E5: Putting Food First – Vegan Diet vs. Eating Meat

E5: Putting Food First – Vegan Diet vs. Eating Meat


When I’m asked how
we can best encourage people to move towards veganism, I usually reply that I prefer to use food
rather than arguments. Here is a simple yet important idea. Where you stand depends on where you sit. Most people eat animal products,
and they want to keep eating them mainly because they like how they taste. So they are in a position
of what psychologists call motivated reasoning. They look for information
that confirms or justifies what they are already thinking or doing. In other words, they are on the defensive. They feel like they need to argue with you because you want to take something
away from them that they like very much. So very often your attempts
to convince people to think or eat differently
will just hit a wall. People don’t want to hear your arguments, because your arguments are inconvenient. Berthold Brecht,
the famous German playwright, coined a phrase,
“First food, then morality.” He meant that people
can’t think about being moral if they don’t have anything to eat. This applies also to the vegan context. If people are concerned that there won’t be much left
that they love to eat, they will be defensive. But what if rather than first
talking about morality, we started out by showing people
that there is nothing to lose. What if we focused
on giving as many people as possible a great vegan taste experience. Chances are that after that they will be much more open
to hearing our arguments. This is a behavior-first approach. You help people to change their behavior, and a change in attitude
may follow from that. It is the opposite of what
most vegan advocates usually do, which is to try to change
people’s attitudes by giving them all kinds of information in the hope that they will change
their behavior. Don’t underestimate
the impact you can have by taking people to a nice restaurant,
cooking a great meal for them, or showing them where they can buy
great vegan products. Advocacy comes in many forms. You could open a vegan cafe,
develop vegan meat alternatives, be a vegan food photographer
or blogger, write recipes, or petition local coffee shops
and bakeries for more vegan options. If you want to help animals, never forget that helping people
to experience delicious vegan food is a great place to start.

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