Vegans should ‘leave their megaphones at home’ this Christmas and stop lecturing meat-eating friends, family and colleagues over the festive period, a leading vegan activist has urged.
Kate Fowler, a senior manager at the Veganuary campaign, warns plant-based diet followers not to hurt relatives’ feelings by rejecting non vegan presents that offend them.
And she suggested they step away from the dinner table when the turkey is being carved and return only when it’s time for mince pies and sherry to avoid emotional distress.
Ms Fowler’s advice comes in a guide she has written on how to ‘navigate’ Christmas as a vegan – something which she jokes is like steering a ‘boat through a rocky outcrop, blindfolded’.
Ms Fowler, a vegan for more than 25 years, said her lighthearted guide will ensure vegans survive the festive period with their ‘relationships, sanity and integrity intact’.
Her advice includes telling vegans who receive non-vegan presents to be ‘gracious’ and take them to the charity shop and to be ‘proactive’ by putting list of gift-ideas on a relative’s fridge.
Ms Fowler also suggested vegans who ‘dread sitting at a table staring at the carcass of a factory farmed bird’ on Christmas Day should take early action and ‘negotiate a compromise ahead of time’.
Ms Fowler, a special projects manager at the plant-based movement Veganuary, which encourages people to try the diet throughout January, accepted ‘the week before Christmas is a tricky time to push the vegan message’.
However, by Boxing Day, she argues, vegans should begin campaigning ‘full throttle’ again.
Giving advice on Christmas parties, Ms Fowler said: "The biggest pitfall at Christmas parties is not the booze or the snacks.. It’s the conversation.
"Us vegans tend to tell the world about veganism on a regular basis. And that is a good thing, people need to hear what their choices do to animals and the environment so they can make their own informed decisions and the world can be a better place.
"However, they are probably not receptive to such information at a Christmas party. The week before Christmas is a tricky time to push the vegan message.
"Our advice would be to leave your megaphone at home and bide your time. Answer any vegan-related questions with good grace as they come up, but avoid the big campaign push until Boxing Day.
"At that point, your natural campaign urges can be given full-throttle and you can invite all your over-fed, regretful friends to do something wonderful and sign up for Veganuary."
In the guide, published in Vegan Food and Living magazine, she offered advice on receiving gifts. She said: "If you are a new vegan, opening gifts and trying to look delighted rather than morally offended is an art.
"Grandma doesn’t know the toiletries she has always bought for you contain bits of animals. And brother has tries to impress by spending big on a hamper of foods that you don’t want, won’t eat and can barely look at. It’s tricky.
"Engineering the right conversation early is key to people not wasting their money and only ethical purchases being made. Try to raise the issue gently, though.
"You can be proactive and tack a copy [of a list] to their fridge door."
She added: "If it’s still not working out, ask for vouchers or suggest they donate the money they might have spent to your local animal sanctuary instead.
"If you do find yourself with a sackful of non-vegan items, be gracious to the donors and quietly pass the gifts on to a local charity shop." On the office Christmas meal, Ms Fowler advised: "Since there is no escaping it, you might as well jump in early with suggestions of places where you can at least be sure to get a good meal.
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"Many [restaurants] cater superbly for vegans, but if there is nothing suitable on the menu, or if you don’t like what you see, call them up."
She also suggested vegans should ‘negotiate’ with their family.
She said: "If you dread sitting at a table staring at the carcass of a factory farmed bird while others delight in the inappropriate legs-versus-breast jokes, then you’re not alone.
"If you’re the only vegan in the family, try to negotiate a compromise ahead of time."
She added: "There are two ways round it: persuade the whole family to eat vegan or make other arrangements. If you offer to cook the meal the problem may be solved.
"If the turkey is integral to the celebration, you may need to step away. Join friends for a meal and return later when they sherry and mince pies are out."