Dealing With Meat-Eating Friends & Family
Sharing vegan food with friends and family is a fun experience, but can sometimes be stressful when mixed with traditional American dinners. It can be difficult for people who are new to plant-based eating to explain their convictions to skeptics, and families may feel pressured when they have to adjust their annual dinner. Additionally, people who eat traditional American food may be defensive about their choices, while vegetarians and vegans may feel alienated. The same can occasionally be true in reverse, when people who eat meat are guests at a meatless holiday dinner.
This does not have to be the case, however. Meals can provide the perfect environment for outreach while being enjoyable and positive experiences for all. Below are some typical areas of stress and our recommendations:
What will I eat at a traditional Thanksgiving?
Most side dishes such as potatoes, vegetables, bread, and more can be made veganvery easily, if they are not vegan already. For a main dish, consider stuffed squash, pot pie, or a mock "turkey" roast.
How do I bring it up with my family/friends and ensure there is food for me to eat?
The easiest way is to ask. Explain that you are committed to eating cruelty free, even (and especially) for the holidays, and that you are willing to be flexible about how to guarantee there are options for yourself. You may want to suggest that you bring your own main dish, help the cook(s) veganize the side dishes, and/or eat something before the big dinner.
If someone does give you grief or accuse you of being difficult, explain that you want to do whatever is least burdensome for the family while not compromising your deeply held beliefs. People will almost always understand and find someway to work with you to ensure that you have plenty to eat.
Is it appropriate to bring up my reasons veganism or vegetarianism over dinner?
Holidays can be a perfect time to do discuss veganism with those who are close to you, but it can be a tricky balance. Often, the best thing to do is to wait for them to ask. It is almost guaranteed that someone will ask why you are not eating animal products. You know your friends and family, so you can answer accordingly. With some, it might be best to suggest talking one-on-one after dinner to prevent a conflict.
Sometimes, the dinner table may be a perfect opportunity to explain animal rights to an attentive audience. If the conversation turns hostile, recommend that people talk to you after dinner. It is never a bad idea to have Gentle Thanksgiving handouts with you as well, so you can direct curious family towards our website.
If I am hosting Thanksgiving, must I serve turkey for meat-eaters?
Absolutely not. You have no obligation to break your ethics in order to appease others’ taste buds. If people complain, explain that you understand why they might not want to attend a vegan Thanksgiving, but that you’re sure they’ll be pleasantly surprised when they see the array of delicious foods. Also let it be known that you won’t be offended if they turn down your invite. Keep in mind that providing information and tasty alternatives to animal products is the best way to help turkeys this holiday season.
For Family of New Vegans/Vegetarians:
How should I deal with a vegan at Thanksgiving?
The same way you would deal with someone with a serious food allergy: by understanding, not being judgmental, and being flexible. Refusing to eat animal products is not a phase- it is a serious ethical choice for many. Just as no one would expect someone whose religion shuns a certain food to eat it any ways, it is unreasonable to expect a vegetarian or vegan to make an exception around Thanksgiving.
Since I accommodate vegans at my dinner, am I entitled to bring meat to theirs?
No, because eating meat and providing meat for others to eat goes against the moral beliefs of ethical vegetarians and vegans, but abstaining from meat for a meal and providing vegan options at a traditional meal does not go against the values of anyone. Attending a 100% vegan Thanksgiving celebration will be a life-affirming and positive experience for anyone, regardless of their dietary choices.
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