On Vegetarianism And Why Not Everyone Is Convinced - And Why That Might Be Okay
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On Vegetarianism And Why Not Everyone Is Convinced - And Why That Might Be Okay

They’ve heard it all or at least most of it, yet they still eat meat.

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On Vegetarianism And Why Not Everyone Is Convinced - And Why That Might Be Okay
Timo Stammberger Photography

A few months ago, Hank Green of the vlogbrothers put up a video titled Why Are Vegetarians Annoying?. In it, despite what the title might suggest, he does a great service to vegetarians of the world, as in front of his audience of almost 3 million people he talks about the environmental, health, ethical and other benefits of not eating meat. Because of those benefits, he concludes that vegetarians are “right.” However, the righteousness of vegetarianism is not the focus of his video, nor is it the focus of this article. Instead, Hank goes on to contemplate why someone might be “annoyed” with vegetarians and, consequently, why some people might never be convinced to quit eating meat. I want to examine this issue here, but also consider why such a response from meat eaters might be justifiable.

Hank uses not being “perfect” as explanation for why he eats meat. He presents his lack of willpower, as well as unwillingness to go against what most of society is doing (eating meat) as reasons why he isn’t vegetarian. He concludes that meat eaters are annoyed with vegetarians because vegetarians are successful at living according to their values, even as those conflict with “values of society at large.” However, what if eating meat is related less to lacking some kind of superhuman strength needed to defy societal norms, but more to how people are approached with the idea of vegetarianism?

As most people, I dislike being told what to do. In fact, sensing that someone is trying to convince me to do something annoys me rather easily. I make decisions only if I perceive them as wholly my own. Whatever I’m doing I have considered it independently, thoroughly, and at my own pace (or at least I like to think so). Knowing this, I can say that if I were a meat eater, I would likely be annoyed at vegetarians trying to sell me their “agenda” in any way – be it through subtle or not-so-subtle ways. In fact, the not-so-subtle ways to do this, such as yelling “Meat is murder!” in street demonstrations are not only annoying, they are completely ineffective. As psychologist and vegan activist Melanie Joy states, “if someone is calling you a murderer, you probably will not be very receptive to their message.” While Hank presents meat-eaters’ annoyance with vegetarians as almost jealousy at vegetarians’ ability to “work extremely hard to live in accordance with their values,” I would argue that there is more to this. What Dr. Joy describes makes sense and makes meat eaters’ annoyance and resistance to vegetarianism understandable to some extent. Nobody likes an aggressive approach or extensive “pushiness,” even if it’s used for conveying a positive message.

Furthermore, for us who are doing the “pushing,” another issue to consider is that for some people, converting to vegetarianism might never be possible. Thus, however “right” I think I am, I try to remind myself that what was quite easy for me, may not be easy for others. My family never ate a large amount of meat and an importance was placed on veggies. Fruits were eaten for snacks and there was always a weekend market with fresh, local produce five minutes from where we lived. I also never really liked meat and even as my parents insisted I should have a glass of milk a day, I would complain my stomach hurt from drinking it. When I stopped eating meat, my parents were quite accepting and very accommodating of the change. In a nutshell, veganism came naturally to me, and thanks to my environment, I had sufficient resources and support to pursue it. A lot of people do not have such advantages. There are issues beyond simply making the choice of going vegetarian or vegan and these can range from lack of support from friends and family, or emotional connectedness to certain foods, to more severe problems, such as living in a food desert or poverty.

Yet, there is also the fact that a large number of people just don’t want to stop eating meat. These are the meat eaters that Hank Green describes in his video. They have the needed resources, are aware of ethical implications and other benefits but they stick to an omnivorous diet. This, their unwillingness to agree with me, is important to accept as I advocate a meatless lifestyle. When I think about this, I consider my family. My parents are not immoral, nor ignorant about issues of eating meat. My dad cried as much as I did after our pet rabbit died and thanks to some passionate arguing on my part, my family is well aware of the bad aspects of the meat and dairy industries in both Croatia, my home country, and the US, where I currently live. They’ve heard it all, or at least most of it, and yet they still eat meat.

For people such as my parents, no amount of activists will influence a dietary change. Knowing this, I would like to encourage my enthusiastic vegan and vegetarian friends to not be overly frustrated when our efforts to influence meat eaters fail. Just as not eating meat is something we came to on our own, in our own time; others’ decisions about their diets are entirely up to them. In fact, I would argue that as we deem ourselves compassionate towards animals, we must especially apply this to our fellow humans -- be it by understanding the variety of life situations people can be in or simply respecting their right to disagree. In the words of Melany Joy, we can employ “a liberatory consciousness,” or one that is “flexible, nuanced, [and] means we approach all situations with curiosity – an open mind – and compassion – an open heart.” I believe this will likely make us less “annoying” and ultimately more successful in our activism.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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