Friday, June 4, 2010

Living in a Non-Vegan World

Sometimes it can be really difficult being a vegan in a seemingly non-vegan world. At least, it's hard to be social in such a world. I try not to whine because this is my choice and it is one I stand by and am proud of, but it's one that certainly takes an emotional toll.

For example, in Louisiana, there is a tradition generations deep of boiling crawfish outdoors with a group of friends and a few rounds of beer. Since the last frost I have been invited to no less than five such occasions. I find these events particularly hard to stomach because those in attendance delight in tossing the live crawfish into the boiling water only to joke about the brutal act of tearing them apart, leaving piles of shells nearly a foot high on each plate. Tonight I was invited to just such an event, but chose not to go. I couldn't bear to witness yet another waste of life for the sake of a meal. But alas, this left me home alone on a Friday night...working. Not so fun.

Because I have no close friends in town that are vegan, I often have to attend such events if I want to get out of the house at all. While there--not eating anything but the dish or dessert I brought to share--I have to suffer rounds of questions and insults heaved my way about abstaining from the meal. The usual "top of the food chain," "What's the big deal?" and "eating meat is the reason humans evolved to be smart blah blah blah" not only makes me feel unwelcome, but rather angry.

Okay, okay. I feel I should say that my friends are generally supportive. But it sometimes feels as if it's only in a backhanded "Oh, how fun for you" type of way.

I guess what I'm asking is how do you all deal with this? I grew up in a very meat-eating family, have a meat-eating boyfriend and almost exclusively meat-eating friends and I feel overwhelmed with having to defend myself/my diet/my philosophy on an almost daily basis. My initial response is to state my peace, insist that I eat well (and I do!) and just stay positive, but sometimes it can be a little too much to bear. Any suggestions for leading a happy, SOCIAL vegan life would be much appreciated.


  1. I'm not a vegan, just a vegetarian, but something I did once was a lot of fun and might be helpful - the idea is to show your friends how much fun your way of eating can be. I hosted a vegetarian Thanksgiving and sort of threw the invitation out to anyone who wanted to come. A bunch of people wanted to do it, and none of them were vegetarian! We worked out who was to bring what - I made recipe/food suggestions for those who weren't sure what to do - and we had a blast - lots of great food and fun. Everyone agreed that Thanksgiving without the turkey was great. I'll bet there's a lot you can do with Louisiana-style cooking that's vegan and fabulous that your friends would also enjoy. Good luck!

  2. That's a great suggestion, Kate! I'll have to try that out. My hope is that no one would deny a free dinner and if it's tasty enough, maybe they'll back off on the vegan-hating for good. Thanks so much :)

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  4. i feel the same way as you do elizabeth. im the only vegan/vegetarian in my family and everyone thinks im crazy. when ever im invited to family functions i have to bring my own food if i want to eat, and everyone avoids what i bring like the plague. it makes me want to stop going to family stuff all together. its a consent struggle and i still havent figured out how to deal with it. i eagerly await more feedback.

  5. The way I see it, there will always be struggles when choosing the more ethical, peaceful way of living because there will always be people acting "out of" love rather than "in" love. Your strategies for dealing with these people or situations will change and hopefully improve as you develop (just like any personal growth).
    So right now my strategy has been (and it has changed a hundred times in just the last year!) to accept people as they are. Everyone has a time in their life when they get to "choose" to live ethically, and at the time you're dealing with a prick, they may just not be there yet.

    I try to remember that I was not always vegan. I was naive and brain washed. I gave all the same irritating responses as people give to me now! But something triggered my change and that trigger is different for everyone. It may be a doctor's visit with bad news. It may be a visit to a farmed animal sanctuary. It may be that a loved one can open their mind. Who knows!
    I'm not in control of what will trigger someone to open their mind, but I am in a position to push people in the wrong direction by offering anger in return for their ignorance.

    We offer people vegan food all the time, have vegan bonfires, bring vegan dishes to omnivore BBQs, and drag people out to the farm to meet the rescues. All the while trying hard to accept them as they are and hope that something will unlock their heart!

  6. Well said Kathy! I am also only a vegetarian so far, and my fiancee is still an omni, so I'm in a similar situation to yours in that regard Elizabeth. I completely agree with Kathy, except I would add that I feel like if a friend/spouse etc. is ridiculing you about your diet, I would call them on it (without freaking out, of course). My man used to do this, and although he was intending it to be playful, it hurt my feelings and made it harder for me to be a vegetarian. Once I explained the way his comments made me feel though, he quit making them. I feel like that should always be a loved one's/friend's response. If it's not, I'd say there's a problem with that relationship.

  7. Thank you all for the comments! They are so appreciated. I feel some fun, positive "come over and eat some yummy dinner" will be fabulous outreach. My boyfriend never insults my lifestyle, in fact, he is incredibly supportive...which makes it all the weirder that he won't make the change for himself LOL. A girl can dream!

  8. I'm glad to hear that's the case Elizabeth! I am a huge fan of Kathy's "come over and eat some yummy dinner" method :)