My friend won’t engage with veganism at all, even though I’ve been explaining the issues with animal agriculture for years

Almost all of us have that friend or family member we would love to become vegan—that person who knows all the facts about the catastrophic impact of carnism on farmed animals, the environment, and human health and yet continues to eat animals. Over the years, you might have spent hours sharing information about animal agriculture, but they still don’t show any signs of wanting to become vegan. Frustrating, right?

Don’t expect the facts to sell the ideology

We often assume that if somebody knew the truth with a capital “T” about eating animals, they’d never eat animals again. But all too often, people do know and still keep eating animals.

Bear in mind that deciding to stop eating animals is not merely committing to a change of behavior. It may also involve:

  • Undergoing a shift of consciousness
  • Becoming a member of an ideological minority group
  • Potentially risking important relationships in our lives

This is a big deal! And these considerations can be more or less of a barrier to veganism for different people, depending on their personal psychology. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t share information about veganism—just that it’s important to be strategic about how we discuss veganism and with whom.

Consider putting food first

Instead of starting with the moral arguments for veganism, what if we focused on giving people a great vegan food experience? Vegan strategist and author Tobias Leenaert suggests introducing people to veganism with food, not arguments. Chances are that once people know how enjoyable vegan food can be, they’ll be much more open to hearing about the issues with animal agriculture.

By showing people that they can change their food choices without feeling deprived, you increase the chances that they’ll be open to changing their attitudes toward veganism.

Request understanding

If you’re still feeling frustrated that your friend won’t engage with veganism, consider switching your focus from encouraging them to become vegan to having them understand why veganism is important to you. This request could go something like this:

As you know, being vegan is an incredibly important part of who I am. Vegan beliefs and values are central to my life. If I feel like you don’t understand this major area of my life, I feel unseen and like I can’t really be my authentic self with you—like I have to keep parts of myself out of our friendship. So, I end up feeling less with you than I want to be.

Because I want to feel more connected with you, I want to be able to share information about veganism with you—not to try and change you or make you vegan, but so that you understand me. Basically, I need you to know what the world looks like through my eyes, and that’s only possible if you understand enough about veganism and what it means to be vegan.

To help your friend understand what the world looks like through vegan eyes, ask them to watch this video.

Focus on low-hanging fruit

If your friend is highly resistant to discussing veganism, it may be best to stop trying. To make the best use of our time and energy, we need to focus on the low-hanging fruit—the people most likely to be open and responsive to our message. In all the hours spent on that one person who is resistant, you could potentially reach 500 more receptive people.

Don’t lose hope

Finally, it’s important not to lose hope. Most people don’t move from a total lack of awareness of carnism to becoming vegan overnight—the process of shifting our awareness can take months or years. Therefore, the author Colleen Patrick-Goudreau advises that when you talk about veganism, your goal is to “plant seeds”: simply share what you know to be true, and when the person is ready, those seeds will grow.

Other Resources to Check Out

I keep talking with people about veganism, but I don’t think it’s doing any good

I don’t know how to have a healthy conversation about veganism with my friends and family

My friend won’t engage with veganism at all, even though I’ve been explaining the issues with animal agriculture for years