The other day, I was in a company meal with ~20 coworkers and someone offered me wine before adding: "At least you know this is vegan." (because I'm vegan). I don't like alcohol so I politely refused before adding with a smile: "In fact, not all wines are vegan" (which is true). After that, all of my colleagues started to laugh at me like I was some kind of silly person who didn't know what she was talking about. And even after I try explaining myself, they still didn't believe me (because I was unable to give details).


I'm the youngest person at my company, I look very young (I'm 23 but people regularly assume that I'm under 18), I'm a woman, I have been working there for three years and I'm like a student doing an internship (it's an simplification, my actual status is "étudiante en alternance" which mean I spend half my time in school and the other half at work; Kevin mentioned that it's called "co-op" in the U.S., and eggyal added that it's a “placement” in the U.K.).

What I tried

After my colleagues started laughing, I tried to explain to them that it was true and that during the process of fabrication, products of animal origin were used. They started pressing me with questions. Unfortunately, I didn't know much about what animal products were used, when and why (since I don't drink alcohol, I didn't care about the details). So, I tried to answer their questions but told them that I didn't know much about the subject and suggested that they find out on their own (implied: instead of asking me questions I couldn't/was not qualified to answer). My phone can't go on internet and they didn't care to google it up.

Since I'm vegan/vegetarian, I have to deal with this behavior a lot (this is just the most recent example). Normally, saying something like "I read that..." people are fine with, but when it comes to veganism, they aren't anymore. As a result, I try to learn every fact about veganism by heart so that I would be able to defend myself when someone is trying to ridicule my vegan commitment. But I'm only human and this is hard. Plus, turning myself into a human Wikipedia isn't really my dream.

My Question

How do I convey to my coworkers that: I don't know the details, they can look it up themselves (so they don't have to blindly trust me) but, please, stop assuming that this cannot be true and that I'm silly/stupid/whatever?

More important, how do I make them stop laughing at me? (I cannot control what they think but it would be nice if they didn't express it that clearly).

Note and clarification

I'm not good at human interaction and the only real social life I have is with my extended family (a big one, but still). Also, I hate conflict so, please, do not answer with a conflict-oriented solution.

There were 20 people there: some with whom I take my coffee breaks and that I like; some with whom I work in my day to day life and with whom I eat everyday; my direct boss (N+1) with whom I really don't get along (he is sexist, among other things); the big boss who likes me but doesn't like my N+1; and others. None of them were vegan/vegetarian.

I responded because they were talking to me and they said something false. I know a lot people think I should not have said anything, but leaving someone with a false belief seemed (and still seems) wrong to me.

Strong emphasis: The argument wasn't about me being vegan/not drinking wine. It was about them note believing my statement ("not all wines are vegan") which I couldn't backup with precise and complete details (just a vague "animal products are used during the manufacturing process"). Details that they asked for. And since I didn't had enough details, they were laughing in disbelief while not carrying enough to fact-check.

  • 2
    Please don’t write answers in comments. It bypasses our quality measures by not having voting (both up and down) available on comments, as well as having other problems detailed on meta. Use comments for asking for clarifications or suggesting improvements for the question. Comments used for other purposes will be removed without notice.
    – Em C
    Aug 24, 2018 at 20:20

16 Answers 16


Fellow vegan, so I know what this is like.

I often get colleagues offer foodstuffs that are non-vegan (such as cakes containing milk, egg etc) and confusing veganism with vegetarianism (to the point people seem to be on the verge of arguing the incorrect definitions).

Firstly, you need to stop worrying if people believe you or not, there will always be times, no matter how much evidence you have of anything, that a person won't believe you (or won't want to believe you). Don't stress too much about proving anything.

Instead, to avoid friction along the lines of veganism, I usually offer a mainline reason for refusing first, so in your case, if they offer you wine saying it's vegan, you might say:

I don't really like alcohol anyway, so it's okay.

I always cite taste. They might try to convince you to try some, but you can simply refuse and say you've tried alcohol before and aren't interested. What you're doing here is changing the playing field to your opinion on the product.

In my case, if someone offers a cake, rather than getting the anti-vegan lecture, I simply offer a similar line:

I'm not particularly fond of cakes.

Most people will accept the initial mainline reason. And it sidesteps the 'is it vegan?' question.

In your case, if there's a dispute over facts you're not sure about, you need to turn the discussion into one about your feelings or opinions (because only you know how you think and feel, and they can't insist otherwise). So if they say 'wines are vegan', you might offer:

I'm not too sure about that, they could possibly use animal products in the process, I'd need to check (online) first.

This is even if you know it's not vegan, what you're doing is appealing to their lack of knowledge as well. Have they checked? Probably not. They might try to say 'well, it's only grapes' or 'it's only bread', to which you can say.

Even so, I would still need to double-check online first, a lot of products can be surprisingly non-vegan.

This emphases your requirement is to check online first before you can accept anything. If they're laughing at you at this stage for wanting to be sure in your beliefs, it might be a form of bullying and not healthy social situation. They wouldn't laugh if a Jewish person wanted to check if something was Kosher, so why would they laugh at you for wanting to check something is vegan?

Also it might be worth adding a few side facts of things that sound like they should be vegan but aren't. Vegetable soups, sauces often contain milk, and certain types of sugar are dyed with cow bones, and if they laugh, you can tell them they can always check. : )


I'm not sure that you can get them to stop laughing. What you might be able to do is to shift the meaning of the laughter. Rather than say, "Well, actually, not all wines are vegan", consider the following conversation:

Actually, even things made entirely from plants can be non-vegan if they are prepared with animal products. And wine is on the list of things that one has to check.

Then when they laugh, say something like

I know, right? What's the world coming to when you can't even rely on something made entirely from grapes being vegan?


I know, right? What's the world coming to when a vegan can't even get a bloody drink?

This doesn't stop the laughter, but it may make it feel more like they are laughing with you rather than at you.

You might finish with a sorrowful.

It's a cruel, carnivorous world.

If you think that they will take that too as a joke.

In this particular incident, you came off as a bit of a know-it-all because you rejected their joke. It's a conditioned response to broach rejection with laughter. (This is a coping response in social psychology to diffuse awkward situations.) If you had instead just said...

Even so, I don't want a drink right now.

You wouldn't have started down that path.

While your statement was true, it wasn't really responsive to the real question asked--if you wanted a drink. Since you didn't, vegan or not, you probably should have focused on the not wanting a drink.

If you do engage (and in many other circumstances, you won't have much of a choice), try to be clear that you're not basing this on your own knowledge. Instead, it's about exterior knowledge. If it is well known among vegans that one has to check even things that are obviously plant-based themselves, refer to that. My example implied there is a vegan's list of things that need to be checked--beyond the obvious.

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    I think it's more helpful to give general advice with some examples, rather than a script. This answer steers too close to the latter. Different people express themselves differently, delivery matters and you can't enter a conversation with a rigid battleplan. This is especially true when you're trying to provide a script that is meant to be funny.
    – Nathan
    Aug 24, 2018 at 13:30
  • It may be fruitful, depending on the delivery. It's not easy to joke about oneself, especially for personal life choices. No one is going to exactly memorize the statements above anyway: psychology, memories are drawn up different each time. Therefore, the answer is truly not a script.
    – adamaero
    Aug 24, 2018 at 17:19
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    Scripts aside, I think this answer does a good job of explaining the underlying principle: the social interaction flow of a joke getting rejected and people responding with further laughter and humor (often humor asinine to the original rejecting party, which is a separate human issue) is important to understand, and honestly, acknowledging the initial joke and if possible letting yourself be amused by it is the best path to then being able to correct people. This answer might benefit from moving that explanation to the top, instead of it currently being at the bottom.
    – mtraceur
    Aug 24, 2018 at 21:29
  • On the other hand, I think this answer could also be better if it acknowledged that sometimes people laugh just because ridicule (light or otherwise) of abnormality (anything not mainstream within the social group) is socially acceptable for most people. Which is a problem with the crowd, not the person having to socially navigate the crowd, and that's worth making explicit, I think.
    – mtraceur
    Aug 24, 2018 at 21:33

My daughter has rare, severe allergies and as such, even when she explains, people often don't believe her.

I am hearing impaired, but there are conditions where I hear better than others. I have other comparisons and things I've learned in life, but here's what it comes down to.

  1. People don't care. They really don't. If people aren't going to care enough to make sure they don't poison my daughter, they're not going to care if they annoy someone who's vegan.
  2. People don't want to be bothered with explanations. They live their lives and don't want the details of the lives of others.

So, what do you do? You just say "no thank you". without explanation. It eliminates the problem by not making it a topic of conversation to begin with.

We humans, being as we are, like to get inquisitive, and at the same time don't like being proven wrong. When confronted with information like "actually, xyz is actually treated with animal products" is going to make someone feel foolish for not knowing it, which is why you can unintentionally end up looking like a know-it all.

So, if you must discuss something like that, do it in a way that lets the person save face.

No thank you, I'm not in the mood for wine tonight.


I'm sorry, I'm not sure about that brand of wine, I heard they might be processing it with something I can't have, but thank you for the offer.

Lastly, if you don't know about a subject, don't bring it up. Again, this is where a polite "thank you" would be prudent.

Human nature is such that people believe that any topic brought up is one to be debated, so please be aware in the future if you bring something up, be prepared to discuss it, not just veganism, anything at all, is fair game for discussion.

When dealing with people who insist on being rude, consider the following approaches.

  1. A blank stare with a prolonged silence. This is a clear social signal that someone has crossed a line. Follow this with changing the subject.
  2. Simply changing the subject while turning away from the offender. Again, a social cue that you've sent that the person crossed a line, but you are letting it pass.
  3. "I'm sorry, that's all I have to say.

Again, I experience the same things when my autism comes up, from questions about counting cards to scraping forks against plates to test if over stimming me will get a reaction. Discussing things with friends is fine, casual contacts, not so much.


I feel like they laughed because you made your point about being vegan. Some people who have a belief or culture which isn't widely accepted will appear to be going on about it all the time - the vegan comment was a joke, and you took it as a personal attack.

It's a common belief or at least common joke in the UK, that vegans go on about being vegan _all the time_.

If you'd simply responding 'No thanks', they might have made another joke of it "Isn't it vegan enough for you?" or they may have left it at that, if they were genuinely trying to ask if you wanted some wine.

If they continued to joke, you can calmly tell them that you don't find it funny. If they continue still, it's time to think about if this is bullying and follow the appropriate processes (which will vary on your environment, work processes, etc).

The fact you pointed out (in their minds yet again that you are a vegan) is what turned this into a joke.


My wife is also vegan. I know the struggle at least second-hand. When she originally became vegan, she was (obviously) very interested in the topic and read lots of material, which in turn meant that she had some interesting veganism-related tidbits of knowledge for many occasions (the "wine is not actually vegan" one is just one example), and she brought it up quite frequently. To her, she was just making conversation. Unfortunately, it turned out that many (most?) people aren't actually all that interested in how various foodstuffs are actually produced, especially if it makes them slightly uncomfortable (which many veganism-related topics do). Your situation reminds me a lot of this early phase of her veganism:

  1. Somebody offers her some food.
  2. She says no, explains that she is vegan now, and offers some more-or-less interesting information about the offered food.
  3. The offering party is either confused, not interested, or does not believe her.
  4. A small discussion ensues (sometimes about being vegan, or about whatever information she offered), which invariably ended with somebody stating how vegans always talk all the time about veganism, or how they always want to "convert" everybody.

These conversations were quite frustrating to her, me (as I was often sitting next to her), but also to the other party.

Coming to your questions:

More important, how do I make them stop laughing at me? (I cannot control what they think but it would be nice if they didn't express it that clearly).

Easy. Don't get into that conversation in the first place. You know how it will end, so why bother? Note that the person offering you the wine was most certainly not asking a genuine question about whether wine is vegan or not. They were making a rhetorical statement, and your comment just led them into a conversation that they were unprepared for. Don't get me wrong, they were definitely acting like pricks, but (as I said), I have seen this happen frequently even in groups of people that are generally nice. As other answers, I suggest to just not follow up on the veganism-related comment. A simple "Thanks, not interested in a drink right now." would do in the future. Only bring up veganism if you actually want to have this conversation, and then be prepared to fight against some amount of ridicule and disbelief.

How do I convey to my coworkers that: I don't know the details, they can look it up themselves (so they don't have to blindly trust me) but, please, stop assuming that this cannot be true and that I'm silly/stupid/whatever?

As I said, they don't care about the details. It's not even about your information being veganism-related. To them, it just sounded outlandish, and they reacted in the same way as if you told them that the moon is actually made out of cheese. It will be extremely difficult to make people "stop assuming this cannot be true" for something that they really, really don't believe, and it's almost certainly not worth the effort to try. Change the subject, and move on.

  • 1
    Maybe add 'slightly annoyed' to point 3. I mean they offered food, and expected yes/no, thank you! and instead got a mini-lecture.
    – Ivana
    Aug 27, 2018 at 11:34

Since I'm vegan/vegetarian, I have to deal with this behavior a lot

No, you don't have to.

The dismissive behaviour is caused by vegans making such a big fuss about it, and is a perfectly normal counter-reaction to someone pressing a fanatical attitude. Note I don't say that you do that, but you get pressed into that because frankly speaking, a lot of vegans are straight out annoying to everyone around them.

Ordinary people do not make a point out of their eating habits. Everyone has something that they don't like or don't eat for whatever reason. But most people don't put a label on it ("I'm a smelly-cheese-refuser"). Vegetarianism and Veganism especially often come with a reason of animal well-being and not taste, and often try to make meat-eater feel bad about themselves. Nobody likes to feel bad about themselves, so a counter-reaction follows.

Ok, now you are in this corner, you put the label on yourself and are receiving reactions caused not just by yourself, but also by overly zealous and ideological fellow vegans.

Their laughter and humorous treatment of the matter is a way of dealing with it in a way that deflects the underlying issues. If they make a joke about veganism, they don't have to take a stand and flat out say "I like meat and if animals die for it, so be it".

You need to decide if you are an ideological vegan or not. If you are, there are a dozen ways of hurting them back, but I won't help with those. If you are not, understand that pushing back against this humour will bring the hidden feelings of discomfort to the surface and will very likely get you an even stronger counter-reaction.

So instead you need to disarm them. You need to make it clear that this is your personal choice and you are perfectly fine with their personal choice of not being vegans. You need to be non-judgmental and that is quite hard.

About the wine, for example, you could deflect the question by answering not just that you don't know all the details, but by offering to look them up and enlighten everyone at the next opportunity, if they are interested. If you remember some details, you can also use the opportunity to demonstrate that you are not judging, e.g.:

"Well, it turns out that some animal products are the best finishing agents, and non-animal substitutes don't come close. So these are actually the better wines, they just don't fit to my personal choice."

Showing respect and acceptance to an opposing view is what gets those who hold it to show the same to yours.


If you concern is being seen, and mocked, for being a know-it-all when you don't in fact know everything, then consider how and when you convey to people that you don't know everything. For example in the situation you describe, if instead of saying "Well, actually, not all wines are vegan" you had said something like:

Thanks, but no. It's not about whether this is a vegan wine though, I'm just not keen on how wine tastes to me.

  • you would have made the refusal about your tastes rather than what they might perceive as a moral stand. It might be worth you looking at this earlier question where someone was looking for ways to deflect difficult conversations when eating out, there are several answers which explore the degree to which some people can feel that other people's veganism is a judgement and/or criticism on their own habits. if you want to evangelise for veganism, chose your moments rather than trying to make every food or drink interaction into a teachable moment. It isn't your responsibility to correct every misapprehension about animal products you hear, and if you do try to always correct people when they are in error, they might start to see you as a know-it-all and laugh at you.
  • You would have raised the existence of vegan wines, (not about whether this is a vegan wine) but just in passing rather than the quite confrontational 'Well, actually....' approach. If the person offering you wine picked up on that and wanted to know more then they would have the opportunity to ask you what made some wine not vegan.
  • If someone does then ask you what can possibly make wines non-vegan you can make a very honest reply about the limits of your knowledge rather than feeling that you ought to have answers. Perhaps:

To be honest I've never really looked into the detail of it since I prefer (insert drink of preference).

Then if they push it at all, expecting you to know you can try to keep it light with something like

Hey if I'd known you were going to expect me to run a seminar session I'd have done some research and brought a PowerPoint.

or whatever would work well for your own sense of humour.

If you are think that their opinions of you being a know-it-all on veganism are already formed, then you might want to watch out for those situations where you have previously gone into 'human wikipedia' mode and change the script.

It is quite likely that some of your colleagues enjoy what we call in the UK 'winding you up'. The phrase is an analogy to winding up the spring of a clockwork toy and then letting it run. They may ask you questions about veganism because its fun to watch you go into human wikipedia mode. If that's the case, you need to break that pattern, you can't directly stop them asking, but you can change how predicable your response is.

Instead of reeling off information, try telling them that you have realised than endlessly giving them facts it isn't productive for you or for them. Tell them what you've told us, that you don't want to be a human encyclopedia so in future you are only going to make reference to these things if you need to know what is in something they are offering you to eat, or the ingredients on a menu if you are eating out together. You can confirm that you are always open to talk about your views if anyone genuinely wants to know but that you'd appreciate that being one-on one rather than a situation where other people can pile on for their own entertainment.

A strategy like this allows you to be up front about the limits of your knowledge and about your willingness to keep repeating yourself. There is always the risk that some of your colleagues so enjoy baiting you that they will just try harder for a while, but most people are likely to take the hint that the time for deliberately winding you up over veganism has now passed.

  • I translated "Well, actually..." from French and it was to show that we were having a casual conversation. What do you suggest using instead?
    – Ael
    Aug 24, 2018 at 12:24
  • I changed for "In fact,..." do you think it's a better translation?
    – Ael
    Aug 24, 2018 at 12:32
  • 2
    I can’t comment on whether something is a better translation of what you said at the time. I don’t think either version was helpful to you in an instance where you didn’t have the facts to hand, and that the habit of trying to give people facts is contributing to your difficulties.
    – user9837
    Aug 24, 2018 at 13:11
  • 3
    @Noon "Well, actually ..." and "In fact ...", in American English, are almost stereotypes of a know-it-all who is correcting another. "You know, it's interesting ..." is a softer approach that makes it sound less like a correction and more like you are sharing something that you find interesting and you think we may also. Aug 24, 2018 at 14:10

When talking to Non-vegetarians, try to imagine yourself in their shoes:

There are fruitarians, vegans, vegetarians, people who only eat certain animals (like pesco-vegetarians), etc. To some omnivores this can get a little bit confusing, especially since they don´t really share the values (or else they would be vegetarians themselves) and also some don´t really care. All they notice is that somebody is demanding extra-treatment. Also, some of them tend to feel guilt-tripped if you start to talk about vegetarianism-related topics.

So if you want to avoid any conflict, try not to give any information that is not needed / asked for. In your example, you could have just politely refused the wine, without giving any reason. That way you offer much less "attack surface". I guess the "at least you know it´s vegan" was already meant a little provocative, by starting to educate them you stepped right into the trap.

Also, correcting people when they are wrong just tends to cause resistance. So if it is not essential to you, just let them hold their (wrong) believes.


The answers here miss an important point of the actual situation [edit; most of them miss]. When a group of ~20 people come together to eat you can be sure they are going to laugh and make fun. They will not be interested in any details, no matter how accurate, about your Vegan situation or probably any other.

If your skills in social interactions are limited then my answer would be to simply say "No, thank you" to the wine and let it go. The comment of "Knowing it is vegan" was made in the least serious possible way, not as a challenge.

What little I know about vegan and other such diets is that they are well thought out. Accuracy aside, there is considerable thought and attention to each phase and part of all kinds of (worlds of) food available. The bad vegetarian reputation comes from non-vegans getting a blisteringly thorough answer to a simple question such as "What's for lunch?". The experience of too much information or great debate on food morality has been known to put people off.

I have my own health and diet issues. I make a point of not discussing them with anyone, Unless someone asks me particularly about them and then only if they have a need to know, show real interest and desire to learn. I've spent too much time listening to people telling the same story, or giving today's update, about their ongoing health and diet issues.


I've been vegetarian and on and off again vegan for 20 years. Best advice when interacting with working people is to never bring up being vegetarian/vegan. Simply decline food that you don't want to eat by saying you don't like that specific type. Ex: "No thanks, I don't like chicken sandwiches.". If they ask why, say you don't like eating it for health reasons. Everyone usually agrees with health reasons and will leave it at that. Health is personal and is a great reason to not do anything you don't want to.

I don't like Brythan's answer. Joking about it will just approve them joking about it again in the future. Since you said you aren't good with human interaction, I'm assuming most of them assume your whole identity is a millennial vegan. When talking to them try to talk about something that is important to you(hobby) that they can relate with and more strongly identify you with. People view you refusing what they consume as a personal attack on their lifestyle as you do when they joke about you being vegan. Treat it like religion and culture.

If you ever get use to conflict: Consider practicing debate. Show people videos on your phone of conditions of animals in the food industry right before their meal. One good video usually stops the topic ever being brought up again. There's a reason why kids cry when they find out where there food comes from.


Well, your strategy was a bit flawed from the beginning.

When the coworker offered you the wine, you simply should have said:

I do not drink alcohol, I am also a teetotaller.

(The problem here may be that a long time ago all common people in the USA I met do not know the word teetotaller at all. Hopefully that changed). If you want to explain something, use the most simple means. You simply should have pointed out that this a completely different thing apart from your veganism. In case someone would have asked why, you simply state without judgement that you simply do not like the taste of alcohol. This normally ends the discussion to 100% because you cannot discuss tastes of other people.

Now you have gone the path of veganism, so how do you proceed if you are on this way or if you are not a teetotaller?

Wine should be actually vegan so the behavior of the people asking you what is wrong with it was completely normal. Yes, you should learn the important details about your lifestyle choice. You see, for many people some specific choices have an air of being gullible, easily influenced and fundamentalistic (I do not say that it is a so, simply that people think so). The deck is stacked against you in this regard. A "Hey, I do not know the details, but look for yourself" gives you the not-so-good impression that you base important(!) decisions on hearsay.

The correct decision if someone wants to give you such a present is:

  • "Erm, are those winegums without gelatin?"
  • "Is this wine without fining?"

So you have not rejected the present yet, just asked for clarification. The people will now be curious what the problem with gelatin or fining is (because they do not know) and some will be very surprised or even shocked that gelatin consists of animal bones and skin and that wines are "improved" by putting e.g. milk/blood in it. Explain those things without (hidden) reproach.

The advantage is that there are alternatives and it is possible that the products are in fact fully vegan.

In short:

  • Keep explanations as simple and as resistant against objections as possible.
  • If you are unsure that a present is ok or if the person may not know that there may be problems with it, ask for clarification without outright rejecting the present. Explain the problem without reproach.
  • It is important to know on what information you are basing your decisions. It is your(!) life you are living, not the life of somebody else life and you are responsible for your life, nobody else.

"According to information I have been given..."

An easy way out of situations like this — even allowing some backpedalling — is to not state things as solid fact, but something along the lines of...

According to information I have been given, not all wines are vegan

...which then gives you an easy out...

...so just to play it safe here: thank you, but no thank you.

The reason for this is that you acknowledge that the information they have — or rather consider themselves to have — may be different than the information you have. This allows for accommodation of having different views on the subject at hand.

If they then go on to ask for details, you just say...

I do not have all the details unfortunately, but we can go look it up if you like to know more. Would you like that?

This invites them to make a combined effort to find third party information on the subject. Since you are at a stalemate where they (think they have) one piece of information and where you have differing information, you are at a stalemate. The stalemate can then be broken by finding independently sourced information.

This also solves the problem you were worried about as coming off as a "know-it-all". With this you are explicitly saying "Well, I am actually unsure, so you could be right. I am willing to have this arbitrated by finding information from an independent source".

If you started along the lines of...

Not all wines are vegan

...then you can correct that with...

Well, to be fair... to the best of my knowledge, which I freely admit is not perfect, not all wines are vegan.

With this you are not stating things as an non-negotiable fact, but as something tenuous, and that can be resolved, if the other party wished to do that. By doing so you are leaving it in their hands if they want to move forwards towards a resolution, or if they are happy with the situation as it is.


Something you might want to do, rather than lying about not liking wine or being teetotal, which you probably should be uncomfortable with as it might lead to issues later. Is simply to share that veganism often comes down to trying to remember from and keep up to date with lists of which products are always vegan friendly and which aren't. And admit that you're working on uncertainty but trying to play it safe, if you can include that you don't necessarily mean the wine itself, but the process (in italics in the quote), you might also come across more reasonable.

So, saying something more like

No thanks, wine bottling isn't always vegan and I can't check right now.

Should come across more reasonable.

If they still don't believe you and keep laughing, there's a trick to disarming that social tension you can learn in management and "personal presence" classes where you essentially stay in your energy through the laughter and imply you understand but won't change your mind.

So you remain stoic, (but don't frown, something between a slight smile and a blank expression is preferable, you're trying to seem reasonable but not upset) and once the laughter has died down, a simple

I wasn't joking, even wine production uses additives and animal products now

said with a straight face will make it clear that you understand the reaction but want your choice respected.


I think by immediately trying to explain yourself, you are already putting yourself into a defensive position. While this is an understandable reaction (they are laughing at you, after all), it is unlikely to improve the situation for you.

Instead, I would suggest putting them on the defensive by making them justify themselves (or rather: their behaviour). This can be achieved by politely asking something along the lines of

Did I say something funny? / May I ask what's supposed to be funny about that?

This may not always work, especially when dealing with a large group of people.

If you do go for the explanation yourself (animal products being used in some production processes), I would leave it at that superficial explanation. You can block further questions with

The exact details are just as irrelevant to me as the exact details of the leather production process, so I don't memorize them. The research is fairly easy, though, so if you're really interested, I'm sure you will be able to find out by yourself.

This makes it clear that you have done the research, and also gives a plausible reason why they cannot reasonably assume you can tell them all about it.

I would avoid discussing the details. This just opens you up for (further) attack.


Two things you should be focusing on: veganism isn't about the ingredients, it's about the process, and the default assumption is that a food isn't vegan. Presumably, you were having this conversation in France, so I don't know what exactly the words you were using were, but going with the English word "vegan", many people think that it's about what's in the food, when in fact it is about wanting to avoid foods whose production involves what they consider to be cruelty to animals, regardless of whether those animals end up physically present in the food. This would explain your coworkers' incredulity: wine is made from grapes, not animals, and it doesn't occur to them that there would be animal products involved in the production.

The other issue is that you're getting put into the position of trying to prove that it's not vegan, which necessitates a large amount knowledge. But you want to eat things you know are vegan, not merely not eat things you know aren't. An observant Jew isn't going to eat some random piece of food they're offered on the theory "I don't know it's not kosher". You don't have any obligation to prove to them that it's not vegan.

So I recommend a response along these lines: "Well, I'm concerned not only with the main ingredients, but whether any animal cruelty was involved in making it. A lot of products that you wouldn't think involve animals actually have minor ingredients that are food products, or have animals otherwise involved in their production, and different people have different ideas of what constitutes acceptable animal involvement, so I prefer to be safe and stick to the foods I know satisfy my particular standards."


As was mentioned in another answer, humor is a coping mechanism for dealing with a situation/information that we can't really handle.

For most people, especially non-vegans, they can't even process the fact that something made from vegetables could not be OK for vegans (and they probably conflate vegan and vegetarian, anyway). It's also rare to find someone who abstains from alcohol for any reason besides being an alcoholic. (I know, because I abstain for religious reasons, and it's fairly confusing. Fortunately I work somewhere right now that is rather accepting of this!)

Most people who argue/make fun will immediately stop when you agree with them.

In a situation like this, when someone says, "What? Not all wines are vegan? That's insane!"

The best response agrees with them - "I know, right?" (the agreement part), "It is crazy! But it's true!"

If you're in the US you can use a couple of phrases that may be part of common culture:

Strange, but true!


True story!

For most people, that will be sufficient. If you want, you can follow up with,

But fortunately for me, it doesn't even matter because I've tried alcohol before and don't like the taste/how it makes me feel/etc., so no thank you. (said with a smile).

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