Today, the Washington Post took a good look at the attitudes of meat-eaters, vegetarians, and vegans (link via Alex). It starts with a brief overview of how, apparently, meat-eaters see vegetarians (as “wan and undernourished” people that “can’t understand why everyone won’t make allowances for what essentially is their own choice”) and vice-versa (“Meat eaters are rude… They think animal products are the only way to get protein”).
The article then discusses the stand-offish attutide of cookbook authors from each camp. Anthony Bourdain refers to vegans as “a persistent irritant to any chef worth a damn” while Carol J. Adams says of meat-eaters, “I truly believed that when they asked about vegetarianism, they really wanted answers. I was wrong.”
Things conclude with a roundtable discussion with six DC-area vegans.
I think it’s a shame how this article seems to take the “us versus them” attitude of some people from both camps and really amplifies it. While I have run into meat-eaters that take absolute offense to even the most passive vegetarians, the majority of people I’ve talked to are understanding, respectful, and interested. At the same time, I’ve met a few “militant vegans,” but even among the misunderstood vegan community, the majority that I’ve met haven’t been the aggressive, self-righteous type, but rather laid back, intelligent people who made a choice for “compassion over killing.”
I think among the meat-eaters that do get offended by a vegetarian’s very existence, the problem tends to be that they feel threatened. They feel threatened that “we” are somehow going to take away their right to eat a fat steak and force them to eat a tofu gluten bulgur burger with a side of kidney beans and flax seeds. But that’s not the case. I know that I’d love it if family members became vegetarian, but I realize it’s a personal choice. And while I’d love for everyone I know to read about the horrors of factory farming practices and the political shadiness in the dairy, meat, and poultry industries, I know that forcing information on them won’t do any good. I wasn’t ready to hear it five years ago when I was eating cheeseburgers for lunch everyday, but when I was ready, that’s when the information made a difference in my life.
The best we can do is to answer questions and set a good example. Let people look at you and see your positive attitude, your good health, and your compassion for living things. Don’t let them see the bitter “I’m-right-you’re-wrong” attitude that some people associate with vegetarians. It’s the old idea of “lead by example.”
We can only change our own lives, but we can influence others’ without saying a word.