughterhouse, those who work on factory farms exhibit problems with perpetrating violence in their personal lives and suffer from a range of mental health issues. Thus, it is not a great leap of logic to suggest that minimizing violence and maximizing compassion toward animals should assist in reducing violence directed toward humans, and could ultimately enhance overall mental health.
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Vegans Are Always Trying to Push Their Agenda on Non-Vegans

There is a common notion that vegans are annoying or pushy with respect to their beliefs. I believe that there are two main reasons why vegans have this reputation. First, when someone mentions that they are vegan, some non-vegans immediately have a natural defensive reaction because they feel judged for eating animals. Second, it is human nature to want to be right about things, and for people to want others to share their values. Thus, it may be that vegans and non-vegans alike are at times prone to strongly promoting their values and beliefs. The following adapted blog post illustrates the perspective of a young man who briefly went vegan and the resistance that he experienced from his non-vegan loved ones:
I tried veganism for a month after reading about factory farming and Gandhis biography. I felt guilty that I hadnt led a particularly moral life up to that point and wanted to try something positive. Well, it didnt last long, but I noticed some things during my brief, fleeting attempt at going vegan. What struck me was how my family and friends gave me such a hard time when I told them I was trying this new thing. I know that everyone says that vegans are really annoying by pushing their agenda, but I found it to be just the opposite; meat eaters felt really threatened by me going vegan for some reason and tried hard to bring me back to their team. When I would order something vegan, they would say things like, You wont be able to get your protein by eating that, or they would resort to ridiculous comments like, You are contributing to the killing of innocent vegetables! Now I guess I have an idea of what vegans must go through on a regular basis.

When attempting to understand and communicate with your vegan family member, it may be a useful exercise to try to put yourself in his shoes. Vegans are bombarded every day with images of meat eating from advertisements, depictions in the media, family members and friends, holidays, etc. So when non-vegans suggest that vegans are annoyingly pushing their perspective, consider that your vegan loved one probably feels the same way on a regular 24

basis. You may also consider that your vegan family member does not raise issues related to veganism, such as animal rights, because he wants to annoy others, but rather because it is an issue that he cares very deeply about. It may also be helpful to consider that many vegans experience persistent sadness and depression because it hurts them to think that animals are needlessly suffering, and also to know that people all around them contribute to such suffering without much care or thought. Expressions of concern for animals by vegans come from a place of love and compassion, not out of a need to annoy others. At dinner you may only see a hamburger, but your vegan family member may think about a cow that they bonded with at an animal sanctuary. You may see a piece of ham, but your vegan family member might be reminded of how pigs are smarter than common household pets. These are the sorts of images that many vegans experience on a regular basis and may cause sadness or other negative feelings, especially when loved ones tease or otherwise do not support them.

Vegan Men Are Feminine

A recent report published in the Journal of Consumer Research showed that in a number of experiments, research participants (most of whom were from the United States and Great Britain) rated meat as more masculine than other foods, and vegetables were rated as more feminine. The top five most masculine foods were medium-rare steak, hamburger, well-done steak, beef chili, and chicken. Participants also rated those who do not eat meat as less masculine and more feminine than meat eaters. This study highlights the stereotype of vegan men as somehow more feminine than non-vegan men. Across a number of cultures, eating animal flesh is associated with more masculine traits in men, and abstaining from meat is associated with more femininity in men. Most vegan men have been teased by male friends or family members with comments such as, Real men dont eat tofu or Be a manhave some meat. A common reaction among vegan men to such teasing is one of disbelief, since to them the killing and eating of defenseless cows and pigs does not represent strength and virility. Perhaps further contributing to the notion of vegan men as feminine is the controversy around soy consumption in men. More specifically, soy contains isoflavones, which are selective estrogen receptor modulators. Contrary to popular belief, isoflavones are not the same thing as the female sex hormone estrogen, since it binds differently to estrogen receptors in cells. Research also shows that human consumption of soy and isoflavones does not increase estrogen levels, reduce testosterone levels, or lower sperm count, again contrary to popular beliefs about the impacts of soy on mens reproductive health and masculinity.
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Veganism Is Wrong Because Humans Are Naturally Carnivorous

The argument that humans are naturally carnivorous is perhaps the most common argument that I hear against veganism. Some will argue that eating meat and dairy is in our DNA as humans. By and large most of us grew up with the idea that some animals were put on Earth for us to eat, so it is natural to think that humans have always been carnivorous. However, scientific evidence and human anatomy suggest that, in fact, humans are extremely similar to other plant-eaters and we are not at all biologically or evolutionarily predisposed to eat large amounts of meat. Dr. Milton Mills, associate director of preventive medicine for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), provided an interesting comparative analysis of how humans compared to carnivores and herbivores with respect to several components of anatomy. For example, he discussed how carnivorous animals have a wide mouth opening in relation to their head size, a massive termporalis muscle to chew other animals, limited lower jaw movement, blade-shaped cheek molars, teeth spaced far apart, prong-like incisors, and long, dagger-like canines used to stab, tear, and kill other animals. The saliva of carnivores does not contain digestive enzymes and they bite off large chunks of animal meat and swallow them whole. Herbivores, on the other hand, have well-developed facial musculature, fleshy lips, a smaller oral cavity, a thicker, more muscular tongue to push plant-based food back and forth to disrupt plant cell walls to increase digestibility and allow for digestive enzymes in saliva to assist this process. Herbivores also have a jaw joint that is positioned above the plane of the teeth to better chew plants, a smaller temporalis muscle, a lower jaw that has a pronounced sideways motion when chewing to grind up plants, molars that are square and flattened, incisors that are broad and


flattened, and canines that are relatively small. In short, humans share all of these described features of herbivores and none of those for carnivores. Mills similarly described how humans stomach type and acidity level, internal organs (small intestine, colon, liver, kidneys), and nails are all consistent with herbivores and not carnivores. For example, carnivores stomachs are twenty times more acidic than herbivores and humans stomachs to assist in digesting other animals, and carnivores have much smaller and smoother intestinal tracts than herbivores and humans so that meat can pass through easily. Herbivores and humans have bumpier intestines to allow for plant food to move slowly to assist in digestion. Herbivores also lack the claws possessed by carnivorous animals for killing their prey. Carnivorous animals do not need to cook their meat to digest it and avoid disease; they eat entire animals and do not suffer from lactose intolerance or meat or dairy allergies. Carnivores are also thrilled by the chase and killing of their prey and find eating raw meat pleasurable. Most humans, on the other hand, generally do not find the direct killing of animals to be pleasurable in the slightest, particularly for the consumption of the animals raw flesh. As Pythagoras once argued, If you declare that you are naturally designed for such a diet, then first kill for yourself what you want to eat. Do it, however, only through your own resources, unaided by cleaver or cudgel or any kind of ax. Some argue that a lack of vitamin B12 in a vegan diet is evidence that humans are naturally carnivorous. As previously discussed, however, B12 is produced by bacteria found in the soil and is not only found in meat, and earlier humans likely had many more sources for obtaining B12 than modern humans. It is commonly thought that early humans hunted and ate animal meat, but the existing scientific evidence suggests that this only occurred in recent human history, according to Drs. Donna Hart and Robert Sussman, anthropologists who received the 2006 W. W. Howells Book Prize for Man the Hunted: Primates, Predators, and Human Evolution. This compelling book uses fossil evidence and observations of other primates to argue that early humans fell victim to a wide variety of predators for millions of years, and that the human brain and human intelligence grew and developed as an adaptation in order to learn to outsmart predators over the course of approximately seven to 10 million years. As Hart and Sussman discuss, many of the fossils of the earliest humans demonstrate evidence of humans being prey to a variety of predators (e.g., puncture marks from saber-toothed cat fangs and claw marks from raptors). Examination of fossil evidence dating back nearly seven million years also indicates that Australopithecus afarensis was not dentally adapted to eat meat, as we have described is the case with modern humans. Further, the first modern tools to kill animals did not appear until nearly two million years ago and the first evidence of the domestication of fire that would be necessary to cook animals is from about 400,000 years ago. The authors related their findings to modern man by stating, we humans are not slaughter-prone assassins by nature. We often act badly, maliciously, cruelly, but that is by choice and not by our status as bipedal primates. Despite the evidence reviewed in this section suggesting that humans are not carnivores, vegans will tell you that it does not really matter. Some argue that getting into a debate about whether humans are naturally carnivorous or evolved to be carnivorous draws vegans and non-vegans into unnecessary arguments that are not very productive. What humans ate millions of years ago really is not relevant for the food choices we make today. What matters most is the present and what are the healthiest, most ethical food choices given our current available food supply, food production methods, and dietary needs, which are very different from those of primitive man.
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6. Considerations for Veganism Across the Lifespan

egans can be found across age groups and there is no one particular age at which people become vegan. Some are raised vegan while others do not switch to veganism until later in life, perhaps when they encounter information regarding veganism or when they develop health problems resulting from an animal-based diet. Evidence suggests that a vegan diet can be healthy at any age. In the subsections that follow, I discuss specific issues related to veganism during pregnancy, childhood, and in later adulthood.

Vegan Pregnancy
Im pregnant and have been vegan for eight years. My brother is actually an OB/GYN and he recently lectured me about how it was not possible for me to get enough protein to keep the baby healthy. His information couldnt have been more outdated and he was really hostile during this conversation. I wonder if he lectures his meat-eating patients about how animal products can lead to obesity and heart disease the same way he lectured me.

As noted previously, based on their review of the research data, the American Dietetic Association has indicated that vegan diets are appropriate and healthy across the lifespan, including pregnancy through late adulthood. Here, I attempt to provide information with respect to nutrition and food aversions during vegan pregnancy. I will first discuss nutrition, with a specific focus on docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), vitamin D, and calcium. I limit my discussion to these three nutrients because they are commonly thought to be hard to get from a vegan diet during pregnancy. I follow this with a discussion of food aversions, a possible bonus of a vegan pregnancy. In previous sections I have discussed protein and B12 requirements for vegans. When it comes to protein, a slight increase in the amount consumed during pregnancy is regarded as healthier for mother and baby. The Institute of Medicine Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) recommendations state that the average woman should add 25 grams of protein per day to the 41 grams generally recommended for women. When it comes to B12, the amount obtained in prenatal vitamins that all pregnant women are encouraged to take should be adequate through all phases of pregnancy. There is an abundance of information available about nutritional requirements for pregnant women more broadly, as well as comprehensive resources focusing on nutrition during pregnancy in particular, if the reader is interested in a fuller treatment of this topic.
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Fish and DHA

Any pregnant woman is advised to watch her consumption of fish because of toxic levels of mercury, which are at particularly high levels in some types. At the same time they are being told that consumption of fish can potentially be harmful to their baby, they are given recommendations not to cut out fish altogether. The reason for this is because DHA, an essential omega-3 fatty acid found in fish oil, is an especially important nutrient for a brain and eye health and is critical for a babys central nervous system (CNS) development, especially in utero. Medical experts often argue that a moderate amount of mercury in your system will not exceed a safe level, though no one standard for the acceptable amount of mercury consumption in pregnant women has been agreed upon and it is not clear how much mercury is safe. Mercury poisoning is an obvious concern to pregnant women because it can cause spontaneous abortion as well as serious brain and nervous system damage to the developing fetus and the mother. Depending on the regulatory body, pregnant women are advised to eat no more than two to three servings of fish each week. One problem with following such recommendations is that some types of fish contain considerably more mercury than other types of fish, and research suggests that consumption of three servings of fish that are relatively higher in mercury may place women at risk for potentially harmful mercury levels. Further complicating the picture are the numerous recent investigations in which scientists making use of gene sequencers are discovering that fish are labeled incorrectly in supermarkets and restaurants at rates ranging from 20 to 25 percent, and even up to 70 percent in some species. In other words, these reports indicate that people are often consuming different fish
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than they think they are consuming. Unfortunately, it is not widely recognized that DHA can be consumed in its purest form, without mercury, from algae or algae-based DHA supplements. This way, anyone can get all the benefits of DHA while entirely eliminating the risk of mercury contamination. Thus, vegans do not have to worry about mercury consumption during pregnancy and can get their needed DHA via algae or algae-based supplements.

Vitamin D and Calcium

It is well known that vitamin D is important for overall health and bone health in particular because it helps our bodies absorb calcium. However, the fact that cows milk is a great natural provider of quality vitamin D is actually a myth. Very few foods in nature contain vitamin D. The flesh of fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel) and fish liver oils are among the best sources. Small amounts of vitamin D are found in beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks. So why is commercial cows milk touted as the worlds best source of vitamin D? It is simply because cows milk has been fortified with vitamin D for decades. Fortified foods provide most of the vitamin D in the American diet. For example, almost all of the milk supply in the United States is voluntarily fortified with 100 IU per cup. In Canada, cows milk is fortified by law with 35 to 40 IU per 100 mL, as is margarine at 530 IU per 100g. In the 1930s, a milk fortification program was implemented in the United States to combat rickets, then a major public health problem. Other dairy products made from milk, such as cheese and ice cream, are generally not fortified. Ready-to-eat breakfast cereals often contain added vitamin D, as do some brands of orange juice, yogurt, margarine, and other food products. Clearly, if vitamin D is often obtained through fortified foods, it is not necessary to drink a cup of cows milk or eat a block of dairy cheese to get the amount we need. Other vegan forms of fortified milk such as soy milk and rice milk contain the same amount of vitamin D as fortified cows milk. Additionally, vegans can always supplement with vitamin D tablets if the products they consume are not sufficiently fortified. Calcium can be obtained through many plant foodssuch as sesame seeds, almonds, tofu, and leafy green vegetablesin amounts equal to or greater than found in dairy and meat products. For example, a cup of chopped collard greens contains 67mg more calcium than an 8-ounce glass of milk.

Food Aversions (Possible Bonus of a Vegan Pregnancy)

We have all heard about or experienced pregnant womens trials with morning sickness. Who wants such an exciting time of their life to be plagued by constant nausea and vomiting? Morning sickness is thought to protect the embryo by causing pregnant women to avoid and expel foods that contain toxic chemicals. In their landmark review of the medical, psychological, and anthropological literature, two Cornell researchers found that the greatest aversions during pregnancy were to meats, fish, poultry, and eggs, the foods that were more likely to carry harmful microorganisms and parasites before the advent of modern refrigeration and food-handling processes. Their analysis also included a comparison between societies in which morning sickness has been observed and not observed. They found that societies that had not observed morning sickness were less likely to have animal products as staples in their diets. Therefore, vegan women may in fact be less likely to experience morning sickness than non-vegan women.
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Raising a Vegan Child

Some non-vegans may believe that it is unfair to raise a child vegan, perhaps feeling that the childs dietary needs may not be met, or that he is being deprived of non-vegan foods that he would otherwise be able to enjoy. Again, it may help to look at the issue in the context of cultural or religious beliefs. While it certainly is common to disagree with other peoples cultural or religious beliefs, it is never polite to criticize or make fun of them. You would not tell a Jewish mother that her child is being unfairly deprived of lobster and non-kosher foods. On the contrary, if you were to care for a kosher child, you would probably be very careful not to feed him or her non-kosher items out of respect for the beliefs of the childs family. It is important to be mindful of the fact that the diet of a vegan may be important to them in the same way that a kosher diet would be to an Orthodox Jew. There is also emerging research that suggests that healthier vegan alternatives to meat are acceptable to children. For example, a plate waste study (examining how much food children throw away) in five middle schools in Maryland examined preference of four popular meat-based menu items and soy-based alternatives to them. The researchers found that students ate about equal numbers of the meat and soy-based options.

The following are some common questions that vegan families encounter with respect to raising children in the vegan lifestyle.

It is fine for adults to choose to be vegan, but is it really healthy for a growing child?
A wealth of research suggests that just as adults receive health benefits from a vegan diet, so too do children and teens. A newborn gets all of the necessary nutrients from the mothers breast milk, provided the vegan mother is healthy and getting an adequate supply of vitamin B12. If breast-feeding is not an option, soy-based infant formula is a good alternative but it is important to read the ingredients as some brands contain animal-derived fats. It is important to note that soy milk or any other milk alternative alone cannot be considered a replacement for formulas or breast milk. According to FDA guidelines, all formulas are required to have the recommended amount of vitamin D and a great many other nutrients. According to The Everything Vegan Pregnancy Book, it is important for infants to get 30 minutes of daily sunlight exposure (all over the body or while only wearing a diaper) in order to get the proper amount of vitamin D. Due to climate and weather conditions, if sunlight is limited, vitamin D supplements should be used. It is recommended that an infant who is only breastfed and not yet eating any other foods should supplement with ten micrograms (or 400 IU) per day. Post-infancy, children can get a sufficient amount of B12 through fortified foods like soy milk and other dairy milk substitutes as well as with some juices and cereals. All vitamins and nutrients needed to support a growing vegan child can be easily obtained through careful planning and attention to each meal. The main thing vegan parents need to be concerned about is the nutrient density of the foods their child is eat42 75 67 67


ing. A lot of leafy greens and vegetables can fill up a small childs stomach quite quickly and may not leave enough room for healthy fats and protein. The same goes for foods that are rich in carbohydrates but devoid of other important nutrients, such as bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, and common junk foods like chips and packaged sweets. It is important to make sure the child gets an adequate amount of vital nutrients through calorie dense seeds, nuts, nut butters, and avocados along with organic soy products and healthy enriched foods. Most children can easily get the important combination of fats and protein through typical kid foods made with vegan ingredients. With some products, it can be nearly impossible to tell the difference between vegan meat substitutes and their real meat counterparts. Vegan children are able to enjoy a vast array of vegan nuggets, burgers and cold cuts.

What do vegan families do about birthday parties or child parties?

It may be a worry of yours that the vegan child you love is missing out on her best friends birthday cake at a party, or that others will be offended or annoyed by the childs veganism in some way. Rest assured, most vegan parents have thought a lot about such issues and are careful to make sure their child does not feel left out on such occasions and that others are not offended. Often, if a child has been brought up vegan from birth, they are well aware of what they do and do not eat and may not want to partake in the eating of animal food products at all. However, if you happen to find yourself in the situation where the vegan child you are with wants a food item that is not vegan, you can always ask yourself if there is a similar version of this food that is vegan. Nowadays, there are vegan versions of just about any food you could think of. If it is not ready to buy, consider making it. Anything can be made vegan and there are many vegan cookbooks for just this purpose. If a vegan child you know is having a birthday, a great gesture could be buying vegan treats or baking a vegan cake to bring to the party. Likewise, if you know a vegan child will be attending a party at your house, having a vegan cake, if only in addition to a non-vegan one, is a great way to make that child feel welcome. After all, two cakes are better than one!

What do vegan families do about Halloween?

It is probably rare that you would find yourself in the position to take a vegan familys child trick-or-treating. However, you may find yourself wondering how a vegan child will cope with such a child-centric and much-anticipated holiday past time. While many vegan parents would prefer not to leave their child out of the experience of dressing up and going out on Halloween, they may not be comfortable with accepting candy that is not vegan. Kids in such families may trick-or-treat for a charity. The United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) is a popular one, but some families may find Halloween the perfect opportunity to collect money for charities aligned with the well-being of animals. Some families may agree that their vegan children can trick-or-treat but may collect the non-vegan candy afterwards and give it away or exchange the non-vegan candy for money or an outing to a favorite vegan restaurant or bakery, where they can choose whatever item they like. Due to safety reasons, some families, vegan and non-vegan alike, choose not to trick-or-treat at all. Halloween parties are a great alternative to a trick-or-treat outing. A vegan Halloween party can have all the fun of friends and costumes and decorations with the added bonus of having an unlimited amount of vegan candies and treats for guests to enjoy. Whether its holiday or birthday parties or any number of special occasions, vegans have many options for celebrating that may be different from what you are accustomed to. Your vegan family members are likely to be very happy with their own unique traditions around the holidays, so rest assured that their children are, too. It does you no good (and is certainly not considerate of your vegan family member) to assume that their vegan child is being sorely deprived because of their beliefs. Vegan children are no less happy, healthy, or well-adjusted than their nonvegan peers. If the child is old enough, you might feel comfortable starting an open conversation with them about their veganism. You are likely to find that the vegan child is extremely proud and happy to be vegan and very eager to tell you why! 30

Veganism in Teens
When I became a vegan at the age of 14, I felt like a burden on my family because they worked hard to adapt to my new lifestyle. My mother made a special effort to prepare both vegan and non-vegan versions of whatever she was cooking, and I relied upon whatever she was willing to buy specifically for me. Things got much better when I got my drivers license at 16 and was given grocery-shopping duty. My mother and I developed more of a partnership in food purchasing and preparation at that point and I had more freedom to choose the kinds of foods that entered our refrigerator and my stomach. This made things easier for my mother and me, and I felt grateful that she was willing to work with me in finding a system that worked best for both of us.

An increasing number of teens are making the change to a vegan lifestyle. Many of the considerations discussed for raising vegan children also apply to vegan teens. Teens have the added advantage of being old enough to assist with the grocery shopping and cooking, and to play a more active role in their health. This can be a great opportunity to empower your vegan teen to take responsibility for their food choices and to develop healthy eating habits. This is especially important during the teen years when one begins to eat more independently and purchase ones own food. It is also important because nutritional needs are high during the teen years, when there is rapid growth and change. Teens should pay particular attention to ensuring that they are obtaining adequate calories in general, as well as protein, calcium, and iron, and avoiding diets too high in fat and sugar. As a family member of a vegan, it is important to have plenty of healthy vegan options that are available to your vegan teen. Since your teen is likely to be very active, it is also a good idea to have foods available that require little preparation and that can be eaten on the go. It is important to keep in mind that you do not have to change your own lifestyle to accept your teens lifestyle. In other words, you can be accepting of your teens choice to pursue a vegan lifestyle without going vegan yourself. Plenty of mixed vegan and non-vegan families live harmoniously when there is mutual respect and acceptance of those choices.

Veganism in Older Adults

I am 64 years old and have recently had triple bypass surgery. My doctor told me that I would have a better prognosis if I switched to a vegan diet. I think I could make the change, but am I too old for that?

One is never too old to go vegan. Given that veganism is associated with reduced chronic health problems, it should not be surprising that the accumulating research indicates that those who do not eat animals have considerably longer lifespans than those who do consume animals. Interestingly, Donald Watson himself, founder of the Vegan Society and inventor of the term vegan, lived to the age of 95 and remained very physically active into his nineties. Beyond the health benefits of veganism discussed previously, there may be other specific advantages to the elderly in going vegan. For example, non-meat foods may be easier to digest and the high fiber content in vegan diets may serve to prevent constipation. In addition, one research study has found that those who consume meat are more than twice as likely to develop dementia as those who do not eat meat. Perhaps the biggest barrier to older adults switching to veganism is simply habit; they have been consuming meat and dairy for their entire lives, and it is difficult to imagine not continuing to do so. Therefore, the best strategy might be to make a gradual transition, perhaps by going without meat and dairy for one day of the week and then increasing the frequency of vegan days. Trying to be as flexible and adventurous as possible with respect to trying out some mock meat options may also be a key factor in successfully making the transition to veganism. However, additional challenges may be present for older adults beyond personal preference, including difficulties with preparing foods and cooking, and reliance on others to prepare meals.
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As noted, one advantage of being on a vegan diet is that it increases awareness of the need for ensuring that one gets the proper amount of B12. This may be particularly important for adults over the age of 50, since absorption of B12 from animal sources decreases substantially during this time and B12 supplementation takes on increased importance. Other changes in nutrient needs in older adults include higher needs for vitamin D, calcium, protein, and vitamin B6.


7. Communication with Your Vegan Family Member

I feel increasingly disconnected from my family. I have been vegan for seven years but have not had one single meaningful conversation with any of them about my veganism and why it is important to me. They really seem to have no interest. I often bring up vegan-related topics, but they dont seem to really care or ask me about it. It makes me sad because I have always been close to them but it is hard to maintain that closeness when we cant seem to discuss something that is so central to my lifestyle and moral beliefs in general.

p to this point, I have focused primarily on providing information about veganism for the purpose of increasing understanding about the vegan lifestyle. I believe that having this basic understanding can serve as a key starting point in being able to communicate with your vegan family member about their veganism. However, just reading information about veganism is not necessarily going to bring you and your vegan family member closer together or resolve conflicts. The next and most important step is learning ways to effectively communicate with your family member about veganism. This is the focus of the remainder of the book. In this section, I focus primarily on a number of specific communication skills and tips that have shown to be effective in family and couples therapy and other communication-focused classes and interventions. I also cover some important Dos and Donts to help guide you to more effective and productive communication with your vegan family member. It may be helpful for some to first acquire a basic grounding in some key communication concepts that apply to a range of different situations before attempting to tackle specific communication challenges. When reading this section, it is helpful to consider the benefits of good communication in general. Good communication can help you better understand your family members feelings and points of view, express your own feelings and points of view, develop closeness and trust, and solve problems. Conversely, poor communication can erode trust and feelings of closeness, leave both people feeling disrespected, resentful, hurt, and angry, lead to unresolved issues and problems, and lead to power struggles in the relationship. Clearly, there are many important reasons to want to improve communication with your vegan family member. You may ask yourself, Why should I do all of the work in trying to communicate better with my vegan family member? Communication is a two-way street, right? It is indeed important that both parties work on communicating better, and I hope that both vegan and non-vegan family members will practice the communication skills covered in the following sections. However, since this book was written for non-vegan family members, I am focusing primarily on what you can do to improve understanding and communication. Clinical experience suggests that even when just one person takes significant steps to listen and understand better, the other person eventually comes around as well and works to better communicate. Sometimes this requires one person to take that important first stepto rise above the disagreements and be the first to try to change potentially negative dynamics in the relationship. It is often helpful to recognize that it may be difficult for your vegan family member to communicate about veganism as well. For example, many vegans feel passionately about issues related to animal rights or welfare, and particularly if they feel that they are being criticized for their lifestyle or attacked, they may become upset or angry during conversations about veganism. My recommendation for vegan family members is to always take an honest but respectful stance when discussing issues related to veganism. Vegans must remember that there is nothing gained by engaging in battles over veganism or winning petty arguments. It is simply not logical or productive to fight with the people who care about us in the name of compassion. We are able to uphold our own ethical values and beliefs while being respectful of others and listening to their perspective with compassion and understanding. Most vegans were non-vegans at one time or another, and thus they can relay to their non-vegan loved ones that they understand their perspective since they may have once felt the same way. As Colleen Patrick-Goudreau wrote in Vegans Daily Companion, If we remember our story, well be less inclined to be self-righteous, and our responses to non-vegans will become more about finding common groundnot acting superior.


Developing the Proper Mindset for Good Communication

It seems like often when I mention that Im a vegan to others, they respond in a way that seems defensive. They may at first say that they respect my views, but then go on to suggest that my lifestyle is not healthy or normal. I cant help but wonder if their response is because we as humans seem to have the need to be right all of the time. If we dont see things in the same way as others or we live a different lifestyle, we have a tendency to try to persuade them that their way is not correct. I think that our relationships would be stronger if we were more open to understanding others points of view and not so afraid of being wrong.

Communicating with your family member about his veganism may not be easy, since we are talking about a major lifestyle choice that reasonable people may have a difference of opinion on. First and foremost, your mindset is the most important factor in having good communication with your vegan family member. If you go into a discussion with the goal of proving your point or making your vegan family member understand your perspective, you will be less likely to have a productive conversation than if your focus is on understanding the other person. The key communication skill to keep in mind at all times is the importance of maintaining a listening mindset. When you have a listening mindset, understanding the other persons point of view takes priority, and your goal is to hear the other person out without imposing your own feelings or opinions. The beauty of having a listening mindset is that, ultimately, you will be able to better get your point across because your family member feels listened to. In other words, if you can show your vegan family member that you listened to her perspective, she will be more likely to make an effort to hear your point of view. It is often tempting to jump in with your opinion and interrupt the other person, but this will likely lead to an escalation of the conversation into a more heated discussion or argument. Relatedly, it is always best to avoid getting into the dynamic where each person is trying to prove the other person wrong or to win the argument. There is really no glory in winning an argument related to veganism with your family member since both people are likely to end up feeling frustrated following such a conversation. The most productive conversations are always based on showing each other mutual respect and avoiding trying to prove the other person wrong or force your point of view on the other person. When the other person does not feel like you are attacking her, she will be most open to hearing your point of view.

Tips for Listening to Your Vegan Family Member

My grandfather always asks me questions like Why do you value an animals life more than a humans life? and What would we do about the animal overpopulation problem around the world if we stopped eating meat? and Dont animals eat other animals all of the time? I feel like his questions are designed to try to prove some kind of point and he is not really interested in seriously talking to me about my veganism at all. The few times that I have tried to actually answer his questions as if they were legitimate attempts to have an open discussion, he would escalate things to an argument or try to find his gotcha moment. I have decided that Im not going to fall into his trap anymore and I will discuss veganism with him when he is ready to have a real discussion without trying to put me on the defensive.

Before covering specific strategies for communicating around issues related to veganism, it may first be helpful to cover some basic communication skills or tips that have been shown to be successful for couples and families and also for communicating with children and teens. These are the basics of communication that are taught by family and couples therapists, and that have been shown time and time again to be very effective. There are three key listening skills that can be particularly useful in communicating with your vegan family member that are commonly taught in an effort to enhance listening. The first is known as paraphrasing. To para34

phrase simply means to repeat back what the other person said but using your own words. This is a simple but key skill in showing the other person that you understand what he is saying. For example, if your vegan family member describes a difficult situation at work, where her boss made anti-vegan jokes, you could paraphrase, It sounds like you are feeling upset because your boss made those jerky comments about veganism. This may feel a bit forced when you first attempt to paraphrase, but over time it comes much easier and you might be surprised at what a big difference it can make. A second key listening skill is clarifying through questions. What this means is to simply ask your vegan family member for more details if you do not understand exactly what he is saying. It is important to ask questions in an open-ended manner and not in a way designed to prove your own point. It is also important to not assume you know what your family member means or is feeling. It is always better to ask than to engage in mind reading with your family member because we are often wrong when we assume we know how others feel about things. The third key listening skill is to practice validation with your vegan family member. When you validate your vegan family member, you are showing him that you understand where he is coming from. Validation occurs when you can honestly say I see why you feel that way. This does not necessarily mean that you agree with the other persons point of view. Rather, when you demonstrate validation, it means that you are able to recognize and understand what he is trying to communicate. When one demonstrates validation, this can go a long way to decreasing conflict and increasing understanding and positive feelings. Validation is truly the highest form of listening and understanding.

Expressing Feelings Around Issues Related to Veganism

My cousin regularly posts negative comments related to veganism on my Facebook page. I often post things about animal rights or issues that are important to me, and he routinely makes comments equating being vegan with having a mental health issue. I have dealt with this in the past just by deleting his comments and asking him to stop, but he kept doing it. Eventually, I had to confront him more directly, telling him that his comments were offensive to my vegan friends and me, and that Im going to have to unfriend him if he kept making them. This led to a conversation on why being vegan is important to me, and it actually went very well. I feel that he has a better idea about why I care so much about this issue and where Im coming from in general. Since then, he hasnt left any negative comments on my Facebook page.

Feelings are the glue that holds relationships together. Expressing your feelings builds intimacy and trust. Family members who are happy and connected tend to share more feelings with one another. This does not necessarily mean sharing only positive feelings; sharing feelings in general seems to be what is most important, whether those feelings are positive or negative. Many vegans and their family members have a tendency to avoid expressing feelings around issues of veganism because these can be difficult topics that may have led to disagreements, arguments, and hurt feelings in the past. However, stuffing these feelings and avoiding discussions of these issues does not solve any disagreements and will only lead to a buildup of unexpressed feelings that could ultimately explode into an episode of anger. Alternatively, when some people keep in a lot of negative feelings, they feel more down and may become depressed. Neither of these are good options. How you express your feelings to your vegan family member can make a big difference in how it is received. First, it is critically important to express your true feelings. Often when we get angry with our family members, anger is the main feeling that we express. In some ways, anger is the easiest feeling to express. What is more difficult, but more useful, is to really attempt to express the feelings underneath the anger. When we feel anger toward our family members, there is almost always another feeling beneath the anger, such as feeling hurt, sad, or anxious. These are the feelings that are most important to express to the other person. Second, when expressing feelings, it is helpful to do it in a non-accusatory way. One way to do this is to use an I statement. I statements usually begin with phrases such as I feel , or I would like Stating your feelings in this manner is much more effective than phrases such as You make me feel , You never , or You always because you are not putting your family member on the defensive. 35

De-escalating Conflict and Preventing Arguments

I invited my vegan daughter to come up for Easter because I wanted the whole family to be together that weekend. I even had a great idea for a vegan recipe I wanted to try. Before I could say anything she began yelling at me and told me that I wouldnt have anything she could eat anyway so why should she even bother. She hung up on me and never even gave me the chance to tell her about the vegan food I planned to make for her! I have been sick on and off for a couple of months now. I went to see my primary care doctor and she said that this is due to an infection that my body has had difficulty fighting off. The doctor said that this is normal, it happens, and that I should not be too concerned. When I was talking to my sister about this, she said that she believes that my switch to a vegan diet last year is the reason for my current health issues and that I need to start eating real food to get healthy again. I felt frustrated and alone, and told my sister that she had no clue what she was talking about and asked her to leave my apartment.

Sometimes conversations around the topic of veganism can lead to conflict and arguments. If you regularly get into arguments with your family member when discussing issues related to veganism, it is a good idea to have a plan in place for how to manage conflict situations. The most effective way to do this is through what is generally known as a Time Out. By Time Out, we are talking about taking a temporary break in the action from your family member to cool off and regroup. Like in sports, taking a Time Out can help you slow things down, cool off a bit, and then go back and talk about the issue in a more productive way. The best way to take effective Time Outs is to develop a specific Time Out plan between you and your vegan family member. It is best to develop this plan when you are both calm and not in the middle of a disagreement. Important elements of a Time Out plan include how you will call a Time Out (for example, say Time out or Lets take a break, make a time out sign, use a code word, etc.), where each of you will go during Time Out (for example, different rooms in the house, outside for a walk, etc.), what each of you will you do (listen to music, talk a walk, etc.), how long the Time Out will be for (typically half an hour to an hour), and how you signal the end of the Time Out (typically asking your family member if he or she is ready to talk). A key point about Time Outs is that they should be taken as soon as possible, at the earliest warning sign of anger. It is generally best to take a Time Out before the situation escalates to a full-blown argument since it may be harder to disengage in the heat of an argument. Another critical point is that Time Outs should not be used to avoid your family member or avoid discussing an issue. Time Outs should only be used as a way to cool off and then go back to attempting to resolve the disagreement. What you do during a Time Out from your vegan family member is also important. You should engage in an activity that you find relaxing and that will help you cool off. This is obviously different for everybody; what is relaxing for you may not be relaxing for another person. You also want to clarify what it is that you want to say to your family member after the Time Out is over. This does not mean thinking about how you will go back and win the argument. Rather, focus on your real feelings about the issue and think about how you want to convey them. It might be helpful to write your feelings down on paper or type them out to help clarify them. When you are doing this, try to give your family member the benefit of the doubt. Do not assume that your family member had negative intentions in the disagreement, and try to think about the situation in a more positive light. For example, you can tell yourself things like, He probably didnt mean what he said or She is probably just having a bad day.


Communication Dos and Donts with Your Vegan Family Member

Below are some additional communication Dos to try with your vegan family member.
1. Show an interest in learning more about veganism. It is generally best not to assume that you know more about veganism than your vegan family member. Your vegan family member has likely thought a lot about the decision to be vegan and has done considerable research and exploration into the possible benefits and risks of becoming vegan. Being vegan is about much more than what one eats; it is a way of life that emphasizes kindness and respect toward all living things. Your vegan family member would probably appreciate being able to talk about this with you. 2. Related to No. 1, ask your vegan family member about her reasons for being vegan. This can be a helpful way to feel more connected to your family member, since you will have the opportunity to learn more about your family members moral and ethical beliefs and lifestyle choices. Think of it as you might think of better understanding another persons culture or religion; the more you ask, the better you will understand your family member. Remember, you dont need to have the same values of beliefs as your family member, and try not to feel defensive about your own beliefs when discussing her beliefs. 3. Cook together with your vegan family member or ask them to share recipes. This may provide an excellent opportunity to enhance communication and improve closeness. Bonding around cooking is an age-old tradition that does not have to change just because your family member is vegan. On the contrary, showing interest in learning to cook vegan can be a great step toward showing your family member that you accept their lifestyle and want to learn more about it. If you are not one to cook, dining at a vegan restaurant or trying your vegan family members favorite vegan dish may similarly demonstrate that you are interested in learning more about the vegan way of life.

I have previously touched on some common areas where communication between vegan and non-vegan family members may lead to distress and conflict. I will review some communication Donts here, while providing tips for better communication.
1. It is best to avoid making statements to your vegan family member that suggests that their lifestyle is extreme. I have attempted to provide the vegan perspective in this book to highlight how there are several valid reasons for why someone might choose a vegan lifestyle, including its health benefits. Telling a vegan family member that their behavior is extreme naturally puts the other person on the defensive and leads them to feel misunderstood and generally distant and cut off from you, which can only lead to a lack of further communication and feelings of closeness. 2. It is of course important to be able to joke with our family members about various things, including lifestyle choices. However, some jokes may feel like attacks to your vegan family member or attempts to delegitimize veganism. I think that it is important to consider your reasons behind making jokes about veganism. Some may unknowingly joke about veganism with their loved ones because they disapprove of the lifestyle and joking is their way of conveying that.

Vegans may be sensitive to this because they hear an endless stream of jokes from non-vegans that often come across as hostile or passive-aggressive. For example, any joke making reference to animals as delicious has been heard over and over again by your vegan family member and may cause aggravation. The best way I can explain a vegans reaction to such jokes would be to imagine if similar jokes were made to a devout Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, Jew, etc. suggesting that his belief system was absurd. It will likely not go over well.


8. Specific Challenges in Communicating with Your Vegan Family Member

n this section, I move from discussion of more general communication skills and tips that apply to a range of situations, to more specific situations that may pose challenges for good communication. I cover communication issues across family members and situations, including communicating with a vegan spouse or partner when you are not vegan, supporting your pregnant vegan family member, issues related to communication with children, the importance of advocating for your vegan family member, and how to navigate potentially difficult holiday times.

Communicating with a Vegan Spouse or Partner When You Are Not Vegan
My husband and I both ate meat early on in our relationship and even a few years into our marriage. After I watched a documentary about factory farms, I made the decision to go vegan. I had been thinking about it for a while but that was the clincher for me. But my husband continues to eat meat. What am I supposed to do, leave him? Of course I would never do that. We have been together for 25 years and he is my best friend and the most wonderful person I know. Do I hope that he comes around and joins me in being vegan? Of course I do! Nothing would make me happier! But when and if he goes vegan, I want him to make that decision on his own, free of pressure from me. We have built our relationship on respecting each other and not trying to control each other, and Im not going to mess with that now.

Communicating with your vegan spouse or partner around issues related to veganism can be very complicated and difficult, very easy, or somewhere in between. No two couples are alike and challenges vary depending on factors such as whether your partner was vegan from the beginning of the relationship, whether there are children in the household, and how strong and open your communication is with your partner. Regardless, I will cover some basic tips that some couples have found helpful when navigating this issue. It may be helpful for you and your partner to do separate shopping and/or cooking. If your vegan partner does not feel comfortable buying or cooking non-vegan food, it may be incumbent on you to buy and prepare your own food. This can be challenging logistically, especially in a busy household, but might be the best way to avoid arguments that inevitably arise when one member of the couple feels like she is being asked to do something that goes against her moral principles. Children can likewise prepare their own meals if they want non-vegan options, which will help them learn to be responsible about their own food choices. In other households, vegan family members may be willing to prepare some non-vegan dishes, but only under certain conditions. For example, they may be willing to heat up non-vegan foods, but not do more advanced food preparation with animal meat. In still other families, there may be no limitations on what the vegan family member is willing to prepare and cook. The important thing is that there are open discussions where the vegan and nonvegan family members can assert their needs and come to a mutually satisfying agreement. You might also decide as a couple to have vegan nights or reserve one or more days a week to eat exclusively vegan in the home. It may be helpful to decide up front how many vegan or non-vegan meals you will have a week. You might even want to prepare a vegan meal for your partner on occasion. This would undoubtedly please your partner and he or she will appreciate your act of kindness. Some couples and families have certain ground rules for when issues related to veganism are discussed. For example, some do not discuss issues related to veganism at family meals, especially if such discussions tend to lead to arguments. The ground rules will differ across couples and families, and what works for some will not work for others. It is also important to keep in mind that being vegan is a lifestyle that is not only about food. I have already discussed how vegans generally avoid consuming non-animal products in general, such as toiletries and cosmetics, and products that have been tested on animals. If you show willingness to buy cruelty-free products and to support your partner in ways other than your food choices, this can go a long way in showing your vegan partner that you respect her lifestyle and want to work on finding more common ground. 38

Likewise, if there are children in the household, regardless of whether they are vegan or not, you can work with your partner to ensure that they are raised in a way that fosters respect for animals. This not only will show kindness to your vegan partner, but will also allow the child to be able to decide when he is older whether he would like to pursue veganism or not. Not all couples can successfully navigate these challenges. Below is an adapted blog post that describes a relationship that perhaps could not survive due to these differences:
Ive been with my husband for almost twelve years, and we have been married for five. I went vegetarian about a year ago and vegan six months ago. He has always eaten meat and dairy and has no intention of changing. Now that I have learned more about the cruelty toward animals that occurs right under our noses every day, I have become very passionate about veganism and advocating for animals. My husband, on the other hand, eats more meat than ever and tells me that he thinks its natural for humans to eat animals and he has no intention of ever becoming vegan. I cried myself to sleep the first time he told me that, thinking that I cant stay married to someone who thinks cruelty is just a part of life and who rejects a more compassionate life. Just as I couldnt imagine being married to someone from the opposite end of the political spectrum, I cant imagine staying married for the rest of my life with someone who knowingly contributes to the killing of animals. I feel depressedI thought we could overcome this at first, but I dont think so anymore. We are talking about divorce now. When Im single again, I will exclusively date other vegans. It is too much a part of who I am and what I believe in to spend my life with someone who doesnt share these same basic values.

I present this post to illustrate that differences with respect to veganism can sometimes be very difficult to overcome and it should not be taken for granted that things will work themselves out. Everyone is different with respect to what he is looking for and what makes him happy. Overcoming these challenges can take a great deal of work, and it requires a concerted effort to make sure both members of the couple are getting their needs met and feel happy and fulfilled.

Supporting Your Pregnant Vegan Family Member

When I first told my sister that I was pregnant, her first response was congratulations followed by the suggestion that I should maybe not be too vegan. I realized she was only expressing concern over how I would be able to get the proper amount of nutrients to ensure a completely healthy pregnancy. However, at the same time I couldnt help but feel frustrated, if not a little insulted. Did she not trust that I would do right by my baby and nourish myself in the best possible way? Instead of responding out of frustration, I simply told her that I was taking all the right vitamins and even had my prenatal caregivers assure me that a vegan pregnancy could be completely healthy. Despite my response she still encouraged me to try and eat some fish!

This is an account that I have heard again and again from vegan friends who have gone through vegan pregnancies. Most pregnant vegans are likely to be challenged by friends or family members who are concerned that a vegan pregnancy will not be healthy for the mother or child. If you have read this book in its entirety up to this point you hopefully can acknowledge that is possible to have a perfectly healthy pregnancy on a vegan diet, not to mention that it may also come with perks, such as good nutrition, possibly no morning sickness, and no worry of consuming too much mercury. With an understanding of all of the health and nutritional benefits that a vegan pregnancy can provide, you are now in the best possible position to support your vegan family member as she embarks on the life-changing journey to motherhood. Think of all of the things you would do to support any pregnant woman but keep in mind that there may be a vegan twist on things. 39

Perhaps pregnancy has left your vegan family member with an incredible craving for her favorite treat from the local vegan bakery. Know that she is tired, low on energy and probably not up for going out to the store on her own. Ask her what she is craving and bring it home to her as a special surprise even if what she wants the most is at a less-than-convenient location. Never underestimate the power of a home cooked meal. Any pregnant woman would be delighted to be treated to dinner in the comfort of her own home. It may be the case that if she is the only vegan in the house, she is used to having to cook and prepare her own meals. Make an effort to learn a vegan recipe so you can make something for her. Many pregnant women feel tired and will not be up to going out for dinner, especially during the more uncomfortable first and third trimesters. One special celebration during pregnancy can be the perfect opportunity to show your vegan family member your support. Throw a vegan baby shower! Make sure the food and appetizers are vegan, of course. It is also important to make sure all of the guests know to make sure that their gifts are vegan friendly, including avoiding clothes, toys, and any bathing products that many contain animal products or are tested on animals. So forget about those leather booties and your vegan family member is sure to be impressed by her thoughtful, cruelty-free baby shower!

Talking to Children About Ethical Issues in Veganism

The question of what to tell children about factory farms and other issues of animal mistreatment is one that will commonly come up in discussions among family members. Some feel that children should be protected against the knowledge of how animals are killed and treated on farms where they are used to produce food. They feel that this will either scare the child or otherwise conjure up traumatic images that will be distressing to the child. My own view is that there is no evidence that being honest with kids about animal-based food production is damaging or otherwise traumatizing, provided that you use age-appropriate language that the child can understand. I feel that it is important to always be honest with children, especially when it comes to something as important as what they put into their bodies on a daily basis. Few things are as natural as a childs love for animals and their desire not to harm them, so it is possible that children will be upset upon hearing about the treatment of animals that are consumed for food. This is understandable, and it is important to comfort children when they become upset and provide them with truthful answers to any questions they may have. Conversely, I feel that it is unnatural to attempt to desensitize children to eating animals by avoiding the truth behind where meat and dairy come from. The child of a vegan parent may wonder why some family members choose to eat animals while others choose not to eat animals. It is important to convey to the child that those who choose to eat animals are not mean or bad people for their choices. Rather, different people make different choices, and you can tell your child about your own choices and your reasons for making them. 40

Talking to Your Child or Teen Who Wants to Go Vegan

When I was about 8 years old, I decided that I didnt want to eat animal foodsit just felt wrong to me. When I told my mother about my decision she said that there was no way that I could avoid depending on animals to live my daily life and that even if I didnt eat meat I would still have to take baths and showers with soap and shampoo made from animal products. It didnt even occur to me that there could be alternatives like vegan soaps. My mother made it seem like I should just give up and accept that taking from animals is just how the world works. End of story. My 15-year-old daughter has been a vegetarian for a couple of years. Recently she has been saying that she wants to go vegan because of what she has learned about factory farms from her friends who post about it on Facebook. I want to be supportive of her but I have heard that a vegan diet is potentially unhealthy. How do I talk to her about this?

With the increased popularity of the vegan lifestyle in American culture as well as growing awareness in children and young adults resulting from access to a wealth of information via social media outlets, it is increasingly common for children and teenagers to express interest in going vegan. This can present a challenge for non-vegan parents who want to be supportive of their child and their convictions but have concerns about the change. As an involved parent, it is perfectly normal to be concerned and to make sure that your child is making a healthy decision. One should not feel guilty for questioning this choice or ensuring that this is a decision that is fully thought through and discussed as a family. There are many things to consider when having these conversations with your child or teen. First, it is important to talk about his reasons for wanting to be vegan. I have discussed the most common reasons for being vegan previously; they typically involve health, the environment, and/or issues related to the treatment of animals. It is very common for children and young adults who love animals to want to do what they can to prevent mistreatment and killing of animals, and I feel that it is healthy to support such ethical convictions in children. It is also important, however, to rule out an eating disorder as a possible reason for the desired switch, as individuals who suffer from eating disorders may be more likely to seek out more restrictive diets. For example, it makes it easier for a child or teen to turn down various fatty foods by going vegan. If the child or teen indicates that weight loss is their primary reason for wanting to go vegan, this may be a red flag for a possible eating disorder. If you suspect an eating disorder issue, it is critically important to get help for your child or teen and to have them assessed by a medical or mental health professional who can conduct a proper assessment of the issue, since eating disorders can ultimately be life-threatening if not properly diagnosed and treated. Suspicion of the presence of an eating disorder does not necessitate that the child continues to eat meat and dairy, but rather suggests the importance of the child receiving proper care and nutrition. I have discussed vegan nutrition throughout this book and have discussed how various notions of the unhealthiness of veganism are myths that have been debunked. However, it remains important to ensure that your child or teen has good nutrition and gets the vitamins and minerals needed, vegan or not. My previous discussions about dietary issues, including taking a B12 supplement, are all relevant for children and teens as well. If concerns remain about dietary and nutritional needs, it is certainly a good idea to seek out a vegan-friendly registered dietician. I specify vegan-friendly here because not all dieticians or medical professionals are up to date with respect to knowledge of vegan diets and the latest scientific evidence around them. Medical professionals, like those in the general population, are not immune to many of the popular myths around veganism that I have discussed in this book. Consider the online resource Vegdocs (www.vegdocs.com) when searching for a vegan-friendly doctor. This website is constantly updated and has a great directory for locating vegan-friendly doctors by state. You may also think about this as an opportunity to talk to your child or teen about good nutrition and to have your child begin to carefully plan a healthy diet at a young age. If he or she is old enough, this could be a good opportunity to help with the shopping and learn how to cook healthy meals. There are plenty of excellent cookbooks available on healthy vegan cooking. You can think of this as a way to help your child or teen get a head start on developing good health habits and avoiding obesity, which is a major public health problem in this day and age. 41

Advocating for Your Vegan Family Member

My grandmother baked me a really nice cake for my 13th birthday, but I knew that it wasnt vegan, so I politely declined having a slice when it was offered to me. My dad yelled at me in front of everyone at the party and told me that I had insulted my grandmother by not eating her cake that she had so thoughtfully made for me. He asked me if my stupid diet was more important than my family but there was really nothing I could say at that point to make him understand. I just felt like crying I went out with my family to our favorite local restaurant and ordered the usual, pineapple fried rice with tofu. Apparently people usually order this dish with shrimp, and when they brought it to me, the dish had shrimp in it. I explained to them that I was vegan and requested that they bring me a replacement. A couple of minutes later the waiter brought me back the dish and I noticed that it still smelled like shrimp. I picked through it and found a small piece of shrimp in it. Apparently, they just picked the shrimp out and brought it back to me, not thinking Id notice or care that the shrimp was cooked into the entire dish. I felt mad and frustrated and my family just told me that it was no big deal and to forget about it. I felt that I was alone in my frustration and nobody really understood where I was coming from. I am getting very frustrated with my husbands attitude when it comes to our son Stevens nursery school. For weeks I have been trying to explain to Stevens teachers there that he eats a vegan diet and cant eat food with animal products in it, yet they continue to feed him food that contains dairy or animal gelatin in it. I have tried to calmly let them know that this is something important to us and I have sent Steven in with his own vegan snacks just in case, but this hasnt worked. Maybe I have tried too hard not to sound like a pushy vegan parent that they feel like they can disregard my requests. Anyway, my husband Joe and I went in to pick Steven up the other day and after learning that Steven had Cheez-Its, Joe rolled his eyes and said, Look out, now youve done it! The vegan police are going to have you arrested! I felt really betrayed in that moment by my husband.

There may be times where it would be helpful if you could advocate for your vegan family member. I have discussed several common myths and widely held misconceptions about veganism in this book. Vegan children and adults can be teased and insulted by non-vegans regularly, or experience a general lack of awareness about veganism. If your child is vegan, other adults may attempt to sneak meat onto their plate or otherwise pressure them to veer off of their vegan diet. Others may just be unaware of how important it is for vegans to stay true to their lifestyle. These can be important opportunities for you to stand up for or support your family member and reinforce their convictions and desire to be a vegan. Even if this is not a choice you have made for yourself, it can be very empowering for your vegan family member, and he will likely appreciate your support and feel more connected to you.
I remember going out to dinner with my mother right after I had just decided to become vegan. Even though she wasnt vegan she ordered a dish for herself that was, so that we could share our entrees. It made me feel really good to have her support, especially when I was hesitant to make the transition to veganism and wondering what kind of impact it would have on our relationship. After that dinner I just felt like, Yeah, I can do this!


Communication with Vegan Family Members Around the Holidays

I worked really hard to put together a nice spread of food for my vegan son at Christmastime and he kept asking me if the things I made were actually vegan and even went so far as to check the ingredients from the packages of the food I had prepared. It was like he didnt trust me at all to be able to read the ingredients and check that everything I bought was vegan even though I had been extremely thoughtful in picking out all of the food. This Thanksgiving I went with my husband to my familys house for Thanksgiving. We talked about whether we should go or should just spend the holiday with our vegan friends and have a great vegan meal with them instead. Thanksgiving is kind of a sad time for both of us because it is a reminder of how animals are needlessly killed and people all around us contribute to this killing without thinking much about it. We decided to go ahead and see our family for the holiday because it is an important tradition for us and because we know how important it is to my grandmother to have the whole family together. Well, it turned out to be a total disaster. Of course, as usual, my uncle made his jokes about how we need to save the plants by eating more animals, and there was almost nothing we could eat because everything contained either meat or dairy. My father asked me at the dinner table if I was still vegan and then rolled his eyes when I said, Of course! I wont be switching back. On our drive home, we had to stop at a local Italian restaurant to have some pasta and have some quality alone time because were both starving, tired, and frustrated from the nights events.

Holidays or special events can be stressful for any family. Spending concentrated time with family members who you may not normally interact with is not always easy or comfortable, and may for some families be a time of potential conflict. Differences among family members with respect to lifestyle choices and political beliefs may be more likely to be highlighted during these times and old resentments may be revisited. Below are some tips to attempt to ensure that issues around veganism do not add to possible conflict among family members during holidays or special events. Consider that your vegan family member may have a difficult time around holidays or family events when meat and dairy are consumed. Holidays such as Thanksgiving can be upsetting for vegans because it may be a painful reminder of the 45 million turkeys that are killed for this holiday each year in the United States. This may be difficult for non-vegan family members to understand and they may think that their vegan family member is just being difficult or preachy. Try to take a look at the situation from a vegan perspective. Most vegans care deeply about what they view as needless animal suffering and killing. They may not distinguish between the importance of the life of a turkey and other animals, such as dogs or cats. Imagine how you might feel if 45 million dogs or cats were killed in celebration of a major family holiday. It can also be helpful to carefully plan ahead for holidays or events to make sure that there are vegan options present. It may be best for your vegan family member to bring their own food to avoid any hurt feelings. A lack of vegan options can feel like rejection to your vegan family member, and making your vegan family member feel guilty for your efforts in preparing a vegan meal can feel similarly invalidating. I have found it best to plan ahead to make sure that there are no such misunderstandings or hurt feelings around holiday meals.


Your vegan family member may also wish to have the holiday or family event at his home. This can be challenging if your vegan family member does not allow meat or dairy in his home for ethical reasons. It is of course up to you whether you can attend the holiday or event without consuming meat or dairy, but generally speaking, it is best to respect your family members wishes and show understanding for his perspective. Attempting to change your vegan family members views about allowing meat or dairy in his home will likely be futile and will only lead to disagreement and conflict.


9. Conclusions
hope that this book is useful for the family members of vegans, and more importantly, for the enhancement of communication and understanding with your vegan loved one. Working on relationships with family is a lifelong process and I hope that this book can serve as a resource to assist you in that journey. Discussions around veganism and associated issues need not drive families apart. On the contrary, the more we are able to communicate about the things that matter to us, the closer we will be as families and as a society.


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