The 12 habits of highly effective vegans

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In my humble opinion, being a highly effective vegan is not first and foremost a matter of being vegan up to the last micro-ingredient. Rather, it is about communicating in a way that opens the most hearts and minds to more compassionate eating and living. Here is my list of twelve habits for highly effective vegans. carrot

1. Highly effective vegans can put themselves in the shoes of whomever they are talking to. They know that other people may be significantly different in many ways. They may have different interests and motivations, different ways to deal with changes and challenges. Therefore…

2. Highly effective vegans are adaptive. They can adapt the way they talk and what they talk about, according to their audience. They are not dogmatic in their approach. They know they are under no moral obligation to present veganism as a moral obligation.

3. Highly effective vegans encourage every step that people take. They know that change usually happens gradually. Therefore, highly effective vegans focus on the good things that people are already doing, rather than on the things they are not doing yet.

4. Highly effective vegans don’t care about purity. They know that both regarding themselves and others, focusing on purity is unproductive. They want to make being vegan look as accessible, easy and attractive as possible. They know that eating more compassionately is not an either or, black or white, now or never thing. They want to help people take the first step rather than the last.

5. Highly effective vegans don’t need to be “right.” Rather, they focus on what works. That’s why they are rarely debating or arguing. They know that in addition to providing arguments, they can also provide practical information, recipes, or a taste experience (i.e., they can cook for others).

6. Highly effective vegans know how to listen. They know that listening is essential to real communication. Highly effective vegans therefore also know to ask questions, and when to be quiet. They are friendly, and have a sense of humor. They know that the process of their conversations is often more important than the content.

7. Highly effective vegans do remember what it was like to be a non-vegan – they don’t suffer from vegan amnesia. They know that at some point they ate animal products and may even have been deaf themselves to the animal rights arguments, even when they were articulated clearly to them. Therefore, they are patient and understanding.

8. Highly effective vegans know that attitude change can come after behavior change. Therefore, they don’t mind when people start their vegan journey for health or for any reason.

9. Highly effective vegans are humble. They know they are not perfect. They know other people may do other great things, even if they are not vegan. And they know they don’t have all the answers.

10. Highly effective vegans have faith in people. They know most people want to do good, and don’t want animals to suffer. Highly effective vegans know that change is a matter of time. They realize that one important thing we have to do is to make it easier for people to act and eat compassionately, by providing more and better vegan options.

11. Highly effective vegans understand the crucial importance of good food. They applaud the development of new products, they learn how to cook, and they can inspire other people by telling them about how great they can eat as vegans.

12. Highly effective vegans don’t judge. They see veganism – like getting better at being human – as a journey rather than a destination, something that is never done, and can be started on many different roads.

If you want to know more about these ideas, check these video presentations.

44 thoughts on “The 12 habits of highly effective vegans

  1. Highly effective vegans also know who they are and what it means to be vegan…they avoid watering the term down or letting it be co-opted by expedience or worrying about others’ feelings. Human slavery abolitionists didn’t celebrate “no slavery Monday”

    1. I think you’re speaking about dogmatic, judgmental vegans, Kevin, not highly effective vegan advocates. Animals don’t care about ‘watered down terms’, they care about humans not consuming or using them. Effective vegans are concerned about that as well.

    2. Thank you. It makes no sense to promote “meatless monday”. But it seems that many vegans just don’t get it.

    3. thank you for providing a great example of what is highly ineffective and evidence that you did not comprehend the points made by the above article. The unmitigated anger and ‘might makes right’ approach will never reach people who are not yet vegan. While we don’t have to ‘worry’ about others’ feelings, we do need to recognize that people have feelings, and we want to reflect the feelings of compassion and love. Approaching people in a manner that automatically assumes they’re wrong or bad because they’re not vegan will never help them understand. We’ve been born into a culture that has infused us with an oppressive mindset. The same mindset that allows people to commodify and abuse nonhumans when people believe they have moral superiority over nonhumans. Vegans who harbor the belief they are morally superior to nonvegans are engaging in the same oppressive mindset. While I don’t agree with everything Tobias, or anyone, says, this list he provides is an excellent framework.
      To Educate is to “lead a person to the door of their own wisdom.” To educate is to empower others so they can make well-informed choices.

  2. Excellent post. If you want to educate others about veganism, you can’t be an arrogant asshole. It simply does not work and you will convince no one that veganism is the lifestyle to adopt. You must meet people where they are at the moment. Otherwise, they won’t be receptive and the conversation is over before it begins.

  3. Fantastic message. I think spreading the vegan message starts with being sensible rather than accusing. Great message, thanks.

  4. Great post! I find being able to adopt your message to different audiences especially crucial. People can’t accept a message they don’t understand, and I think the fundamentalist vegan approach shuts down a lot of people before they can even think about the ideas involved.

  5. Love this. I came to veganism through health concerns, and may have done so sooner with the right approach. Most people I know who have started to change their habits are doing so either for that reason, or environmental concerns, and then come to learn about animal cruelty. The end result is the same.

  6. Highly effective vegans are too busy living life to the fullest to rationalize the need to make lists of any kind. 🙂

  7. Fantastic article. I’m curiously laughing and a bit sad at the same time for the negative comments to this brilliantly intelligent effective article. The people complaining the most about it are those who need to read it. Most vegans have not studied human behavior change and think everyone should be just like them. Societal change happens in stages. There are innovators (2.5% vegan for many years and more recently vegan), early adaptors (13.5% soon-to-be vegan), the early majority (34% soon-to-be-vegans), late majority (34% eventually vegan before 2050), and laggards (16% still saying mmm-bacon and can’t live without cheese). The majority of people are 68% of the population. They will not become vegan as quickly as the innovators or early adaptors (16% combined pop). Some will take a few years and no amount of anger or shame will change that. Educate, encourage, educate, encourage, be the change.

  8. All good, except for the part: “They know they are under no moral obligation to present veganism as a moral obligation.” – As long as we don’t take veganism as a moral obligation, there will be victims of our choices. Because not to consider veganism as a moral obligation, means consider veganism as a personal choice, as valid as carnism. And that perpetuates the exploitation of non-human animals, because it focuses the issue on ourselfs, instead oof focusing on the victims. It’s like in racism: its a moral obligation not to exploit humans because of the color of their skin, not a personal choice. The same goes to speciesism: its a moral obligation not to exploit animals because their species. Veganism is the moral baseline of a non-speciesist. That’s what we have to be clear about with non-vegans.

  9. There is one thing that I definitely do not believe is veganism. If you eat plant based, but you do not actually care about animals other than pets (or any other issue for that matter), I can’t support the use of the word. There are many reasons to be vegan to be sure, but I’ve talked to people who claim to be vegan but support the meat and dairy industry’s cruelty because it’s necessary to feed the masses.

    Great article.

  10. is there some raw data to support this? Who has decided what constitutes ‘highly effective’?

  11. Great post, and so helpful. Most of my friends and family eat meat and I struggle against the frustration of — “After everything I’ve told you about, you’re still buying and eating animal products?!” But you’re 100% right. The more I care about this, the more important it is to focus on what’s most effective, not on what feeds my indignant emotions at any given time. This list helped me put things in perspective — and hopefully have more peace at holiday dinners. – Thank you!

  12. My friend suggested a 13th:
    Highly effective vegans understand that every process has its steps forward ánd backward. So they try to understand it when someone is stepping a little bit back on veganism, when he (or she) “sins” sometimes by eating that way too delicious hamburger, or even when he decide veganism is just not something for him (yet).
    They then don’t name and shame the person as traitor, but just see him as someone who has took another honest journey to find justice and happiness in his live.”

  13. Love your article. Agree 100℅
    Thank you for the reminder.
    I’ve come on too strong at times in the past, and pushed ppl away as a result. That’s not a win for anyone (animals included).
    You must meet ppl where they’re at. If you truly care about the animals, you’ll take the actions that are most effective in helping ppl wake up, not those that feed your ego because you’re taking a superior standpoint.

  14. I do to with every article that I read from this blog or hear speeches on you tube, (although a bit reluctantly:) believe, somehow you are right. In the end I can’t say this is the easy way – for vegans that is (more below), and you have to learn to grow as person as well.
    Although I do have a problem understanding number 2 – moral obligation. Would not this mean we are hiding our true selves; we must put ourself down to propose this more pragmatic non moral aproach although we very much believe we should as people act moral (as it is possible), otherwise we would’t be vegan in first place. You should believe in this for you to sound convincing to the others. We already feel invisible because talking about animal justice is not popular/accepted and now when we do have a chance to tell people or inspire people we should not talk about morality or this more “pure” vision of just world and people.

  15. Hi jasmina, thanks for your open-mindedness. I understand the conflic or dilemma. Sometimes it feels that doing what feels the most effective seems to conflict with certain other values that we have. Personally most of the time for me this conflict gets solved when I realize that what i really want most of all is impact, and that other values that counter that impact, are secondary.
    As for “true selves”, I don’t attach much importance to that concept. I’m not sure something like that exists, as we are constantly progressing and learning, and absorbing all kinds of external ideas. So what is that true self that we need to show or be loyal to? I’m not sure.
    I do believe of course that people should act as morally as possible (as soon as we have clarity about what moral behavior actually entails), yet the thing is that I don’t care if people get there through ways that may seem like detours but might actually be more effective (talking about doing the right thing for the wrong reasons here).

    In general i think speaking our truth, being true to our selves etc… all sound very attractive, but often in the end do not create any tangible change for the animals.

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