Whether a vegetarian or a vegan, I am quite certain that you have been asked these questions before. Be it from a coworker, from a friend, or from family, there tends to exist this confusion and disbelief in a person eliminating meat or all animal products from their diet.
Are you still not eating meat? How about cheese? What, not even cheese?! Oh, well, one of these days! Haha Everyone caves to bacon. I know this guy from work, he was a vegetarian for 10 years. Then, one day, he decided to eat bacon, ate a whole pound of it! Never went back! Haha Are you sure you don’t want any nachos?
These conversations are assuredly frustrating when they take place, but I make sure that I don’t put too much fault on the person. Most often, the inability to grasp the idea of vegetarianism and veganism comes from ignorance, and I don’t mean that in a disparaging way. Their ignorance is either borne from normative cultural diets or imperfect education, both of which have not been questioned due to their normalization. This, along with its confusion and questioning, follows with its own inherited beliefs and concerns:
You’re not getting enough protein on your diet…you’ll end up looking sick…you won’t be eating enough…MALNUTRITION…the human body is meant to eat meat, just look at our ancestors…
Because of the formulaic conversation presented above, it can be difficult to admit that you’re a vegetarian or vegan to people, knowing that an identifiable stereotype and misunderstanding comes along with it. However, no one should ever feel uncomfortable in talking about it, whatever comments or shifty gazes they might get in return.
In regards to the normalization of cultural diets, especially that of the American diet, vegetarianism and veganism is rather antithetical in comparison. For that reason, it is just as important to present yourself and your reasons for choosing the diet and lifestyle you adhere to – whether for ethical and/or nutritional reasons. In saying this, I am not calling for people to press their beliefs upon other people – running out into the streets and screaming about the benefits of reducing the consumption of animal products – but to have civil conversations on the matter when they present themselves. Because just as much as you might not like hearing others rant and rave about meat, others don’t want to hear you shouting from the rooftops about kale.
Ignorance comes from inexperience. Whether that inexperience comes from not knowing people of other races, genders, religious beliefs, or dietary habits, it builds stigmas and stereotypes of the supposed different person. These stereotypes continue unless the individual begins fostering experience with people unlike themselves; otherwise, they are living with a void in which they are surrounded by like-minded people unwilling or uninterested in testing their ethical beliefs.
Discussing the topics of diet with others, especially those that do not understand the reasons for vegetarianism or veganism, is a means of deconstructing dietary norms while educating others on the ideology behind removing animal products from your diet. This is where the political doctrine of vegetarianism and veganism seeks to create a foundation. It comes not as a means of indoctrinating and converting people from their current dietary habits, rather to inform them of the benefits and reasons for vegetarianism and veganism.
No matter the lack of knowledge of another, or the chiding you may receive, do not fret over the matter. Attempt to civilly enlighten those that have little to no conception of diets unlike their own, when the situation arises. Meanwhile, advocate for what you believe in and attempt to create change around you. Through educating others and speaking truthfully for what you believe in, you are being absolute. Whether it creates immediate change is not the question. Speaking wholly in your own voice, you are presenting yourself faithfully. It might not stop the “still not eating meat?” questions, but perhaps it may. That alone is worth speaking up for yourself.