After my first year of veganism, I made a decision: I couldn't watch the people closest to me eat meat.
I see so many images of animal murder online. I've desensitized myself to much of the gore, but every bloody meme and slaughterhouse video stays in my subconscious.
Because of all the imagery, watching people I love casually interact with dead animals is triggering. I know what it took for an animal to become someone's dinner, and the end product just reminds me of the process.
Watching people eat meat makes me ill. I have flashbacks of male chicks being ground up soon after they hatch and cows having their throats slit while they're still alive.
But carnage in our society can't be avoided. Food ads are everywhere. Restaurants in Chinatown don't hide the hanging duck carcasses when they see me pass by. I deal with the death I'm forced to experience in an urban environment, so when I spend time in safe spaces with sacred people, I don't want to see carnage.
I don't usually ask people to change their behavior. Asking doesn't work as well for me as action does. Instead of begging people to see things from my perspective, I give them two choices: meat or me.
I tell any friend or family member I plan to see on a monthly basis, "If you have to eat meat, I have to leave."
Some people respond with outrage. They're furious not because I'm telling them what to do (because I'm not) but because I'm making them choose between two things they love. It's rarely a comfortable conversation, but giving an option helps avoid conflict and shows that I'm serious.
Despite the initial tension, there hasn't been anyone I reached out to who chose meat over me. Some friends claimed we just wouldn't eat together anymore, but that ban got lifted after a few weeks.
The angriest of them all reached out to talk. My new rule seemed so bizarre that they wanted a better understanding. They needed to know what was so important about animals that I'd give them an ultimatum.
The dinners and discussions that followed have been priceless. For the first time, non-vegans worked to understand why veganism is so important to me. I got to explain my stance with zero hostility. People listened and asked questions over delicious vegan food.
They'd leave the conversation not necessarily having a newfound respect for animals, but they'd understand why I'm so bothered by people eating meat. They didn't want to upset a person they love and everyone has accommodated my request ever since.
Even though their care is misdirected toward me instead of the non-human animals that are much more deserving, it's a start. Getting people to make a change for the sake of their favorite vegan put me in a position to educate.
If you think this is nuts, you're in good company. Even other vegans think my stance is going overboard, but The Liberation Project supports my decision. They urge vegans not to share tables with anyone eating meat, and if I weren't so terrified of disrespecting my grandmother, I'd have a fork on my wrist too.
Dozens of people have agreed to vegetarianism in my presence. We've had great meat-free experiences together and I've been able to show them the importance of vegan eating in my own way.
Whether they know it or not, our monthly engagements over plant-based food and conversations on ethical living are pushing them towards a vegan lifestyle.
For more on my initiative to get our loved ones to go vegan, please visit Wanyama Box.
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