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Vegan / Vegetarian Discussion - All Things Veg*n Forum

I have had a personal dilemma come up after I became vegetarian and I'd like to share my own thoughts about a course of action that has worked for me.

Like I said in the introduction thread, I don't have a problem with people eating meat. I'm not their keeper and I'm not going to ruin their meal by blurting out the risks associated with it (17 cancer causing HCAs, prion diseases, chemicals, hormones). However, I do CARE that so many people wnat to eat meat because factory farming takes an irresponsible amount of land to feed one animal (many of which probably couldn't live in those numbers in the wild) rather than using the same amount of land to feed many people year-round, only to feed that animal's carcass to a few in a few meals. I also care that factory farming introduces chemicals and hormones into the food chain, pollutes the environment, and increases the likelyhood of producing robust infectious diseases.

So the dilemma is this: if I respect people's personal choice, but I also care about the effect of their choice, how should I act toward their lifestyle?

I have found in life that nobody wants to feel like they are being pressured to change; they want to feel like they are in control of their own change. People of a different religion yelling at you or knocking on your door are no more likely to sway you from your own beliefs than activists throwing paint on fur coats or being condescending toward omnivores.

People have to feel like the change comes from within, that they are the ones discovering the ideas. If someone asks me for reading recommendations, I'll throw a few unrelated, but good, titles at them and slip in Mad Cowboy among the books. When people at dinner ask me why I'm vegetarian, I tell them that I don't think it's appropriate dinner conversation, but I'll later offer them some of my food to pique their curiosity. If they persist in asking, just smile and wink and say "trust me." Most people aren't asking you in these situations because they actually want to know; they are asking because they feel threatened and want to assert the validity of their own behavior. If you go on the defensive and start explaining yourself, they win because it means they have a right to be questioning you. If you defeat them with sound logic, they (paradoxically!) win because they'll feel like it's a personal attack and you are a rude person (conveniently forgetting how rude they were in the first place). But if you casually blow their query off with the implication left that there is something they don't know, but want to know, then it leaves them hanging and wanting more.

If they are the ones actively wondering and engaged in trying to figure things out, then they are doing the work for you. They are making themselves more susceptible to learning and accepting new information and a new view at a later point- information that can't come from you, it must ultimately come from their own discovery (which can always be subtly guided along).

Responses (7)

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    Posted by Chia at 05/08/07 17:58:04

    Hey randomvegetarian. Thanks for posting that "dilemma" comment. It's good to read your take on this common dilemma. Keep vegin. - Chia

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    Posted by Shelley at 05/08/07 18:41:45


    I, too, try to avoid this conversation at the dinner table. When I have been asked by coworkers, I simply say, "Because it is so horrible what the animals go through. Factory farming is awful. The animals are tortured from birth until death. I can't be a part of that." If they politely continue to ask questions, I've found almost all of them have been very receptive. For my birthday, my workplace prepared an all-vegan potluck. The real trouble came from my own family. They pretty much attacked me on Thanksgiving, and I left the table. Haven't spoken to them since. I listened to them go on and on, and the minute I said one word, my stepdad started yelling at me. It's amazing what angers people. But I think you're right: they get on the defensive for the simple reason that you don't eat meat and they do. Wish you the best.

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    Posted by Jaxxy13 at 05/09/07 09:03:29

    I completely agree with the "you can't win for winning" concept, at least not during dinner.
    Unless a person has a genuine interest I won't enter into a discussion which ultimately ends up in a heated debate as many people take it as a personal attack on thier own lifestyle.

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    Posted by ausjay at 05/11/07 17:14:51

    Adding a bit of humor can be helpful in these conversations. e.g. the Bernard Shaw quote: 'Animals are my friends; I don't eat my friends' (then include the naughty addendum - I won't even mention it here...:-)

    Having grown up in a culture where vegetarianism is a very normal thing, I am amazed at the hassles people in the west have to go thru to maintain a veggie lifestyle...

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    Posted by dimitri at 05/12/07 09:02:04

    Been 17 years vegetarian myself in an extreme none vegetarian environment that meat eating is strong part of religion and culture(Greece, Orthodox Easter) I have to say that people can change and be conscious about food only with education, take time to see the result but it's the only way, arguments special to old people that eat meat for many years doesn't effect, I spoke to many people and some quit meat but they had no ideological background to support the vegetarianism and they fall into meat eating again after sometime…without ideological background its hard to change and special is harder to maintain vegetarian if you don't have a strong ideological background to support your veggie lifestyle. Every person has different approach on vegetarianism (health, economy, morality, spiritual, religious, naturist etc) I suggest you use different approach to influence the people according to the own understanding and lifestyle.

  • aurelie48's avatar
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    Posted by aurelie48 at 05/16/07 08:26:27

    Hi randomvegetarian. As vegetarians for well over 20 years, my husband and I have learned to relax about it. When asked why we decided to turn vegetarian, we just say, "It suits us". There is no need to go into depth and/or become politically correct. We figure they will make their choice when/if they decide to change...just as the saying, 'When the student is ready, the teacher will appear." It's not our place to change them. As a result of being laid back about it, I actually have friends who are now also vegetarians.

  • emama's avatar
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    Posted by emama at 05/23/07 15:55:58

    Hello There Friend!
    I know all to well what you are talking about,I find it hard for my self to not get offensive when being interrogated for doing whats right, The thing to always remember is not to let the ignorance of one corrupt you and make you lower yourself onto there level.
    When people ask me why i choose not to eat meat or dairy i start off with simple answers and always low key the more they ask me the more i educate them ,This seems to work out great for me =) I'm not one for confrontation so if it gets heated i simply step back and let them stand a fool on there own.....there's always a better way to express your passions without getting loud =) hang in there Hun!

Keep HappyCow Growing Strong!

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