One of the things I struggle with since choosing to be vegan is living in a house with four other people who are not. I have a difficult time understanding how, when I've shared what I've learned about factory farming, environmental damage, animal experiments etc., they can just continue on in the same manner without making any changes at all. It baffles me, and while I tell myself that everybody is entitled to make their own decisions, and I'm not the “vegan police”, it makes me angry and disappointed. Furthermore, the longer that I am vegan, the more difficult this becomes.
I read some of the online vegan groups, and often there are people on those groups who will not date a non-vegan (omni) or even hang out with them. I, however, was with my partner before choosing to be a vegan. Do I have the right to insist he change his lifestyle? Do I nag my adult and near adult children (one of whom is a Celiac) to change? How about my elderly mother who has health issues and has to be so careful about what she eats? I tried that. I tried making my mother feel guilty about her chicken wings one night. What happened? She was upset with me, upset with her dinner, and didn't eat meat for two or three days at which point she went back to her old ways. But a funny thing happened. My mother didn't entirely revert to her past habits; she eats less meat now, and is more open to listening to what I have to say. My partner is still a full omni, but he does watch documentaries with me about the meat industry and veganism and some insightful discussions have been had. My daughter also has health issues – and that's not easy when one is already dealing with Celiac disease. It's a delicate balance between her health and that is priority one. My son, well he's a harder sell, but I drop little facts every now and again and I see that he's listening.
So the key, I think, is not to judge and berate, and make those who haven't made the change feel “less than”. People don't change when they are feeling bullied, or when they sense your disappointment or disgust. They don't change because you're trying to will it. They'll usually just dig their heels in more tightly and become defensive. People change because they see what you're doing and they see that you're healthy and feel great and that you're making a difference. They read your Facebook posts which are non-threatening, and they listen to some of the things you have to say and after awhile a person here and a person there may start to think a little more about the subject. They may watch some documentaries and do some research of their own.
There are many ways to invoke change. I believe the best way, the most effective way is to lead by example. Speak about you beliefs in a conversational way and encourage those who show interest. Don't spend a lot of time on those who don't; and certainly do not react to those who attempt to bait you. There's a big difference between discussion of opposing views and the person who just wants a rise out of you. After awhile some of the people in your life may pay attention and show some interest and some may not. It can be a bitter pill to swallow if the person that's not interested is someone you care about. How do you find that balance between respecting a loved one's (or anyone's) choices when you know that creatures are suffering because of those choices? I've found (after a lot of internal frustration and deep sadness, usually followed by meditation) that it's best to focus on the positive. The positive is always the direction to look to; focusing on the negative only makes it bigger. Every step in the right direction, no matter how small, is still a step. Being continuously angry about the animals who are still suffering, unfortunately, doesn't help them, but staying the course will make that number less and less with each passing day. So get out there, wear your vegan shirt, speak kindly about what's important to you and slowly but surely change will happen.