How Do You Explain Veganism to Others?


I don’t go around telling people I’m vegan, but it still comes up.

Inevitably, I’m asked, “why did you go vegan?”

The first few times I was asked this, it was hard to come up with a clear, concise answer. After all, there were hundreds of reasons swirling around in my head.

That led me to sitting down to figure out a way to explain veganism to others that was short and clear, and don’t make you sound judgmental, mean or angry.

The answer for me was:

“I don’t want to cause animals to suffer unnecessarily”

You may want to phrase it a bit differently, but most ethical vegans will come up with something along those lines.

It’s clear what you think, and what you believe the main purpose of veganism is.

After that you’ll receive two types of responses: curious ones and defensive ones.

Many people still don’t know what a vegan eats and doesn’t eat. They picture it as a sort of vegetarian that mostly eats vegetables, but might eat animals products.

It’s reasonable to expect questions like:

  • Do you eat any meat or animal products at all?
  • Where do you get protein from?
  • What if there’s only a little (insert non-vegan food) in it?
  • Can you still eat when there’s meat around?

Other people will get defensive and try to refute your logic of being vegan, or justify their own consumption of animal products. Expect to hear things like:

  • Animals live happy lives on farms, a friend’s uncle has one so I know! (Even though the vast majority live on factory farms)
  • You’ll get sick or have no energy if you don’t eat meat (movies like The Game Changers are helping to disprove this).
  • We’ve always killed animals for meat, it’s just part of human nature (so are things like slavery, doesn’t make them right…)
  • Animals don’t feel pain (even though piles of studies have shown that they do)

There are plenty more along these lines, none of which make much sense once you think them through objectively.

But in my experience, there isn’t usually much point to engaging with people who get defensive when veganism comes up.

If they seem calm enough you can have a discussion, but if someone is getting riled up, logic won’t have much effect.

In summary: Think of a short and clear way to explain why you went vegan, and what it entails. It’s not a bad idea to familiarize yourself with the common responses you’ll hear afterwards, just so you’re prepared to answer them correctly. 

Or, don’t…there’s no need to feel like you need to “defend” yourself if someone gets emotional and defensive. You’re welcome to say “that’s nice” and move on.

About the author

Dale Cudmore

Your friendly neighborhood vegan from Toronto. Chemical engineer turned semi-professional soccer player and freelance nutrition writer. I've been vegan for years and try to make life easier for others by sharing what I've learned.

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