Judgement of vegetarians deserves second thought

Judgement of vegetarians deserves second thought

Ashley Clark

Lilly Ludwig, columnist

At my house, family dinners are far from normal between my sister, a gluten and lactose-free vegetarian, and myself, a non-processed vegetarian experimenting with veganism. When I tell people this, they usually respond in one of two ways: enlightening me on how vegetarians don’t actually save animals, or attacking my body’s protein needs.

In a world where the tea-tox is a normal part of a conversation and kale salads are not uncommon, I think it’s funny that people still try to persuade me that choosing to not eat meat is a bad thing. After all, no one cared about my protein intake before I became a vegetarian. It’s wrong to criticize lifestyle choices that do no harm.

Besides the misconception that vegetarians and vegans eat nothing but grass, there are other, more hurtful stigmas that get pinned on people just for choosing a diet that’s different from the norm.

The one I found the most hurtful, personally, was when a family friend assumed I was suffering from an eating disorder when I began my journey into a vegan diet. The fact that people believe my personal lifestyle change means I have an eating disorder is not only offensive to people affected by these diseases, it’s also disrespectful to vegan ideals.

Another tedious misconception I hear is that all vegetarians are Prius-driving-yoga-loving hippies. Sure, I drive my Prius with pride, practice yoga religiously and frequently wear headbands, but it’s not fair to assign this identity to everyone based on their diet choice. Many people choose not to eat meat because they want to lose weight, don’t like the taste or simply are disturbed by the thought of the death of an animal.

Another comment I hear a lot is when people tell me they’re surprised to hear I’m a vegetarian. When I ask why, they usually respond with, “Oh, you know, because vegetarians are always really annoying.” While insulting, this is somewhat understandable. There are several vegetarian slogans that imply people who eat meat are mean or don’t care about animals. This bothers me because it makes it sound like all vegetarians assume meat-eaters don’t think about what they put in their body, and that’s just not true.

So yes, there are “animal extremists” who believe all meat-eaters are bad people, but like any movement, you can’t pin one assumption to an entire group of people.

To answer some of the other frequently asked questions I get as a vegetarian, I eat a wonderful variety of products derived from plants; all necessary nutrients can be found in products made from plants (this is because humans evolved from apes, who are vegetarians); the concept of supply and demand proves that the less demand for meat, the less animals will be killed; and finally, yes, we can still be friends if you eat meat.

I know this can’t speak for everyone with a specific diet, because everyone with an “extreme” diet is dedicated to it for their own reasons. But it’s still important for there to be a mutual respect between people that live different lifestyles.

So, if you are a meat-eater, I encourage you to save the veg hate. If you see someone taking a veggie burger over one made of meat, maybe ask them why they got into living a meat-free life instead of interrogating them about their protein intake. If you are a vegetarian or eat any type of limited diet, remember to always keep an open mind if someone is giving you a hard time about what you choose to eat. And, as always, keep on rockin’ the kale salad.