How to survive family gatherings as a vegan by Jordan Collins

Jordan is Animal Aid’s Supporter Engagement Officer. 

Family gatherings can be a difficult time even if you’re not vegan, and it may seem like adding one more complication to the mix is just too much. Not to worry! There are some easy measures you can take to minimise conflict.

First, eat something before you head out, especially if it isn’t clear whether you’ll be able to eat anything at the party. An apple and peanut butter, whole-grain crackers and hummus, a nice big sandwich – something with staying power so that you won’t end up depressed and hungry if there isn’t much you can eat. 

Second, go prepared. Just like you wouldn’t go to a birthday party without taking a gift, try not to attend a non-vegan get-together without taking something of your own. If you want to make something that your omnivorous family might want to try, something simple like a casserole could be the way to go. On the other hand, if it’s the only dish you can be sure of eating, you might as well bring what you want, whether that’s seitan steaks or mac n ‘cheeze’!

We’ve covered the technicalities – keeping your belly full at an omnivore’s party – but you may encounter some feelings you weren’t expecting. Specifically, how you feel watching friends and family chow down on meat, dairy and eggs when you know what went into each food item. This isn’t an easy situation at all. It can be difficult to see the people you care about doing something you consider immoral, bad for their health or bad for the environment, but a party is not the place to have that kind of a conversation. If you really find yourself struggling, step away to the bathroom or to have a quick, “healing conversation” with a friend who understands. You need to take care of yourself while respecting the people around you. It’s not worth damaging your relationships by staying and getting upset. 

This advice also extends to difficult conversations. If you are fending off probing or rude questions or accusations (we’ve all had the protein question!), it is perfectly acceptable to take space. Keep in mind that for the most part, nobody is trying to hurt you or be malicious. Be respectful in your interactions and keep a cool head. Ultimately, try to tap into the part of you that appreciated the people around you before you went vegan. They haven’t changed; only your perception has. 

Family gatherings always have the potential to be difficult, but as long as you take measures to safeguard yourself from hunger and sidestep conflict, they can go smoothly and (somewhat) painlessly -  and who knows? You may even change some hearts and minds!