Even though being a vegan can feel lonely on occasion (after all, I’ve still run into people who have no idea what being a vegan entails), the vegan community on YouTube is a thriving world all on its own. There is a virtually endless list of vloggers who dedicate their channels to showcasing the accessibility of vegan cooking, promote cruelty-free living through vegan clothing hauls and debunk nutrition myths surrounding veganism.
Take FreeLee the Banana girl. I admire her enthusiasm and commitment, yes, but it can turn people off of veganism when you eat more bananas than anyone would want to consume in a lifetime and act like the primary reason to go vegan is to attain a certain type of body. She would probably argue that since she gets millions of views, she is still bringing attention to veganism. But… at what cost? How many people view these kinds of videos and then click away to the next video, but now with the impression that vegans are crazy people who advocate things like “monomeals” or avoiding all oil at all costs?
The stereotype that vegans are “intense” by nature of their diet and lifestyle is not exactly being helped by vegan YouTubers who create videos promoting an inaccessible diet and engage in mean comments back and forth with their viewers. They are perpetuating a reputation that is hard to shake off. That means it’s up to us – the normal folks who eat a normal amount of bananas – to promote veganism as a non-judgmental way of life.
Let’s get into some example interactions. One of the biggest questions you may get with your veganism is just the plain old, “But… why?” Now I definitely think that you can offer personal reasons that really stuck with you – for example, I never question veganism as a way of life for me because I truly feel best when I live this way, and I do tell people this – but it’s also been helpful to include a disclaimer that you don’t have to be 100% vegan to start feeling this way. I often just suggest cutting out dairy, or red meat, or chicken as some first steps. It’s easier for people to digest (pun intended) this idea than if you were to say, “The only way in which you will feel as wonderful as I do is if you throw out everything that isn’t vegan in your fridge.”
The same goes for those who went vegan for environmental reasons. Without a doubt, one of the most momentous ways you can benefit the planet is to stop eating beef, but even just to eat less beef. So if you happen to be talking to someone who seems most convinced by the environmental arguments, but still considers veganism itself to be very extreme, try suggesting for them to cut down on beef instead. After all, let’s face it: when someone asks you why you are vegan, you can only talk for a few minutes before you start to seem crazy, and at the end of the day, it would be better for the planet if 50% of people consumed less beef than if 2% of people became vegan.
Ultimately, we do need to keep in mind that while being vegan is, in my clearly unbiased opinion ;), the best way to help the environment and animals, there are also many ways to help the environment and animals that do not include being vegan. You won’t be able to change everyone’s mind about veganism through one conversation, but you can introduce facts and information in a light that may trigger a new way of thinking for them down the road.