Helping Vegetarians and Vegans Sustain Their Choices
Hi! My name is Brian Ottens and I’m honored to be today’s VO guest blogger. Thanks for checking out this piece about vegetarian retention and recidivism.
I went vegetarian almost 20 years ago and took out the eggs and dairy 14 years ago. Like so many, my heart is in the farm animal advocacy movement, but my employment isn’t directly related to it. So throughout those 14 years, I’ve volunteered with VO and have been fortunate to find a group of friends who are also veg. The social connections, both in-person and remote, are the primary reason I remain veg and in the movement. Thank you friends!
But for most vegetarians and vegans (current and former), I suspect having good veg social connections is the exception, not the rule. And veg recidivism, a regression from making the best choices you can for animals, is rather high–a 2014 survey found there are five times as many former vegetarians and vegans in the population as current ones.
But you can help. Because humans are heavily influenced by our friends and environment, you can be a positive influence to help current vegetarians and vegans sustain their lifestyle as an effective complement to recruiting new vegetarians and vegans.
Influence Others to Remain Veg!
Research has shown that it’s important for vegetarians and vegans to make social connections and make the lifestyle part of one’s identity. This means you can do a lot to prevent recidivism by connecting with vegetarian or vegan acquaintances. Whether they be be co-workers, neighbors, fellow churchgoers, classmates, or sports teammates, you have a unique connection to them, so develop that connection into a social one.
Whenever you meet someone who is vegetarian or vegan, see if they have other connections with you. Maybe you have friends in common? Maybe you like the same restaurants? Maybe you enjoy cooking a similar cuisine at home?
Of course there’s plenty of non-veg things that could be a social connection – humor, recreation, worldview, etc. The point here is to find ways to make social connections in order to fight veg recidivism. You don’t have to change their views or diet–they’re already veg. You’re just making a friend. Can it get any easier?
What Opportunities Work For Me?
I work for a large employer and I use that opportunity to develop a community of vegetarians, vegans, and veg-minded coworkers. Every month or two, I arrange a meet-up. It can be lunch at a veg-friendly restaurant, an invitation to the local vegfest, or another common interest. Sometimes a lot of people show up and other times only a few. But there’s always good conversation because we have an important connection. My veg co-worker group currently has ten members, so I’m not talking about major organizing. Scale it to as many or as few as you’d like.
A social connection happens whether they attend or just read my invitation and decline. Tip: My invitation is usually personalized with more than just a meet-up invitation which can lead to a better response.
By choosing to develop social connections with vegetarians and vegans, you’ll reinforce their habits as well as increase the overall quality of life for you both. Because there’s such a large percentage of vegetarians and vegans who cease to identify with those labels, if you influence their commitment to staying veg, you’ll be doing a great service for the animals!
Now get out there and make some friends!