Food before facts
Have you tried sharing delicious vegan food before talking about the ethics of veganism?
When I am asked how to encourage people to move toward veganism, I usually reply that I prefer to use food rather than arguments.
Here’s a simple, yet important idea: where you stand, depends on where you sit.
Most people eat animal products, and they want to keep eating them, mainly because they like how they taste. So they are in a position of what we call motivated reasoning: they look for confirmation or justifications for what they are already thinking thinking or doing. In other words, they are on the defensive.
They feel like they need to argue with you because you want to take something away from them that they like very much. Therefore, very often your attempts to convince people to think or eat differently will just hit a wall! People don’t want to hear your arguments, because your arguments are inconvenient.
Bertolt Brecht, the famous German playwright, coined the phrase, “first food, then morality.” He meant that people can’t think about being moral if they don’t have anything to eat. This applies also to the vegan context. If people are concerned that there won't be much left that they can eat, they will probably be defensive.
What if, rather than first talking about morality, we started out by showing people that there is nothing to lose? What if we focused on giving as many people as possible a great vegan taste experience? Chances are that after that, they would be much more open to hearing our arguments!
This is a behavior-first approach: you encourage people to change their behavior, and a change in attitude may follow from that. It is the opposite of what most vegan advocates usually do, which is to try to change people’s attitudes (by giving them all kinds of information) in the hope that they will change their behavior.
Don’t underestimate the impact you can have by taking people to a nice restaurant, cooking a great meal for them, or showing them where they can buy great vegan products! Advocacy comes in many forms: you could open a vegan restaurant, develop vegan products, be a vegan food photographer or blogger, write recipes, or petition local coffee shops and bakeries for more vegan options.
If you want to help animals, never forget that helping people to experience delicious vegan food is a great place to start!