How to Make Vegan Friends & Influence Non-Vegan People

By Published On: 4 February 2016Last Updated: 9 October 2020

We'll never achieve that vegan world we all want if all we do is pick apart progress. Learn how to make vegan friends and influence non-vegan people.

A person wearing a black shirt with a blue shape containing the word 'friends' it it.

What's in this post

I’ve often said that every vegan journey goes through stages.

My own began with anger, lots and lots of anger. I think that’s only natural. After all, what we do to animals is heinous and deserves our outrage.

I’ve never been the type of person who shies away from anger, just the opposite. I’m not a stranger to conflict, and confrontation doesn’t bother me a bit.

I’m not trying to imply I like these things; I don’t.

But these things can happen in life, and I’m not one to not speak up for injustices. It’s just part of my DNA.

Personal Evolution

It’s the year 2016. I’m eleven years into my vegan journey now, and I can tell you with absolute certainty that I’m a much different vegan today than I was eleven years ago.

In those early days, I didn’t hesitate to call out people for doing harmful things to animals. I didn’t mince words as I deconstructed the non-vegan world around me.

Like anyone else, I was heavily influenced by the information I surrounded myself with. In those days, I spent hours researching the multitudes of ways that humans use animals. I watched horrible videos; I subjected myself to terrible images and read countless books on factory farming.

My soft heart took beating after beating as I consumed more and more media. I spent nights crying for the animals who were lost to greed and the tastebuds of others.

These things strengthened my vegan resolve and fueled the growing anger I felt. I funneled my rage into this website and onto social media, having argument after argument about living a vegan life.

While my advocacy style certainly got me attention (and a VegNews award), it didn’t get me a reputation for being quiet.

Growing and Changing

Over time, my writing style changed.

I moved away from being aggressive in my approach and instead focused my attention on being what I like to call ‘thoughtfully critical.’ I still wrote extensively about veganism, but I reframed my writing to look at the broader, grey-area concepts, rather than individuals and specifics.

That can be a challenge, by the way. It’s not easy to be critical of someone’s actions without also being critical of who they are as a person. It’s an important distinction, and I think it’s one that is hard to do.

Nevertheless, I tried to make sure I didn’t attack people; instead, I focused my attention on actions and concepts.

During this time, I decided to stop consuming violent media. I could no longer view graphic images or videos; my heart couldn’t handle it. I surrounded myself with people in a similar place in their vegan journey as me, thoughtful but critical of the direction of the vegan movement was going in.

These changes helped a little, but I was still very much influenced by all those years of immersing myself in violent media. I was a full-blown cynic and still very much angry at the lives forced upon animals.

My cynicism is apparent in the last few years of my writing. When small victories for animals happened, the news was met with derision scoffs because why can’t people live vegan already?

I wanted sweeping changes, and I wanted them now, and baby stepping wasn’t getting us there fast enough.

Reflections & Contradictions

Looking back now, I can tell you that my cynicism helped no one. Certainly not my state of mind and not the animals either.

Gone was the happiness and joy I felt during the first few years of my veganism. I no longer felt the kinship I used to have towards my fellow vegans. Instead, I spent time lamenting about how frustrated I had become at other advocates who renounced their veganism in favor of plant-based alternatives like veg, veganish, v*gan, or plant-whatever.

I allowed my cynicism to not only inform my writing here on Your Daily Vegan, but I also allowed it to impact how I felt about life in general.

And that’s a bad thing indeed.

Allow me a moment of contradiction; I believe some of my best writing came from this cynical place.

During this time, I wrote most tutorials and guides, and I’m proud of how they turned out. I’m not saying that everything I wrote was negative and full of cynicism; it wasn’t. My writing was never more thoughtful and respectful towards others than during the last few years.

But the passion I had for advocating veganism was gone, influenced by the hostile environment that I had put myself in.

The Movement is Changing

As veganism has moved more solidly into the mainstream, it’s meaning has been diluted and watered-down by people who have no interest in the liberation of animals. These people eat a plant-based diet but still consume animals in other ways like clothing or makeup.

The watering down of veganism has created a great deal of conflict within the movement. Instead of advocating a clear and consistent message, vegans are forced to argue about the very definition of the word and whether or not labels even matter.

It is a frustrating situation for everyone involved, including myself.

Sending Mixed Messages

The definition of veganism is, “as a way of living which seeks to exclude – as is possible and practical – all forms of exploitation of animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose; and promote animal-free alternatives.”

The conflict within the vegan movement is growing.

Some want to redefine veganism. Some spend time in comment sections leaving aggressive tirades towards others whom they believe are not vegan enough. Then there are bloggers and vegan groups who send mixed messages about what veganism is- going so far as to pick apart other activists they deem as too extreme.

There have been shocking online fights between abolitionists, welfarists, and intersectional vegans. Over the past seven years, the environment that I’ve been blogging has changed dramatically, and not necessarily in a good way.

Earlier this year, I voiced my support for distancing ourselves from these types of arguments.

Veganism does not need to be redefined; it has a clear definition already. Infighting is antithetical to the compassion that the vegan movement is inherently based upon. Creating this type of environment is toxic, not only to me but to others as well.

Who wants to be a part of a movement about compassion, yet is full of vegans attacking each other left and right?

No one.

How to Make Vegan Friends and Influence Non-Vegan People

I want to admit something to you.

Do you know that I regularly receive angry, antagonizing tweets from non-vegans? I do. I also regularly receive incredibly rude emails and comments on the site. I’ve been attacked for being vegan, for defining veganism, and for merely existing in my own space.

These things made me question if blogging was the right fit for me. It’s not the first time I felt that way over the past seven years, but it is the first time that I took drastic measures to begin the process of change.

Because something needed to change. Or rather, someone.

I love animals. I love living vegan and I’ll never, ever not live vegan.

I knew it from the moment my eyes were opened to the injustices being done to animals.

But what I forgot in the past few years was how much I love to blog. I love to cook and I love sharing vegan food with people. My mother-in-law is one of my favorite non-vegan taste testers.

I love to help people. I forgot how satisfying it can be showing people where to find an adorable pair of vegan shoes or a vegan baseball glove. I forgot how much fun social media can be when not participating in arguments about who is more vegan than another.

I forgot about the joy in living vegan and the joy in sharing it with others.


I decided to distance myself from those who are bent on arguing and who can’t see that we’ll never achieve that vegan world we all want if all we do is pick apart progress.

Instead, I’m re-focusing my attention on helping people to live a vegan life.

When I think back to the past few years and all of the accomplishments that vegan advocates have made, I feel proud of how far we’ve come. Yes, we have a long way to go. But we’re getting there, one animal-free meal at a time.

I’ve become a much happier vegan in the last month. I’m still the same unapologetic Donald Watson vegan, who started this website way back in 2009; that hasn’t changed and never will.

But I’ve come to realize that sharing the joy of veganism is a powerful form of activism. I can advocate a clear and consistent message while staying true to my vegan ethics, and I can do it with kindness and compassion.

We can’t force change upon people; we can only inspire it. That’s what I hope to do; inspire change and maybe influence some non-vegan people.

What about you? Let’s talk about it. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Photo / Maaike Flissebaalje


  1. Ashley May 29, 2017 at 3:08 pm - Reply

    Just curious…why do you say that you have a problem with people eating vegan cookies?

  2. Ashley May 15, 2017 at 10:01 pm - Reply

    Really enjoyed your post! People can often be rude, condescending and judgmental of others who don’t think exactly they way that they do or live up to their standards of perfection and that attitude definitely does not inspire change. Many people like myself were ignorant as to what was really happening behind closed doors and were taught by society to not really think about it because “everyone” eats it and it’s part of culture. Those are some very strong influences to combat. Not impossible, but sometimes entrenched. Thank you for encouraging people to be kind not only to animals but to extend that same kindness and compassion towards their their fellow human beings who are on their own journey to learning the impact of their food choices

  3. chuck gordon March 21, 2017 at 1:00 pm - Reply

    thank you!!!

  4. Anya April 6, 2016 at 4:01 pm - Reply

    Hello, I really appreciated your article. I’m an 18 year old vegan from India. Been an activist for over a year now. I’d like some advice from you regarding my methods of activism. Wondering whether we could get in touch via email?
    Here’s my ID – [email protected]
    Thanks! :-)

  5. Joanne Lefson February 6, 2016 at 12:26 am - Reply

    Hello from Cape Town South AFrica- in bed with coffee reading another great post. Your blogs are read, and appreciated- all over the world!

    • KD Traegner February 9, 2016 at 11:50 am - Reply

      Hello Joanne! I can’t tell you how cool it is that YDV has reached you over in Cape Town and how much I appreciate you stopping by with such kind words :)

  6. sk February 5, 2016 at 10:41 pm - Reply

    I realized a long time ago that when I’m questioned about
    being vegan, I tailor my answer based on the age of the person inquiring. Young people are more likely to care about
    the negative environmental impact animal agriculture is causing the planet. Others (believe it or not) have no idea about
    the horrors and cruelty inflicted on these animals. And if I’m talking to an older person they
    are more likely to have health issues, and are usually surprised to learn that
    a lot of valid, scientific research has definitively concluded that animal
    protein is the main cause of most disease, including heart attacks, stroke,
    diabetes, kidney stones, gout, and various cancers, just to name a few. But what’s important to realize is that
    ultimately, all paths lead to one more person who will wake up and have an “aha
    moment”, and make the decision to never again participate in harming an animal
    in the name of “food”. Yes, sometimes we
    all want to scream in someone’s face “if you’re eating animals, your part
    of the problem — and you’re either part of the problem or part of the
    solution!”, but you’re gonna finally realize that does nothing but make
    you look like the lunatic fringe, and you’ll be someone that doesn’t get
    invited to any social gatherings cause all you are is Debbie or Donny
    Downer. I think the anger is part of the awakening – particularly anger
    at yourself, most of all, for not seeing it all so clearly sooner. It’s hard to realize that you and almost
    everyone else you know hasn’t got a choice from infancy, when your mother fed
    you your first junior jars of baby food of various mashed up animals — hey,
    she did what she thought was best. And think back to your childhood and
    teenage years — most of us, myself included, eating animals cause that’s what
    your cultural background promotes (in my case, Italian food — lots of meat and
    cheese). Author Will Tuttle writes an
    excellent book from an anthropological viewpoint, linking the violence humans
    inflict on one another as a direct result of the violence we inflict on
    animals. It’s called “The World Peace
    Diet”, and I highly recommend it to anyone, vegan or otherwise. Bottom line is it doesn’t matter the reason a
    person chooses to become vegan, only that they are. And hopefully, their story will inspire
    another person to also adopt a plant-based diet, for the sake of the animals as
    well as themselves. If we as humans are
    to ever live more peacefully, more people need to see that the violence begins
    with what’s on our plate 3 or more times a day, and that we are all, indeed,

    • KD Traegner February 9, 2016 at 12:04 pm - Reply

      There’s a lot of truth to that- the longer we are vegan the more we see which approaches work the best with different people. Generally speaking, I find that kindness is universal and I’m really trying hard to make it a point to start there first :) I’m glad you brought up The World Peace Diet, I have it listed in the book library. There are a lot of great titles there on advocacy, have you checked it out yet?

      Thank you for the conversation!

  7. N K February 5, 2016 at 6:21 am - Reply

    Totally agree with you ! During the initial months as a vegan , I was also pretty angry, calling all the non-vegans “rapists & murderers”, crying myself to sleep, and all. I guess every new vegan goes through that.
    But I too realized it was not doing the animals any good. Neither was my snoberry that I would talk to only fellow vegans (Really!).
    Glad to have found your blog. I also love to cook, and share stuff. Soon I am also writing a blog. You are so inspiring :-)

    • KD Traegner February 9, 2016 at 12:08 pm - Reply

      Yes, I’ve had my share of name calling too. I do think it’s something that we all go through in the early stages of veganism, which makes sense to me as it’s outrageous what happens to animals and I think anger is a natural response to that. I’m so glad you found the blog too, and that you connected with me here. When you start your blog be sure to come back and tell me what the name is so I can come and check it out! If you need help, check the Resources tab in the menu above- I have a whole series on Blogging as Activism where I teach people how to set up and design a vegan blog :) Thank you for the comment!

      • N K February 9, 2016 at 11:11 pm - Reply

        Thanks so much KD :-) !! Actually I came across your blog while searching for resources for wannabe vegan bloggers. Great you created the series, it’s so useful for people like me.

        • KD Traegner February 10, 2016 at 10:59 am - Reply

          That’s great!! I’ve tried to make it as easy as possible to navigate setting up a blog and so hearing it is useful makes my whole day. Blogging isn’t the first thing most people think of when they think of advocating veganism, but it is one of the most powerful forms that there is. Imagine how great it would be to flood the internet with vegan blogs! Feel free to send me an email if you run into trouble and I’ll do what I can to help :)

  8. DJ Harper February 4, 2016 at 3:33 pm - Reply

    You have expressed so eloquently, my exact feelings! Thank you for your passion, compassion and enlightenment!

    • KD Traegner February 4, 2016 at 8:58 pm - Reply

      It’s nice to hear that I’m not alone in my feelings so I really appreciate the comment. I’m looking forward to getting back to doing the things I love, like helping people and sharing joy :) Thank you for stopping by!

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HELLO! I'm KD Angle-Traegner.

Writer, activist, and founder of Four Urban Paws Sanctuary. I’m on a mission to help people live a vegan life. Read more about KD…