Awakening Compassion: My first vegan outreach
Yesterday, I did something I’ve been meaning to do for the longest time and I had a profound sense of being in the right place doing what I’m meant to be doing. With Manchester Animal Action, I handed out vegan food and spoke to people about veganism and compassion.
For anyone taking part in activism, there has to be a reason. You’re giving up your time and your energy, potentially dealing with adversity and you’re not getting paid for it. I happily baked a chocolate cake and took that along out of my own pocket. Why? Because I truly want to help people to help themselves, animals and the environment by moving even one step closer to veganism.
You could argue that’s what I’m writing this blog for, if anyone’s reading it… if you are, please let me know! Numbers on my analytics aren’t nearly as interesting as actual people!
Impacting Real People
There’s something different about sharing your experiences face to face, being able to connect with that person, looking into their eyes, being able to give them a hug them and wish them the best. And it allows you to meet people you’d never reach online.
For example, yesterday, I met a man in his late sixties/early seventies. It’s unlikely he’s reading this now. If you are, heyyyyyy. Anyway, this man approached our stall, tried a bit of cake and hesitantly asked about the health benefits of eating plant based. I started talking about my dad. Yesterday was my dad’s 71st birthday and I was not spending it with him. I was spending it with strangers in central Manchester talking about going vegan. And I baked a cake. Not a birthday cake for my dad but a cake for children, parents and grandparents I had not yet met to show them that vegan cake tastes good! I had felt guilty about this until I met this man.
Doing it for my dad
You see, my dad has prostate cancer and we expected his prognosis to be much much worse on his 71st birthday. 1 in 8 men will now get prostate cancer, with that number growing all the time. Like the man I met yesterday, dad had never been a smoker or a drinker and has always been super active. Like my dad, he had been let down by the medical system as he was advised not to change his diet, to just keep doing what he’s doing. Finally, like my dad, he filled his plate with eggs and chicken, high protein, low sugar meals thinking he was helping fight his cancer.
Having done this for several years, his PSA had only grown. Then, my dad went vegan* in January and his PSA (prostate specific antigen) fell to a 1/9th of where it started after just 3 months. I’d read everything Dr Michael Greger had published on prostate cancer and plants, knowing this was in theory possible but I cried when I found out it had actually happened to my dad. So when I was talking to the gentleman yesterday, I felt so much love towards him and an opportunity to help him. He was super receptive and noted down all of my recommendations. I don’t know if I’ll see him again but I really do hope so!
THIS is my why. What’s yours?
If you’re a vegan, get out there! People are so open and lovely!
Along with this hugely profound meeting, I met tons of wonderful people and connecting with them on levels you perhaps wouldn’t even with friends. We spoke about eating disorders and bullying and animal abuse. Though these can be dark subjects, the conversations were full of hope and light and I loved it. People engage and ask questions because they want to know. If you people in veganism, it’s your job to answer those questions. Being compassionate includes humans too, right?!
If you need further encouragement to get out there, here are some numbers that really show that attitudes towards veganism shifting.
- Half of UK adults adopting ‘vegan-buying behaviour’ as number of full-time vegans grows four-fold in 10 years
- Ocado added more than 90 new products to their dedicated vegan webshop in January 2018 alone
- Vegans now make up around 7% of the population
It’s so much easier now people are more familiar!
Dealing with d*ckheads
But what if people aren’t nice? I can’t not address this. Being heckled and talked to in a less than genteel manner is a part of activism that can’t be ignored. Unfortunately, it keeps some people from standing up for what they believe in. My advice is don’t let it! You know what surprised me about yesterday? There was only one person I heard being rude over the whole 3 hours I was there. It worked out just fine. Here’s my personal approach to dealing with that:
Early twenties heckler in a group of ‘lads’ (loudly right into my face): “Can’t wait for KFC”
Me: “Oh my god, yes! I LOVE Kentucky Fried Cauliflower”, a cheeky smile and a wink
Him: Absolutely nothing but a smile that was too hard to hold back. Oh, and a laugh from his mates.
What’ going on here? He’s showing off in front of his mates, trying to get a laugh. So I gave them one. He ended up having a positive experience with a vegan. I didn’t get mad or give him an excuse to call me ‘an angry vegan’ and dismiss my ideas. I smiled genuinely at him and showed that we’re people too! Show kindness, be human and never forget that veganism is nothing without compassion.
What’s the moral of the story?
- People are naturally curious and they’ll approach you with tons of questions.
- Take cake (and the recipe so they can recreate it!). My chocolate cake was a great way to lure people in! Don’t force them to talk if they don’t want to. Just let them eat delicious vegan cake. That’s a win in itself!
- Find out what people care about and talk to them about that. Is it health? Recommend ‘What the Health?’ Is it the environment? Cowspiracy, it is. Are they an animal lover? Earthlings or Land of Hope and Glory are amazing or Okja (animated) if they can’t face watching real animals.
- Get involved today. If you’re vegan, get out there. If you’re not, go and eat their cake next time you see them. It makes us so happy! There are groups of lovely vegans everywhere. Check Facebook and if you can’t find anyone, message me and I’ll see what I can rustle up!
I am genuinely gobsmacked by how amazing my time was yesterday and can’t wait to do it again soon!
*Don’t call him one though, the term still offends him. He doesn’t want to be hippy dippy. He doesn’t have to be as long as he’s eating plants and he’s still around to be my dad. Not ready to pay for oil changes yet…