Today I came across this NPR blog post: Do Vegetarians and Vegans Think They Are Better Than Everyone Else? The post was interesting, but nothing earth shattering to me. The basic premise is this: No. Vegetarians and vegans don’t think they’re better than everyone else, but others think they think they’re better than everyone else.
I agree wholeheartedly with this premise.
I’ve been a vegetarian for a little over three years now and before that I ate very little meat. I’m an ovo-lacto vegetarian, which, for me, means I eat eggs and dairy, but no animal flesh or products that actually require the death of an animal to make (no broths or gelatin or fish oil). Because I didn’t eat that much meat before I stopped all together, my diet isn’t actually that different than it was three years ago. So, I was a little surprised, no, shocked when people began treating me differently because I was a vegetarian.
Once I decided to quit eating meat, I didn’t make a big announcement. I just stopped. In fact, I’m not sure that my husband even noticed until several months after the fact. But, as people started noticing, their attitudes toward me at mealtimes started changing. Suddenly, the fact that I ordered “pasta with no chicken, please” became a topic of dinner-time conversation. At first, this wasn’t so bad. After three years, though, its gotten a little tedious to explain, at a large portion of the social gatherings I go to, why I’m a vegetarian and then debate the pros and cons of the choice with everyone in earshot.
That’s not the worst part, though. The worst part is that people get defensive and attack me and my diet choice. At first, I didn’t understand why this happened. As time has passed, though, I think I’ve got it figured out: People seem to think that because I’m a vegetarian, I think I’m better than they are and that I’m judging them.
Now, maybe you think I’m jumping to conclusions, that the NPR post-influenced me. Not the case. I’ve been in what feels like a million situations where people–friends, family, acquaintances, co-workers–have made comments like what I really need to knock me off my high horse is a ham sandwich (actual quote), or how I must not be healthy because I can’t possibly be getting all the nutrition I need, or that it must really upset me to see everyone enjoying the ribs because so many animals had to die to make that smorgasbord.
To be clear: I’m not judging you for not being a vegetarian. I don’t think I’m better than you because I decided not to eat meat.
In fact, it seems to me that any belief others have that I am judging them or that I do think I’m better than them because I eat my pasta meatless is actually a projection of how they feel themselves. In my interactions with the carnivores of the world, they have, at least at first, judged me for being a vegetarian and thought that they were better than me because they eat meat. Maybe others have had different experiences, but that’s mine. Maybe the judging I’m subjected to comes because people think I’m judging them.
What’s the solution to all the misunderstanding? Really, the only solution is to not judge a person by their diet. But, just like not judging a book by its cover, that probably won’t happen. So, looks like I’ll keep using my “Why I’m a vegetarian” speech for most social occasions.