Wednesday, April 20, 2011

How To Be Vegetarian/Vegan Without Being A Jerk

When I first became vegetarian my family were really interested as to why. Why give up something so delicious? Won’t it affect your social life? Can one person changing their diet really make a difference? I would meekly reply something like, “I want to live peacefully, uh, it’s better for the environment, and uh, factory farming is really different to where most people think their meat comes from…” and then scamper away. In fact the day I became vegetarian an English backpacker questioned my beliefs the most intensely they’ve been questioned since I ticked the vegetarian box. It is difficult to argue your opinions when the person in question can’t see the point of your efforts, and it’s even more difficult to explain your beliefs when it requires you to delicately tell the people you love dearly that in essence their belief system is hurting adorable piggies and killing the planet, without making them feel like you think they are heartless bastards.

This was the first problem I faced. Letting people know why meat was no longer a staple on my meal plan. The second problem was the concerned parent/friend who was worried I’d be malnourished and end up with a puffy belly from protein deficiency like the kids on World Vision ads.

Needless to say I agreed (although it didn’t last long) to eat one or two eggs a day and make sure I eat beans and lentils until I turned into them.

(Aside: The whole “getting enough protein and iron” thing is an issue which turns many wannabe vegetarians off the diet change, but this needn’t be so, as it is quite easy to get enough protein in your diet from eating a range of nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, non-meat-animal-protein and trusty old whole grains, and iron can easily be delivered through leafy green vegetables (or, if necessary, vegetarian iron supplements). People have been following a vegetarian diet for hundreds of years and not dying because of it, if you’ve made a decision to chuck the “toosh” as Kris Carr puts it, then you should be clever enough to educate yourself and make sure you’re protein and iron intake is sufficient!)

Assuring your concerned friends and family that your diet is healthy can be difficult, especially if you’re the first person they’re close to that has made such a dietary change. Sure, you could rant for days about how it is much more acceptable to follow ridiculous fad diets to lose weight than it is to give up eating a perfectly interchangeable food type in order to express your moral views – but I would suggest that you don’t. Assure your loved ones that you’ve educated yourself on the topics of iron and protein intake and that you love lentils so much you could marry them, and let the conversation move onto something else.

Being peaceful and gentle with your discussion of your vegetarianism will help the “issue” dissolve into a simple, responsible fact. Having heated, angry arguments about it just makes more anger – in my case, the opposite of the reason I wanted to change my diet in the first place. Just because they don’t see your point of view now doesn’t mean they won’t down the track. Lead by example, and if you feel the need, offer delicious recipes so those interested could consider starting “Meat-free Mondays” in their house. Slow and steady wins the race, and arguing your point probably won’t convince anyone that what you’re doing is right, because it forces them to defend their way of life all the more fiercely – that never changed anyone’s mind.

Don’t be surprised if you find some unlikely opposition. A lot of my family was a little supportive of my decision (or they just didn’t care that much), however I got some rather vocal opposition to my vegetarianism from an aunt who was really the last person I’d have expected to argue against it. You could argue for hours with them, but this is another case where I recommend gently letting the tension slip by, as discussed above.

Being vegetarian or vegan is a lifestyle choice that often comes with a sense of superiority. I know it well and used to quite often consider it when my low self-esteem led me to criticize others – “she may be pretty or clever, but I bet she isn’t vegetarian”. There really is no need for this, and as I’ve come to a better understanding of myself (especially while on Kris Carr’s 21 Day Adventure Clease) and my thought patterns this kind of thinking is on it’s way out. After all, we’re all on this planet together, working as one. If we want to stop harm to animals, we should first stop all of the harm we cause ourselves, the old “don’t point out if your friend has a splinter in his eye, when you have a log in your own” thing (uh, thanks Jesus). Being kind to one another is the first step to making a kinder world for all of us (piggies included!).

To complete this post, I would like to offer this little video which I first found on Gala Darling’s website:

image source:

1 comment:

  1. Some really great points here, great post.
    I find when people first become veggie or vegan they are so full of passion for the cause that they can be too full on and attempt to convert everyone they meet- I know I did! But now I realise if you just live your life, answer questions in a non-defensive way and cook great food for friends and family you speak volumes!
    When around non-veg*ns I usually just say I don't eat meat or dairy rather than using the word 'vegan' as it has a stigma attached that some people are automatically turned off by.
    It is hard to strike a balance between coming over as either judgemental and 'holier-than-thou'or apologetic. It's not easy but it does get easier!


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