I find that as a Vegan, there is nothing worse than being preached to concerning our food choices. Being singled out amid dinner conversation, among friends or loved ones, is an awkward situation, at best. It turns a relaxing get together into a standoff battle ground where each individual, or sometimes group, feels it needs to be on the defensive. We have all been attacked by someone we thought of as a friend. Questions such as; "Do you live on twigs?" "What do you eat?" or my personal favourite, "How do you live with yourself, killing all the innocent vegetables?" It is not a nice feeling, however many of us forget this while dining with omnivores, and will attack them in a similar fashion.
This is what I call the "preachy" Vegan. Every time they eat with an omnivore, they preach and proselytize. This brings the tone of the evening down for everyone, and really does more harm than good to the Vegan movement generally. Omnivores who have had the preachy Vegan experience become hostile at mixed gatherings, often attacking Vegans in a preemptive fashion. Since we all know how well preemptive attacks tend to work out, I'd like to offer an anecdote.
A rather good friend of mine is devoutly religious, I would classify myself as devoutly non-religious, and yet we get along. This was not always the case. Every time I would see this man at social functions he would gravitate to me and begin extolling the virtues of his religion. Frankly, I found this to be terribly off putting to say the least, and it made it hard to see what a good person he was. Finally, at another social event, I told him that I was flattered that he wanted to share his happiness with me, but that I was not inclined to be a part of his religion any time in the foreseeable future. I did, however, reassure him that if I had any questions I would not hesitate to ask him. Since then we have been good friends, often he, his wife, my spouse and I go to the movies, or we all go for an evening out. I now have a wonderful couple as friends, and I know that they are willing to answer any questions I may have in their area of expertise. I understood that this man was not trying to be rude to me, he had simply found a lifestyle that has made him very happy and successful, and he wants to share that happiness with his friends. That is very admirable, after all it would be a terrible friend who would find happiness and hoard it for themselves, right?
It is much the same with Vegans, we have found a lifestyle that makes us happy, and we wish to share that with everybody. After all who wouldn't want to call themselves cruelty free? I cannot think of many people that actively seek to bring more harm into the world.
There are solutions to this awkward problem, however. Firstly, make sure the dinner table and social affairs do not turn into battlegrounds. Make the loudest statement of all by saying nothing. Rather enjoy a cruelty free selection from the menu or bring a delicious Vegan dish to a party. Wait for the other diners or party attendees to ask you about your selection or the dish you prepared. Secondly, keep it appropriate, when someone asks you why you're Vegan don't launch into a 'meet your meat' style tirade, simply say that you believe in cruelty free living, and that being Vegan is a cruelty free and healthy lifestyle, for you, the animals and the planet. Offer them a website to visit, and tell them that you'd love to answer any other questions they have in a one on one, or more appropriate, setting.
I find this approach gets people thinking about Veganism, rather than causing a knee jerk reaction. This allows people to come to you, when they are ready, to be guided into a cruelty free lifestyle. After all, wouldn't you rather be a Vegan Diplomat than a Preachy Vegaan?