Rachida Brocklehurst shares her thoughts on how we can all do our bit when it comes to activism – in a way that works for us
Activism – a word full of connotations, and one that can incite fear, panic, but also passion. Perhaps when you first encounter it your mind conjures visions of chained protesters, angry mobs proudly marching for their cause through the centre of a city… but the truth is, activism can take many forms – some that might surprise you.
Of course, when it comes to animal activism, the goal is to draw attention to the plight of animals and their suffering and to hopefully make an impact and act as a catalyst for change. I’m sure when you think back to the start of your vegan journey (if you’re vegan already), there was a moment when you encountered a form of vegan activism.
For some, direct encounters with graphic images, videos and footage is something that pushes them into cutting out meat, dairy, eggs and so on. Personally, I went vegetarian at 12 due to watching footage that instilled in me the feeling that I would never, ever want to eat an animal again. In later years, I watched harrowing videos that shone a light on the cruelty of the egg and dairy industries (something I simply wasn’t aware of as a vegetarian), and, like 14 years prior, I knew this was a turning point and I no longer wanted to be complicit in an industry of hate. I was ready to know the truth, and I knew I had to see it and connect with it – and it changed me forever.
However, these images and videos can sometimes end up having the exact opposite effect and actually push people away. A really good example of this is on Facebook. Now, of course sharing images on your Facebook feed is an easy way to try and introduce a pop of conscience to your social friends, but often people find it too much and will hide from it, or scroll past. Why? Because they aren’t prepared for this. Their minds at that moment are not open to seeing what we want them to see, and it puts up barriers, instead of breaking them down.
The Everyday Activist
I’d like to introduce you to the concept of ‘everyday activism’. As someone who works with content, I use storytelling a great deal, and especially here at Veganuary we use it to promote veganism as accessible and fun. But there are many ways you can do this too, that fit in with your own skills, talents and interests. Not everyone feels comfortable with traditional activism, but they can still feel like they are doing their bit – in fact, we’re counting on you to do so.
Food can be a touchy subject, and generally people just hate someone else telling them what they should be eating, wearing, using etc (even if it’s for good cause!). What do humans dislike above all else? Feeling like they have no control or power over their decisions; and there lies the nub. If you educate people rather than dictate, it’s much easier to get your point across. You keep their attention and stop them switching off or getting angry and frustrated at you.
Naturally, everyone is different and we all process information at different times, and at different rates. There are some instances when a person will feel ready to watch upsetting footage, and it can also help them build a genuine connection to what is really going on. For other suggestions, however, here are my top tips for everyday activism:
Share the Food, Share the Love
We all love food. Eating is much more than just a way to source food for most of us. Eating can be a comfort, a treat, a celebration, a social activity. So, when you first introduce the idea of removing or reducing foods a person has been eating all their lives – they may well panic!
If you love cooking then hop on your social media and share the wonderful meals you’ve been making – and don’t forget to tag Veganuary so we can see your amazing creations! Include the recipe details as well, and you’re sure to get positive and inquisitive feedback. Plus, your friends will probably want to try out your tasty treats!
Shout About Skincare
A lot of people find a great mascara or moisturiser and stick with it, occasionally trying something different, before heading back to their firm favourite. In fact, there is the common misconception that vegan and cruelty-free products are less effective than their counterparts and more expensive.
Help smash that by sharing your favourite products and where to get them – and don’t forget to say they are vegan and cruelty-free. You’ll certainly pique people’s interest.
You can also share videos of your favourite vegan make-up artist or beauty blogger on YouTube to show just how gorgeous vegan make-up really is.
Eat Out in Vegan Style
You’ve got food nailed at home, but eating out can be a whole other ball game. Fortunately, this is second nature after a while, and you learn the tips and tricks needed to get a decent and delicious meal at a non-vegan restaurant, either in the UK or abroad. Find out more in our vegan eating guides.
Eating out can make people nervous and it is often the thing that puts many off going vegan properly. A non-vegan might think we only eat at 100% vegan eateries, that we can’t enjoy traditional-style food on holiday and that if we do eat at a non-vegan place we’ll end up with chips and lettuce. Au contraire!
I love to promote places that accommodate my dietary choices, and you should too. Chat to local food places (or even reach out to new places or restaurants you’ve eaten in a couple of times) to see if they would consider adding a permanent vegan option (if they haven’t already). Perhaps they would be interested in a vegan-themed night too? Don’t forget to share your findings online and with your friends and family. By promoting veganism as easy, more people will be intrigued to try a plant-based dining option.
Dealing with Negativity
Sadly, there will always be somebody who doesn’t ‘get’ why you live the way you do. They will take delight in trying to catch you out, and generally make you feel uncomfortable. This type of person clearly has no interest in learning from a genuine perspective, and just wants to provoke. I find that once I’ve provided the relevant facts, and someone is still trying to antagonise me, the easiest (and best) thing to do is ignore them. They don’t know what they’re talking about, and don’t care about what matters to us.
There are many ways to carry out everyday activism, but my biggest tip is to allow a conversation. Allow people to feel comfortable asking you questions. You may have heard “what about honey?” a million times, but by being open and encouraging to someone who genuinely wishes to learn more, you’ll have a greater positive impact than making them feel silly, or getting annoyed.
Encourage, don’t discourage – and show them the way.
And don’t forget, the Veganuary website is full of useful resources, facts and figures along with delicious recipes to tantalise those tastebuds!
If you’ve been inspired by this post to try vegan for a month why not sign up? We’ll send you an eCookbook, meal plans, recipes and everything else you need to get started for free and straight to your inbox!
Inspired by this post on animal activism? Then you might be interested in our interview with Cath Kendall!