“How can I get my parents to support me in going vegan?”

If you’re living with your parents or are otherwise financially dependent on them, getting their approval and support can be a significant barrier to going vegan, especially if they are paying for your food. I find that most of the time when parents object to their child going vegan, they do so for practical reasons more than anything else. Objections usually centre around finances, health, convenience, though in some case ethics enters into the conversation too.

When it comes to health, keep in mind that your parents were very likely raised on The Food Pyramid, which was an education initiative sponsored by the meat and dairy industry. The result of this is that they, like most of us, have grown up believing wholeheartedly that a balanced diet must include meat and dairy. You probably already know that this is false, but it will allay a lot of their fears if you can prove that fact to them. To help you do that, I have a bunch of facts, statistics and health reports linked on my facts about animal rights page; if your parents are willing to read them then they may prove helpful. It may be more likely that they’ll watch a documentary with you, in which case What The Health on Netflix is a good option, as is Forks Over Knives. Even something as simple as pointing out how many vegan athletes there are can go a long way in persuading them that you can be very healthy while following a vegan diet.

In terms of cost, it’s a really common myth that being vegan costs more. Your parents will have likely walked through a supermarket and seen the faux meats and such, which while comparable in price to mid-range meat, they can be quite expensive for what they are, as unlike meat and dairy they are not subsidised by taxpayer money. It’d be easy to see these products and assume that veganism as a diet is expensive, but you don’t need to buy any of these products to be vegan. Real vegan staples are things like pastas, rice, noodles, beans, lentils, chickpeas, breads, nut butters, frozen fruits and canned vegetables; these represent some of the cheapest and most nutritious food in any supermarket and they’re widely available. If your parents really got a chance to see what a poor vegan eats in a day, it would calm a lot of their fears. You may find my list of cheap vegan essentials useful for this, and recipes to go along with it.

I’d say that convenience is probably the most common objection, it isn’t often said outright that convenience is the issue, but a lot of the time what it comes down to is that your parents are worried that it’ll involve a lot of extra effort to accommodate you. It is up to you then, to make your transition to veganism as smooth and effortless for them as you possibly can. You could volunteer to cook your own meals if you don’t already, you could shop for/pay for your own food if that’s a possibility, you could accompany them to the supermarket to point out good vegan options, or you could make a list if that would be easier for them. Just showing them the kind of meals you can make and how simple the food can be can sometimes be enough, because many people just can’t conceive of what a meal without animal products even looks like, and they object because they are picturing themselves having to buy expensive ingredients and cook from scratch because none of the meals they cook for you now are vegan. This isn’t the case of course, but it will take some time for them to realise how simple and straightforward cooking and eating vegan can be.

If the discussion moves on to the ethics of veganism, how it isn’t natural, how it isn’t making a difference or similar conversations, then you need to be prepared to defend your beliefs on the ethics of animal rights, for that I have a master post on common anti-vegan arguments, as well as brief summaries of common animal rights issues. This research is necessary mostly to prevent yourself getting frustrated rather than trying to win a debate, because it’s important to go into these discussions having already accepted that it is unlikely you will ever get them to change their minds. Parents are unfortunately seldom willing to admit they are wrong when their child believes differently than they do, so it may just be necessary to affirm, clearly but politely, that this is what you believe in, it is very important to you and you hope that they can supportive.

The early days of your veganism may be difficult with them, but even if they are never supportive of it, they usually learn to adapt and accept it. The really important thing in the first few weeks and months is to be patient with them, be polite but firm with your boundaries. If you are willing to compromise and eat non-vegan things because they have bought them or served them to you, then they will take that to mean that you will bend on these things in future, too. When it comes to your veganism, people will generally continue to push your limits if you show them that you will bend. It makes it more difficult, but being firm and uncompromising in the early days will pay off in the long run, when they realise that this is something that you just won’t budget on regardless of the context.

If none of this proves effective, if you have the option to do so you can still insist on it, and simply refuse to eat anything which isn’t vegan. It may take a few days, but they will likely get the message that this isn’t a fad, and most won’t let you go hungry. If they have refused and you are unconvinced they will ever relent or it is unsafe for you to disobey them, then you may just have to be as vegan as you can be under the circumstances. This means eating vegan whenever what you eat is your choice, and buying vegan items whenever you are able to. This isn’t your fault, and you can still make some difference for animals and keep your parents happy until you are able to move out. If your parents ask you anything you can’t answer, or you run into any specific issues or need further support, please feel free to get in touch by sending me a message or an ask; it may take a couple of days to reply to you due to the volume I receive, but I’ll be more than happy to help you.

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