How a Vegan Mentor Can Help You Go Vegan (and Stick With It!)

It was a celebration at an all-the-meat-you-can-eat Brazilian restaurant that transformed my friend, Joy, from a meat eater to a compassionate vegan. As she transitioned to her new lifestyle, Joy visited farm sanctuaries, read books on factory farming and every morning for months watched Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home, an award-winning and life-changing documentary about the emotional lives of animals and the moral struggles of farmers who had a change of heart about the animals in their care.

According to Vegan Outreach, a nonprofit working to end violence towards animals, many people aspire to be vegetarian or vegan but need support in making the transition. Some – like Joy – find this support in books and media while others seek out a personal connection. That’s where the Vegan Mentor Program comes in.

Four years ago, Vegan Outreach launched a Vegan Mentor Program to help those seeking one-on-one support. Through this program new and aspiring vegetarians and vegans—and established vegans who feel isolated in a world of meat eaters—are paired with mentors who provide guidance and support.

Today, the program has 2,300 mentors helping 4,300 mentees in 1,150 cities in 60 countries.

“Our mentors are non-judgmental and meet mentees wherever they are along their journey to reducing animal suffering,” said Vegan Mentor Program Coordinator Jean Bettanny.

What a Vegan Mentor Does

Most of the volunteer mentors are longtime vegans who are eager to share their experiences with others. They support mentees in a variety of ways including helping them to navigate grocery store aisles, offering assistance in choosing a dish for an office potluck or providing insight into meeting nutritional needs on a vegan diet.

“Matches are made based on location (when possible), gender, age, interests and goals,” said Bettanny, who has been an animal rights activist and a vegan for 25 years. “Many mentees are very excited when they learn there’s another vegan in their small hometown. It provides an opportunity for them to meet their mentors in person.”

In a testimonial one mentee from Bellingham., Washington described her mentor as being like a “long lost sister.” The pair shops together for vegan food, shares cookbooks and magazines and they plan on visiting an animal sanctuary.

Another mentee from Baltimore, MD appreciates the personal connection the program offers. She wrote: “You can only read so many books and google so many opinions. Real life opinions and experiences that can be shared are invaluable.”

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Top Reasons People Need a Vegan Mentor

There are a number of reasons that a person might seek out a vegan mentor. These are the most common reasons that mentees gave.

Connecting with Other Vegans

They are concerned about animal welfare and can no longer support cruelty to animals by eating meat. Some are already on the vegan path but feel isolated in their decision. They turn to the program for support because they are surrounded by meat-eating family and friends who don’t share their concerns.“

A lot of people are aware of cruelty when it comes to pets like dogs and cats but very few want to know that 99.9 percent of animal cruelty is inflicted on animals that we eat,” Bettanny said. “This is frustrating for mentees and our program provides them with one-on-one moral support.”

Help with Quitting Cheese

Giving up cheese is among the greatest hurdles for aspiring vegans Bettanny said. Mentors offer inspiration by sharing their own struggles on giving up cheese and help mentees in finding satisfying alternatives.

Tips and Tricks to Make it Easier

Many mentees seek convenience in maintaining their vegan lifestyle. They are not interested in cooking elaborate meals and want help in choosing simple recipes.

Dealing with Social Settings

Some people seek assistance in dealing with awkward social settings. For example, when eating out with all meat eaters they want to know how to respond to questions about their chosen diet without offending other people at the table.

“It took me many years to work out how to respond to questions about my diet,” Bettanny said. “Now I’m just honest and say that I don’t want to contribute to the suffering of animals. Nobody can argue with that.”

The first step in being matched with a vegan mentor is to fill out a questionnaire. Vegan Outreach also provides a questionnaire for anyone interested in becoming a vegan mentor.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

58 comments

Caitlin L
Caitlin L20 days ago

thanks for posting

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Marie W
Marie W2 months ago

thanks for sharing

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Cindy S
Cindy Smith5 months ago

I'll be a mentor

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Barbara M
Past Member 7 months ago

Thanks

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Carl R
Carl R8 months ago

Thanks!

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John N
John N8 months ago

This is a fantastic idea. Similarly, where I live in Leeds, England, there are cycle buddies for newbies cycling downtown for work.

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Renata K
Renata Kovacs8 months ago

Thoughtful Thank you for sharing,,

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Jaime J
Jaime J8 months ago

Thank you!!

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Sarah Grayce P
Sarah Grayce P8 months ago

Thank you.

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ANA MARIJA R
ANA MARIJA R8 months ago

Thank you for sharing!

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