Toxic veganism is turning people away

Moving towards a more plant-based lifestyle is good for your health and the planet, but extremists are ruining it for everyone

PHOTO: Gabriel Gurrola / Unsplash

By: Marco Ovies, Features Editor

I was transiting home one day from school, waiting in line for the bus at Surrey Central Station. It was then that I was bombarded by a group of masked animal rights activists, each holding a tablet and shoving it in people’s faces. The videos playing on the tablets were of animal abuse, and I won’t go into any more details than that. They chanted “eating meat is murder,” eventually hooking up one of their tablets to a big speaker so the whole bus station could listen. This happened four years ago, but that is still exactly who I picture when I think of the word “vegan.”

I understand they are very passionate about their message, and I completely agree that animal cruelty is wrong. But something about the way they were communicating their message was off. Instead of providing a welcoming atmosphere for people to ask questions and better understand their cause, they created a hostile environment which ended up with the police escorting them away. Instead of converting me to veganism, I felt like if I identified as a vegan I would be considered the exact same as them.

Fast forward a couple of years and I began to do research into plant-based lifestyles and climate issues, with the help of my parents who had converted to being plant-based. And yes, converting to a plant-based diet would definitely cut carbon emissions. Groups like Green America say, “One of the quickest ways we can lower our collective greenhouse gas emissions is to eat less meat.” But note what they said. Less meat — not zero meat. 

What sounds more reasonable to you? Someone telling you to immediately stop eating meat for the rest of your life or someone telling you to reduce the amount of meat you consume? The answer is the latter, of course. 

While this animal rights group did mean well, their methods were harmful, toxic, and I guarantee I was not the only one turned away from veganism that day. You can’t expect people to change their lifestyles instantly, but asking for small incremental change is significantly easier. 

If you really want to make a change, no matter what your cause is, you need to create an open and welcoming environment for everyone. Don’t start screaming in someone’s face who is just trying to get home from a long day at school. Lead with compassion and understanding, not hate. I promise you it will be more effective in the long run.