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My mom and relatives are against my
vegetarianism and concerns for animal rights. My mom
does not take me seriously when I try to discuss buying
cruelty-free products and not wearing fur and leather.
When I wrote to vegetarian groups requesting information,
she wrote them also telling them to stop sending weird
pictures of factory farms, etc., to children. My relatives
try to trick me into eating meat by wrapping and concealing
it or trying to tempt me. Also, people think I'm weird
when I eat salad and stuff at school instead of pizza
or hot dogs. Everyone thinks animal cruelty is bad,
but think it doesn't affect them. Yet they are supporting
it by using products from companies that conduct animal
testing and by eating meat.
When a person's eyes and heart become
open to veganism, it is exceptionally frustrating to
realize that others generally do not feel the same way.
It is particularly hard to be a young person living
with family who doesn't understand or support vegan
beliefs. Although young people must acquiesce to certain
family rules, your body is your own domain. As long
as you are getting proper nutrition from a variety of
wholesome foods, and your attire is within whatever
guidelines your family establishes, you should have
the final say about what you eat, what you wear, and
what products you put in or on your body.
It is unfortunate that your family does
not respect your beliefs and it is unfair of them to
taunt you and try to undermine your choices. It takes
inner strength to withstand such antagonism, so it may
be necessary to muster up some fortitude to maintain
your vegan lifestyle. It will also take a lot of patience,
since it's quite possible that your mom may never change
One of the secrets to surviving friction
is to decline being an active participant. Go about
your business as usual, making all the vegan choices
you normally do, but don't make an issue about them.
Try not to draw attention to yourself or point out the
reasons behind your actions. It's tempting at times
for vegans to adopt an air of moral superiority, but
don't allow yourself to be pulled in that direction.
Don't announce what you are planning to do, just do
it. For instance, if you want to write to vegetarian
groups, don't discuss your intentions -- simply write
your letters quietly and privately.
Have confidence in yourself and your
decisions. Although it would be wonderful to have your
family's approval, their consent is not necessary in
order for you to know you are making a moral choice
that feels right to you. Try not to be hostile or disrespectful
in the face of ridicule and animosity. As much as possible,
be a living example of the love and compassion that
forms the foundation of your vegan practice. This means
extending your concern for all life to your family and
friends, even if they sometimes infuriate or demean
you. Demonstrating grace toward those who give us the
hardest time can be one of the toughest challenges of
Without family members or friends who
can support your convictions, you are forced to persevere
against the odds. Nevertheless, be on the lookout for
others who may share your vegan stance. One or two understanding
people can make all the difference in the world, regardless
of whether they are peers or adults. Explore vegan Web
sites and participate in vegan discussion boards where
you can vent your feelings, receive feedback, and know
that you are not alone. Read books and magazines that
will boost your morale or advance your understanding
of vegan issues. Many publications are available from
libraries, so you don't need to spend much money. Reach
out in whatever way you can to develop a network of
allies who will be there for you during times when you
may feel isolated, discouraged, or just down.
Don't give up completely on your family
and friends -- they may eventually come around, especially
if you are a living example of compassion in action.
"Be" vegan without preaching about it. Nothing will
impress them more.
Hang in there. Use this time of living
with your family to learn more about yourself -- your
strengths, weaknesses, and the areas you want to improve.
Study how you respond to conflict, how you treat other
people, and what you can do to make yourself a more
peaceful, kind, and generous person. Do volunteer work
related to veganism, such as assisting at an animal
shelter or researching and writing an article for an
animal rights magazine. Think of ways to utilize your
time constructively, develop your talents, and have
You are to be commended for stepping
outside the mainstream to make such a strong ethical
commitment. As a young person, it is important to feel
your passions and beliefs and hold on to your dreams.
They are precious and you are entitled to them. You
may not be able to fully express your desires and aspirations
while you are living under your family's roof, but do
your best to keep the sparks aglow. Once you are out
on your own, the embers you tend lovingly now will ignite
into a vibrant and productive blaze.
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