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why non-vegans need to stop saying being vegan is hard

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People often apply preconceived notions towards things they don’t yet understand, like veganism. Often, it’s fear of the unknown that stops us from truly experiencing things we’re highly capable of. So whenever I come across an article, have a conversation with a relative, or hear a fellow vegan say that veganism is “hard,” I can’t help but giggle in the same way I would reading a “first world problem” meme. Misconceptions around the cost of eating vegan, the availability of vegan products, and the effectiveness of a single person’s efforts on a global scale are already frequent topics, but none do more to hurt the possibility of future vegans than saying “going vegan is hard.” When we say or agree that the lifestyle change is tough, we propagate that it’s not worth taking on, that vegans should be put on a pedestal, and that it’s okay to remain non-vegan.

For starters, classifying the vegan lifestyle as difficult helps people equate that it’s therefore not worth doing. Sure, we are taught that hard work pays off, but that doesn’t mean we to gravitate towards doing it. Our modern living is frequently focused on getting things done faster and more efficiently, making things like additional education, kitchen prep, and research not an easy sell. So when we rant about the hunt we had to make for a rare black pepper that makes tofu taste like eggs…well…we make it seem that these insurmountable tasks could be quickly solved by just eating what we’re trying to replicate. There’s no doubt that it’s more challenging to find a good pair of winter boots that don’t use animal products than it is to find those that do, but these small, often minor inconveniences are being heralded as more cumbersome than the moral struggle to do what’s least violent to non-human animals. The real effort is in ignoring the pain, suffering, and death that humanity thrives on and celebrates, as the message of peace and freedom for all is constantly villainized. Rather than selling it as a “better way,” be that for health, cost, or other human experience, it’s important to always endorse it as the only way to stop contributing to the commodifying of animals. It’s worth doing for them, despite any small challenges our society might throw our way. If making the choice to be vegan is shown as an easy one, everything else will follow suit.

The stereotypes that lauder vegans as being morally superior, thinking they’re better than everyone else, or that vegans are in any way different from an average person come from this same place of “hardship.” It’s easier for people to say “good for you” or “I could never do it” when we talk about how difficult it is to switch out our foods, products, and sources of entertainment. But if we hope to encourage others to go vegan, showing the accessibility and inclusive nature of veganism is key. Once someone has decided to give up all animal use, they should be seen as equals to someone who chose to do so twenty years earlier. When people remove “the journey,” or the steps it took them to personally make it to this one understanding, it’s just being vegan or not being vegan. It doesn’t make us better, it just clearly outlines whether or not people are currently commodifying animals or not. When people think it takes immense effort to cast off the animal practices we’re taught to uphold, they’re less likely to see themselves as being successful in it.

When people find veganism not worth doing, and see others as being on a pedestal for wearing the label, the result is people feeling they have the permission not to change. It’s similar to how each time we commend someone for having a “Meatless Monday,” we’re validating their choice to each meat every other day of the week. If we promote that trying our best is enough in regards to cutting back on animal products, we support that it’s harder to give it all up then it is to do in a single meal or for a single purchase. But of course, it doesn’t have to be. Like all changes, they might feel a bit uncomfortable at the start, but will be second nature in time.

The thing that makes veganism “hard” is seldom ever veganism itself. For me, it’s educating others to make the change for themselves, against a sea of misinformation that tells them it would be entirely too much for them to take on. I am not an extraordinary example of someone living against the odds. It might be cliche to say if I can do it, so can you, but that’s very much the case here. Unless we allow our lives to be positive examples of how easy it can be to become vegan, people will falsely believe it’s too hard to give it a chance. With information at our fingertips, and more vegan options in the world than any year before it, it’s time we start celebrating how easy it can be to say no to animal use.

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  • infamouscrimes

    Meat eaters just say that to make themselves feel better. The author is correct that it’s not difficult. In fact it’s the easiest way to reduce suffering there is.

  • From London

    I used to think that veganism was impossible… until I actually tried it lol

    I educated myself on proper nutrition and made a very vague goal of “cutting back animal products”. Before I knew it, I had many new delicious vegan recipes and no longer had animal products on my shopping list. The only hard part I have found is dealing with other people who can be judgemental/rude. I just stay positive and simply say “eating animal products made me feel bad, so I stopped. Let me know if you want to try any of my recipes!”

  • NancyNurse

    Extremely well written! As you say, we must do it for “them” – for the precious animals that have no choice. Thank you for your very thoughtful and insightful words.

  • Kristen

    Once you go Vegan, you’ll wonder why it took so long!

  • Joan Kennedy

    Regarding the title of this essay, please keep in mind that the solution to *your* public relations problem will never lie in what you believe *they* need to do differently. That is completely outside the sphere of your influence or control. Your solutions will always come from the changes you yourselves make, in how you communicate with those you want to reach.

    Most people who become vegan, or vegetarian, do not stay with it. Most who attempt it give it up. That demonstrates that for many if not most people, it is too difficult. Whether it’s too difficult or quite easy depends on the individual making the attempt.

    Those who give it up say they were thrown off either for lack of social support when they were with meat-eaters, or because they couldn’t get past missing some non-vegan foods. Or because it triggered issues related to their eating disorders. Or because a healthcare provider convinced them they were missing something they were needing.

    Instead of denying the validity of what these people are saying, vegan advocates need to address the root problems people cite over and over. Sometimes you can translate your own personal experience and discoveries into information newcomers can use. Other times, your experience will be too specific to your own way of functioning, and won’t translate effectively. You need to tease out which elements of your own experience are rather common to human nature in general, and which parts of it run counter. Your suggestions and testimony need to be empathic to be effective, as they will only work on others when they work with instead of counter to human nature: Humans are resistant to change. Old habits die hard. What people have enjoyed their whole lives, they will have trouble giving up. People don’t like to stand out in social situations where they have always been more comfortable blending in. And so forth.

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