In light of International Women’s Day I have been thinking about how veganism can sometimes imply a hate for meat-eaters, the same way feminism has sometimes been misconstrued as ‘man-hating’. The whole ‘Meat Is Murder’ campaign kind of separates vegans and vegetarians from meat-eaters because it sounds accusatory and angry.
Being someone who ate animal products for many years of my life, I can understand how one might feel guilty about eating meat around vegans and vegetarians. How you feel like you should give it up but you just don’t think you can. I distinctly remember lying on the floor when I was about a month into being vegetarian, and wailing about how I didn’t think I could do it and how everyone would think I was a failure. I wanted to give up there and then, but I never did.
I sometimes feel like there is a lot of preaching around veganism. This can either have a positive effect or just make people feel indignant and defensive, which is never a good thing. Veganism isn’t something that should be forced on anyone; it is a lifestyle choice, and coming from certain types of backgrounds and upbringings can make it very difficult; my grandmother, for instance, continues to ask me to explain why I’m a vegan. Some people just don’t understand it because they don’t know why it’s important.
It’s amazing how segregating diet can be. For example, going to dinner parties can be incredibly difficult and sometimes (at least for me) embarrassing. Hosts who aren’t vegan or even vegetarian have to either go out on a limb to find something for you to eat, either cooking two separate meals or changing their whole meal just for you, or ask you to bring something for yourself. If there are options and the vegan ones aren’t particularly nice, you then feel kind of left out while everyone else tucks into ice cream. You start to question whether there is any point in not eating it because there might be some left over which could go to waste otherwise. It is both a moral and social dilemma.
What it all boils down to is judgement. Meat-eaters feel like their being judged by vegetarians, vegetarians feel like their being judged by vegans, and vegans feel like their being judged by everyone for being difficult. However hard it is, we should all try to accept and understand one another. If you’ve never heard about how meat production affects the environment or how fishing is affecting the oceans, then there is no way you should be expected to just go vegan. Education is the main path when it comes to veganism, and if going the whole hog and trying to cut out all animal products is too hard then simply cutting down your weekly or even daily intake can still make a difference.