Advice for Animal Activists—Part One: FAQs
As a vegan or an animal activist, people often assume that we will be falling all over ourselves in excitement to tell everyone about the virtues of a compassionate lifestyle. But for many, talking about our personal choices is a far more frightening idea than people realize. If you regularly clam up, cringe, or simply find yourself at a loss for words when it comes to discussing activism, this post should help you find a pleasant and informative answer to the toughest questions!
First, always remember that if someone asks you a question about animal activism or veganism, that’s an opportunity to talk about something that you feel passionately about. And you are the expert on this topic, so you can be confident in what you say. The only rule is that if you don’t know the answer to something, tell the person that you will find out for him or her—don’t make things up!
Some frequently asked questions are very general ones, such as “what do you eat,” “why are you vegan,” and “why is animal rights important?” These are hard questions because they aren’t specific. Keep your answers short and interesting—if people ask what you eat, they don’t want to know every single thing that you consume on a daily basis. An answer like this is good: “Vegans eat a wide variety of foods, like soups, stews, baked goods, and even vegan cheesecake! I can eat anything I like, but I choose not to eat anything that comes from an animal.” That way, you’ve covered what you eat, highlighted that vegans have treats, too, and left the conversation open for more specific questions.
Don’t justify your choices to others, as this will make you seem defensive and sometimes even aggressive. If someone asks why you are into animal rights, explain that you realized that all animals deserve to be treated with compassion (maybe even give an example of what made you realize this) and that you choose to speak up for those whose voices people often ignore. Sometimes this question is linked with a “don’t you care about people” argument, which is an ideal opportunity to explain that those who care about animals respect humans and nonhumans alike, but those who are cruel to nonhuman animals often become violent toward humans as well.
Often the hardest questions come when people try to “catch you out” by asking if you wear leather, if use medications that are tested on animals, and, my personal favorite, what you would do on a desert island with only a cow and no plants to eat! Stay calm and be polite when answering these questions. Explain that you avoid all cruelty to animals and that you have committed always to do your best in this regard. Make your answers witty, and feel free to adapt other people’s quotes (I use poet Benjamin Zephaniah’s answer to the desert island question: I’d find out what the cow was eating and join her).
Above all, you have an opportunity to activate the activist within you by educating others about animal rights and vegetarianism. So take a deep breath, think about what you believe in, and speak up for animals.
Posted by Claire Fryer