As an ethical vegan, I spend a lot of my time thinking about how to get more people to go vegan. For me, being vegan isn’t just a personal choice—it’s a moral imperative for the world. But the question I often ask myself is how best to get more people on board.
I’ve spent a bunch of my vegan life in the “why” camp. By this I mean trying to persuade people on the basis of ethics, values and morals. I’ve done everything from picketing at slaughterhouses to being very outspoken with family and friends. I’ve had some successes and some failures too.
But then I read the book, How to Create a Vegan World, by Tobias Leenaert. I was surprised to learn that showing people “how” rather than telling them “why” can be a better route to success. It turns out that attitudes and values often shift after behavior change.
As Jerry Sternin wrote in The Power of Positive Deviance, “It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking, than to think your way into a new way of acting.” If people feel pressured to change on moral grounds they can actually dig in and become defensive. I’m sure we’ve all experienced this.
Making the “how” easy for people is key. If change seems too hard, they will look for ways to justify their current behavior. But if it’s easy, they’ll be more open to why their new behavior is the better moral choice.
Now don’t get me wrong. We need the “why” of veganism. We need people to be a voice for the voiceless. The animals need strong advocates, and I applaud all those who speak up. In fact, I’m one of them.
But it got me thinking, maybe we should be spending more of our time showing people how to be vegan and less time on why they should be.
Maybe we should spend less time on the picket line and more time in the grocery line. More time preparing delicious vegan food for our friends and family. Showing people how easy, convenient, delicious, healthy and fun it is. Doing more to encourage and celebrate any and every step people take toward being more plant based.
Would more people come through the vegan door if we simply made it easier? Would we be even more successful as a movement if we made the vegan party the one everyone wanted to attend?
I took Victoria Moran’s Main Street Vegan Academy course for this very reason. And now I spend much of my time coaching people, sharing recipes, cooking for friends and learning more about plant-based nutrition. I help people go vegan for any reason of their choosing. I try to make the right thing to do the easy thing to do. And I gently plant “why” seeds along the way.
Carol Miller is a Certified Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator through Main Street Vegan Academy and holds a Certificate in Plant-based Nutrition from eCornell and the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies. She is a volunteer Vegan Mentor for PETA, and enthusiastically helps people go and stay vegan. She can be found on Instagram @compassionatecarol and by email.