I know I kind of went quiet on the subject after posting the original Do Vegans & Vegetarians Think They’re Better Than Everyone Else post… but I wasn’t ignoring you and all your great comments. I was just ruminating. Stewing. Marinating, if you will.
I have some really strong feelings about this, and have had some really negative experiences, and I just couldn’t decide if/how much I should share.
But here I am, and I’m going to share. At least a little.
The original post included quotes from a recent NPR story discussing whether we, as vegans and vegetarians, think we’re somehow superior to meat eaters. Some of us do, some of us don’t. As much as the haters would like to lump us all together as if we’re one person, that’s not the case. Bruce Friedrich from Farm Sanctuary really summed it up when he said “Everyone knows there are saintly meat-eaters and cruel vegetarians…” No matter what we eat, there is no one size fits all.
But what actually defines “thinking we’re better“? Is it when we badger others about their eating choices, or is it simply when we try to share information? The definition is going to vary from person to person, but I’m willing to bet that a lot of omnivores would say that all vegans and vegetarians think we’re better, even if we never make a peep about it. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think some people hear the word “vegan” and automatically insert the word “militant” ahead of it. Or “crazy”. Or “annoying”, etc.
And I’m sure there are these big, bad militant vegans out there, somewhere- but I’ve never met them. I’m not going to say that there isn’t a single one (because there are) but I think they’ve become a bit of an urban legend being bandied about by a certain group of omnivores trying to justify their own food choices. I’ve had the privilege of meeting and getting to know many vegans and vegetarians through my local meetup group as well as through the blog, and I feel pretty confident when I say that none of them would ever physically or verbally attack a stranger for ordering meat in a restaurant, or yell at some random child on the street about the horror stories of slaughterhouses (and yes- I actually read that on a message board once, that vegans had done this to someone’s child.)
Do we want to share our passion for animal welfare and the benefits of a plant-based diet? Yes, absolutely. Are we annoying about it sometimes? Sure, probably.
Wanna know what else is annoying (not to mention insulting and hurtful)? Omnivores verbally attacking vegans, unprovoked, for our food choices. I’m going on record right here, right now that I believe this happens far more often than the other way around. (Let the flaming begin! But before it does, please know I’m not generalizing all omnis. I have plenty of friends with whom I can freely discuss food and not come to blows!)
I have two stories where this has happened to me. I try not to let things bother me, but these 2 instances have kind of stuck in my craw. They are also instances where I, the vegan, did absolutely nothing to provoke either attack. Honestly!
The first happened last year. Picture three couples sitting around a table, 2.5 of which are omnivores. I’m the lone vegan. Now, I knew that certain members of the group had the potential to be hostile, so I had actually resolved ahead of time to not even mention the “v” word- and I didn’t until a few of the others started asking me questions about what I eat, how much weight I’ve lost, etc. They were honest, good-natured questions and I’d answer each one, then change the subject. I was actively trying to turn the conversation away from veganism. So we’re eating lunch, and I’m minding my own business, crunching away on my salad (the only veg item on the menu- a fact I didn’t complain about or even mention!) when all of a sudden one of the other girls, out of nowhere, bursts out with “Vegetarians are so annoying. What’s their problem? God it makes me so mad!”
Now, she knows I’m a vegan- and I can only surmise that vegans were included in her statement about vegetarians- but what could I do? Get into a brawl? I’ll admit I considered that option, but instead I looked at her and said “Seriously?” then looked around at everyone else to see if I was the only one witnessing this ridiculousness. Dead silence at the table for about 30 seconds until someone, thankfully, changed the subject. Now, if in the middle of her eating her lunch I had started talking about slaughterhouses, factory farms, animal cruelty, or even cholesterol, I would’ve been labeled as a Militant Vegan, right? I would’ve become the story she told to her friend over cheeseburgers and milkshakes, in an attempt to rationalize her food choices. “Vegans are horrible, you wouldn’t believe how rude this one vegan was to me at lunch the other day…I could never be vegan.”
Yet she, as an omnivore, is allowed to say that to me? The most maddening part is that even just defending myself probably would’ve earned me the militant title too, I’m pretty sure.
Incident #2 was a bit more recent and a lot more tricky. I was going to be surrounded by a lot of people (which I find difficult to begin with), and there were two in particular that I knew were just itching to start trouble. Picture the Mean Girls animal fight scene (and no, it’s not often that I compare myself to LiLo). Again, I went into it keeping to myself. I really just tried to not talk to anyone about anything. A few people asked me questions about my diet, and I was actually the recipient of some very unexpected kindness, which was a nice surprise. But, of course, the close-minded mean girls always rear their ugly heads. It was just one comment but it was directed directly at me, and it was mean. And it was 100% related to my dietary and lifestyle choices. Did I mention it was really mean? This time brawling wasn’t an option at all (which sucks because this time I was assured a win!)… and neither was defending myself. It was late, there were too many people around, so I just turned on my heel and left the room. What else could I do?
People want to complain about “Militant Vegans” and “Vegan Police”, but my experiences have been the opposite. Granted, these are just my experiences- other people’s may be vastly different.
I do want to say though, that while this type of situation makes me sad and angry, I wouldn’t give up being a vegan for the world- I love it and I’m proud of the way I live my life. I have no problem standing up for my beliefs and I love talking to (open-minded) people about animals and veganism and health, but sometimes we have to choose our battles. And I’m madly in love with the vibrant communities of vegans that are springing up all over the world, both online and IRL! You guys are all so awesome!
And, if you’re really good, maybe I’ll share some stories about the times I did decide to brawl 🙂