Very recently I was on a social media site, procrastinating by scrolling through the comments/photos, and came across an interesting post. A vegan on my feed stated that they:
- harshly judge all people who are not vegan,
- have no respect for them and,
- judge other vegans/vegetarian who do NOT judge meat/animal product eaters.
They simply couldn't see the argument for how you could eat one way and not judge those that did not eat the same, so I gave my opinion.
My reasoning dictated that I should respond: “I can’t help what you think. I expect others not to judge me for my decisions, so I don’t judge them for theirs. It’s like religion. I respect those that have faith and don't condemn others who aren't religious." I hoped the comment would help.
Well it didn't. Soon, the rest of this person's social media friends jumped in and I was suddenly being equated to supporting (and I quote), "rapists and murders." In short, I was judged for not judging. Does this seem historically similar to anything else?
At a younger age, this would have sent me into a tizzy, asking questions like:
Is the bleach you use in your hair vegan? What about the bright blue eye shadow I see? Body wash? Conditioner? Clothes? Do you have any jewelry that you don't know where it came from/what had to be hurt to get it? Do you require your dog or cat to be vegan? If the answer to ANY of these is NO then YOU SUPPORT RAPISTS AND MURDERERS TOO!
But, I have grown and matured and learned not to. As a friend says: "Don't feed the trolls." But it did get me wondering. Who judges and why? As someone with dietary needs (I am gluten free, and cook a vegan...if not vegetarian...diet while i'm home), I do find myself judged when I go out and try to maintain the same standards. It's hard to ignore the look on a waiter/waitresses face when you ask: "Do you have a gluten free menu?" or "What on your menu is vegan?" As a matter of fact, this judgement influences my eating experience so much that tolerance/acceptance/knowledge at a restaurant has gotten me to look past mediocre food and have a truly great overall experience.
While I expect this judgement from the wait staff (not that I think it's ok), I have to also stop and ask myself a few other questions. What about being judged by my eating companions? Do they roll their eyes when I ask for a GF menu, or spend several minutes with questions of the waiter/waitress, trying to find out what I can eat? Do they dread going out with me, knowing I will suggest a place with vegan/gluten free options (or as some say "hippie/rabbit food")? Do they dread eating at my house for fear of what gf/vegan food I will serve? Do people judge me for what I eat?
Rather than drive myself crazy, I decided to ask the internet:
To all my vegan/vegatarian/pescetarian/ friends: Do you judge people who do not eat the way you do? Here is what I got.
The number of people that admitted to judging others was actually quite small. I'll be the first to admit that it might be a sample bias on my part but the message is still the same (I only asked people I talk to, or people who follow me). Regardless, judgement still was reportedm by meat eaters AND veggie eaters, but it was mainly judgement they had experienced, rather then them judging others.
Veggie-Eaters Judging Meat-Eaters
One group of people confided that they actually had lost vegan friends because the vegans loudly and continually proclaimed that their vegan children were superior in all ways to other non-vegan children. That's a way to keep cohesion at the park and teach tolerance to the next generation eh? Another form of judgement was toward meat-eaters making a transition to vegetarian or vegan but who hadn't yet 'taken the plung' (who would still eat meat products periodically). I see this judgement as equivalent to punishing a smoker that uses a nicotine patch to ween themselves off of smoking, rather than going cold turkey. The only thing you're punishing is the choice to change.
Meat-Eaters Judging Veggies
Most confirmations of judgement toward veggies seemed to stem from (quite frankly), ignorance. A lack of understanding on WHY a person chooses to eat the way they eat, seemed to feed comments like: "You're just following a fad diet." Or, "Are you done doing that yet?" "Do you have a phobia of food/an eating disorder?" "Vegans/vegetarians are stupid because meat has needed nutrients you can't get anywhere else." "Animals were made to be eaten." The list goes on and on. This kind of unkindness and ignorance often causes people to feel that it can be quite discouraging and exhausting constantly being talked down to.
But, even though the stories, and experience, of judgement were upsetting to me, it was encouraging and amazing to see the majority of people responding with "Absolutely not!" So many said things like:
- "Live and let live."
- "Guide, don't dictate."
- "In the end, do whatever makes you happy."
- "If I judged and fought every person about their choices that are different than the choices I'm passionate about, I'd lose my effing mind."
- "There are pros and cons to almost everything in life."
- "I only judge child molesters and oil men."
This support came from meat-eaters, vegetarians, pescetarians and vegans alike. As the comments rolled in, it was like watching a group of people come together at a table with all types of food and say: I don't care what you eat, i'd just love to share a meal with you." It warmed my heart and made me want to have a party. THIS is what food and eating are about!
From the conversations I had, I saw judgement break up friendships, create awkward family gatherings, and even make some people completely terrified to go out to eat with others who don't eat like them. This is NOT a good way to have to live. Regardless if this, I heard from so many people that had walked many paths of life, who hadm any different reason for their dietary decisions, that they do not judge others. I met many mixed households, with one partner being vegan and the other a meat-eater, and no battles were waged.
I met patient veggie-eaters that had influenced the diet of many of their friends without their knowledge, just by sharing meals with them and answering any questions that came their way. I even met meat-eaters that were highly supportive of their partners/friends veggie diets and would, from time to time, eat the same way. This is what a dinner table is for. All judgement dropped, you come with an open mind and an empty stomach. Judgement doesn't seem to do anything but label a group as villainous (And beware. There are some pretty mean vegans out there). It puts others off from understanding why anyone would choose that particular diet or lifestyle, let alone adopt it for themselves. If you truly want to change the dietary world, don't punish people who interact with you. It's like over-zealous women that sometimes give feminists a bad name. Be patient. Be understanding, and share your table. You may be surprised at how much influence you have by simply giving someone a great vegan/vegatarian/pescetarian/gluten-free/ dining experience.