Sometimes we all need a little help
Being vegan occasionally comes with extra challenges, there’s no point pretending otherwise. Many vegans sail through life with no greater challenge than where to find non-leather shoes, but others may at times encounter bigger issues such as bullying or discrimination. We hope the information on this page, our social section and our page on how to handle workplace discrimination, will make you more confident in facing these situations. Remember, we’re here for you if and when you need us.
I have a problem – what can I do about it?
Never forget that veganism is protected by international human rights law and that you're entitled to basic respect from colleagues, bosses and peers. There is plenty you can do to ensure you receive this respect.
Advocacy: speaking up for ourselves and others
Advocacy is a skill we can all learn. As you grow in knowledge and experience you'll find you:
- Become more confident in advocating vegan living and challenges become more manageable
- Discover more about personal motivations for being vegan, making you more confident in your choices and beliefs
- Will speak more confidently and will begin answering most common questions very easily.
Try considering what your personal reasons are for being vegan. What positive things have you discovered and what else would you like to learn about vegan living?
Increase your influence with self-advocacy
The person best placed to speak up for you, is often - you. By speaking up for yourself, you are also helping the next vegan who comes along. In turn that helps non-human animals by making it easier for more people to stay vegan. You also help the Vegan Society Advocacy Officer by giving them more time to deal with more difficult cases. Here are some useful strategies for when you run into problems:
- Remind service providers that good vegan-friendly options are suitable for almost anyone (including those with special requirements due to religious beliefs); therefore catering for vegans can give them a great competitive edge. Read more on advocating for vegan meals in schools here
- Talk to other vegans through The Vegan Society networks, on social networking or using local notice boards. Chances are you’ll find someone who has encountered and overcome similar problems. Ask them for tips and ideas for dealing with specific situations.
- Check out our vegan lifestyle section, which contains lots of useful information and you may find a solution to your problem in there.
If you don't have access to healthy food facilities (maybe you live in one of a growing number of 'Food Deserts'), can you speak to your local community about ways to bring about changes? Options for collaboration might include neighbourhood buying collectives, growing your own food, working with local retailers and talking to local elected representatives about improving local quality of life. Grass-roots groups and charities may also be able to help.
When you need a helping hand
Extra support for challenging situations
If you’ve tried to resolve an issue on your own and have failed, don’t panic. There are support systems to help. One is the Vegan Society's Advocacy Officer. We are able to contact and advise professionals on what services are suitable for vegans, and explain that living as a vegan is protected by international human rights legislation. If you need advocacy support, please contact us by email or telephone during Advocacy Hour (14:00-15:00 UK time, Tuesday to Friday). For urgent assistance, please contact your local Citizens’ Advice service, seek a second professional opinion and/or consider taking legal advice. Remember, you're NOT alone!
At a glance: common challenges – and solutions:
- I've just found out I'm ill - if you think there may be a diet-related aspect to your illness, your doctor should be able to refer you to a medical diet expert. The British Dietetic Association supports vegan diets for all walks of life
- My child's school do not cater for vegans - All schools must allow vegans to bring in packed lunches by law if guardians are not satisfied with the vegan catering. To learn how to advocate for vegan meals at your school, read this blog.
- I don't control the money / shopping / cooking - try to work constructively with those who do eg. by making budget meal suggestions, if they’re worried about expenses
- Someone said my vegan diet isn't healthy - experts have accumulated scientific evidence that well-planned vegan diets can support healthy living at every stage of life. Try doing a personal health-check with your new diet to give you confidence. Why not read up on nutrients so you’re ready to explain exactly where you get your protein, calcium and other nutrients
- I'm being ordered to use / wear non-vegan items by an authority - you have the right to request vegan-suitable alternatives, and the authority has a duty to make reasonable provisions for your beliefs
- Most vegan resources are inaccessible to me - contact us, as we can make suggestions on accessing information in an appropriate format eg. a Braille cookbook
- I'm worried I won't have anything vegan to eat in hospital - If you are awaiting a hospital admission, try to speak to both the Hospital Registered Dietitian and Catering Manager at least two weeks before, or as soon as possible upon arrival. Contact the Advocacy Officer if there is an issue with this.
- I'm being legally detained against my will - public institutions have a duty to respect the rights of vegans. Institutions that oversee minors, or adult populations, also have a duty of care to ensure everyone under their supervision has access to belief-appropriate nutritious food. Use all the support systems available to you, such as referral to a trained diet expert or the Vegan Society's Advocacy Officer
- I've bought a product that contains fur/wool/silk and it wasn't labelled - Animal products in clothing must be labelled in the EU. If you're in the UK, find out more from the British Standards Institute (0845 086 9001), complain to Citizens Advice or get your complaint referred to Trading Standards, who have powers to enforce the rules. If not from the UK, check the law for your state of residence, and follow similar procedures
- I am being bullied about my veganism - we all enjoy human rights, including the right to act in line with our conscience. Veganism is a philosophical belief and principle of conscience. International human rights law does include respect for the beliefs of vegans. Use all the support systems available to you, like the ones below.
- What are human rights?
- Know your vegan rights
- UK Equalities and Human Rights Commission - Advice and guidance