When I told you I was trying out going vegan, you reacted in one of three ways:
1) You asked me how I would get enough protein.
2) You said something to justify your decision to eat meat (e.g., “I tried that but it didn’t work for me,” or “I only buy organic meat…”)
3) You used some variation of the phrase: “But bacon!”
It was awkward, because you are my friend/family member/fellow human. And all of these responses made things kind of weird…
Your first response implied I never considered the fact that I need balanced nutrients to maintain my health. However, most vegans I know are very mindful about what they eat (where it came from, how it was grown, its environmental impact, and so on). Sure there are junk food vegans, but that’s their business. I’d venture a guess that there are way more junk food meat-eaters than junk food vegans, and you’re not running around calling them out, trying to save them from themselves. Do you see any vegans in line at McDonald’s? I’m gonna guess no.
Did you ever think about how cows get enough protein to grow their bodies so big? Or how gorillas get so mighty? They eat plants. That’s the same way I’m going to do just fine, thanks—eating the foods my teeth were designed to chew.
Your second response—some variation on justifying meat eating—was just awkward. You doubled down on the argument before a word was uttered. It felt defensive, which forced me to play offense, and I’m not trying to engage you like that. But what, really, can I say when you’ve just asserted something antithetical to an idea I am passionate about? Do you want me to validate you for eating meat? There is nowhere for the conversation to go.
And then you had to bring up bacon. This is where we almost got into an actual argument, because—did you know?—the way 97 percent of pigs are raised in this country is horrifically cruel. Contrary to what you might tell yourself, most pigs don’t run around in the sunshine all day, rolling in mud and dining on their favorite slop. Actually, most of them are confined to a pen where they cannot stand up or roll over, which means a lot of things for their well-being, including that they lie in their own excrement all day…for months. In fact, their entire lives. That is bacon.
So when you put down veganism by gloating about how you’re complicit in animal suffering, it not only enrages me but confuses me. You are gloating about torturing animals…as a joke? It’s not funny. Aren’t you the same person who protested Michael Vick’s dog fighting ring and raged indignantly when Cecil the Lion was shot and killed? Yeah. And I really don’t see the difference.
Oh jeez…now I’ve gone and done it again. You’re defensive, and I’m riled up. But this isn’t my intent. What I really want to do is offer you some suggestions about how to talk to me. You’re a considerate person, not inclined toward antisocial behavior. You like me at least enough to talk to me, and you might even love me. So maybe you’d be willing to consider one of the following responses instead.
Instead of: “How are you going to get enough protein?”
Try: Asking a question. “What do you use for protein in your meals? I’ve thought about being vegan but I don’t know how I would get enough protein…”
Instead of: “Yeah, I used to be a vegetarian, but then…”
Try: Paying a compliment. Every vegan I know eats the way they do because they believe it is better for animals and better for the earth. They’re not doing it to be selfish. So maybe try, “Wow! I appreciate that you’re so mindful about how your choices impact others. I can imagine it has taken some effort.”
Instead of: But bacon, though!
Try: Just say nothing. A smile and nod will do just fine, or change the subject to something we can both agree on. Like Trump, for example…
Author: Melinda Lane
Editor: Travis May
Copy Editor: Danielle Beutell