It is common practice from narcissistic individuals to accuse vegans of being part of a brain washed society or religion. This means one has two options:

  1. Defend veganism and by doing so proving in the mind of the accuser that vegans are brainwashed and will always defend veganism no matter what. Like the old tactic "you have a problem and not admitting it is part of the problem"

  2. don't defend veganism and leave them the full power to initiate their smearing tactics

Smearing tactics are when someone makes assumptions to depict someone else with a bad stigma. For example, vegans are psychopaths who let their children die because of an unhealthy diet, or vegans are awfully judgmental people who don't respect anyone.

Another tactic used is the old witch test: you either confess and die or don't confess and die anyway. In the case of veganism it plays like this: Vegans are malnourished and delusional because their brains lack the needed nutrients.

In this case, everything you say is invalided because apparently your vegan brain is always wrong. If you ate animal products your brain would work correctly.... But you don't.

So my question is, in a political context, how does one defend veganism from manipulation tactics?

  • What do you mean in a political context? (I've only discussed veganism with friends/family or debated veganism via Discord or Reddit.)
    – adamaero
    Jun 23, 2020 at 22:34
  • Just disengage. They won't be convinced and on average they fail to convince others.
    – henning
    Jul 2, 2020 at 18:52

2 Answers 2

  1. You could question them. "What am I brain washed about?" Probe into the specifics. The devil's in the details ;)
  2. You could draw comparisons to other movements, either historically or contemporary.

For the 'smearing tactics', continue to ask what they are talking about:

  • For instance, "What vegan parents let their children die?" (The one case I heard about, it was a sensationalistic news article about parents who only fed their infant applesauce, water and something else. Idiot parents cut both ways.)

  • "What were you judged about?" (There are many different outcomes for how they initially answer the question.) There are extremists in every movement. A few bad apples doesn't mean we should generalize to blanket statements.

  • "What nutrients does a vegan diet lack?" (Look into the top nutrients people fret about.) Then go into how either fortified foods can be eaten or vegan supplements taken.


What you describe as a lose-lose scenario is what's commonly described as a confirmation bias for a given belief (e.g. vegetarians are brainwashed). You can't work against that with conventional rhetoric, even if you win on the logical grounds, there is a big difference between proving something and convincing someone.

As for convincing someone, being from the other side of the fence that your interlocutor is can be a curse or a blessing. Many previously homophobic people had to put some water in their wine when a close relative outed themselves as homosexual, for example. But if you happen to be someone they dislike, they will use anything they dislike about you as a way to feed their confirmation bias and trying to prove them wrong is a good way to dig that hole.

There are two ways to work with a claim that has purely irrational grounds; either you point out the lack of rationale by inquiring about what the facts to support the claim are, which can be useful to convince an audience, or you directly skip the factual support thing and directly ask why, or since when, does one have negative feelings towards the community.

This lets your interlocutor explain the root of the belief around which you can provide your own, measured interpretation: "Well this was a bad apple, no vegetarian that I know would do such a thing, and don't you think similar things happen in other communities as well?". By displacing the conversation to be about them instead of you, you bypass the wall while still inviting them to change views.

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