What’s So Scary About the Big Bad Vegan?

I wanted to expand a little more on my reaction to “Animal Rites,” because I think there’s a lot of vegan/animal rights hatred going on in our society, and I am trying to figure out why. This issue cuts especially close to home for me because I care about animal rights, a lot, and think it’s incredibly hypocritical that I eat animal products. However, I’m not in the mood for navel gazing about my own hypocrisy at the moment, so on to other topics.

What is it about vegans which other people seem to find so frightening, and so offensive?

I was a vegan for a number of years, and once I got over my proselytizing stage, I noticed that people really did seem to store up a lot of bile just to use on vegans, and I could never quite determine what the big issue was. Many people seem almost personally offended to discover that someone is vegan, and they can be quite nasty about it.

A large percentage of the world’s population is vegan/vegetarian for religious, ethical, social, and health reasons. It’s not, as someone said on a thread I read recently, a “rich white people thing” when a huge percentage of the people of colour living in poverty around the world are eating vegetarian. It’s also hardly a new trend, since people have been opting to avoid animal products in their diets for a variety of reasons for thousands of years.

I routinely see vegans viciously attacked in conversations and in print, and I’ve also been aware of situations in which people pressure vegans into eating animal products, or trick them, which I think is totally vile and unconscionable. Is what someone else eats really that big a deal? Is the very concept of choosing to avoid animal products so irritating that it’s necessary to sneak them into other people’s food? I see the same attitude about food allergies, which just amazes me, because you’re potentially getting someone very sick to satisfy some personal sick and twisted agenda.

People complain that vegans are arrogant and self righteous, pressing their agenda on others. And in some cases, this may be true. But people who eat meat can be just as aggressive, in my opinion. There’s a lot of lack of respect for personal choice in this society, and that clearly extends to diet, because people are constantly telling each other what they should and shouldn’t eat, and how they should live. Nowhere is this more evident than in situations where someone quietly confesses to being vegan and everyone at the table jumps all over them.

Personally, I think that everyone could benefit from eating a few less animal products. And I also know that it’s possible to eat a fully balanced vegan diet, and that people who claim nutrition or other bizarre rationalizations are just being recalcitrant, or stupid, or willful. Or they’re swallowing propaganda hook, line, and sinker.

I don’t feel the need to tell people what to eat, or to trick people into eating things that I think they should be eating. I do try to show people that eating vegan can be fun, and affordable, and interesting, but I’m not going to force the issue, and I’m also not going to cram cheese down a vegan’s throat. Everyone needs to do what works for them, whether or not I think that their choices would be personally right for me. What is with the almost violent outrage that people express when exposed to veganism? Why do people get so very bent out of shape about it?

It’s the same kind of attitude which people seem to express on any occasion when they encounter firm personal or moral convictions, and I find that very telling. Are people offended by veganism because they wish that they had the strength of will and personal belief to be vegan themselves?

One Reply to “What’s So Scary About the Big Bad Vegan?”

  1. My family became vegetarian when I was ten and I have a daughter who has been vegan for fairly long stretches of time. This has been a personal choice (well, not so much when I was ten but certainly for the last 40 years) that I consider to be similar to choosing not to smoke, choosing tea over coffee, choosing Mac over PC. In other words, part of who I am but not a big deal. Occasionally brought up in conversation but not in the spirit of proselytizing. However, there are idiots out there who feel that they have to force their personal choices on others, be they religious, sexual, nutritional, etc. I think they are most threatened by vegans/vegetarians because they know, on some level, that it might be a good idea to try it just as some people are threatened by queers because on some level, they want to try it. In addition, it represents a challenge of the received wisdom, of the status quo, and many people find that threatening.

    That said, I do believe that there are bodies who need meat. Just not that many of them.

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