Why I hate extreme veganism.

7 Feb

I’ve used this blog to talk a lot about my veganism. I told you guys about why I’m a vegan and what it means to me. I shared a pie recipe and a cookie one all with no meat or dairy in sight. And I love it – I love that I have readers who are open to hearing about dietary lifestyles different than their own, and I love that I have readers who are also vegan and share their awesome recipes with me.

But man do I hate extreme vegans. I’m not talking about extreme in the sense of strict. I’m talking about those people (I think you’ve probably encountered at least one) who feel the need to lecture you on every choice you make that’s not “right.” The ones who have clever little quips about how it’s not worth being a vegetarian if you’re going to eat dairy, or how meatless Mondays mean you’re still killing animals six days a week. The people who look you up and down, searching for a hint of wool.

I remember three years ago, sitting in anthropology lecture with a girl who was vegan. We bonded over a shared love of coffee and black beans, and then she said that really annoying, made-me-want-to-pull-my-hair-out thing. “Well, I wouldn’t dream of eating dairy. Really, it’s no different from eating meat.”

UGH. She could have put all the evidence in front of me at that moment – she could have told me how much healthier I’d feel until the cows came home – but I would have just been so freaking mad that none of it would have mattered. Because the second she got that snotty look on her face and talked down her nose with that holier-than-thou tone, I was checked out. I don’t like being judged, and I don’t like being told that eleven years of vegetarianism is “no different” from eating meat.

I think I would have gone vegan a lot earlier if it wasn’t for these people. Because they made being a vegan seem so inaccessible. In fact, for a few months I just told people that I gave up dairy. And that I happened to be a vegetarian, as well.

When you get right down to it, it’s very narrow-minded and defeatist to pretend like everything we consume comes from lovely little farms one state over with well-paid workers and ethical materials. And it’s short-sighted to pretend like things like meatless Monday don’t help. Are you freaking kidding me? Besides saving animals, meatless Mondays help promote discussion about where our food comes from and the idea that a good meal doesn’t have to center around meat. I will never understand how that’s a bad thing.

I’m very passionate about my lifestyle. I love when people ask me about it, and I love to hear what they believe. But I don’t think any sort of extremism is the way to go. Promoting awareness comes through open, respectful discussion – not attacks. This is true in all areas of life, but for some reason people see food as open season for criticism. I could write a whole post on how much flak I get for being a vegetarian (and now a vegan) but it would be just as rant-y, and just as worked up. With lots of stories of uncles making jokes about how I should have just one piece of turkey, and the Joke That Never Dies, AKA the imitation crab bit. But really, I won’t go there.

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15 Responses to “Why I hate extreme veganism.”

  1. haniemarie February 7, 2011 at 11:13 pm #

    I love that you refer to it as YOUR lifestyle, unless I’m out at the bars looking for a fun debate I never judge someone for their dietary styles. It is not my place to judge someone’s lifestyle choices if they’re not affecting me one bit. I have definitely come across these extreme vegans and they’re not really different than those preaching the bible to me – unless I asked for your opinion about how I live my life, please keep it to yourself!!

    (And if you asked – when ever we get on the fun “why I eat meat” topic I start singing the circle of life. At the top of my lungs.)

  2. Mrs. Puma February 7, 2011 at 11:46 pm #

    HUGE kudos to you for doing something for the right reasons, and not being an extremist about it. I completely agree with you on the extremism no matter what the topic, from food to sexuality to religion and everything in between. More kudos to you for being open and willing to speak up about it!

  3. Jessica @ One Shiny Star February 7, 2011 at 11:55 pm #

    I’m not vegan, but I try to eat responsibly. For a while I was focusing on that “organic” label, but realized that it is more important to me for my food to be local, than she it to be labelled “organic”. I kind of figure smaller farms are farming more responsibly than the giant farms have to. I guess I know what you mean, by the “extreme veganism” but among my family/group of friends my husband and I are the most conscious eaters. It has been difficult to stick by our normal eating habits since we’ve moved closer to family, as we are eating at their homes multiple times a week. It definitely saves on the grocery bill! I have also had a harder time finding the local dealers (in tennessee I had an all organic grocery store that labelled where everything came from).

    My view of vegetarians is a little tainted. My brother in law is a “vegetarian”… in that he doesn’t eat meat. Instead he eats highly processed crap. And by crap I mean…. junk food. I have never seen him eat a vegetable. lol. I kind of figure that, even though his goal was to minimize his carbon footprint, by eating locally I might be doing a better job than the vegetarian who eats veggies burgers shipped across the country. (I hope that makes sense, I’m not trying to sound cocky).

    • Anni February 8, 2011 at 6:54 am #

      I was just like your brother in law when I first became a vegetarian (granted, I was 11, so it was pretty understandable) – now I eat local as often as possible, in-season as much as I can, and almost nothing I eat is processed. It does make it a lot more difficult to eat with family, though, you’re right. Especially when they already think I’m crazy because I can’t eat the vegetables with the butter pooled at the bottom. Then they pull up a bag of Oreos, go “but they’re vegan!” and are upset when we’re not all over them.

      Over the holiday, Jenna let us pick up their CSA order to try it out, and I absolutely loved it and really want to join up. The only problem is that you have to pay up-front, and since we’re two full-time students with part-time jobs, we really live paycheck to paycheck.

      I really admire what you do by eating locally. Hopefully one day “organic” will be monitored more closely and the FDA will dramatically raise its standards in regards to GMOs, etc, and we’ll actually be able to trust places when they slap the organic label on things. Until then, I agree 100% that local is usually better.

      • Jessica @ One Shiny Star February 8, 2011 at 4:44 pm #

        Well, this guy has been “vegetarian” (junkfoodatarian?) for a good 4 years now. Out of the four brothers, he has the least amount of hair, and sometimes I think it’s because of his crappy diet – you can only get so much nutrients from processed foods.

        Have you ever seen… I think it was “King Corn”? (It may have been another documentary) and they talk about GMOs… taking over the world! lol. If one farm is using GMO corn, and the one next to it is not, but their plants pollinate together, then the guy who planted non-GMO plants ends up owing money to the company who owns the rights to that GMO plant. It seems completely ridiculous that some one could own the rights to ever instance of a plant. And it’s kind of scary, considering that there is no research done on the long term effects of GMO foods included in our diets. Eek!

  4. Steph February 8, 2011 at 8:24 am #

    Well said, Anni. I agree that the extremism some people put on being vegan, even vegetarian, gets incredibly annoying and can absolutely turn people (myself included) off to the whole idea.

    I don’t eat red meat for a variety of reasons, and I’d rather not hear a lecture on how I’m not doing ANYTHING good for anyone by having the dietary lifestyle that I have. It’s my personal choice, doesn’t affect others at all, so why get all snooty on me?

    I get more antsy when people get that way about religion and civil liberty issues, but the rants on my food choices are absolutely annoying too.

  5. Married in Chicago February 8, 2011 at 9:29 am #

    I pretty much try and stay away from anyone who tries to lecture me about anything šŸ™‚

  6. Layla February 8, 2011 at 9:50 am #

    Very well written. I agree wholeheartedly. You could apply this to all types of extremism or preachy behavior (political, religious, etc). Can my choice be good enough? You’re no better because you made a different one. Acceptance is always so hard to come by, it seems.

  7. Jessica February 8, 2011 at 1:19 pm #

    When you said “Promoting awareness comes through open, respectful discussion ā€“ not attacks.” I could have literally stood up and cheered hip hip hooray! More often than not, people turn a normal conversation into a full on argument. Whether vegan or not, opinions are opinions. We all have different views and being one sided doesn’t help anyone’s argument.

    Our area will be opening a grocery store soon that is stocked by only local farmers and I’m in LOVE with this idea. It makes organic and local produce available to us that don’t really know where to go to get it otherwise.

    This post was superbly written Anni!!! šŸ™‚

  8. Kimberly February 8, 2011 at 2:51 pm #

    That is the most frustrating, when others who have extreme views on something, attack or lecture you about your lifestyle (or get snotty!). Drives me crazy! I have a really good friend who does this to me every.time.we.talk. Which has resulted in us talking less (sad face). But it was hard to have a conversation with someone who only wanted to talk about their lifestyle and how I should be doing the same and how the products I use are killing me and giving me cancer. I get their point, they just need to realize that it’s THEIR views… not mine.

    Thank you for the awesome post!!!

  9. kelsey February 8, 2011 at 6:49 pm #

    Great post!! I’m a vegetarian, and I think it’s funny when I go out to eat with people and they ask me if I mind if they eat meat. Um…this is my choice not yours, right? I am not about to tell people how to eat when they’re around me. But, it’s probably because they’ve been lectured too many times!

  10. smtty February 8, 2011 at 7:04 pm #

    Great post! I’ve tried, multiple times, to change my lifestyle and give up meat. When I did, I faced all sorts of jokes.

  11. Bean February 9, 2011 at 12:29 pm #

    I think extreme people in general are scary. It’s like with anything – lifestyle choices, religion, politics, activities, etc. – those who are huge snobs turn other people off whatever they are supposedly promoting.

    I’ve been on a fast for the last 2 1/2 weeks where I have been vegan and it’s really given me a greater appreciation of how difficult being vegan is! (I also can’t have sugar, processed foods, preservatives and leavened goods, so that adds another degree of difficulty to it.) It’s definitely interesting trying to explain to people that I can’t not only eat what I’m allergic/intolerant to, but none of the above mentioned foods either!

  12. Katie February 12, 2011 at 8:10 pm #

    Lovely post! I’ve really been all over the board with my dietary choices in the past…I’m kind of psycho. I’ve been an avid meat-eater…to a vegetarian…to now a diet that consists of fish/white meats only (no red meat). I like to cook vegetarian dishes, and I am very open to trying different things (vegan dishes, etc.). Justin’s aunt has to eat gluten-free, so I am always trying to find some recipes that I could make for her that I also find tasty and would like to partake in (since, typically at family meals they make her something different than what everyone else gets for certain dishes).

    Anyway, I definitely get a lot of comments from other people regarding my “restrictive” diet…as they like to call it. I think that it is kind of humorous that others feel the need to make comments on the fact that I’m ordering something “restrictive” (um…to me it’s just a healthy choice, thank you very much), yet I’m sure they would get offended if I happened to say to them what my thoughts were on the meal that THEY are ordering. My choices are my own…I eat what I want to eat…you are very welcome to eat what it is you feel comfortable with. Done and done.

    And um…just wanted to add that the vegan black and white cookies are DELISH! Justin agrees too.

    • Anni February 12, 2011 at 9:10 pm #

      I’m so glad you guys like them! I wish they didn’t take such a beating in the mail, I tried to wrap them so well! Oh well, the important thing is how they tasted.

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