“Being vegan at Christmas is like navigating a boat through a rocky outcrop, blindfolded – there are dangers everywhere,” says Veganuary’s Kate Fowler. How right she is!
Fowler, a vegan for twenty years who works on special projects for Veganuary, has penned what she calls a “lighthearted guide” to help many vegans who find the thought of Christmas actually quite difficult.
She urges her fellow vegans to ‘leave their megaphones at home’ at Christmas and stop lecturing meat-eating friends, family and colleagues – at least during the festive period. Leave that until after the festive season has finished.
Turning to the office Christmas party, the conversation is possibly the biggest trap.
“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” she says.
“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”.
Bide your time, she suggests by answering 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.”
If the office Christmas meal is being held in a local restaurant, then try to ensure that it’s somewhere that caters properly for vegans. Most decent restaurants nowadays do provide a good plant-based alternative.
Well-meant but unethical presents
As for those well-meaning presents which have been tested on animals, she recommends not to hurt relatives’ feelings by rejecting those presents that offend them. “Be gracious” and the give them away to a charity shop after Christmas. Given the chance, it might be advisable to be pro-active and state the types of presents that you would like, such as vouchers which give you the choice. You may wish to consider suggesting that relatives and friends “donate the money they might have spent to your local animal sanctuary instead”.
But it is certainly not easy. “If you are a new vegan, opening gifts and trying to look delighted rather than morally offended is an art,” she says.
Many vegans will dread the prospect of sitting at a Christmas meal with “the carcass of a factory-farmed bird” centre stage. This is a problem that Fowler herself has had much experience of. She suggests trying to seek a compromise in advance. You might even suggest that you cook the meal yourself.
You can always make a “veganized” version of something for yourself. But be warned if you do: bring a little extra for the vegan curious family members. This is not just to be polite but because personal experience has shown that it will be in big demand. This is perhaps one of the best ways to stop those irritating questions coming at you for all quarters.
But if all else fails and you cannot bring yourself to boycott the Christmas meal, then try to rope in a few young adults to the festive meal. With so many Millennials nowadays eschewing meat there’s a high chance now that some of them may well feel the same way that you do. You will be happy for their moral and vocal support. So why not send out an SOS search party for your young relatives who may otherwise be attending another family celebration? It might just make you feel a little less isolated.