First, a disclosure: I don’t know everything. I know that is a shocking revelation.
Second, another disclosure: I have been a highly ineffective vegan many times, way more often than I’d like to spend much time ruminating on. I have been vegan since the 1990s, so mistakes have been made along the way; some of these are habits I outline below and are still things I need to remind myself not to do (hello, number five!). All have gotten better with time and a little mindfulness, though. If my ultimate goal is to help more people eat fewer animals, I need to be as effective as possible. These are the biggest habits I have learned that are unhelpful, sometimes profoundly so. I don’t claim to have all the answers for everyone (see first disclosure) but I do know that when I worked at eliminating these habits, the number of people I had actually productive conversations with increased significantly.
Five Habits of Highly Ineffective Vegans
1. They embrace and spread disinformation
From making unfounded health claims to aligning with disinformation peddlers, vegans do a disservice to the animals when we are sloppy and slapdash with the messages and the content we share with the world at large. If someone can write off our claims about the health benefits of plant-based diets because they have been exaggerated, or we promote content that is connected to COVID deniers or woo-promoting websites, it is much easier to disregard our whole message of compassion to animals. Highly Ineffective Vegans have an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach to their outreach and don’t care much about the bedfellows they keep. Highly Effective Vegans are much more discerning and thoughtful about what they are putting out into the world as well as who and what they are aligned with, making sure it is viable.
2. They use shame as a motivator
As professor of social work, researcher and speaker Brené Brown writes, “Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.” As vegans, we know that sometimes people will react with a shame response just because we exist in the world, so it is often a high-wire act to honestly engage with others and not inadvertently set…