A month or so ago, I wrote a little missive to the editor of my local newspaper about the rationale for going vegan. A friend emailed to say how much he had loved my “take no prisoners” letter. Yikes. I wasn’t sure if I was pleased or mortified. But there are times when it makes sense to lay it on the line, and letters to the editor are among many good opportunities for that.
There are also times when it pays to be a little bit more subtle. I’ve written before about what it means to live as a vegan in a non-vegan world. It’s hard. But if we are truly a voice for animals, then being out and about among non-vegans is our very best hope for making a difference. And sometimes activism requires a gentle touch.
None of the ideas below will stop the world dead in its tracks and produce a vegan society. They are ways to engage in activism that is quiet and constant—and that plants vegan ideas everywhere you go.
Here are seven ideas for the sneaky activist:
Turn your home into vegan library: I have leaflets and booklets placed strategically throughout the house where visitors are bound to see them. They are piled on the table just inside the door because that’s where I hold many conversations with friends and neighbors who stop by on errands. The coffee table hosts an assortment of material and so does the bathroom. Friends on twitter have suggested putting a calendar with photos of rescued farm animals on the refrigerator as a conversation starter—a great idea! Here is one you can preorder right now from Farm Sanctuary.
Good food speaks volumes, so be the host or hostess with the mostest: Veganism is scary to many people because they think it is a huge culinary sacrifice. Some of the best activism involves showing friends that this isn’t so. Give a simple party, like a picnic on the porch, or a vegan cocktail party or, in the winter, some simple appetizers and soup in front of the fire. It doesn’t have to be fancy; it just has to be good.
Dress for success: Vegan tee shirts and totes can be conversation starters. All of your favorite vegan or animal rights organizations sell them. Drape your tote bag on top of the groceries where people can see it. Put a bumper sticker on your laptop.
Bug strangers in a friendly way: If I see someone looking very non-vegan and hesitant while standing in front of the natural foods freezer at the grocery store, I might try to strike up a little conversation, maybe by asking for their help. “Have you tried the Tofutti sour cream? I like their cream cheese but haven’t tasted this yet.” It might open the door to a conversation about dairy alternatives or just plant the idea that these products are good.
Leaflets: Never leave home without them. I have a stash of Why Vegan booklets in my car and purse. I leave them behind in strategic places. Any place where people have to wait—like the Laundromat or post office is perfect. And, of course, if I’m talking with someone and the subject of veganism comes up, I can give them a leaflet; the graphic images say far more than I can ever explain in my own words.
Be a social butterfly on the net: At least half of my friends on Facebook are not vegan and nearly all of my friends on Goodreads are not. These are great places to casually post vegan information. It’s not aimed directly at any particular person so no one has any reason to take offense or feel picked on. But they are bound to see it—and maybe read it.
Always ask for soymilk: Or a veggie burger or whatever vegan item you need. I recently asked the manager in a fancy cheese store if he carried any of the “new gourmet vegan cheese products like Daiya.” My question produced a blank look; he had no idea what I was talking about. But now he’s heard of it and who knows, maybe someone else will come along and ask him about vegan cheese. An even better approach is to ask for vegan options with an attitude of expectation. Say “I’d like a soy latte, please” rather than “do you have soymilk?”
There are plenty of other ways to be a sneaky activist. I’d love to hear about your own ideas!