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February 01, 2022

What to do when you're the only vegan at the table?

It's one of the most difficult aspects of daily life for new vegans: learning how to respond to friends and family when they learn you're vegan.

Some friends have invited you to the local barbecue joint. Or your extended family wants to have a ham roast or turkey carving get-together for the holidays.

How can you navigate these tricky social situations? How should you respond if you are the only vegan at the table? This can be a serious challenge for those who are transitioning to veganism.

Humans are tribal creatures by nature. If one part of your identity stands out from the rest of the tribe, for example, because you have chosen to live a vegan lifestyle, you may be perceived (perhaps unconsciously) as a threat.

If friends or relatives make fun of you at the dinner table, remember that their reaction is, if not appropriate, at least natural. Don't take jokes or pithy comments as a personal attack, because if someone else at the table chose veganism, they would likely face the same accusations.

If one person at a table of five is vegan, they are an outcast.

If two people insist on eating only a plant-based diet, they may occasionally be asked or spoken to. 

In all interactions, your goal should be to plant a seed. If you succeed in making others aware of veganism, your impact on animal welfare in the world can grow exponentially.

So how should you respond to condescending comments about poor nutrition, jokes about the absurdity of animal rights, and questions about whether you really believe in your beliefs? Here are some tips on how you can respond:


Nutrition - "But where do you get your protein?"

One of the most common accusations against the vegan diet is that it is not feasible in the long term. While this misconception has been thoroughly disproven, it is a thorn in the side of many vegans.


For example, as far as protein is concerned, many types of beans and legumes contain enough protein to provide a healthy diet. Still, keep in mind that arguments related to nutrition come from a sense of concern, even if they are not worded in a friendly way.


When dining out, vegans are often limited to certain dishes on the menu and may have to settle for side dishes. This can give the false impression that we are incapable of preparing a balanced meal.

Ironically, outsiders are usually unaware that vegans have a plethora of options. In general, people in modern societies do not eat a very varied diet. Of the 30,000 species of edible plants on Earth, the average person eats only about a dozen.

Without being too preachy, open the eyes of your dinner companions by taking some time to discuss some of your favorite dishes.

Don't use this time, however, to extol the nutritional benefits of veganism and try to convert others. Remember that people are reluctant to take nutritional advice - even if it comes from respected nutrition experts.

As noted in a Bradley University article, 59 percent of the population is willing to accept such advice from an expert at a pharmacy, and only 41 percent is willing to seriously consider suggestions from fitness experts.

What are your chances of persuading a friend or family member in light of these statistics?

What you can do, however, is provide evidence that veganism is feasible


You should not aim to convince others that your diet is better than theirs (even if it is), but try to dispel the myth that it is unhealthy. By showing that vegans can realistically maintain a balanced diet, you can nip these comments in the bud.


Animal rights - "Eating animals is natural!"

Humans have been eating meat for many millennia. It has shaped traditions, influenced the ecology of the world, and even changed the way we have evolved as a species


Modern omnivores use this history as justification for continuing to eat meat as a species. "Because we have historically eaten meat," they argue, "it is natural to eat meat." Countless pro-vegan thinkers counter this argument by saying that we didn't evolve to eat meat, but this argument is demonstrably false, as the science journal Nature notes.

All right. Score one for the omnivores at the table. But the question of whether or not eating meat is "natural" is completely moot.

The simple fact is that today we no longer need meat to thrive. Humans no longer have a biological need to consume meat. Our ancestors killed and ate animals out of necessity.

When we order and consume a cheeseburger or steak, we do so solely for pleasure. To harm another living being for our pleasure is a perverse act, a violation of basic, common principles. From this point of view, veganism is an obvious solution to an ethical inconsistency.

It is unlikely, however, that such a dinner discussion will bear fruit. It's easier to simply say that you don't have to eat meat because our ancestors did. Without going confrontational, make a joke of it: people used to make bowls out of skulls and give morphine to babies who got upset - so should we carry on those traditions too?

Questioning your belief: "When will this phase be over?"

As annoying as it may be, there are legitimate reasons why friends and family might assume that your lifestyle choice is just a phase. Unfortunately, many vegetarians and vegans eventually return to eating meat.


Nevertheless, this can be a frustrating experience; it can feel like your identity is on trial - like you're being challenged by someone who is more out to gloat from the inevitable "I told you so" shouts than to actually support you. If you want a reasonable answer to this question, consider how quickly this "phase" is spreading around the world. Millennials in particular are embracing veganism like no generation before; of the 79.8 million millennials in the U.S., nearly 10 million consider themselves vegetarians or vegans.


As they become more vocal in the workplace and marketplace, you can be sure that their demand for vegan alternatives will be met.

Global brands have even gone local, offering plant-based alternatives in areas with a high percentage of vegan and vegetarian customers, such as McDonald's, which offers vegetarian-friendly options in India.

You may be part of a small minority in your local community, but you are part of an international movement. Don't let others get you down. Express your sincere belief in the importance of veganism and what it means to you personally. If someone is more concerned about whether or not you "fit in with the tribe" than understanding you and your beliefs, you don't need to worry too much anyway.

Vegans are often seen as rude and arrogant.Don't support these stereotypes by approaching these social situations the wrong way. Show compassion and explain your reasoning; find the humanity in those whose opinions differ from your own. And who knows? With enough understanding and tact, you can be the spark of change in your own social circle.

And while you're at it, why not try our delicious SMART BITES ? Let us know in the comments below what you think.

Note: This is a guest post by Bob Hand, a blogger from Boise, Idaho.

He is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and follows current issues in animal welfare and education. Zu seinen Hobbys gehören Lesen und das Sammeln von Schallplatten.

Editor: Martina Zlatkova

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