I will be honest, I’m going to have a quick vent about vegans and vegetarians. As a once vegetarian of 6 years, and now passionate about real, traditional foods, I can assure you I understand both sides of the story.
I will start by simply stating one thing. Nutritionally, veganism is neither natural nor adequate, particularly for children, nursing mothers, elderly, or those attempting to conceive. It can be a fine temporary lifestyle choice, and can create a fabulous detox, but in general is devoid of nutrients that are impossible to find without incorporating some animal based foods. Without going on a fact-tangent, there are absolutely no traditional cultures that are vegan. Vegetarian cultures prize dairy and/or seafood. Humans evolved alongside wild or domesticated animal foods, and if that’s not enough information to raise a question or curiosity in your mind, then there is no conversation to be had for either of us.
The issue, for me, is not that other people are making a “wrong” choice, that I’m concerned for their health, or that they disagree. The problem is that vegetarians, and , even more so, extremist vegans, are so damn obnoxious in their tone and word choice. I’ve been very blessed not to have conversed with a combative vegan, but even the more mild folks have an air of superiority and condescension in their speech.
It’s as if they are subtly communicating, you don’t know what I know. But as a former vegetarian, I can assure you that the only way to be passionate about vegetarianism or veganism, is to be ignorant. I researched vegetarianism and veganism intently, but was very careful to avoid reading pro-animal product comments, research, or other sources of information. It’s as if I knew there would be something there to deter me from my current lifestyle choice.
I was incredibly hard headed. There are so many equally obnoxious and ignorant omnivores in the world, and, sadly, that was one of the major reasons I was vegetarian for such a long time. People’s opposition is fuel to passion. Vegetarianism is adopted to one’s identity, largely due to questioning relatives or the look on the barbecue king’s face when you tell him you’ve brought your own veggie patty. The more people were abrasive towards me, or said “oh you’re still doing the vegetarian thing?” the more I swore I would never give it up. If any vegetarian has made it this far into my blog post, a little part of you must be agreeing, and that’s okay.
Only when I was pregnant with my son did I discover real food. The thought of feeding meat to a baby repulsed me, and I even discussed raising my family vegan. I picked up “Real Food for Mother and Baby” on a trip to the library to grab all sorts of pregnancy books; it was in a stack of ten. I was appalled when I began reading, but Nina Planck is so informed, eloquent and dignified, I couldn’t help but read her book cover to cover. What began as feeling horrified that someone would promote animal products for babies, turned into feeling horrified that I wasn’t eating them myself while pregnant. I bought grass fed steak the next day.
I digress. As I was saying, a key ingredient to vegetarianism is informed ignorance. Informed only on what one chooses to give his or her attention to. This is the main reason I am very upset by those who subtly imply that I am somehow misinformed. But alas, my vegetarian self likely would have viewed an ex-vegetarian as a quitter or conformist.
And there lies the rub. The ignorance combined with a completely condescending attitude, where vegans are heroes (because your body won’t allow you to give it all up), vegetarians are potential vegan converts, ex vegetarians are quitters, and meat eaters are uninformed, combines to create this classic model of an obnoxious vegetarian that many folks, vegetarians and omnivores alike, I’m sure are familiar with.
Vegans, I’m sure you don’t appreciate being associated with this stereotype, I know I hated it and felt embarrassed by extremists giving ‘normal’ vegetarians a bad name. The problem is, instead of being open minded and sharing information, conversations on this topic are an argument even one sentence in. Most vegetarians won’t even supply facts, I’ve had several say that “they’re sure” you can get all nutrients from some plant source or other. Them being factually incorrect doesn’t even bother me, it’s the matter-of-fact, I don’t have time for you, I do my research you obviously don’t do yours -attitude.
Omnivores can be just as bad. In the work lunch room I had many people become offended by my lifestyle choice simply upon asking what I was having for lunch. Without even a comment from myself, many would voluntarily provide a mini-rant defending their choice to eat meat. I view this as a chicken and the egg problem – did vegans make omnivores touchy to the topic or vice versa? It was likely simultaneous.
When the topic is raised with me now, I briefly explain my choice. I am insistent that babies should not be vegan, because babies depend on adults to provide nutrition, and heaven forbid a diet fad should lead to a newborn’s failure to thrive, common among vegan babies. Otherwise, to each their own. With the Internet at our finger tips, any relatively intelligent person has no excuse to be uninformed on a topic so crucial to life (literally life, as in staying alive), as food. I passionately discuss the topic with those who understand it from the same perspective as me. If a vegan ever had questions (they never do, they believe themselves all-knowing), I would gently answer them, resisting any tone of finality in my voice. My own blog is strictly for my own opinions.
May we all resolve, omnivores and vegans alike, to be mindful of other’s choices being their own. Let us assume that people are informed in their choice, not ignorant. Let others ask us for more information if they are interested. Surely no vegetarians or vegans became so by experiencing someone heatedly arguing with them, or subtly mocking them. I became vegetarian because I wanted to and because I was interested. As with religion, aggression creates few converts.