"We live in a world where sometimes the saddest of behaviors, the most cruel acts toward people and living creatures is NOT the most offensive thing. The most offensive thing to some people is the way that my husband and I live."
My online friend Natala runs a blog called Vegan Hope, which documents her journey to health and losing over 200 pounds on the plant-based diet. Today she wrote a beautiful article about people finding her lifestyle offensive as compared to a 500 lb man who owns a restaurant called Heart Attack Grill. Clearly, there's something odd about this situation. She says,
"What is most shocking is that no one seemed to be as offended or shocked or upset that there is a man (the owner of the heart attack grill) who is making a living off of feeding people foods that he WILLINGLY admits will kill them and uses sex and cruelty toward obese people to make a living...The offensive part is that I, someone who was at the brink of suicide because of my weight and diabetes – decided to eat a healthy diet, free of processed foods and animals. The offensive part was that I stopped eating animals."
You can read the whole article here.
Natala's post inspired me to ask people on Facebook and Twitter if they found the vegan lifestyle offensive, why, and what vegans could do to improve. Here are some of the responses I received:
- Stop hating on the vegetarians and non-veg. That's one of the key things that really turns people off, the holier-than-thou attitude and the spew towards those that don't share the lifestyle.
- I only get offended by militant vegans. much like super-religious people, i dont need your opinion shoved down my throat! I only eat grass-fed, well-treated animals, and dont see how that is SOOO horrible
- More often than not, it's the sanctimonious superiority which, to be fair, is emblematic of any idealistic youthful endeavor (i.e. it can't be helped and probably isn't unique to veganism). Older vegans, when I meet them, tend to not exude it like the 20 something hipster vegans do. I live in walking distance of (2 vegan clothing stores) and more often than not my eyes roll when I see their clothing as the messages tend to be presented so aggressively. I just don't think their message is beneficial to anything besides ego.
- I think defining yourself as a vegan in and of itself sends the message of superiority...unless you are ordering something and need to clarify ingredients in a dish WHY would you NEED to state your veganism unless it is to distinguish yourself or send the message that you are living a better lifestyle than non-vegans??? I just don't see the need for labels unless you're trying to prove something or send a certain message. That said, my biggest gripe with veganism (and this is from someone who eats veg 60%, vegan 30%) is the whole egg issue...I have heard the most self-righteousness when discussing this, if it weren't for the fact that there are plenty of options (at least where I live) to get completely cruelty-free eggs, the arguments I hear about eggs might stand up but for the most part, they just come off as holier than thou.
- I'm not a vegan but if I go to a vegan restaurant I do not want every item to contain fake meat or cheese. There are plenty of great items that a vegan lifestyle can showcase without fake meat and cheese
- I think it all comes down to "feeling judged" or "they think they are so superior." As if buying cotton shirts was oppressive.
- Some can be annoying, like religious zealots, pushing their beliefs on other people.
- There is a reason some people are called 'vegangelicals'. It's the same idea that no matter how they behave, you are supposed to just take it. This tells me there is a fundamental problem in the way the message is conveyed...I think some (not all) people use their lifestyle as a means of feeling good about themselves in contrast to others. Nothing new about that, it's human. However, Dr King professed the strength to love being the real power to transform. Some people are satisified enough with being right and don't think about what's actually effective. I think, until people learn that being self-righteous is not helping the cause about which they feel passionate, they will not change.
- I get offended by the assumption that veganism is the only way to be healthy and eco-friendly and the assumption that if I choose to consume meat or dairy products that I'm uneducated and unethical and disrespectful to animals and the environment. And, quite frankly, I get this from A LOT of vegans of all ages. If there was more respect I think more people would be willing to incorporate veganism in to their life, whether full-time or part-time but there have been so many militant attacks by vegans for anyone who doesn't do exactly what they do that the diet/lifestyle becomes very unapproachable...and it contributes to the belief that veganism is harsh, not wholesome/comforting. And that's a shame.
- Don't assume why I'm an omnivore and vilify me. Ask me why and have a meaningful conversation. That's how we find common ground.
- It doesnt offend me..i just see it as impossible,...it seems like such a far away thing...i dont understand it at all
- I think a lot of anti-vegans have had bad experiences with them or don't understand it. I have seen a vegan lifestyle nearly kill a dear friend and believe there are a lot of things humans need that are not possible with meatless diets
- I am trying to be vegan...but what I find offensive is when vegans say, or imply, that they are more "evolved," and thus superior to, non vegans.
- I am an almost vegan because I see no problem eating sustainable items like honey or reuse leather product and get castigated by vegans and told I am an animal killer. Additionally veganism is often more a politcal statement ie assoc with PETA or other extremeist type groups and I do not like PETA or other such groups that have no balance or understanding concerning sustainability. Certain groups in certain areas have a very hard time buying organic or not eating ANY meat and there is no tolerance for them. I believe THAT is unacceptable.
- I am lacto ovo veg for 30 and raw vegan for 2 yrs. And now 98% vegan, and 70% raw... and I very much dislike militant vegans. I like being at peace and flexatarian. I don't enjoy rigid dogma
- People become uncomfortable when they meet vegans and then place that feeling on the vegan, as if the vegan is making them uncomfortable. Their own sense of mercy and compassion arises and makes them uneasy.
- I have noticed, that for the most part, if I say *I'm vegan* it can make someone feel more defensive, though I've never had any really bad responses, but if I say *I don't consume any animal products*, the reaction is almost always positive in the sense they are more inquisitive and feel comfortable discussing it if they want to.
- Nothing about Vegans offends. I am not Vegan, but neither am I "not" anything else. I am myself, arrived at through decades of seeking. And I embrace everyone who has sought and found, or who yet seeks.
- There is nothing wrong with being an enthusiastic practitioner of what you preach, as long as you are not judging other people for not necessarily having the same priorities, or being interested in the same causes.
- Sometimes we much offend the mind to expose the heart.
- Some people are assholes. Some people are vegan. Some vegans are assholes. 'Nuff said. :)
Every lifestyle choice has room for improvements. I am always looking for ways to talk about my choices in an unoffensive, non-judgemental way, so these comments were really informative.
It seems like the common thread here is judgement, ego, superiority, harsh, feelings of hate, or misunderstanding. Veganism, in my opinion, should be about love and acceptance of all living creatures, and yet it has so many negative feelings around it. How can we work together to change this while standing behind our beliefs? Is it possible to live a life of passion and be on a mission without offending anyone?
If you have something to add feel free to comment below (anonymously if you prefer). Keep in mind this is not meant for vegans or non-vegans to defend themselves - if you are a vegan I hope you welcome the chance to hear what non-vegans have to say and think of it as an learning experience.