Would you press the button to make humanity go extinct?

Warning: this post contains ideas that some people may find irritatingly optimistic, as well as some big, long-term ideas that some may find ludicrous. Please set your mind to “open” before reading further 🙂

I often hear people entertaining the thought of making humanity disappear from the universe because, as a species, we are causing a lot of suffering, to ourselves and other sentient beings and the planet. One thought experiment goes like this: if you could make humanity painlessly disappear with the pressing of a button, would you press it? Or, slightly reframing the experiment so that you can make an abstraction of your own responsibility: would you stop someone else from pressing the button?


In the animal rights/vegan movement, more people seem to be in favor of human extinction than among the general population (just my anecdotal experience). That’s not hard to understand. People become animal rights activists and/or vegans because they have learned about the horrible suffering humans inflict on animals, for food, clothing, research or entertainment. It is tempting to think that the planet would be a better place without Homo sapiens, and given that in our thought experiment, no humans would really suffer (it’s just a matter of an instant, and no humans are left to deplore the new situation), we might say: where’s the harm?

Now, from the viewpoint of the notoriously tricky field of population ethics, there’s a lot of stuff to say here. Apart from the consequences for other species and the environment, we could talk about whether the universe in general is a worse or a better place with humans gone. If there is, on average, more value than disvalue in humans’ lives, it might seem that the net result is negative. But if there’s more misery than happiness, this could be good. We could also think about the value of future people being born. They will obviously not be born if we let humanity go extinct. I won’t go into this minefield here, because I do not have strong opinions about these issues, because I can’t seem to wrap my head around them, and mainly because here I want to touch on some other factors.

These are the reasons why I would not press the button.

1. Humans may do a lot of damage, but they’re also wonderful.

We all know the horrors that we cause in the world: to other people and annually to 65 billion farmed animals (excluding fish). We screw up our environment and use a lot of finite natural resources. There’s no need to write a long and depressing list here. However, we can also focus on all the good that we do. Never in the history of our planet – or, as far as we know, the universe – has there been a species that invests so much time in making things better for others. Look at the millions of people active in the non-profit sector. Look at those trying to help the weakest and the poorest. Look at all the beautiful things we do. Seeing Homo sapiens in this light, it becomes really problematic and unfair to just call us a shipwreck of a species that only does damage.

2. Humans still have a lot of potential to improve.

In many ways our history is just beginning. Moments ago we were mere apes in trees. We developed culture, learning and education only recently. We – in the richer countries at least – only recently managed to create comfortable environments where we no longer need to worry about food and shelter, so that we can spend more time on other things. Violence is declining and this era is, counterintuitively to some, the most peaceful era in history (read Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature). We’re still expanding the circle of our moral concern. We’ll probably have to work less in the future and will devote even more time to creating change for ourselves and others. And there is the promise (at least for techno-optimists) of future technological advancements that can help us have a huge positive impact on ourselves and our planet.

3. Humans might be able to help other species further down the road.

In the future, given more moral growth and technological improvements, rather than having a net negative impact on other species, our impact could become net positive. Arguably the biggest source of suffering for animals is nature/the natural condition. Animals die by the billions because of hunger, disease, parasitism, the climate, predation (see my post The extremely inconvenient truth of wild animal suffering). Maybe in the future, we can limit some of this suffering. The same applies if at some point in our more distant future, we bump into sentient life on other planets. Chances are there is suffering there, and if by that time we have advanced enough morally and technologically, we may be able to help. Of course there is the chance that some other species in our corner of the universe is already at that level, thus making our own progress less important. But certainly in the event that we’re the only “advanced” ones around (in this region of the universe), it becomes very important that we survive and grow to help. It would be a pity if everything we have and everything we are was lost, and the universe would need to restart with another species to reach our level of development. Lots of time and lives lost.

As you see, I’m thinking a bit ahead. And why not? Some will believe this is speculation and science fiction that has no relevance for the problems and suffering at hand. But if we don’t destroy ourselves, we have to assume we’re going to be here for a long, long time still. And in that time, a lot is possible.

We’re on our way. We’re children still, growing up, getting better. It’s going to take ages or millennia, but we humans might just turn out to be the best thing for the universe. Let’s not press that button just yet.

Banning bullfighting: does the motivation matter?

Catalonia, a so called “automous region” in Spain, banned bullfighting in 2010. “Torture is no culture” was the argument offered by animal rights organizations. Catalonians didn’t want bullfighting on their grounds. Now, the Spanish national government has overturned Catalonia’s decision, saying it is the responsibility of the regions to conserve national heritage.

I felt outrage when I read this. Bullfighting is one of those things where you wonder how it can still be going on, how it can not be, at this point, utterly, terribly illegal. Fortunately, the overturning of the ban doesn’t necessarily mean bullfights will be reintroduced in Catalonia.

Catalonians against bullfighting: what are their real reasons, and does it matter?

If you wonder how the Catalonian ban against bullfighting came to exist in the first place, you might think that it was this very same outrage, in collective form, that led to it. Undoubtedly, moral outrage did play a part, but it was not the only thing that drove Catalonia to impose the ban.

First of all, an important factor was that in Catalonia, the bullfighting arenas were already quite empty, and it was mainly an older population that still seemed to enjoy them. The fact that people stayed away may have been for moral reasons, but it could also have been that they had other, more interesting things to do. You can imagine that in such a context, it’s a lot easier to abolish something (kind of like how some countries have prohibited circuses with wild animals, but where there never were such circuses in the first place).

Secondly, the motivation to ban bullfighting was in part political. Many Catalonian nationalists were all too happy to see something that they considered as typically and traditionally Spanish disappear forever. Banning bullfighting was a statement of independence, a symbol of a breach with the Spanish culture and customs. These sentiments helped many Catalonians to vote in favor of the ban.

I wrote on many occasions that in our movement, we often attach too much importance to – and put too much faith in – moral drivers for change. We would love all change for the animals to be inspired by the right reasons, but caring or outrage are often not enough in and of themselves. In this case too, there were different drivers.

It’s of course hard to know to what extent political, economic and moral reasons were each responsible for the ban. Even today, looking at the reactions of prominent Catalonians who are pushing back against the Spanish court decision, it is hard to make out whether the statements given by Catalonian officials are actually motivated by concern for animals, or whether concern for animals is used to further a political agenda. “Barcelona has been an anti-bullfighting city since 2004. Whatever the court says, the Catalan capital will not allow animals to be mistreated,” tweeted Barcelona mayor Ada Colau. And, according to The Guardian, Josep Rull, the Catalan minister for public works, said: “The constitutional court can decide what they want, but we have already decided that there will be no bullfights in Catalonia. (…) We want a country where it is not possible to make a public spectacle of death and suffering to an animal. This is what we decided at the time in Catalonia and is unalterable for us.”

The question I want to ask, however, is: does it matter what the motivation was or is?

It may matter less than we think. I imagine that proud Catalonians who don’t care all that much about animals but who suddenly pick up animal rights slogans because they feel it’s a good argument to further the separation from the Spanish may start believing in these very arguments, just by using them. It’s what we call “fake it until you make it”, in psychology. Feelings and attitudes can follow actions, even if they were not initially there.

As a movement, we need to be pragmatic. We need to find as many possible arguments and drivers that can help animals. When people further the cause of animals to further their own agenda, I think we should support that – as long as that agenda is, of course, not immoral.

Of course, now that the ban is being challenged, we will see whether the motivations behind it are strong enough for the Catalonians to take a stand against the Spanish. Maybe the story of the Catalonian bullfights will turn out to be a story that actually confirms the necessity of ethical, moral outrage for permanent change. I think, however, that it’s rather the opposite: in this case, the ban may hold exactly thanks to the added support of the fiery and feisty Catalonian desire for independence.


Should we tell people that going vegan is easy?

Many vegans love to tell other people that going vegan is sooo easy. Indeed, it has become a lot easier, but I would argue that to most people going vegan is still not easy. One good indication of this is research that tells us that not even staying vegan is easy for most vegans: 75% of them fall off the wagon at some point.

Maybe going vegan was easy for you and me (actually, it wasn’t for me), but that shouldn’t lead us to uncritically extrapolate and assume that it’s easy for everyone. I always emphasize that maybe the most important skill for any activist is the ability to see the world through other people’s eyes (or to walk in their shoes). If you want to influence somebody into thinking or behaving differently, you need to know, first of all, what their experience of the world is.

That is important because others’ experience can be so completely different from yours, that what worked for you will not work for them.

It is tempting to think that reality is reality, and that we all experience it more or less the same way. But of course that’s not the case. Here’s an interesting example. Last week, pollsters asked voters whether Trump’s campaign had stabilized after the offensive videorecording came out. Look at how perception among Republicans and Democrats differed:


Reality of course remains the same in both groups’ cases: Trump’s campaign is in big trouble and he’s dealing with a lot of criticism coming from all kinds of corners of society. But looking at these graphs, you would almost think that Republicans and Democrats are each seeing a different version of Trump and his campaign. And to a certain extent, that’s true: they each have their own experience and their respective perception shapes their “reality”. Everyone is influenced by their biases, fears, wishes, etc.

We may think that we are the only ones seeing reality the way it is: unfiltered, unchanged. For instance, we may believe that no matter what others say, it is easy to be vegan today (especially when seen in the light of what is at stake, and what the animals go through, right?).

“Easy” however, is a relative concept. What is easy for you may not be easy for me and the other way round. We need to take into account the biases I mentioned, but also things like: the place where people live; whether they have certain health problems or allergies (imagine someone with a soy and gluten allergy); their general openness to new things, etcetera.

If people tell us that they find it hard to go vegan, and we just say it’s not (just like in the picture below), we’re not winning. Giving people tips and assistance on how to make going vegan easier for them is something altogether different than telling them it’s easy, period (and maybe implying that if they dare say it’s not easy, it means that they are selfish and put their own comfort above the misery of other creatures).



People will not feel listened to and appreciated when you ignore how they experience reality. A better way to deal with this is to recognize the difficulty they are having, empathize with it, and say that others (maybe including yourself) have experienced the same thing. The feel – felt – found technique offers a way to do this:

  1. I understand how you feel (recognize the problem)
  2. Others have felt the same (show they are not the only one)
  3. They found that after a while they… (show that change is possible, maybe explain the solutions they found)

When you explain that you (or if not you, then other people) had similar difficulties, you also don’t give the person the idea that you are some kind of superbeing (since you find easy something that they find very hard), and they will be able to identify much more with you.

Of course, we shouldn’t exaggerate the difficulties in going vegan either. By all means, we can say that it’s perfectly possible and feasible, and getting easier every day. But looking at the world through other people’s eyes, recognizing their challenges, and helping them surmount them will serve us better than just declaring that going vegan is easy.


Beyond Meat and Tyson: sleeping with the enemy?

The multinational meat company Tyson Foods is – at least to the vegan movement – a monster, slaughtering millions and millions of animals every year.
The startup Beyond Meat, on the other hand, is one of the vegan movement’s darlings, for taking meat alternatives to new levels.
How should the vegan movement respond when one invests in the other?

That’s what just happened: Tyson Foods bought a minority stake (5%) in Beyond Meat.

Judging by the comments on Beyond Meat’s Facebook page, and the company’s public response in a blog, many vegans are not amused.

Beyond meat logo

The accusations are unsurprising: Beyond Meat sold out. They’re only in it for the money. Buying a Beyond Meat product now means financially supporting the meat industry, etc. Therefore, (some) vegans will no longer buy Beyond Meat.

On the other hand, the announcement also got over 1600 likes.

So it seems the audience is torn. What to think?

I’ll take the example of Tyson and Beyond Meat to talk about a very basic distinction when we think about what’s good and what’s not good. It will be obvious for many among you, but is hopefully illuminating for many others.

Basically, one of the ways to explain the different opinions about what Beyond Meat did is in terms of a difference between focusing on values and focusing on consequences. When we look at many moral discussions and issues, this dichotomy is often at their basis.

Let’s investigate.

People who attach the most importance to values will say things like what you read above: that Beyond Meat sold out. That you just can’t deal or cooperate with a company like Tyson Foods because it is evil. That now Beyond Meat has been contaminated. They will point to all the bad things Tyson does, that their intentions are bad, and will say that being somehow implicit in further enriching them is plain immoral.

People who attach the most importance to consequences will look at what will happen as a result of this “collaboration”. They will keep in mind the bottom line (reducing animal suffering, abolishing the killing of animals, or something of this nature) and wonder if what happened will advance this bottom line. In other words, they will not ask whether Beyond Meat did an evil thing or not, but will wonder what good or bad will come out of it: will there be more or fewer animals killed (in the long or short term).

Put very bluntly, for the sake of making it clear, we could say that value-oriented people will say that if something is wrong, it’s wrong, irrespective of any positive consequences. Consequence-oriented people will say that something is okay if the consequences are mostly positive, no matter whether or not we can consider the actual action or deed immoral.

It’s usually not that simple or black and white though. Value-oriented people will almost always take consequences into account to at least some extent, and consequences-oriented people will not throw all values overboard. But it’s a matter of focus, or priority. Two other words for these two approaches would be principled versus pragmatic. In philosophical terms, these two positions are known as deontologist (from the Greek word for “duty”) versus consequentialist (or utilitarian).

Here’s another example that may make the distinction between values and consequences clearer. A skilled hunter may give a wild animal a quicker and more merciful death than when this same animal would die a long, cruel death from hunger. However, this hunter – assuming his first intention is not to reduce animal suffering – wants to have a quick thrill killing an innocent being. Now, if we would have the power to stop this from happening again, what do we do? Do we stop the hunter because we think it’s wrong, even if that would be much less painful for the animal (let’s assume the animal will die in a few days or weeks through lack of food). Or do we say that, exactly because of these consequences, and in spite of the hunter’s intentions, this whole action turns out to be okay and we should support it?

It’s complicated, as you can see, and this discussion has being going on for ages in moral philosophy. It’s what the famous trolley problem is about, and it’s also what my experiment about eating meat for money is about.

(One way to think about this is to put yourself, in this case, in the position of the animal. Would you want people to care more about the consequences, which are directly affecting you? Or about the principles? My view here is that as the animal, I wouldn’t care about what’s right or wrong for humans to do. I would care about my suffering or not suffering.)

If you focus on values, and you have your values clear, then you can often use quick judgments to state whether to you personally something is okay or not okay. But if you judge by consequences, you need to investigate those consequences, and these are not always clear, and you usually have more “work” to do than a values-oriented person.

Let’s go back to Beyond Meat and Tyson Foods. I usually find myself attaching more importance to consequences. Reducing animal suffering to me is what counts, and I’m usually in favor of everything that contributes to that. So, apart from wondering if an investment of Tyson Foods in Beyond Meat is an evil thing in itself, so to speak, we could wonder: what would the concrete, actual consequences for the animals be? More generally, can it ever be a good thing when meat companies invest in plant-based products? Here are some possible consequences to take into account when assessing this case.

If a meat company butters their bread on two sides, or bets on multiple horses (to say it with two “non-vegan” expressions), and is able to profit from the growth of vegan products, we can assume it will become less resistant to this evolution. The lobby for meat is powerful, but as the industry’s financial dependence on selling animal products decreases while its profits from selling vegan products increases, we can expect a shift in their antagonism towards the growth of vegan consumption.

We could wonder – as many vegans do – what happens with the profits the meat company makes from the vegan products? If we are values-oriented, we could say that this is wrong and disgusting in any case: this money is being used to enrich the exploiters. If we are consequences-oriented, we wouldn’t really mind about that in itself, though we might wonder whether these profits might be used to bolster the company’s meat department. In that case, we’d have a negative consequence. This seems unlikely though. I have a hard time seeing a reason why a company would structurally invest the profits from plant-based products to market their animal-based products – unless of course there’s much more money to be made with the latter. But it’s exactly because plant-based is on the rise and animal-based is (very slowly) on the way down in Western countries, that companies like Tyson are starting to invest in plant-based.

Another argument is that these huge companies like Tyson have a big advertising budget. They are able to put veg products really out there: on TV, in supermarkets, etc. Their reach is much bigger than that of the smaller, idealistic companies (though we cannot but be amazed at the attention Hampton Creek has gotten with virtually no advertising budget!).

If Tyson gets really interested, they could also start using part of their resources for research and development of vegan products.

As CEO Ethan Brown says in his blog post, this financial stake of Tyson in Beyond Meat also creates opportunities for the two companies to work together, and to have an influence on Tyson. This may sound naive, but consider the alternative: usually isolating someone or something doesn’t really do anything in terms of influencing them in the right direction. The only thing isolating someone allows you to do is to keep your hands clean. If you are concerned about keeping your hands clean at all costs, you’re very much values-oriented.

You’re also focusing on values when you say that Tyson is only doing this for profit. This is something that you might find morally problematic. However, no matter what Tyson’s intentions are here (and undoubtedly it’s about profit), the consequences could still be positive. In any case, money is one of the main motivations for people to do anything. I think it’s more useful for us to try to make use of and exploit this motivation than to condemn and boycott it.

Whether you focus more on values or more on results, Tyson is not just going to disappear, or stop doing what they do overnight. Rather, Tyson needs to evolve into something else. That is a much more realistic option. And as much as we dislike what it’s doing now, and as much as we may dislike big companies, capitalism, commercialism, consumerism, and so on, I think the best way is to “allow” Tyson to evolve, and to take steps like it just did. Likewise, I think it’s good if we “allow” Beyond Meat to get their hands dirty and get in bed with what is, until further notice, still the enemy.




Why changing (our) minds is so hard

Our ability to change our mind is a beautiful thing. Of course, sometimes minds are too easily changed: people can be under the sway of dictators, gurus, marketeers and just buy whatever those people are selling, without any critical thinking. But for many other people, changing their mind is a lot harder, especially when we’re talking about deeply held and cherished beliefs. These can be moral in nature (questions about whether GMOs, eating meat, spending a lot of money on going to other planets… are ok or not…), or factual (whether eating meat is healthy or not, whether there’s alien life on other planets, etc).

I love it when people, after having given an issue or question their consideration, suddenly say that they have changed their mind about it and now hold a completely different, sometimes diametrically opposed, opinion on it. In this post I wanted to give you my thoughts on why this is actually rare. I will touch on three issues involved in changing minds (ours or other people’s):

1. changing our mind about something is hard
2. we don’t like other people to change our mind
3. we don’t like to admit we changed our mind, and we definitely don’t like to admit that it was other people who changed our mind

(c) thebigriddle.com
(c) thebigriddle.com

Changing our mind about something is hard

Why is that? Basically, we like to see confirmed the opinions and ideas that we already have. We want to justify what we are already thinking, and we don’t like any information that contradicts what we believe. Therefore we will be much more open to even notice information that confirms our ideas and opinions (this is called confirmation bias). Put simply, if you believe A rather than B, you’ll be more likely to seek out and find and believe stuff that confirms A. It goes without saying that this confirmation bias makes it a lot more difficult to change your mind. Just do the experiment: how likely are you (as a vegetarian or vegan) to read (and seriously consider) an article called “Three arguments against veganism”. Maybe you say you won’t read it because you know what is in there and because in the case of veganism there are no good arguments against it. But that would exactly prove your confirmation bias, I’m afraid.

Changing one’s mind about whether it’s right or wrong to eat animal products is especially challenging, because this is an issue with concrete, real world consequences (not everything is: we may never be confronted with an issue like abortion, for instance). Suppose we’re omnivores, who suddenly come to the conclusion that eating animals is wrong (i.e. we just changed our minds). We are then suddenly experiencing that our behavior doesn’t match our beliefs. The friction that we feel as a result of this is called cognitive dissonance, and the theory of cognitive dissonance says that we will try to resolve this “dissonance” (it’s not a nice experience). There are two ways to do this: 1. we follow up on our new belief and reconcile our behavior with it (we become vegan). Or 2. we don’t want to go vegan (we like meat), so we adapt our belief so that it matches with our behavior. We say things like: eating animal products is not that bad, animals are raised for this, the meat I eat comes from animals that didn’t suffer, etc. People who want to avoid going vegan would do best to ignore all the pro-vegan information altogether. This way they can avoid to change their mind and their behavior. So, another answer to the question why changing our mind is so hard is: we often have an active interest (a stake, or a steak!) in not doing so.

Let me offer one suggested solution to this quandary: we must make it easier for people to change their minds by making sure the negative consequences of changing one’s mind are as small as possible (see my talk Making Compassion Easier). In other words, we’ll need to provide people with great alternatives to animal products, which are available everywhere, at competitive prices.

We don’t like other people to change our mind

All of us like to think of ourselves as adult, mature individuals, who can make up our own mind about things. We do not like anyone to tell us how to think, and value our – real or perceived – autonomy. I remember being in a bookstore with a friend, and pointing to a book that I thought he should read. He picked it up and when he read on the cover “this book can change your life”, he snorted, said “I”ll change my own life, thank you very much”, and put the book down.

Already 350 years ago, the French philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote that “people are generally better persuaded by the reasons which they have themselves discovered than by those which have come into the mind of others”. You may have experienced that when you tried to influence or convince someone of something that you believe in, they just dig in their heels even deeper, and the distance between you and them only becomes bigger.

Our task, then, would be to help people discover the arguments to change their minds by themselves, rather than us offering them those arguments (and telling them their opinion or arguments are incorrect). One way to do this is by mainly asking them questions, as is done with the so-called Socratic method. Socrates, in his dialogues with others (as written out by Plato), didn’t offer his discussion partners his own opinion, but teased out their own arguments, doubts, assumptions etc. by asking them questions. When someone defends eating meat on the basis that it’s what predators do in the wild too, rather than telling them that these predators don’t have the moral apparatus or the alternative in terms of veggie burgers to help them behave differently, we could ask something like: can you see any difference between humans and lions in this respect?

We don’t like to admit that we changed our mind

I started this post by saying how I admire when people change their minds. I admire it also when they can publicly acknowledge this. However, the latter is very hard to do for most people. We believe that showing that we changed our mind is the same as admitting that we made a mistake, and that this makes us look weak, stupid, or whatever. This is a matter of self-preservation and saving face.

How often do you hear a public figure, like a politician, say that they changed their mind? They have good reason to avoid saying that, because their audience tends to think of politicians who change their mind as wishy-washy people with wishy-washy, unstable opinions (if this person changed their mind about this today, will they not change his mind again tomorrow, about the same thing or another thing?). We expect people like politicians to be well-informed from the start and to never change course once they have chosen one (though of course we will be happy if they change their minds in a direction that we applaud). The result is that people will rather hold on to an opinion, long after they’ve been convinced it’s not a correct one. This goes for politicians as well as in our own relationship disputes.

Suggested solution: given that it’s hard for people to admit that they changed their mind, we can try to avoid them having to admit it. What I mean is that, if we would love a person to change their mind from x to y, it is good not to have them defend x too much. As soon as we start a discussion with them about x or y, and they defend x, the more difficult it will be for them later to choose y. And if we present ourselves all the more as champions of y, it becomes even more difficult for them to change, as y will be associated with someone else. It will be the opinion of someone else that they copied (the second issue I discussed above). What’s happening is known as polarization: two parties having opposing viewpoints, just getting even more opposed, digging their heels in. The more one party defends their position, the more difficult it will be for them to change their mind. I think this dynamic will be the most explicit where two people already have some kind of competition going on: siblings, roommates, partners… who debate a lot.

Basically the other should have the idea that once they change their mind, we won’t be there to tease them with things like “See! See now that you were wrong before?!” or “ha, finally you listened to me (and allowed me to influence you)!”. Try to help make sure that the other person will not lose face. Try to make sure they don’t have to admit defeat because there was no battle to begin with. This means trying to not present an issue as a conflict of arguments, as two different positions being opposed to each other. Show how it’s not a black and white matter, how the other party already shares some of your opinions and how you already share some of theirs. This way once a party changes their mind, it will not seem as if they switched camp (and should therefore be afraid of losing face) but just integrated some of your arguments and are now seeing things differently.

Another thing that can help people avoid losing face when changing their mind is when there is another factor (which is not you) that they can attribute their change to. People might be wary of changing as long as they fear having to acknowledge your influence on them, but they might more easily do so if they can attribute it to for instance a change in their health situation (the doctor told them something), or because there’s now an organic store nearby, or they discovered they are allergic to dairy… All of these and many more factors can offer good reasons or excuses (it doesn’t matter) to change their mind. If you discover that there might be such a reason, by all means, let them use it, and don’t insist that it was *you* who was the determining factor in changing their mind.

Needless to say, the ability and readiness to change one’s mind will vary a lot among individuals. Some people may be extremely stubborn. Or people may be able to easily change their mind in some domains, but not in others. Some people will be good at changing their mind across the board. These people are 1. very rational or 2. very mature, or both. The rational people just go for anything that seems correct to them. They are to a large extent aware of their possible biases, and they know that it’s not because *you* gave them some arguments that these arguments are not true and that they shouldn’t carefully evaluate them. Maturity helps them to acknowledge your influence without feeling in any way humiliated or inferior. Mature people are not afraid of looking weak.

In general, it is safe to assume that on big issues like eating meat, changing minds is not easy. Still, it is possible. I think our role is ideally the one of a kind of coach that helps tease out arguments and ideas that others already believe, rather then telling them how to think.