Updated: Mar 15
This is something that has baffled me. You meet someone and you get talking, everything is great and then they find out that you're vegan then it everything changes, #triggered. They go from being quite nice to being angry, they rant, they accuse, they tip over into a rage and all you said was "I don't drink dairy". Sometimes I'll tell people that I have an allergy instead of admitting that I'm vegan because I can't be bothered to get into it, having to deal with sneers and dirty looks can be tiring when you're not having the best of days.
So, Good Morning Britain had a debate about this issue, “Do people hate vegans?” They decided to do this after the editor of Waitrose Food Magazine, William Sitwell, sent an email about “killing vegans”. He says it was a joke that went wrong, but he still lost his job because of it. TV Presenter Adrian Chiles, who eats a plant-based diet, and a radio host Niall Boylan, who doesn’t, were on the ITV program to talk about whether or not vegans are actually annoying. In the end the discussion didn't get to the bottom of anything as people that are vegan will continue to tell everyone that it's great and those that aren't vegan will continue to not want to hear it. However, the program did bring up some interesting points and it got people talking, which is always a good thing. There seem to be three main reasons why non-vegans hate vegans, they are guilt, superiority and the issue of being told what to do.
One person that watched the debate said that the anti-vegan feelings stem from “repressed guilt,” writing: “I think people hate vegans so much, because we know killing animals is kind of wrong, and they’re pointing it out”. As Bryony Gordon said, in the Telegraph, that hatred is born often out of guilt; "one knows that meat eating is bad for the environment, cholesterol and the poor animal but it’s an inconvenient truth". People don't want to be reminded that, as they eat their burger, they are contributing to global warming, water shortages and slowly destroying their health. I remember the guilt that I used to feel when I ate meat. I would apologise to the animal and thank it for giving it's life for me. I didn't know then that I didn't need to eat meat to be healthy, I thought that eggs were a great way of getting vitamin D, I didn't know anything about the way animals were treated or how much damage animal agriculture does to the environment. I believe that many people have an idea that eating meat isn't a good thing to do, but they like it and so try to find ways to justify it. They tell themselves that meat isn't all that bad, just a little bit bad. That if they go to the gym before eating it the extra fat won't be a problem. They convince themselves that cows produce milk all of the time and that if we didn't take it the cows would be in agony. That pigs don't have a strong desire to live so killing them for a ham sandwich is no big deal.
During the debate Boylan described veganism as “a cult”, having a problem with vegans who tell others how to eat. Meat eaters often feel that vegans think that they are better than everyone else and that they force their views on to others. No one likes being told what to do and when you have someone that's doing it in such a way that makes you feel like they are looking down on you it is especially unpleasant. For the most part, though, vegans don't behave in a superior way, they go about their days the same as anyone else. The two main differences are that when vegans shop they do it in a very mindful way and that vegans educate themselves so that they can have as much information as they need to be able to do that. For them it is important to buy products and items that cause the least possible harm, this means checking, double checking and triple checking labels. It's not about being fussy, its about caring. Vegans need to educate themselves about how items are produced and, particularly with food, what things are made from. Then there is the problem of making sure that you get all of the nutrients that you need, that is something that is very important and leads to many people that try veganism to fail as their health goes downhill. This often happens with people that only eat fruit or a raw diet where they don't eat any cooked foods. Don't me wrong, there are some vegans that do behave as if they are superior, they sneer at other people, even other vegans, if they decide that the way that they live is in some way better. These people are often very free with their opinion and make sure that everyone knows how superior they are, or like to think they are. This means that they are the ones doing the talking while the nice, humble, vegans that are minding their own business aren't noticed leading to the loud vegan being the one that everyone remembers and hates.
Being Told What To Do
Ok, we're back to Loudmouth Vegan, not really, I'm joking, but this is what people think of when vegans come to mind. They mention milkshake, vegan says baby cow, they say fried eggs, vegan says battery caged hens, they say bacon sandwich, vegan says heart disease. These aren't positive conversations and become boring for people that just want to eat whatever they feel like eating without judgement or opinion. The problem is that the vegan isn't trying to be negative or judgemental, they're actually trying to help. They want to give people information that they may not have so that they can make, what the vegan thinks are, better choices.
Is It Okay To Hate Vegans?
Its not okay to hate anyone.
Dolly Alderton and Pandora Sykes said on their podcast, The High Low, that while the Waitrose magazine editor had been in the wrong for joking about killing vegans, vegans are not a tiny, ignored, community but a group of people who had made a lifestyle choice, and therefore cannot demand the same level of respect or at least protection as say, a religion. But because the food we eat is so strongly connected to our family and the food that we ate as we grew up what we eat becomes a part of who we are, how we see ourselves. If you are vegan you’ll see yourself as a part of the vegan community, you'll eat the food, wear the clothes, go to the events, live the life. You become part of the vegan group, and other vegans are your people. It's the same for those that eat meat, they eat the food, wear the leather, talk about meat and eat meat together, because that's all meat eaters do, eat meat and talk about meat (joke!).
“From a social identity point of view as soon as you start challenging the norm it elicits a strong reaction from people who disagree with you…that’s when you cultivate that antagonism.”
”You are making an individual preference that has implications for the social norms [regarding] how we should treat animals, how we should eat, food in schools…you are challenging the norm and implying perhaps that you have made a shift that other people should consider.” - Dr Voyer
Dr Voyer is right, sometimes it doesn't matter what you've actually said or done, people feel judged and react negatively. In those cases you have to take a step back and not make things worse. As I've said in other posts, just know that you are making the best choice for you and that you're living the most positive life that you can. Be a shining, beautiful, healthful, youthful, beacon of veganism and show them how it's done.