Let’s get one thing clear: No one is perfect. It’s almost impossible to be a perfect vegan.

But following a vegan lifestyle isn’t about purity—it’s about helping animals and doing the best that we can to reduce their suffering and avoid exploiting them while still living a normal life.

We could all go out into the woods and live on nuts and berries as “level-5 vegans,” but ultimately, that would be far less effective than living in places where we can influence others to adopt vegan diets, too.

Animals don’t need your purity. If they did, it would make sense to go live in a cabin in the woods, causing as little harm as possible. What animals need is your advocacy—and they need for it to be as effective and influential as possible.

Here are a few tips on choosing effective advocacy over personal purity:

Vegan living isn’t all about you.

It’s about animals, not what you will or won’t put into your body or whether you feel comfortable. Don’t refuse to eat with meat-eaters or go to nonvegan restaurants. You have to put yourself in these situations to be a visible vegan. Remember to be positive about the steps that people have taken, not critical of the ones they haven’t.

Helping just one other person to go vegan will save twice as many animals. But the reverse is also true: If you do something that prevents another person from adopting a vegan diet, that hurts animals.

Focus on the positive! Let it inspire you.

It’s easy to get discouraged and burned out as an activist. There’s a lot of cruelty to animals in the world and many people who don’t agree with us. We all work really hard and feel very passionately, which can be exhausting. Try to focus on the positive instead of the negative. For example, if someone stops eating chicken or starts buying cruelty-free products, it’s a positive step. If someone goes vegan, that’s even better—but it’s not the only thing that’s good.

Always remember to make the vegan lifestyle look easy, popular, and fun, because it is!

We all know that the number one reason why people don’t go vegan is that they don’t think it’s convenient. So don’t grill restaurant servers about micro-ingredients (e.g., a tiny bit of a dairy “product” in the bun of a veggie bu
rger). Doing so makes being vegan seem difficult and annoying to your friends and restaurant staff, which discourages them from going vegan themselves—and really hurts animals.

Choosing a bean burrito or a veggie burger over chicken flesh or selecting a tofu scramble over eggs reduces animals’ suffering. Refusing to eat an otherwise vegan food because it has 0.001 grams of monoglycerides that may possibly be animal-derived doesn’t.

Speaking of dining out …

Unless you have an allergy, you don’t need to insist that your food be cooked on equipment that’s separate from that used to cook meat. Doing so doesn’t help any animals, and it only makes restaurants less inclined to offer vegan choices (which, again, hurts animals).

Make sure that local businesses and your school cafeteria have positive experiences with vegan customers and students. Don’t order the vegan option, complain, send it back twice, and leave a lousy tip. Instead, thank people for offering vegan food, and give positive feedback as much as possible, even if it’s mixed with a critique.

Be patient with and tolerant of those around you.

We don’t need the “vegan police” making it seem as if vegan living is a chore. Don’t give a restaurant server a hard time or lecture your parents and friends about what is and isn’t vegan, based on some almost non-existent ingredient that they’ve never even heard of. Always think about the big picture—what’s best for animals.

If you make a mistake, don’t give up.

Alternatively, if you see other vegans make mistakes, be supportive, and encourage them to keep helping animals. Often, you may be the only vegan they know, so if they don’t have support from you, who will they turn to?

Do you need a little help getting started? We’ve got you! Join our Vegan Mentor Program to receive support every step of the way. 

peta2’s Vegan Mentor Program offers one-on-one support from knowledgeable vegans. You’ll be paired with mentors who can address your questions and concerns about going vegan, in addition to offering guidance on shopping, cooking, talking to your friends and family, and anything else related to vegan living.