Tom Regan On Communicating With Non-Vegans

The following is an excerpt from an interview with Tom Regan published on the AR Zone.

Over the years I’ve received letters from total strangers who tell me that reading something I’ve written “changed their life.” I’ve also received a like number of messages from people who think I’m a total nut case. So my experience has been: some people respond favourably to philosophical arguments; others do not. My advice? Let other people be our guide. Listen to them, to find out where they are in their life. Maybe they think they “have to eat meat.” Maybe they think “God gave animals to us.” Maybe they think “watching performing animals is great family fun.” Go with their flow. Be patient. Be genuine.

Did I say “be patient?” Nancy recently reminded me of something that happened it now must be twenty years ago at least. We were attending a professional meeting and a student stopped us. “What about plants?” he asked, to which a third person who was with us (raising her voice) said, “That is the stupidest question I’ve ever heard in my life! What do you have, mush for brains?” Then she stormed-off, in a huff. Later that evening, when our paths crossed, she said, “Honest, Tom and Nancy, I swear, people have asked me that question a thousand times! I can’t take it anymore.” To which Nancy and I replied, “Yes, but that was the first time that young man asked us that question.”

The last thing other animals need is another reason not to care about them. How we act towards other people can provide just such a reason. Being rude or judgmental doesn’t help any nonhuman. A coping technique I use (to quell my impatience, when I feel it bubbling-up in my throat) is to think of the people who ask questions I’ve been asked hundreds of times as mirrors. Yes, I think of them as mirrors. When I look at them, in other words, what I see is a reflection of who I used to be.

Like them, there was a time when I didn’t know how other animals were being treated.

Like them, there was a time when I knew but didn’t care.

Like them, there was a time when I knew and cared but not enough to change how I was living.

Like them, there was a time when I was . . . them!

That’s what I try to remind myself. I don’t want to come across as self-righteous or arrogant. That would give the questioner another reason not to care about other animals, and I don’t want to do that—I don’t want to be that reason. - Excerpted from an interview with Tom Regan published on the AR Zone.


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