Once upon a time there was a girl who believed the hardest part of choosing a plant-based diet was deciding what to cook for dinner, making sure that nutrition intake remained balanced, and dodging her very beloved Grandma’s meatballs.
So, she planned the whole thing very carefully: a big book-haul on Amazon to learn everything about vitamins and protein intake, evenings spent scrolling through every veggie-themed board Pinterest had to offer and countless food blogs looking for meat-free alternatives recipes.
Everything was going OK – great, actually. Lots of meat-free options in her favourite food chains and restaurants; a very supportive boyfriend going wild with veggies and tofu in the kitchen, even her Grandma surprised her with some delicious zucchine and bean “meat“balls that everyone in the family loved, not to mention her wallet stayed fuller for longer.
Why didn’t she do this earlier? Why had nobody told her it was this easy?
Health and happiness followed, but so did the inevitable: the endless questions. And this is perhaps the one downside to going plant-based. The first realisation that every “new” vegetarian is faced with is probably this: the hardest part of your journey will be social acceptance. As any minority, vegetarians and vegans face judgment and discrimination.
Here follows a non-exhaustive list of questions and comments a vegetarian has to respond on a daily, sometime even hourly basis:
From the one who’s gone religious, all of a sudden:
– “The Bible says that animals’ only purpose is to serve us”
– “Jesus multiplied fish for us to eat them”
The Bible does say that man has “dominion” over animals. But does dominion really mean we have to torture and eat them? It could mean that it is our duty to protect them. And as for Jesus, well, there are sources that say he actually multiplied seaweed.
From the one who wanted to be a doctor:
– “Where do you get your proteins from?”
– “You are going to feel very weak in a couple of days, you’ll see…”
– “We have been created with canine teeth because we are supposed to eat meat”
The protein question is probably the easiest one you’ll get. Beans, lentils, chickpeas, seeds, nuts, tofu – the veggie world is overflowing with them. Aside from our canines, we also have a longer intestine than carnivore animals, indicating that we are meant to eat food that’s not as quickly decaying as meat. And as for feeling weak, well, ask these guys.
From the one who lets his/her imagination run wild:
– “What would you do should you end up on a desert island with no fruits, no seeds, no legumes, no algae, no drupes? No, no nuts either…”
– What if an alien would came and tell you the only way you can save the Earth is to eat a cow, would you eat it then? Would you save humanity?”
Honestly – no one knows why some individuals feel like they have to “catch you out” in a hypothetical situation where you could eat meat, but maybe gently remind this person that while you are highly unlikely to end up on a desert island, they have the choice not to harm animals every day.
From the speciesist:
– “I understand if you don’t want to eat horses and lambs, they are so cute! But what about chickens and pigs?”
– “OK, I get it, you don’t eat meat, but what about fish? Fish is so good for you. Plus, it’s not like they have feelings!”
Aside from the fact that it’s proven that fish DO indeed feel pain, ask these people why it should matter if an animal is cute or not. You might not find their baby cute – does that mean you should eat him or her?
Then of course there are all the comments a person will face during his first month as a vegetarian or vegan, until people get used to the idea of you not eating meat anymore:
“oh, are you still doing this vegetarian thing?”
“…this too shall pass…”
“I bet I will find you eating at McDonald next week”
The thing is, changing your diet and lifestyle can be hard enough, a newly vegetarian or vegan won’t generally have any problem explaining their reasons – however, questions that are merely aimed at hurting or mocking can be avoided most of the time.
The way I always proved my friends wrong when they said my food was boring, was simply to invite them for dinner. If you haven’t tried my pumpkin lasagna, you cannot judge!
Vegetarians and vegans are not saints, nor do they feel superior in any way, so comments like “you think you know it all”, “you are vegan but you don’t recycle at home”, “you talk a lot about environmental impact but then you take a plane every month”- yeah, we’d also like to be spared from these comments, thank you very much.
Nobody is perfect, vegans are not necessarily trying to save the world, but they are doing their part – they are doing their best and this is after all what it is all about. Doing your best.
Header photo by Jonathan Pielmayer via Unsplash