Why are vegetarians so annoying?

vegetarian2 (1)When I meet someone new, I’m pretty open in the first “getting to know you” conversations. I’ll freely offer up information about my career, hobbies, reality TV preferences, and even my sexuality. But there is one topic I avoid discussing for as long as I can get away with — I’m vegan.

It might happen when I turn down a bite of birthday cake for the third time or have trouble mustering interest in going to a restaurant whose sole vegan option is a deflated pile of aging lettuce, but eventually, it comes out. If I’m lucky, reactions are something like, “You’re missing out on so much!” or, “Good for you, but I could never give up bacon.” Other times, though, their face darkens and the inquisition begins: Why are you doing that? Aren’t you worried about getting enough protein? If I paid you twenty dollars, would you eat this burger? It’s not like you’re making a difference, you know that, right? It’s as if the words “vegan” and “vegetarian” are triggers that open up a store of pent-up opinions about food politics and morality.

This reaction of general negativity is not just in my head, either—a paper by Julia A. Minson and Benoît Monin sheds some light on why people might have curiously strong reactions to vegetarians. Their paper, “Do-Gooder Derogation: Disparaging Morally Motivated Minorities to Defuse Anticipated Reproach,” investigates how and why people who eat meat act negatively towards those that don’t. They conducted several experiments asking meat-eaters about their feelings about vegetarians and their morality.

The authors asked meat-eaters to generate a few words they associated with vegetarians. Unsurprisingly, 47% of participants came up with at least one negative word (like “malnourished” or “self-righteous”). When asked, participants also felt that most vegetarians would view themselves to be more moral than the average meat-eater.

The most interesting part of Minson and Monin’s findings, though, was that the more morally superior participants judged vegetarians to be, the more negative words they attributed towards them. For this reason we might be more accepting of the vegetarian that sighs, “I’d love to eat meat, but right now doctor’s orders say no,” than the one in a PETA shirt.

The researchers attributed this effect to what is called “Do-Gooder Derogation,” or our tendency to put down others if we feel they are morally-motivated. When someone’s behavior is overtly moral, we often feel annoyed and resentful, rather than impressed or inspired. Minson and Monin see this as a result of “a knee-jerk defensive reaction to the threat of being morally judged and found wanting.” In other words, when we see someone riding on their moral high horse, we assume that they’re accusing us of being immoral by comparison. No one wants to think of themselves as a bad person, so we naturally respond defensively with resentment and derogation.

While I can’t speak for all vegetarians and vegans, let me assure you that there’s no moral judgment on my part. I think we’ve all got the right to eat (or not eat) whatever we so choose. So let’s make a deal: I’ll eat my veggie burger, you eat your steak, and we’ll both struggle valiantly not to heckle the yuppie charging his Tesla.

~Comic and post by M.R. Trower~

Source:

Minson, Julia A., and Benoît Monin. “Do-gooder derogation disparaging morally motivated minorities to defuse anticipated reproach.” Social Psychological and Personality Science 3.2 (2012): 200-207.

142 thoughts on “Why are vegetarians so annoying?

  1. As a former vegetarian, now *social* meat eater, I agree this is a real issue. In *my* case, when I’m around vegetarians, I think they *are* more moral often, *and* I feel glad to be encouraged to join them in not eating meat.

    It’s *super* extreme to do this, but consider a really bold political issue: slavery. If you were a slave-holder and you had neighbors who refused to own slaves or went a step further and only bought goods from non-slave producers, you too might react negatively to them.

    A more modest contemporary example might be people who bike-commute. Drivers treat them negatively far too often.

    There’s no easy way to navigate the issues here. We can’t wish away the politics. We have to allow that some aspect of the discussion includes the idea that it is actually WRONG to own slaves, to drive a car when you could bike, or to eat meat. I don’t think people should feel the right to be free from judgment.

    Here’s the distinction: if someone with certain religious views tells me I’m going to hell, I don’t feel awful about it because I don’t think their view has any merit. But a religious person who *does* think maybe they should go to church more… that person *will* feel more uncomfortable. They are being judged and they *agree* with the judgment somewhat.

    Meat eaters who find vegetarians threatening are probably almost all people who actually think they might indeed be in the wrong for eating meat, and they don’t want to think about it. Meat eaters who are truly comfortable with themselves and confident that they are moral will not feel threatened.

    • I think comparing slavery to animal eating is a little extreme. Animals are not human beings, they feel pain and deserve compassion but there are people who still live in slavery. This comparison concerns me.

      • I wasn’t comparing meat-eating and slavery, I was comparing the arguments and social behavior around them. It’s as simple as: we all know slavery is wrong. Therefore, we can reject any defense of X if the very same defense was used do defend slavery. It might be that there are *other* reasons why X is ok and should be acceptable. The significance is that it is really hard to see it now, but slavery was truly once socially acceptable. We have the responsibility to make sure that we have *better* moral defense for our positions today than the slave-holders and slave-traders had.

        I happen to believe that there *are* better arguments in defense of meat-eating than in defense of slavery, because they are quite different issues. But I reject the argument of “you should not judge; you should let me be comfortable with my lifestyle” because *that* argument is corrupt — it *was* used to defend slavery. That doesn’t prove anything about meat-eating being wrong. It just proves that the particular argument is no good.

    • I think you nailed it — meateaters DO feel they are in the wrong and the mere presence of a vegan (hi!) reminds them that they are being hypocrites (I LOVE animals, but I can’t live without a burger!). Not all of them, of course. Just the ones that act like jerks when vegs are around.

  2. Any correlation with the concept of people rejecting and being hostile to behaviors outside of the “norm”, wherein such behaviors are considered deviant and therefore under suspicion? If 50% of people were vegan, and 50% ate meat, would the “judgement” effect be just as strong? What if 97.5% of people were vegan, and 2.5% ate meat? How strong would meat eater “do-gooder degradation” be then (as opposed to feeling “oh that’s cool…I’m the weird one who needs to explain myself, and maybe I need to conceal my behavior in most social contexts”)? (citation – Google told me 2.5% of Americans are vegan)

    Most people do what everyone else does with regard to social norms, and confront nonconformity with hostility. If you do something that 97.5% of the population doesn’t do, at a minimum you get questions (e.g., “I only date people who don’t eat shellfish” – even if hypothetical person has good, say, religious reasons).

    Not even close to an erudite response, but sheesh…encountering rejection out of hand should be the expectation, with heaping side of rationalization and at least a dash of cognitive dissidence thrown in. People don’t like to feel wrong and will go to great lengths to protect that. Mainstreamers being totally embracing and accepting of such behavior would be a total shock, and way outside the understood bounds of human nature. As long as the conclusion isn’t “people are mean to vegans (because they secretly know they’re superior)”, and instead “people are mean to people who aren’t like them, especially when they somehow feel like those people are being sanctimonious, self-centered douchebags (deserved or not)”, then I’m cool with the general assertions presented. Feels pedestrian however you slice it.

  3. Here are my thoughts and feelings. I eat also meat, but I had many friends in macrobiotics and many times I ate with them (they are also very good cooks). No problem for me about the decisions of others in this field. It’s almost a year, that in Coursera I find two vegetarian teachers (wonderful teachers), one gave as assignments “vegetarianism” (the course was not about cooking), the other giving us a subtle and perverse questionaire trying to make people feeling in fault who eats meat. Then I discovered a friend of mine is vegetarian and on facebook attacked those who were not.. I felt offended by his general accuses.
    In recent time I find the situation is opposite: Following the cartoon it’s not the quiet vegetarian that with his only presence disturb others, but there is a explicit or subtler tone of aggression of vegetarians towards others. And having a quiet discussion with them is rather difficult.
    (I don’t think vegetarians have higher moral values, why??) So I agree with title : at last I find these people quite annoying if they try to persuade me, often/always with very similar old arguments.

  4. I exercise almost religiously, eat healthily and am usually judged for it by lazy people but I really don’t care. When I return to junk food I don’t feel better just overwhelmed in some ways by taste and flavor, it’s too much! I think there’s something to appreciate in the small things in life. There’s no reason to limit yourself fully all the time but indulgence is a steady balance. Vegans however are a more extreme version of dietary nutritionists, in many ways you are indeed missing out if you lack the income to support the nutrients of such a diet, but indulgence simply isn’t required if it results in better health. If you have the income to support supplementary proteins, irons and omega-3s in more than just vitamins, since you definitely don’t want to be low on those, good for you. I’m not one to judge and I would applaud you on your efforts.

    • you don’t need supplementary proteins,irons and omega 3’s pills as a vegan. As a vegan, you get more iron (in green leafy veggies), omega 3-5 (in avocado’s, olive oil and all nuts in the world) and proteins (tofu, nuts and all beans) than people who eat meat. I think you are a good example of people who are not informed about the nutrients in a vegan lifestyle and probably brainwashed by thinking humans need baby-milk from cows and meat for iron (which humans cannot absorb quite as good as veggie-iron)

  5. Pingback: Why are vegetarians so annoying? A teetotaling non-vegetarian responds. | Center for Advanced Hindsight

  6. Judging someone to be “morally superior” has two very different readings. On one reading, we think that they are in fact morally better. On another reading, we think that they take themselves to be better than us.

  7. I’ve been a vegetarian for more of my life, over 23 years, and this has been a problem that I have encountered almost everytime there is some sort of social gathering. I don’t care if you want to eat a hunk of meat while I eat a salad. Eat what you want!

    Great post :)

  8. I think vegans/vegetarians face the same issue as atheists: the loud minority give the quieter majority a bad rep. The loudest practitioners (of veganism or atheism) are pushy and rude and holier-than-thou toward non-practitioners. Unfortunately, that’s the face of their movement, and anyone on the “this is just what I personally prefer to do” side are caught up in the label.

    • You make a great point Larissa. I think this is true with SO many issues, the extremists (or loud ones) of any group make it suck for everyone. My brother is a vegan and he doesn’t act holier than thou at all but we know a lot of people that do. Some meat eaters give him a hard time, and some vegans act like he’s in a cult with them. It’s like he can’t win!

  9. I think that’s bang on with explaining hostility towards vegetarians/vegans. No vegetarians or vegans I know are the least bit interested in shoving it in my face or challenging me to justify my steak. Still, the holier-than-thou thing does happen occasionally, as with the ‘Vegan: Because My Body Isn’t A Graveyard’ t-shirt that I’ve seen advertised on Facebook recently.

  10. I found this very enlightening. I’ve been mostly vegan for several years but recently committed to it 100%. I don’t like fanaticism in any form, and unfortunately, I’ve come across some vegans who have self-righteousness down to an art form. That being said, I’m surrounded by meat-eaters, and any of them will tell you I don’t preach or lecture about their food choices. I agree with you that everyone has the right to eat what they choose. So why do I encounter such ridicule from people who eat meat? I don’t try to force my vegan lentil soup on them; I just want to enjoy my meal in peace. I suspect that Nick’s comment is spot on; many are threatened by people they consider different. Seeing as how vegans comprise a very small (but hopefully growing) portion of the population, it makes sense that we’re going to get some flack. This herd mentality (no offense, cows) is rampant among adolescents (as anyone who’s attended high school will tell you), and unfortunately, some folks don’t grow out of it.

  11. Been married to a vegan for forty four years. Our kids were raised that way and one grandchild is a vegan. We have always been asked why and our response is why not. I have seen animals slaughtered and that is one why. I also am on a diet from eating so much meat that I had a stroke. Thirteen years ago and I now quit most meat, tuna and salmon I do eat, lost ninety pounds and survived. I guess that would be a second why. Third the crap in most meats is nitrates and other stuff which the body does not digest well. Third why. Three strikes so I will take the stares and dance if I want to.

  12. Huh. Usually when confronted with a vegetarian or a vegan, I do feel resentment. I never really tried to analyze myself to find out why. I think it must be the moral superiority, since I appear to automatically assume any sort of vegan or vegetarian is a huge jerk. I couldn’t tell you why.
    Interesting – usually I’m pretty good at not judging people ahead of time. That’s something I ought to work on. I mean, I’m stripping away a lot of layers of thought here, but since they’re built on a terrible base…
    Although to me it changes the game when it’s a PETA vegan or whatever. The ideals of PETA are very irritating to me and not because I find them morally superior. Maybe that’s in part why I don’t tend to like vegans, too? I assume they must be a PETA person? Either way, I don’t have problems with anyone else’s eating habits and I don’t appreciate it when people poke at mine, so I’m going to hate on vegans and vegetarians anymore.
    Thanks for helping me to realize something I am doing wrong! :)

  13. Yes, I so relate. The “why don’t you have a real burger” look on my fellow diners’ faces is becoming as overdone as the bad tangy after taste from an overcooked meat patty.
    I love this site – my first time perusing it today (from the new Freshly Pressed sites). Keep up the good work and I look forward to Following you.

  14. Spot on. I think when people expect vegans/vegetarians to act a certain way, they unintentionally elicit that behavior. Example: Someone expects a vegetarian to act self-righteous, so they say “You’re not making a difference.” The vegetarian feels the need to defend their beliefs, but their defense is probably going to come off sounding self-righteous.

  15. I am a vegan, and almost without exception, I get asked the dreaded protein question, and then they look as if they are afraid I may collapse at any moment.
    On the whole though, Ive found that most people arent particularly judgie about it. The only problem I have found is when they ask me why im never the one catching the cold because I am so very rarely ill, so I try to explain its because, in my opinion, im vegan so eat really healthily, then they complain im preaching, and often results in the mention of the word bacon. No, im answering your question.

  16. Well, not all who reacted such way does not necessarily think negative about Vegetarian. Some just don’t know how to react accordingly, but mostly are just curious without realizing they become so invading and offensive sometimes. Some people don’t think before saying a word. They are so tactless and very insensitive with other people feelings.

  17. I really love this post for a lot of reasons. Mostly because my husband is a vegetarian simply because he doesn’t like meat. That is super hard for people to understand because it’s not a health OR moral issue. I’m just amazed by how infatuated people are with what someone else is eating.

  18. I’m a vegetarian. It started because I was raised that way and now it’s by choice. When it does come up I try my best to turn the negative into a comic positive. This vegetarian agrees with you. I don’t care what others eat. I care only about what enters my own body.

  19. My situation is different. I could go without meat. I cannot stand the smell of red meat. I could never reheat meat. If I eat any, it is white or turkey (still only light meat). But I could skip it all together. I don’t view anyone any differently based off of what they eat. I will, however, base my “judgement” of someone based off of their delivery to situations whether it is physically, mentally, emotionally, verbally, appearance, etc. None of that has anything to do with food. Does it?

  20. I think I get judgmental because I’m actually judging myself. I feel like morally I shouldn’t eat meat, but I just don’t have the self-control not to. So I guess I kind of envy people who are vegetarian or vegan. And by the way, you’d get the least judgment anywhere if you moved here, the People’s Republic of Boulder (Colorado). They have whole vegan restaurants (that are really fuckin’ good if you don’t mind my saying). Excellent post.

  21. My parents had a “talk” with my sister about having to eat what they served over Christmas because she is a vegan. She went home after the holiday she got sick. She wasn’t self righteous at all. They think she is malnourished all of the time.

    • If they made her eat meat, of course she got sick. There’s a medical term for it, which I can’t recall at the moment but if you have been vegitarian/vegan for years and then eat meat you can actually get sick–it’s like getting food poisoning. It happened to me once when I ate from a casserole at a pot luck that had “finely shredded chicken in it so you did not know it was there” per the cook–I was so sick for a couple of days…..

  22. I did raw food for a while. When one takes on dietary disciplines, one quickly realizes how much eating food is a social activity. When I was raw fooding it, I was pretty much a recluse. As I moved back throughout the spectrum of raw food, to vegan, to vegetarian, to pescatarian, to omnivore, I noticed that certain phases affected certain parts of my being. I was actually quite depressed as a raw fodder and was always on a desperate lookout for avocados. It is good to try all these disciplines as it makes you critically think about food. Great post!

  23. Greetings from India. I believe Indian accounts for more vegetarians than all other countries combined (not sure about the stats)

    I am a born vegetarian and now I am a vegetarian by choice (a lot of born vegetarians in India have later turned non-veg and vice versa)

    Now I am talking about a friend of mine who was a born non-veg but today is a pure vegetarian. Everyone else in his house eat meat. When I asked him as to why did he turn out to be pure veg, he answered “I realised that, you don’t really have to kill animals to live so I decided to be vegetarian”.

    He is looked upon as moralistic among his friends and peers. No one can question as to what is he has been a non-veg and know its taste and other benefits.

  24. My son’s girlfriend (lovely girl) is a vegetarian….not a problem with that just what to cook, she doesn’t like certain veg and just simply does not like the taste of meat or fish. So difficult to find a local pub that has more than two vegetarian options. This is her choice which is fine just like if I had a choice I would give up work!!!!

  25. To be honest I always ask how they get enough iron, but with good reason. I was vegetarian for a long time, until I almost crashed my car driving to Uni one day as I started micro-sleeping uncontrollably, I knew what was happening, but could not stop it. My iron was so low that I was put on complete bed rest for two weeks until they managed to get it to the lows of the acceptable range, I had crazy extreme anaemia. I was put on a strict diet with high protein and iron foods (including meat). I slowly got used to the meat, but I often consider going back and I do not eat a lot of meat (just what I know I have to) so I always ask how they get their protein and iron :)

  26. It’s great that I was born in India and around half the population here is vegetarian. Though sometimes I have to face problems when some of my friends feel like going to a non-veg restaurant and I tell them go ahead I will meet you all after sometime.

    You are right about the moral judgement thing. I never judge anyone with what they eat, I don’t mind if my friends eat pork or chicken but they have problems with me not eating. There is always some sarcastic comment. ;) :) Nice post. :)

  27. Interesting post. One of my best friends is vegan and it’s never been an issue. I would usually let her pick the restaurant as I could always find something on the menu that I liked.

  28. I love cooking and entertaining and when a vegetarian/vegan is coming to have a meal in my home I go out of my way to produce a really delicious meal that will fit with their preferences. I don’t challenge them on ‘why’ they follow the diet they do, that’s entirely their business. However it does irk me that if they invite me to eat at their home, they don’t seem to bother thinking ‘oh she really loves eating meat (not that I would expect rare T-bone steak) we’ll try to choose something that SHE would like.’ It seems a one way street, we have to accommodate their likes but they don’t reciprocate.

    I now live in China, and strange to say, the concept of vegan/vegetarian food is not really understood – as one Chinese friend said to me “Mankind didn’t spend thousands of years getting to the top of the food chain, just to reject meat when they got there.” Not eating meat because it is prohibited by your religion is well understood, but to forego it just for moral or health reasons is thought of as very odd. Even many Buddhists sometimes eat meat. The idea of not eating vegetables because they have been cooked in a chicken broth would be thought of as crazy. In a society of 1.3 billion people where most families have living memories of the dark days of the 1960s where millions starved to death, the idea is that one should be prepared to eat anything.

  29. Nicely said :) I’ve often tried to pinpoint why exactly it is that I receive so many almost angry responses when the fact I’m vegetarian crops up (almost never brought up by me, mind you). You explain it well. And nice to know I’m not alone.

  30. Oh, and the reason I don’t eat meat is that it grosses me out – there’s no moral reason. I definitely find folks more accepting the moment they realise it isn’t a morality thing, but it’s not right that I should have to ‘fend them off’ with that piece of info about my motivation.

  31. I personally do find vegetarians annoying. Even though I agree that we should judge I find that vegetarians always put us meat down. I eat a diet 60% vegetarian however when I do eat a steak, chicken or fish I will undoubtedly be told by my vegetarian friends how cruel it is to eat meat. They have their opinions and I respect that. I will prepare a vegetarian meal if and when I’m entertaining and invite a vegetarian for dinner however the same hospitality will not be shown when it’s reversed.
    Is it then fair to say why eat the vegetation that is meant for animal consumption?

  32. Couldn’t agree more. I am vegetarian, and while I have been for years and am completely comfortable with my choice (I’m vegetarian for ethical reasons), I still dread telling people that I am. Somehow, every time, I need to explain why I’m vegetarian, and wind up feeling tired of saying the same old things, and even feeling a bit guilty.

  33. Wouldnt say its a real issue. You don’t eat animal or anything to do with animal, it’s no big deal most people don’t really care. More important things going on in the world.. like hunger

  34. I like this and great topic. But being a vegetarian is mostly a choice, meaning there was some impetuous to make that choice. I think its therefore a totally valid question as to what caused a person to make that choice and not necessarily a judgment.

  35. Weird: you head a topic using the word ‘vegetarian’ and include as its header a cartoon about vegans. Why is this ? I’m the former and not the latter. I have never either said or thought anything about omnivores with a derogatory slant.
    I think this must be an American thing: Downunder, people don’t give a rat’s about how others choose to eat – and certainly don’t feel threatened by vegetarians. Vegans, now – they can be proselytizing to a degree. ;-)

  36. Interesting issue. I was diagnosed with cancer on March, a lymphoma, and since then I’m hardly learning to become vegan. There are a feel natural treatments where the base is vegan. Good post! It helps..

  37. I never have cared what people eat, in fact the first thought that comes tp mind when someone says vegetarian to me is clear skin, however a vegetarian friend and I went to lunch a few years ago, and man she was so annoying, I got a burger and fries, she got a salad, and she kept looking at my food and saying stuff like, oh my god how xan you put a dead rotting carcus in your mouth, and that is so nasty, at one point she actually said she felt like she was going to throw up and excused herself to the bathroom. That was the last time we had lunch together. Lol

  38. When I visited India in 2010, our hosts were extreme vegetarians. They don’t eat anything except vegetables, fruits and rice. They don’t eat eggs, fish, and don’t even put salt in their veggie dishes. Yet their dishes were very tasty. They use a lot of spices like turmeric, black pepper, garlic, onion and some else.

    For over a week before we arrived in Jalgaon, India, I was suffering from a terrible case of coughing. Miracle of miracles, after two days of eating deliciously prepared vegetarian food, my coughing had totally stopped.

    Vegetarian food is enjoyable to eat if it is prepared like the way our hosts in Jalgaon do.

    This is Zac Sarian from the Philippines. You can visit my blog: zacsarian.com

  39. Interesting post :) I’ve noticed though that among my groups of friends – predominantly meat eaters – that actually we have this backwards. I am a meat-eater, but my sister and several of my friends are veggies or vegan or both. I also have a friend who is a fruitarian and I have used it as an opportunity to learn all about their lifestyles and diets which I always find interesting. I have actually tried out their diets to see if they suit me more, but have always gone back to meat because I find it so much more balanced and better for me. However, I have noticed that often my friends will cast judgement on my food choices and my diet when it contains meat – if we go out for dinner and I order a steak, they might turn their noses up at the sight of it or the smell, they might even comment on it. I would never do this to their meals and I have mentioned it to them and said that it is out of order, mainly because I have never cast judgement on their choices. I think there is no right or wrong, just personal choice and I have no right to judge my sister for preferring the texture of soy and tofu to meat than she does to me preferring steak and fish. We all just need to be a little more accepting if you ask me!

  40. I have no issues with vegetarians but I do believe that what they are doing is completely useless and unproductive. Rather than not eating meat, stop living materialistic lives and spend some money to feed the hungry children that don’t even get to make this ridiculous choice of ‘ meat or no meat’.

  41. Well, if you are wearing a PETA shirt then you believe that eating meat is wrong, and pretty much everyone knows that so I don’t think a meat eater ‘assumes’ this kind of vegetarian is judging them; they are. If I am eating a burger next to someone who I know thinks it’s immoral for me to be eating one, it’s kind of hard to enjoy eating it. Which is annoying.

  42. Having been vegie for decades, I’ve developed a few stock responses if somebody starts getting pushy about diet. “I used to be a carnivore, too,” usually gets their attention. Then, as they pause to imagine themselves as “carnivores”, I insert, “But I found it really hard to do sit-ups and crunches after eating a big steak.” Usually this induces a glance towards my six-pack abs, and the whole meat-eater conversation just dies.

  43. @Nick — Well Said – My issues with vegetarians is the PETA meat is murder concept, not the choice not to eat meat – I could give two Kale chips about what you eat or do not eat but that being said – Bring your own food to Thanksgiving and Birthdays – Do not make me alter my recipes for your cause – I have a good friend that is a vegetarian and you would never know it he handles his shit without touting it to the world. – It is amazing when you can say, I would have never known that about him or her.. That is a vegetarian I can share a salad with.

  44. It’s curious isn’t it? I’ve met few if any vegetarians who try to ‘persuade’ others to stop eating meat. Yet it’s something people often seem to expect of us. In the seventeen years of vegetarianism my focus has been my own habits not those of others.

  45. I’m not vegetarian, but generally prefer to cook and eat meat free meals. This seems to puzzle people, especially vegetarians. A vegetarian colleague held a grudge against me for ages because I ate a veggie sausage at a BBQ. Now there’s a funny one; vegetarians who eat meat shaped foodstuffs like Quorn. I used to do that, until it occurred to me that it was a peculiar substance. Now I’m a big fan of Puy lentils for that bolognese effect! When I meet new people, I’m also fairly open. But I too have a thing I avoid mentioning….the fact that I’m really not that fussed about drinking alcohol. The people I know can’t get their heads round that at all!

  46. LOL. I hate to say it but the human body is meant to have certain protein rich foods, members of my family don’t balk at meat that are vegans but they all DO have a certain pallid color to their skin that is strikingly the same. Not a healthy look. Meh.

  47. The way we treat our food animals has bothered me for a long time but I have looked away for a long time. Almost a year ago, I stopped eating most meat (mammals) and started exploring other food options. Mostly, I am having fun with it( and started a food blog http://www.goodmotherdiet.com) but have come up against some of the negative opinion you are discussing here. It’s a very complicated issue. Thanks for posting.

  48. As a Vegetarian…my question to those who choose to eat the carcase of an animal is: “What makes you think a person’s choice to not eat rotting animal flesh is about you?” Isn’t an individual’s food preference about them? I would be a very wealthy lady if I collected just one dollar from each insulting pig eater over the 30 years I’ve been a Vegetarian! Visit my WordPress Blog…does it look like I suffer from malnutrition? How about guessing my age? Yes, an animal-less diet helps to keep your skin radiant and your appearance youthful!

  49. I see the subject as being analogous to when I was a fitness trainer and weight management coach, very thin and very fit. Rather than being seen as a good example, or at least respected for practicing what I preached, some gym members seemed resentful. Mind you these were people who valued fitness or they wouldn’t be there. I was subject to insults such as being told I looked emaciated and accused of not understanding their plight. I imagine the scorned vegan feels similarly disturbed and confused.

  50. I so agree! As a vegetarian/vegan you always have to justify yourself, as you point out I don’t make them justify themselves! most people think it’s a phase (but that isn’t helped by those former veggies who start eating meat and then go to extremes – I’m thinking of a friend who was a veggie, decided to eat roast chicken one day 😮 and now tucks into fois gras while asking me if I’ll always be veggie 😵😵😵😵
    Also people presume you just don’t like food – wrong!!!

  51. Well, glad this post got so much attention. I too am vegan and I also keep it to myself unless someone inquires or until it’s painfully obvious. Not because I am ashamed or because of scrutiny, but because my choices are my own. Another persons feelings don’t effect them. And more importantly, why would anyone care what I’m eating or why I eat it? Vegan power. :) Good post, great reference.

  52. As someone who has made a career in the hospitality industry, I have no shortage of “encounters” with dietary preferences.Not annoyed by lifestyle or medical considerations such as diabetes or gluten free diets, my blood only boils when mouthy, self righteous nincompoops embarrass themselves by making a scene. I remind myself, these people would create drama regardless of lifestyle choices – they simply were wired that way. When an uppity Vegan snarls at my staff because they dared to offer an appetizer containing eggs, berates them by loudly snapping “I don’t eat anything that has ever been alive”, then stomps off in expensive leather pumps – all I can do is shake my head. Negative perception results from a handful of lifestyle bullies. I could care less over what you eat, religious belief or political affiliations. That said, pass judgement, make yourself out to be “above the rest” or draw attention to yourself – you just lost my respect. Not because you’re Vegan, but because you’re an asshole :)

    • You’ve hit the nail on the head. Whether you are a vegan/carnivore, smoker/nonsmoker, thin/not thin, when you speak from a position of judgment and superiority, your message is lost.

      • So true. This strays from the topic but came to mind.

        My brother is a “mountain man” in every sense of the words. One of his many talents is “witching” for water. I can’t fathom how he manages to walk across the land with two Willow branches, then telling the land owner where to dig his well – with astounding accuracy. A bit of a legend, he’s who you call to find water. The catch is – he doesn’t have set fees. An excellent judge of character, if you strike him as decent and sincere – it might cost you a dinner or maybe a trade for those fence-posts piled at the edge of a property. Come off as condescending or arrogant – you pay through the nose.

        I guess what my ramble is trying to say is that nobody has the right to think of themselves as “special” “superior” or “entitled” :)

  53. I know plenty of Indians who come from veg traditions but make allowances to fit their surroundings. A lot of negativity comes from t few vegans who expect others to adapt tp o and celebrate them, rather than humbly living their own unimposing choices as most of us do.

  54. This is precisely my experience. I’ve been vegan for…5 years I guess? I learned very early on in that first year that being too open about that fact inevitably leads to people trying to challenge and poke holes of some kind in my choice and my feelings. I’ve even learned to sniff out which servers will react better to me claiming to have an allergy to eggs and dairy over telling them I’m vegan. Of course, I’ve had plenty of genuinely curious people start discussions with me, asking what my reasons are, wondering if I dictate my partner’s diet (as if), etc. As you state, the most common responses by far, when they’re not angry ones, are something along the lines of “I could never give up bacon”! Great post.

  55. Oh why oh why does anybody care. Each to their own. cannibalism… now that would be a real problem. Otherwise different strokes for different folks. Live and let live. God it angers me when people judge others just because they choose their own lifestyle that does not conform to the majority. “Even in a minority of one; the truth is still the truth”. Let it be, let it be, let it be, whispering words of wisdom…let it be.

  56. Religion, Politics, and “What Do You Eat” have become the three conversations I try not to have in public anymore because depending on with whom the conversation starts, it can quickly degenerate into a fog of misinformation, judgements, and poorly made jokes that can be construed as insulting. -From both sides. Besides, who in hell am I do make a judgement call on what someone wants to eat?

  57. Great post.
    Now, when I meet a vegetarian, I’d first say, “Hey, you are not morally superior. If you agree, we continue. If not, we better terminate”.
    On a more serious note: I’ve never tried to judge people regardless of their sex, attitudes or beliefs. Honest. I only hate “activists” who try to impose their views on others, from Peta to Greenpeace, from vegans to yogans. ) It’s the activism that gives good ideas their bad names.

  58. Vegetarian eaters do not bother me. If you want to eat your salad, I’ll happily leave you to it! On some occasions I order the vegetarian option anyway and people question why I do this. It’s always *shock horror* there’s no meat on your plate. I have had some really delicious vegetarian food.

    Is anyone here a semi- vegetarian?

  59. Actually countries with high meat and protein intake have the highest death obesity and cancer rate while japan china and other regions that eat mostly vegetables and fish have a much longer life span and tiny tiny cancer rate! I eat meat but i know we don’t need to we can get all our nutrients from a plant based diet!

  60. I love love love this post! I was getting ready to post a mean comment (lol) because your title had me thinking you hate vegetarians (good marketing)! I too avoid telling people I’m vegetarian at all costs. I don’t need their advice, judgment, or opinion at all.
    I love the part where you said that people have the tendency to put down do-gooders who are morally motivated. I couldn’t agree with this more and I totally couldn’t find these words myself. There are also the people that pretend to care about morals and therefore are “vegetarians” not vegetarians. But that’s besides the point….
    Thanks so much for sharing! I’ll have to include this link when I finally post my vegetarian ideals blog (in the makes).

  61. I LOVE this article! I wrote recently about veganism and other lifestyle diets, and how I think the language we use when talking about them furthers the stigma against them, because they focus on what is absent, not what is included. I’m not vegan (or paleo, sugar-free, gluten-free, vegetarian etc) but I use a lot of recipes from these diets because they are delicious! Anyway, I’d love to get your thoughts if you’re interested in having a look: http://dreamingofalmonds.com/2014/04/29/does-language-work-against-vegans-and-co/

  62. Wonderful post, finally someone who understands what it feels like, i am Indian, my family are vegetarians, and i used to be teased in school because i never ate bacon or beef, it was really awkward saying no to foods everyone else ate gladly.

    Some of my “friends” even tried tricking me into eating beef. It was very uncomfortable for me.

  63. Very interesting topic. I can’t remember myself ever having a negative opinion on someone’s choice of eating habits, but I do remember this surge of vegetarianism and vegans in my high school around 2005. It seemed as though many people were just doing it to seem “different/cool”. I can’t vouch for this happening anywhere else in the country but it kind of brought on this stigma towards them. Mostly because 90% of them didn’t really care about animals or whatever other reason people may have for being meat free. They were just doing it because others were doing it, and that’s never a good reason.

  64. Unless all vegetarians are eating plant matter that grows naturally in forests, without human intervention of any kind, then these kinds of discussions and debates will flounder after sometime. Most of us, no matter what part of the world we are in, are now eating highly interverned foods. Plants, as well as animals, are forced to mature faster and faster so as to meet the demand of the close to 7 billion people on earth now. All those shiny tomatoes, the green cucumbers, garlic pods the size of a man’s fist, in their natural state would perhaps be half the size and double the flavour. Organic food (both meats and plants) maybe an alternative but not really affordable.
    Food is a basic necessity of life. Without this, life cannot survive. If you are living in a part of the world where you can afford a certain food style, it’s well and good to argue the benefits of being vegetarian. If home is in a desert or a mountain top then it may not be so applicable.

    I think the argument is based on the way animals are farmed for food. To all the vegetarians who think meat-eaters are irresponsible eaters, please check up on how all plant matter used as food is farmed. Rice, wheat, potatoes and so many other crops deplete soils of their nitrogen content in no time. So much so that wild legumes have to be planted after every harvest. But with so many people waiting, these natural replinishing methods are fast giving way to inexpensive chemical methods.

    You can argue about composte pits, but really if I have a 1000 acre rice field, wouldn’t I need an equivalent sized composte pit to create natural manure? Where would I get this much land. Everytime a tractor hoes the field, have you thought about the millions of insects and small animals that die? Everytime vegetable fields are fruit orchards are irrigated, so many animals are flooded out including snakes, mice, any animal that makes soil its home. (Don’t tell me, a dead mouse is not the same as a dead cow! Since the argument is value for life)

    Find out how vegetarian food is created. You will realize that both eaters (veg/meat) are sides of the same coin. We consume at a cost.

  65. This is a great post! It was interesting to learn that there is an actual phenomenon behind this. In general, I think that people are way too judgmental of others’ diet patterns. Over the past few months, I’ve been experimenting with a cleaner diet, which has allowed me to discover which foods I had sensitivities to. I don’t judge others who eat differently than I do, because their bodies are different than mine and therefore their experiences with certain foods are also different. (I do share my experiences when asked, but I don’t like to preach.)

    Of course, when I do mention a gluten sensitivity, people are very quick to roll their eyes and put it down as a “fad diet.” They like to ask how I could possibly feel satiated after eliminating certain problem foods from my lifestyle and not be malnourished. It is amazing how “concerned” people are!

    Anyway, I loved this post, and will definitely be linking it on my Link Love roundup this week. :) Congratulations on Freshly Pressed!

  66. Nice post. I’m an on-and-of Vegan. I only “prefer” vegetarian over non-vegetarian, with little moral subtext. I truly feel veges are more tasty! However, true to your wordings, ” It’s as if the words “vegan” and “vegetarian” are triggers that open up a store of pent-up opinions about food politics and morality”, can see the piling up comments are huge on each of comments here! Have added my bit too. :) Go Vegan, or Not. ;)

  67. I don’t understand why people not to eat meat. The most common reason I hear of is in their religion or their belief, they think it’s brutual to kill or eat animals. And then a thought comes to my mind, even if humans don’t eat meat we are still interfering animals on the planet or even killing them. We over-hunting, over-harvesting and over-consuming. We build buildings and factories everywhere and then emit contaminations to the air, rivers and oceans. It’s like we’re the farmer, Mr. Jones, who mistreats the animals in Animal Farm. To conclude, I think not eating meat does no actual help but can only fulfill out guilt, which is self-serving.

  68. Have been trying to be a vegetarian for the longest time but always fail after a month or so. I really respect vegetarians because personally I feel meat is addictive and very hard to give up. I eat very less meat but would love to give it all up.

  69. Great article! I’ve been a vegetarian for three-and-a-half years. While most people I know are more than accepting or at least politely interested in what made me change my dietary habits, there have been a few people who made crude comments and judgments that left me feeling more than uncomfortable.

    The study that you cited was very interesting- I’ll definitely be reading it soon!

  70. Interesting that the comment is universal “You don’t know what you’re missing”. Well actually I do. I was brought up on meat and two veg and opted for vegitarianism at 19. I began cooking for myself and discovered the vast gamut of ‘two veg’ available. And my farts smell better!

  71. I always dread the inevitable “So why are you vegetarian?” question. I try to avoid answering if possible. Although I am vegetarian for moral reasons, I am as much vegetarian because I don’t like the taste or texture of meat – and although it is a moral choice, for me it is a very personal moral choice, and not one that I feel the need for others to follow. Although I might question someone buying, for example, non-Fairtrade sugar, or apples flown from the other side of the globe, I don’t feel the need for other people to be vegetarian to be moral themselves. I hope that is a coherent explanation – I don’t judge people for eating meat, or consider them to be less moral than me – we all have different ideas of morality, and for me personally, buying Fairtrade food, or locally produced, or free range, is more important than whether it contains animal producst.

  72. The vegetarian snobs made me feel like an outsider initially, but I continued my quest, and now eat soy “hamburgers” with the best of them. The more you research, the happier you will be to be outside the meat chain. I am personally glad I don’t have to be responsible for something’s death so I can eat. I came over completely one night when I looked at my cats and realized under no circumstances could I kill and eat them. And I had just seen some young steers playing in a field — acting a lot like goofy teenage boys do.

  73. I am a heavy meat eater and I do not feel negative about vegans or vegeterians way of life, everybody makes its own choice, sometimes I find it amazing that people are so commited and consequtive in their decisions. Here comes but, for me it is very anoying that when I am going out with my vegeterian friend we have to walk from door to door looking for the menu she would like, obviously this kind of behavior makes others nervous and does not create positive area around the term vegeterian.

  74. I’ve been vegan for over seven years and in that time I’ve heard every reaction I could have imagined and some truly baffling ones too (I have been told a vegan couldn’t survive for more than a year and then I disclosed I had been vegan for over 5 years which ruined their argument). I do think a lot of the time people don’t like the fact I am vegan because it makes them look at their own choices and often some part of them actually thinks they should stop eating meat so there is some level of cognitive dissonance.
    I’m not exactly what most people think a vegan is like. I don’t really like animals (I don’t really like children but I don’t eat them!), I like junk food and I am hardly the new age type. I think that juxtaposition between what the expectation of what a vegan looks like and me actually is helpful since it lessens the divide between ‘vegans’ and whoever I am talking to. In general now I don’t mention it unless it comes up and that tactic of not pushing it on people seems to have actually have helped a few people become vegetarian (they told me that). The exception is with my baking because I like people to realise you can eat really good desserts without animal products.

  75. Brilliant to read this. I have a 3 year old, about to turn 4, I am vegetarian my partner is a meat eater as is my step son. My daughter understands partly that meat is animals and without being graphic or trying to influence her choices I explain why the boys eat meat and I choose not to. Her answer was she died not want to eat animals. Now at the age when she is going to school parties I find myself feeling very judged and.almost a sense of guilt having to hover around the party table incase she is served meat. It is such a mine field knowing what is best for your family while. I mostly keep vegetarianism quiet as I still feel pigeonholed as a sandal wearing you mousing hippy.

  76. A society has to be affluent to support widespread meat-eating. I worked in Sumatra just after it was re-opened to foreigners in 1970, and it had one of the lowest per capita incomes in the world. I was invited to wedding, but no one clued me in to the local customs. At the wedding banquet, there was a platter of rice with a rather small roast of mutton sitting in the rice. I took a very small slice of the meat, feeling obligated to show appreciation. There was buzz of conversation around me (in a language I did not yet understand) and I noticed people looking at me. Later I was told that at Sumatran weddings, meat was always offered to the guests, but guests never took any because of the cost of meat. Rather, it was left on the platter for the bride and groom to enjoy later. My bad.

  77. Pingback: Link Love Wednesday: Remembering Maya Angelou | So It Must Be True

  78. A lot of the hunters that i know hunt on farmland, helping farmers control naturaly occuring game and birds that are damaging their crops, the very crops that vegetarians and vegans need for their meat free diet…. Strange and wonderful world in which we live!

    • But then, the farmers are damaging the habitat of the birds and wild animals you hunt. Should we blame them for trying to damage the crops and then shoot them? You could, for example, use your guns to keep the farmers out of the animals’ habitats and then nature would balance itself.

  79. Hi, I’m a meat-eater. My problem with the vegetarians/vegans is that most of them are trying to convince the others that their behaviour is the right one. They behave like all the others minorities, very aggressive in defending their ideas and not accepting other ideas. They try to make the others guilty for eating meat (“you don’t love animals” – like I could ever love a dirty pig or a hen) and try to defend their option (even though no one attack them) with medical and mystical arguments (only the ones that sustain their opinion, “forgetting” to mention the ones that are against their opinion). They behave typical as a minority, aggressive and radical. As for me, as long as I have canine teeth, it’s normal to eat meat.

  80. Excellent post; very thoughtful and well written! My family STILL doesn’t accept my vegetarianism (I fought with my poor mother my whole life about eating meat, I just don’t like the taste) and they “forget” every get-together so we can have a conversation about it. I usually quip something along the lines of “What food don’t you like to eat, so much that you wince every time you hear its name? Okay…that’s me with meat. You have your dietary preferences, I have mine.”

    Hold your heads high! You’re not alone.

  81. hahah great point :) And it’s true. But part of why it’s true is that most of us have encountered some vegetarians/ vegans who will go on and on about how disgusting our own meal choices were, and how they could never bring themselves to eat dead animal carcass. I guess we just remember those guys more than the nice tolerant ones. Also I have to admit that a part of me feels bad that I’m eating animals, but not bad enough to get me to stop. So I guess facing vegans means facing that duplicity within myself, and that’s definitely uncomfortable. Also I need to organize events for people sometimes and getting people with extreme meal limitations (vegan gluten free, e.g.) can be really challenging sometimes in this country, as most places aren’t so clued in on these things…. That means they can make my job way more difficult than it otherwise would be, because I need to chase down menus and sometimes actually find recipes and arrange their making with the chefs just to ensure they’ll have something to eat. And sometimes that does make me think ‘HURRRGH WHY CAN’T YOU JUST EAT LIKE A NORMAL HUMAN BEINGGG!’ :) so yeah, good points you make!

  82. I’m a vegetarian and I don’t judge other people’s dietary choices (unless of course it leads to obesity or other general health issues). However I do see some other vegetarians and vegans acting pretty judgmental, which sucks because that gives people like me a bad image. Great post! loved your perspective.

  83. Pingback: 12 common things Vegetarians hear on a daily basis | An Awkward person

  84. I am not a vegetarian. I have a food allergies that often stir up the same reactions in people when I turn down something down for the third time and/or when I ask for modifications to a menu item at a restaurant.
    Regardless of the reasons behind whether you eat meat or gluten or Apple pie, respect should come naturally…

  85. As a Vegetarian, I totally relate. When I do finally admit it to people (and it took years to accept the label) their first question is always “Why?” and when i say, “Oh, meat makes me feel yucky.” They all breathe a sigh of relief…or they say something really rude like, “shouldn’t you be skinnier?”

  86. This is a really interesting topic and I definitely think this has a lot to do with the stigma against non-meat eaters. It seems ridiculous that such a stigma even exists!

  87. Pingback: Back at the table: veganism, revisited. | meganonatrailer

  88. Of course it’s a moral issue!
    If cruelty to sentient creatures is not a moral issue, if contaminating the water — especially in minority communities — is not a moral issue, if willfully and unnecessarily contributing to pollution and environmental degradation is not a moral issue, if destroying rain forest to turn it into pasture for grazing cattle, if eating so much meat that children go hungry and even starve to death as a result, if this is not a moral issue … then will someone please tell me what is? What is a moral issue?

  89. Thank you! Being a vegetarian is also the thing about me that I try and avoid telling people until I have to explain myself. For me it did not start as something moral. My mom being a vegetarian as I grew up is why I am still one today. I honestly just cannot stomach meat. I don’t think we should have to justify our eating habits to others, everyone will eat what they want and what makes them feel good.

  90. People, three things :

    1) I’m one of the large majority of people that don’t care at all about what other humans decide to eat or not eat. Just tell the majority of vegans to avoid trying to act so righteous about it, because a lot of vegans kind of act like frustrated non-smokers and that’s a carrot in the ass.

    2) You must understand, people, that being vegan kind of forces your friends to act differently with you in some occasions, if they decide to invite you for diner, for example or at a restaurant, or go on a trip abroad, or share an appartement… All this because you made a choice nobody forced you to do (like smoking or not smoking, in he end, both ways). I know a lot of us live in societies where we eat too much meat (more than necessary at least), but in the end, there’s no need to look religious about that and to be so stiff about some silly jokes that can be made about it. When i read comments like “Carnivores, please simmer down. Not everything is about you” it kind of make me feels that thare’s still a lot of work to ben done in this matter. At this rate, i’m afraid a vegan jihad is not pure fiction.

    3) Plants are living beings too, so in the end, i think the choice of praying for the spirit of the animal you’re about to eat a part of is less hypocritical than being a vegan for moral issues ;) Oh and yes GMO will get to you no matter what lifestyle you pick so i guess you’d better focus on that aspect of our food system instaed of loosing your time trying to clean up your conscience with minimum effort, if your beliefs aren’t shallow. I don’t speak, of course, for vegan that are aware of that, neither to people that don’t have a choice because of health issues.

    Well, in the end, the more vegans you are, the more meat i get for myself. Muahhaahahahahaahhaa!

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