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One of the issues faced by many vegetarians is dealing with non-vegetarians. While it’s true that some vegetarians will make comments and try to “convert” meat eaters, I think the majority of us see it as a personal choice and accept that some will choose to eat meat and others don’t. For some reason, many meat eaters are unable or unwilling to reciprocate in kind, and take it upon themselves to attack or try to “knock some sense into” vegetarians.
Some meat eaters will ask question after question, like “Why don’t you eat meat? (lots of reasons) How do you get enough protein? (here’s how) Don’t you miss the great taste of steak?” etc., etc. Personally, I get very tired of these exchanges, and am always on the lookout for some sort of response that will educate the meat eater, or at least make him/her stop bothering me. Here are some possible responses and strategies that have worked for others:
To keep it short I’ve started just saying “I think it’s the right thing to do” or “It’s a decision I made.” (by Christy23664)
“It was a personal decision/choice” is always a nicely vague way to go, with the option to expand into an explanation should anyone pursue the matter. (by Jperceval)
If it were me, I’d say “Why not?”, using the exact same facial expression, body language and tone of voice as the person asking the question. Maybe they’d get the hint that it’s none of their dang business why you choose to eat what you do. If they’re truly interested, that’s one thing, but if they’re just being confrontational, you are not obligated to justify yourself. (by Nightfall)
Sometimes people make unkind remarks about a person who is making different choices because they suspect that you are doing something that they should be doing too. Since they don’t want to, they have to make fun of it. Otherwise someone might ask, “Why don’t you do that too?” I don’t think you are responsible for their education unless you really want to educate them. Usually if you just ignore the remarks and it is obvious that they do not bother you, then such unthinking and unkind people get bored with bothering you and look for someone else to make fun of. (by Crowtalker)
If people tell you it’s “stupid” I would suggest politely telling them “Look, I’m not telling you what to eat, can you give me the same room?” I know it sounds naive, but politeness in the face of jokes can 1) stump bad-natured people into silence, and 2) make good-natured people realize the jokes are getting old. If they tell you its not healthy, tell them that Fred Rogers, from Mr. Rogers Neighborhood who died recently, was a vegetarian, and he lived until 74 and swam at the YMCA twice a day up until the day he died. (by LibChristian)
Admit that vegetarianism/veganism CAN be unhealthy (so can Big Macs!), but that you’ve researched it and you know how to do it right. (by Curt1929)
It is a personal choice, and people have a right to choose to eat meat or not. It’s an ethical choice as well, but no one has the right to make anyone else feel bad about their choice. No matter what side you stand on, it’s not a war it’s a choice that each individual has to make for themselves. (by DolphinBabe)
I almost always cite environmental and health reasons over ethical reasons when asked why I do not eat meat. People are less likely to respond negatively to those reasons since they make so much sense, and are facts rather than a matter of opinion. People usually say nothing in return when I tell them that about 70% of all the grain grown in this country goes to feeding lifestock, instead of feeding people directly. Even someone with little intelligence can not help but to be shocked by that statement. Citing ethical reasons almost always sparks up a negative discussion, so I usually avoid it even though that is also a major reason I choose a plant-based diet. (by Amitrisin)
I always say your meal ethics are based on your location. Instead of eating a dead cow, if you lived on the flipside you’d be eating a dead German shepard. It’s just where you were born. This basically grosses people out and makes them think at the same time. (by LisaDetroit)
I asked them if they had any pets. They went on and on about their 2 precious dogs until I asked them how they would feel to see them packaged in their grocery stores meat dept. They had nothing more to say. Life is life, why do we value cats and dogs more than chickens, pigs, and cows. It is agasinst the law to kill a pet(cat, dog)What a double standard! (by Amitrisin)
When the store at work makes their pre-made salad with bacon on it, my co-workers don’t understand why I won’t get one and “pick off” the bacon. I asked one if she ordered a salad and it came with bits of Cat meat on it, would she simply pick off the meat and eat the salad, she of course replied “No, I would be disgusted.” To which I replied “Exactly”. She actually got the point... (by AmyDyan)
Avoid the word “vegetarian,” it is like saying “tree hugger” to many unevolved people. Instead try saying, “I eat a plant-based diet.” (by Amitrisin)
The other day I met this neighbor who everyone says is a real curmudgeon. He is, but he seems to like me. When the subject of my vegetarianism came up he said, “Oh Jesus, my daughter is a vegetarian. I hate you people. We have these beautiful steaks and you refuse to eat them.” I said, “Hey, you should be grateful – more for you!” That stopped him in his tracks. (by Laura the Veggie)
Another possibility is to knock their socks off with a phenomenal vegetarian meal – take a look at my list of gourmet recipes.
Do you have any advice for dealing with the challenges of meat eaters? Please share them with us at Veggie Table on Facebook.
Also see Dealing with Vegetarians
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Laura K. Lawless
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