Vegan Inreach!

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.

My daughter and me, celebrating meeting our 2013 Team Vegan goal.

The Situation

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!

An after dinner photo with an extraordinary group. Having dinner is one of my favorite forms of socializing, and is so easy. Maybe you have a veg-friendly restaurant that others would appreciate an introduction to?
An after dinner photo with an extraordinary group. Having dinner is one of my favorite forms of socializing, and is so easy. Maybe you have a veg-friendly restaurant that others would appreciate an introduction to? 

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.

The research group Faunalytics estimates a random sample of 100 people would have 10 former vegetarians or vegans, 2 current ones, and the remainder (88) never veg. (Faunalytics)
Faunalytics estimates a random sample of 100 people would have 2 current vegetarians or vegans but 10 former 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?

A veg co-worker and I staff the registration table at a Servathon volunteer event in Washington DC. From dining to recreation, almost any activity is an opportunity to be social.

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.

Some veg & veg-minded co-workers as we get ready to do a Thanksgiving morning 5k. I enjoy working out with friends who are also veg. I’m not the fastest or strongest, but try to have the funniest jokes.
Some veg and veg-minded co-workers as we get ready to do a Thanksgiving morning 5k. I enjoy working out with friends who are also veg. I’m not the fastest or strongest, but I try to have the funniest jokes.

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!

Making friends is easy – ask these 3 year olds! This is my daughter and the son of another veg co-worker, taken when we were at work and our families were together.
Making friends is easy – ask these 3 year olds! This is my daughter and the son of another veg co-worker, taken when we were at work and our families were together.

18 thoughts on “Vegan Inreach!

  1. Thanks for the comment, Mary, and we agree 100%! Vegan Outreach is gearing up to tackle this very issue in 2016. We hope very much that in a few months our photos and posts will be a lot more inclusive. If you want to know more about what we’re doing please email me through the contact form (link below). Thanks for saying something and thanks for reading the VO blog!

  2. Great piece, Brian! Your’e talking about an issue that’s critical to ensure that people can eat plant-based foods for the long term. Love how you shared your own experience. Thank you for this!

  3. Thanks for the thoughtful, alarming article, Brian. We all need to be aware of this.

    I think mainstreaming is the key – drop the overly strict “health” restrictions like organic, gluten free, non-GMO, raw, non-processed, no honey, no sugar, no fat, obsessing about every tiny ingredient on labels, etc, in other words insisting on absolute vegan purity. This makes veganism look impossible to the vast majority of people.

    1. Hi Tania –

      It seems like you may be someone I describe as “veg minded” in the piece. This post is about meeting people where they are, and it’s nice to meet you.

      To answer your question about recruiting new vegetarians and vegans, one might want to do it because it can communicate the benefits to those who don’t know about them. My favorite way is to wear a veg T-shirt at public events, like in the pic above. When people ask me about being veg, I share my experience and see where they are. 20 years ago someone did that for me and I’m really grateful.

      Of course there are tons of other ways people try to recruit new vegetarians and vegans, many which bring their own negatives.

      I hope this answered your question and thanks for checking out my post.

  4. Why should you “recruit” other people to become vegan or vegetarians? I am an omnivores and my diet is based in consuming more fruits and vegetables than I consume meat and dairy products. I have vegan and vegetarian friends too and when we throw parties together, there is always plenty of food for everyone’s taste 🙂 I personally love to make lentil patties or spaghetti with soy milk sauce for them and I love to eat that stuff myself too. I cook vegan or vegetarian meals many times during the month and I like to invent new recipes myself. But I still have my meaty dishes too. Why can’t we get along with each other’s dietary preferences, I wonder…

    1. MEATY??? Jesus, u use that word like it was just “ANY” word! Exchange it for beheaded cows, slaughtered pigs, live sheep with their throats slit, chickens still running WITHOUT their heads, AND see how they kill “fur” animals! THEN we get nearer the horrifying truth of animal abuse x by billions!

      1. Yes, I do eat meat. I’m sorry but if you have ethical problems with this, start eating rocks because plants have feelings too. I really don’t want to hear that “poor animals” myth anymore. Mankind has evolved because we are eating animals too. Please try to get along with this. As a plus, I read the Peta website yesterday and it clearly states that vegans HAVE to get dietary supplements for Iron,B12 and lots of other important nutrients that humans can’t absorb from a strict plant based diet. So, you have a problem to eat butter, which consists of butter but you don’t have problems to be iron deficient or depending on industrially made dietary supplements or eating “fakon” “canola oil” and “vegan butter” made of Lord knows what chemicals. That’s no logic at all. No wonder 100% vegans can’t get along with other people 🙂

        1. Hey Tania, I think it is awesome that you make veg-friendly dishes! We need more open mindedness, and that goes for everyone. I think what you said about the possibility of chemicals in faux-foods is a very valid point.

          Hang with me on this, concerning B12, yes, we do have to eat a lot of fortified foods, but technically yours is not coming naturally either. (Correct me if i have the physical process wrong, guys) It used to be in the soil, so when the animals ate the plants it would produce in their system. Now the soil is lacking B12, so the industry is actually giving injections to the animals. Heck, I can just inject myself! Lol and actually rice milk has more B12 than chickens. (Sorry chickens, just stating facts!)

          As for iron, just look to your dark leafy greens! Sorry if you think I’m trying to lecture, that’s not at all my intent. I’m merely sharing info that I am discovering on my new journey. Have a great day!

          1. Sorry, I had it wrong, B12 has something to do with bacteria, which used to be in the soil. Anywho, below is a PETA link that might clarify the iron/B12 thing.

  5. Wow, Tania–I’m sorry that you got the response that you did above when I can see that you go out of your way to accommodate your veg friends’ food preferences. Although I am technically a vegan, people like Nandini up there are the reason that I refuse to call myself as such. I’m not going to get on my soapbox about my personal beliefs/feelings here, but kudos to you, Tania, keeping an open mind. Nandini, you should try that, instead of preaching. 🙂

    Also, Brian, very well-written article. I wish I had more veg connections, myself. It’s tough eating a plant-based diet in the South.

  6. Sorry you have it so wrong Tania.
    Come September I will have been a vegan for 48 years.
    I DO NOT take supplements, all my nutrition comes from a varied vegan diet. My doctor tells me with every physical all my numbers are extraordinary, at age 61 I am as strong and active as I have been my entire life, still have a full head of hair, take no medications of any kind. You do know that cows milk is “fortified” with vitamins A and D, right? Or that more and more meat eaters are being told to supplement with B12 and iron?
    Americans consume more meat and dairy than any other nation, if meat and dairy are so “good for you”, why do we lead the world in heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity?
    I agree 100% with Nandini Daly!

    1. Yes, THANK YOU for your strong words, Nandini. We all have our own way of approaching this.

      I’ve been vegan for 45 years, after 2 years of lacto-vegetarianism…so 47 total years of non-murdered-animal-eating. A few months ago I resolved not to use the word “meat” anymore and to substitute “murdered animals.” A conversation with an “animal lover” who hasn’t become vegan usually goes, Me: “Just to let you know…I don’t use the word ‘meat’ anymore. Do you eat murdered animals?” Other: “Gulp. Yes, I do.” “Okay, here’s some literature. I hope this will help you start making the connection between what’s on your plate and the suffering behind it.”

      On the subway in NYC, I walk through the car asking people, “Are you vegan yet?” Many people are, and I urge them to take my literature to give to others. It’s soooo gratifying when people reach out to me to get the literature.

      One thing that amazes me is that SO many more people of color than whites are interested in veganism. I’d love to know why that is.

      Also, I’ve found it’s extremely difficult to persuade Asians who were not born in the U.S. to take the literature. I know it’s a cultural thing, and I’d like to find out how I might overcome their reticence. Anyone have any ideas about that?

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