In the last few months as we have been doing vegan education stalls one of the most common things to find is vegetarians coming over to us expecting us to pat them on the back and tell them how amazing, compassionate and wonderful they are for not eating meat (or in pescetarians' case for not eating land animals).
I'm sorry but we're not going to lie to you and pretend you are making any tangible difference, nor that you are doing your best to avoid exploiting animals, you are not. "But I eat free range eggs" I hear them cry and "I buy organic milk... sometimes". Exploitation is exploitation, no matter how "nicely" you do it. To borrow an analogy from Gary L Francione, hitting your spouse only on a Sunday but being nice to him/her before and after is still violence! By changing the circumstances in which we use them just changes the type of suffering. It doesn't matter whether a chicken is given an extra inch of cage space, what matters is that the chicken is in a cage at all.
People have long been wrongly led by large animal welfare groups to believe that vegetarianism and veganism are two sides of the same coin, they are not. Vegetarians (especially long-term ones) often become entrenched in the belief that they are doing all they can and have met their moral obligations towards other animals. Again I blame this on large charities telling them they're doing the right thing. I see nothing wrong however in people who pass through vegetarianism as they transition to a vegan diet. That's how Ruth personally became vegan.
However this does not mean that giving out vegetarian educational material is morally a good idea. It's like knowing that slavery is wrong and should be abolished but promoting "nice" slavery (you know the type where you only beat them if they do something REALLY bad and they get every 4th Sunday morning off). In fact in many cases a vegetarian diet high in dairy and eggs could be said to have a higher net cruelty than that of a standard omnivore.
So what can you do if you do come across such a vegetarian? Simple, do what we do and engage them on why you are vegan. Ask them why they're vegetarian? For the animals? Direct them to information on the obsolete male calves produced by dairy and the "useless" male chicks produced by the egg industry etc. For the environment? Direct them to information on the environmental impact of farming cows and destructive inefficencies of feeding grain to livestock. For people? Direct them to data on mental health and violent behaviour in slaughterhouse workers.
Most importantly remember that the biggest argument for veganism is the ethical one; that other animals are simply not ours to use and abuse. If someone opposes inflicting unnecessary suffering on an animal then they better make one hell of a case for why animal products are in any way necessary?
Finally having food at stalls helps, especially cupcakes/other goodies as it shows what good vegan food is available, that you can still eat "comfort foods" and that being vegan is not about "sacrificing" anything, especially taste. Have a look at our recipe pages for recipes that we have found to be popular as it really (ahem) "sweetens" the pill.