So, you’ve ditched the dairy, said farewell to flesh and given eggs the boot. But being vegan can mean more than just embracing a plant-based diet. Veganism is a lifestyle that strives to reduce the suffering of other beings as much as possible. Want to try your hand at stretching your muscles of compassion? Here are 8 ways to get you started:
1. Tell others about veganism…politely. There are heaps of reasons why people become vegan and whether you have for one or all of those reasons you probably want to let others know. Just make sure you do it in a kind and logical manner. No one will be interested in something that is shouted and screamed at them. Answer questions calmly, don’t be pushy and use humor.
2. Shut up and cook. Talking can be a great way to let others know about veganism but sometimes you should just let the food do the talking. Host a dinner. Bring your favorite dish to a potluck. Don’t cook? Take friends or out-of-towners to your favorite veggie restaurant. Letting people experience delicious vegan food can break down stereotypes of vegan food being bland and boring.
3. Support non-profits. Organizations that are helping to make a better world need your help in order to accomplish that. Find an organization that is working on a cause you are passionate about, whether it is saving orangutans in Malaysia, fighting for GMO labeling, or preserving a park in your hometown. Your support doesn’t have to be monetary, although that is a great way to help. You can also give your time which brings us to…
4. Volunteer. Many local, as well as national and international, organizations have well-run volunteer programs. It is a great way not only to develop your compassion power, but you may also pick up new skills, meet new friends and learn new things about your own capabilities as well.
5. Join a vegan group. Whether it’s an informal meetup or a well-established non-profit, many towns have groups for vegans to gather, discuss issues, help new vegans find their footing and exchange recipes. Don’t have a group like this in your town? Start one! I’m sure there are other vegans or veg-curious people that are waiting for someone like you to help them on their journey.
6. Adopt a companion animal. There are some in the vegan community who will argue against this one, but there are countless animals right now whom are in overcrowded shelters, of which many will meet needless deaths simply because there isn’t enough room. By bringing an animal to your home, you are giving that being a life of love, comfort and happiness that he/she may not otherwise have had a chance to experience. Just remember if you adopt a cat to keep the cat indoors!
7. Get political. Keep yourself informed on local and national politics. It can get overwhelming so stick to topics that you are particularly interested in, such as the recent topic of ‘ag gag’ laws. Let your politicians know how you feel. That can seem intimidating at first but they are there for you. They want to hear from their constituents. Write op eds to local papers. Get your voice heard!
8. Be nice! One misconception about vegans is that we care more about animals than we do about people. However, our concern extends to the entire animal kingdom which includes people. Help a friend with her move, give a homeless man your leftovers, or shower your sad coworker with that beaming smile of yours. Support non-profits that help both people and animals such as those that work with native people to find a living that protects their natural resources instead of destroying them. Caring for non-human animals and humans is not and should not be mutually exclusive.