Your Thoughts Thursday: Facing Confrontation

March 18, 2010 by Keri

We all know that vegan isn’t the majority, but I continue to be surprised by the reactions I get when people find out I’m vegan.  I have to admit, without even discussing the ethics, I have found that generally people are very defensive about their food and offensive about others eating differently than them.  I’ve even stumbled across vegan hate articles, forum threads, and blog posts while I was researching other things.  People hate vegans?!  That’s a lot of energy to focus on someone’s personal lifestyle choices.  It doesn’t bother me that people think I’m odd, but there are two things off the top of my head that I find frustrating (or humorous).  This happens to me often; someone will ask me why I’m vegan and then get upset and defensive about my answer, but “you asked me“!  Also, I hear a lot, “but where do you get [insert nutrient]?!”, but to the same question in return the person has no idea where they get said nutrient.  Alright, I’ve done enough blabbing.  What do you think?  How do people react when people find out you’re vegan?

  • Do people get defensive or seem interested?
  • Do you ever avoid someone finding out just to save yourself from debate?
  • Do you think the general public, without knowing you personally, has a negative opinion of vegans?

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  1. Andria @ Veg is Sexy says:

    I think the negativity and defensiveness comes from people knowing deep down that it’s wrong and destructive, but they don’t want to change their ways and so they defend to the end.

    I do sometimes try to skirt around the subject just to avoid the other person grilling me to no end, although I know it’s better to answer all questions in a positive, friendly, non-defensive way so it seems less intimidating. Once you start, eating vegan is NOT hard at all it just seems that way, so I try to encourage people to do what they can.

  2. Jameson says:

    As with many lifestyle choices, the vocal minority sometimes stand in the way of cultural acceptance and tolerance. Veganism has its share of rude, trend dieters who ascribe their disciplined eating habits to an inherent superiority over other eaters. These people treat veganism like it’s an elite cult rather than an individual decision, a stance that repulses outsiders.

    In that regard, veganism is similar to eastern religions like Buddhism. A lot of young westerners are embracing it as a trend without really understanding it, then condescending to people who don’t agree with their beliefs, then ultimately giving up on it because it isn’t getting them anywhere. On the other hand, the people who treat non-followers with respect and continue to focus on their own personal development and growth are the ones that improve the general perception of the movement as a whole. Basically, keep doing what you’re doing, and eventually, people will understand.

  3. Regina says:

    I get a variety of responses. Most frustrating for me currently is at my new job. As people are finding out I’m vegan I just get laughed at…no really, people walk by my desk and laugh, loudly. When one person found out I was vegan he thought I was an “extreme vegan” because I don’t eat anything that comes from an animal…he thought Vegetarian was Vegan. I straighten that out and explained the difference between Vegetarians and Vegan and now he laughs at me when he see’s me. Along with several others.

    Other not so wonderful things is how when I attempt to share my POV on being vegan with my meat eating boyfriend, he brushes it off. Actually he asked for information or for me to share my thoughts a while ago, and now when I do, he says to me “it’s like it’s homework” basically he’s totally okay with my veganism if I do all the work in sourcing my food, where we eat, etc and he then, does nothing. Sure he’ll eat vegan, but he won’t cook anything vegan for me, and well he just won’t do anything! My family (outside of my Dad & Sister) ignore my veagnism…I fly solo, have to bring my own meals to dinner, they do nothing.

    Ugh, venting, sorry. Vegan hate drives me crazy!

  4. Narelle says:

    i am a raw foodie. so not only do i not eat animal products, i dont cook my food. you can imagine the looks i get. ive gotten responses such as “why do you think fire was invented”. my response is always “too cook the bacteria out of the meat you eat.”

    i think people get so offended because it goes against everything they were brought up on.. meat and potatoes. you will be surprised on how many people know nothing about factory farming or anything, so that is why i carry around farm sanctuary packets on the issue. (i have 100 of them in my bag as i write this.) and for the people who claim to eat “free-range” i got a pamphlet for that too– again about 100.

    i am shocked that there are actually hate groups for vegans. i guess its the same as the religious hate groups. when someone believes differently and people dont know how to react, they just hate what that person does instead of listening to try and understand why they are doing what they do. its sad really, that someone could be so close minded. i understand when my grandma tells me “i have to eat meat to be healthy” because when she was young GM foods and factory farms didnt really exist yet. she doesnt know either of the terms, or even what “organic” means for that matter.

    i just keep spreading the word and enjoy the family arguments. my immediate family are super health concious so they love what i am doing. as for the rest of them, i treat them like the public and educate educate educate! no one will ever shut me up on this issue.

  5. Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) says:

    I try not to bring it up b/c it puts people on the defensive…and I just dont need drama…plus, I hate labels. So, if asked, I say we eat lots of plants, and I say it with a smile,and people don’t know how to take it sometimes, but that’s better than getting people all up in arms…normally it’s a passeby that id never see again anyway so just not worth it to me.

  6. Elena says:

    Yes, vegan hate/misunderstanding is very common. It is mostly due to ignorance and negative image media and “sceince” gives us. People think of us as tree-huggers with dread locks, chanting mantras, meditating, killing people to save animlas, etc.

    Now, when someone asks me WHY I am vegan, I usually start by telling them that once I respond, I want you to remember that I am simply answering YOUR questions, therefore I ask not to be judged or attacked, otherwise I will pass. A simple: for health reasons, quickly puts them to rest. If you, however, start mentioning the ethical side of veganism, they WILL act as if you are taking their firstborn from them and become defensive. So, I learned–answer though lifestyle that can be observed and respected.

  7. Melissa German says:

    I agree with everything that has been posted. Hard to be a vegan and NOT experience vegan hate at some point! Perhaps anything that is different from the accepted norm is suspect in our society. The vitriol from some groups is kind of shocking though. I’ve had people say to me, “You just want to get rid of meat altogether!” Ummm, yeah, that that’s kinda my idea of utopia . . . but I’m enough of a realist to know that’s not likely to ever happen. I’d settle for the world being largely free of animal cruelty though.

    Thankfully no one in my immediate family has subjected me to vegan hate and often co-workers are just curious about my veganism and not derisive. What has benefited me the most since I started on my vegan journey (after nearly 20 yrs as an ovo-lacto vegetarian) is finding a community of like minded people where I live to hang out with. I actually moved to Minneapolis solely because it’s such a veg-friendly city. The support has been amazing!

  8. Sara Stanton says:

    I don’t advertise what I believe in. I work at a college and encounter many different folks. When the topic of food comes up and they are talking, for example, about fish and ask if I like shrimp I just answer “No.” It’s easier that way. I do and have encountered the hate, many a time. Sometimes I feel like educating and sometimes I don’t want to deal with the stupidity. My almost 7 year old already does this. He told me he tells the kids at school that he eats meat. I asked if him if he wanted to eat meat and he said “No Mom, I just don’t want to deal with it.”

    Just recently I offered a co-worker some Veg cookbooks as she is interested and a VERY young student was flipping through the books. She asked if I was Vegetarian, I was comfortable with her and know her family, so I answered “No, I am actually Vegan” and she said “WHY?!!!” I gave my standard answer of “it is what suits me” and she got offended and said “well, what if you like meat and think it tastes good?” I said, “Well, then that is your decision. You have your choices and make them and I have mine.” She packed up her things left the office, came back in and draped herself over my desk and very dramatically said “I LOVE FISH!” and I said, “Good for you. I am happy you are able to make that choice.”
    I was really shocked at this encounter. Maybe because I know her family and her older sister is so not like that. I was taken aback and really thought about it.

    I get a lot of the hate from my in-laws, what can’t you eat? Or we can’t go there? Can’t you just have cheese once, it won’t kill you! Oh we forgot, can’t you just take the pepperoni off the pizza, it’s not like you are eating it! You are so hard to shop for! So it’s leather, the cow was dead already and so on.

    I have been used to people not understanding who I am and what I like or believe in. I am a fair skinned, natural red head who doesn’t eat meat, listens to non-mainstream music, wants to save the planet, wants to teach my sons how to respect nature and women and does not believe in organized religion! How much more can I ostracize myself from mainstream society!

  9. Keri says:

    Thank you so much for all of your comments! I really enjoy relating to your stories and opinions. I tend to thrive on information and I used to wonder if anything could turn me from a veg lifestyle, but one day it just clicked with me that I would never go back. No one’s response to my veganism makes me feel defensive or question my beliefs; I just feel at peace with my lifestyle and my personal choices. I used to feel myself tense up and panic when it came to confrontation over the issue, maybe because I was afraid that my “opponent” would have a better argument than me or leave me backed into a corner without the data they requested of me, but I no longer have that anxiety. I don’t feel as though I need to be the walking vegan encyclopedia, ready to call up defensive fact upon demand. I think much of the hate does come from the tendency of certain people to adopt veganism to be trendy (or non-trendy), taunt those around them with their new found lifestyle, and then go out for cheeseburgers, blaming something like “The Vegetarian Myth” or other ex-vegan manifesto for “opening their eyes to the evils of vegan” Can’t you just say you wanted a damn cheeseburger and leave vegan out of it? But it’s all about cognitive dissonance. “Well, I can’t eat a cheeseburger and think that meat is cruel and unnecessary, so either I’m wrong and should drop the burger or vegans are wrong and trying to manipulate this burger from my hand with their lies.” Obviously, vegan hate wins.

  10. andrea says:

    People would tell me that ” I would grow up eventually” that was one that always made me cringe. blah..

  11. Sara Stanton says:

    You know I thought about this question a lot today and just wanted to add one last thing. Not only have I been the subject of straight forward “vegan hate” but my husband gets it all the time as well. As someone who does not eat the way I do he is often ridiculed as not being “a real man” because he does not control what I eat. He gets nasty comments because he is raising our sons as Vegetarian. He stands up for me and our boys and has armed himself with volumes of knowledge to put the naysayers in their place. And now I will step down from my soap box.

  12. Heru says:

    I have to say that I’m an omnivore who happens to cook, allegedly. However, I must admit I need to extend my repertoire of recipes that include vegetarians and vegans. For instance, I would like to make pepper steak but, instead of meat, I substitute tempeh or fried soybean cake. My late mother would make it occasionally and would surprise my friends on how it’s so similar in texture and taste. Unfortunately, I have to go by memory or the snippets of notes I get from my fellow Indonesians.

    The same goes with fried tofu or jack-fruit as a protein substitute. Somehow I can get local faux meat stew fairly easily in my neighborhood. I’m lucky to live near Asian markets for ingredients and advise as well as blogs like Keri’s. As far as I’m concern, I embrace all cultures, ways and manners so long as it doesn’t broach propriety and beliefs.