How can I convince my boyfriend to give up meat?
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Elizabeth Gordon on This Dish Is Veg
July 2011

[Ed. Note: And read An Easy Conversion for more inspiration!]

Question: How can I convince my boyfriend to give up meat?


Oooh, what a tough question! Conversions—whether religious, political, or dietary—are never easy, so I admire your willingness to make the attempt.

My first piece of advice is to warn you about two techniques that definitely will not work, at least not in the long run: guilt and coercion.

Guilt means making your boyfriend feel like a bad person every time he eats a Big Mac. But let's face it, he's not a bad guy (otherwise you wouldn't be with him, right?), and laying a guilt trip on him is just going to make him resentful.

Coercion involves the use of force or threats, such as insisting he eat tempeh tetrazzini or threatening to withhold sex until he goes meat-free. Obviously, coercion is a tactic better suited for organized crime than for someone who's into cruelty-free living, so as tempted as you might sometimes be, I say resist it at all costs.

So, what will work? I suggest you opt for the carrot approach and swear off the stick. The best way to do this is to go on as many veg-friendly dates as you can. Why? Well, dates are all about fun and togetherness (often with a touch of hanky-panky), so the more you can combine the pleasure of dating with the pleasure of meatlessness, the more your boyfriend will come to associate happiness with veggie-ness.

Here are three meat-free date ideas to get you started:

  1. Visit a farm animal sanctuary. Generally speaking, these are beautiful places where rescued "food" animals like cows, pigs, and chickens can live out their lives far from the cruelty and confinement of industrial farms. Most of the larger sanctuaries welcome visitors to tour and meet the animals, which is often a life-changing experience. As the UK-based FRIEND Animal Rescue puts it, "There are many that come through the gate as meat eaters and leave as vegetarians." In fact, after Twitter co-founder Biz Stone and his wife visited Farm Sanctuary, an animal rescue organization with locations in New York and California, they both became vegans.
  2. Attend a veg picnic or potluck. If there's one thing vegans and vegetarians like to do, it's eat—especially with other vegans and vegetarians. If you have a veg group in your area (and it's likely you do) subscribe to their mailing list or check out their website to see when the next community meal is taking place. There's nothing like gathering with a bunch of enthusiastic folks chowing down on delicious homemade veggie fare to demonstrate just how much fun and satisfying veg-based eating can be. (I know this from personal experience, as it wasn't until my beau and I attended a Living Thanksgiving hosted by the Berkshire Vegetarian Network that we realized we didn't need eggs and dairy and became 100% committed to veganism.)
  3. Dine at the best vegetarian and vegan restaurants you can find. I'm not talking about veg-friendly restaurants, mind you (which serve meat dishes in addition to veg-based ones), but those that have no meat of any kind on the menu. (You don't want your boyfriend being distracted by someone's plate of spareribs while he's trying to figure out what seitan is.) If he's a traditional meat-and-potatoes type of guy, as many carnist men are, then seek out restaurants specializing in hearty, familiar entreés that have been vegan- or vegetarian-ized. (The famous Chicago Diner is a perfect example.) Your sweetie will be happily surprised to learn that he can still enjoy all his favorite comfort foods like cheeseburgers, meatloaf, chicken-fried steak, BLTs and Reuben sandwiches, but in tasty veggie versions rather than meat-based ones.

And if the nearest animal sanctuary, vegan picnic, or vegetarian diner is far from home, don't let that discourage you! My hubby and I regularly travel over an hour to dine at our favorite vegan café, but it's not wasted time. You can spend it snuggling up to your boyfriend, nibbling on his ear as he drives, and telling him how wonderful he is to go on all these adventures with you. In time, as he becomes more educated about the issues involved in meat-eating (vegetarian festivals are a great source of fellowship and information; click here for a list of such festivals around the world), your boyfriend will thank you for introducing you to this healthier, happier way of life...and all without nagging!

P.S. I'll leave you with one last inspiring story. In an amazing article for Vanity Fair earlier this year, journalist John Heilpern (a traditional meat-loving Brit) describes having lunch with bestselling Veganist author Kathy Freston. With a positive attitude, gentleness, and much good humor, Freston shares with Heilpern her journey toward veganism, recommends some reading material to him, and by the end of the story we learn that Heilpern has "decided to give up eating all meat." If that's not an example of carrot-over-stick effectiveness, then nothing is. Happy converting!

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