What do you mean he don’t eat no meat? Oh, that’s okay. I make lamb.
– My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding. Nia Vardalos
Being a newbie to the wonderful world of veganism is always going to be a challenge, but dealing with the attitudes of the non-vegans out there certainly adds just that bit extra.
Making the decision to become a vegan was an exciting change for me and, like most big things that happen in my life, I like to share. Telling the people in my life about it has produced some mixed reactions, to say the least.
Support and sheer horror
There is the supportive group. My 12 year old son has embraced my choice enthusiastically. He has the habit of saying ‘Cheese and Rice!’ instead of swearing. The other day at dinner he told me he “was going to say Peas and Rice from now on, ‘cos you are a vegan”. Adorable. Some friends and family have asked appropriate questions and are genuinely curious. One has even taken up the challenge of becoming vegan herself. You go girl!
Then there is the less supportive few. A relative looked at me with such a sad face that I might have as well told her that I only had three-months left to live and I was saying my goodbyes. There have been the looks of abject horror, confusion and, in one case, anger. Some were indifferent, some annoyed that I might inconvenient to them in some way. Many ask if I can eat chicken or fish or lamb. It has been an interesting few months.
Trying to explain where you are coming from
When I was quite a bit younger, I was a pretend vegetarian, or Pescatarian as they often call it nowadays. I ate loads of our fishy friends for nearly five years. I used to explain why I didn’t eat other meat for ethical reasons and after many, many negative reactions; I started to tell people who asked that I was allergic to it. They would always nod their heads and leave it at that. I’m not sure if you can even be allergic to meat, but the excuse worked for me at the time… Can you be allergic to meat??
Maybe as I have gotten older and more confident, I don’t feel the need to make excuses anymore and tell it like it is. Perhaps I could say that I’ve just become allergic to ingesting pain, suffering and death? I don’t think I would get too many understanding head nods with that explanation. More likely to get some eye rolls instead.
Learn as you go
I was reading today about someone who knew a chef who would purposely put animal products into vegetarian/ vegan meals as he got sick of these customers requesting special meals. I hadn’t thought about the power that chefs have over us. Our beliefs and values are in their hands. All I say about that particular chef is “Karma man, Karma”. Probably best not to think about it when we are eating out. Now, dare you to try NOT to think about it when you are eating out. Urgh.
I have learnt quickly that being vegan is not for the faint hearted. It does involve thinking about where your food has come from and what exactly you are putting into your mouth. You have to be strong to stand up for your beliefs and be prepared to walk away from some arguments. Planning ahead is important when you go out for a meal or around to a friend’s house for dinner. It means that you may have to ring a restaurant in advance to request a vegan meal (and pray that you have an understanding chef) or bring a meal to share to a party. So, is it really worth all the hassle? I certainly think so.
Becoming a vegan is in many ways like joining an extended family. I don’t know that I would have had the access to the resources that we do now and the support from fellow vegans that I have connected with over the net. Everyone has been helpful and supportive, which cannot be said of most large families. I guess maybe that we all have a common goal. Some of us will be more vocal, some of us political, some will just go about living a cruelty-free life quietly. But we are all united in the hope that our choices will one day be fully accepted by all.
In the meantime, when someone asks me something stupid, or makes a negative comment or rolls their eyes, I will take a deep breath, slowly count to 10 in my head and play nice.
Cover image: Shutterstock.