Why vegetarians should be prepared to bend their own rules
August 8, 2017 10:56 AM   Subscribe

Avoiding meat in all circumstances, including in the circumstances in which the vegetarian guest found herself, is a strategy that can backfire. Plausibly, the ‘right’ message to be sent to non-vegetarians is one that increases the chances that as many of them as possible will give up meat or at least reduce their meat consumption. […] A flexible moral position is more appealing than a rigid one that allows for no exceptions. It is more likely that people would be convinced to become flexible vegetarians – that is, that they abstain from eating meat with some exceptions – than to become rigid vegetarians, and being a flexible vegetarian is preferable, from a moral perspective, to being a carnivore.
posted by Johnny Wallflower (128 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
Is evangelism the goal of vegetarianism? I didn't realize vegetarians are supposed to winning converts.
posted by Keith Talent at 11:02 AM on August 8 [30 favorites]


Alberto, just apologize to your vegetarian friend. If you forgot, that's on you, but writing a editorial about it is making this super weird.
posted by zamboni at 11:04 AM on August 8 [106 favorites]


I'm not a vegetarian for other people's sake. People only find out when they ask. If I eat meat I will get sick. Making myself sick so as to better propagandize (by making ppl more comfortable in the face of moral judgement) is sad, and is an indictment of the company kept in this example.
posted by nwwn at 11:06 AM on August 8 [16 favorites]


We are all flexible vegetarians. Some are just way more flexible than others.
posted by AugustWest at 11:07 AM on August 8 [11 favorites]


Eating that pork chop would actually lead to a prolonged conversation where all the flaws in your vegetarianism are examined at tedious length and your moral hypocrisy is declaimed as an affront to all concerned.
posted by dng at 11:09 AM on August 8 [63 favorites]


This is such a weird article. I'm a member of the enlightened class according to this author--I eat veggie if it's straightforward, otherwise I just go with the flow and eat some meat. And the point of this behavior is specifically to insulate more omnivorous people from having to think about vegetarianism. I absolutely cannot imagine why the author would think that keeping your diet preferences to yourself would benefit omnivores except insofar as it makes it easier for them to eat meat without consideration.
posted by TypographicalError at 11:10 AM on August 8 [9 favorites]


Dumb article or dumbest article? I'm not even vegetarian. Should I bend my rules about not reading moronic garbage? Like, from a moral perspective?
posted by snofoam at 11:10 AM on August 8 [18 favorites]


A flexible moral position is more appealing than a rigid one

I thought the whole point of morals is that you're supposed to stick to them.
posted by bondcliff at 11:11 AM on August 8 [33 favorites]


Why are some omnivores so incredibly invested in telling vegetarians how to live?
posted by noxperpetua at 11:14 AM on August 8 [68 favorites]


I don't think the point of morals is to be appealing.
posted by HypotheticalWoman at 11:15 AM on August 8 [12 favorites]


I didn't realize vegetarians are supposed to winning converts.

Probably depends on why you're a vegetarian, right? I mean, if you're a vegetarian for the sake of your own health but don't think it matters for people's health in general, then you don't have any reason to evangelize. But if you're a vegetarian because you think that killing animals for food is morally wrong or because you think that raising animals for food is ecologically wrong, then you probably do have at least some reason to evangelize. And I (a non-vegetarian) don't see anything wrong with that as long as you're not being abusive with you proselytizing efforts.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 11:18 AM on August 8 [9 favorites]


Eating that pork chop would actually lead to a prolonged conversation where all the flaws in your vegetarianism are examined at tedious length and your moral hypocrisy is declaimed as an affront to all concerned.

This is actually something I was surprised by when I was a flexible vegetarian. That it almost always took a small amount of emotional labor to eat meat in front of someone who had me classified as a vegetarian, because they wanted to know what was going on, why I was violating a moral code they didn't hold themselves to.
posted by little onion at 11:20 AM on August 8 [21 favorites]


+1ing TypographicalError here. It's a bizarre article. I could see some situations where a vegetarian might choose to eat meat -- a diplomat at a formal dinner, someone meeting their SO's parents for the first time and not wanting to make a scene -- but the idea that they are somehow obligated at any time or be called morally inferior?

A lot of my fellow omnivores are just bizarrely aggressive about other people's food choices. I acknowledge that there's a certain percentage of hardcore vegans who can be annoying, the kind that announce "how can you drink/eat PUS" when you pick milk or cheese, etc, but most vegetarians are like my sister: quietly going about their life, not eating meat. So it's not very hard to be considerate of them. She came into town last year, my first thought was try the creole restaurant, hmm, wait, not a lot of vegetable options, let's do Thai. And we had a lovely meal.
posted by tavella at 11:21 AM on August 8 [17 favorites]


A friend of mine is a vegetarian for food-waste/food-efficiency reasons more than animal-ethics reasons. She was once served soup with meat in it and had to do a whole lot of convincing to the server re: "No, it's actually worse if you take it back and throw it away than if I eat it."
posted by Hypatia at 11:22 AM on August 8 [11 favorites]


Why are some omnivores so incredibly invested in telling vegetarians how to live?

Why are some vegetarians so invested in telling omnivores how to live?
posted by Dr. Twist at 11:23 AM on August 8 [8 favorites]


People love to both accuse vegetarians of moral inflexibility and demand it of them.

I have been a vegetarian since I was 16 — 33 years. I wear a few items of leather, I eat eggs and milk, and once in a blue moon will have a small amount of meat if it is novel (I will be eating rattlesnake in a few weeks) or if my girlfriend insists its really good.

I do that because it is my vegetarianism, and nobody else's, and my system of ethnics, and nobody else's business.

And so if other vegetarians do things differently, that is likewise their business, and I butt the fuck out.
posted by maxsparber at 11:26 AM on August 8 [55 favorites]


There's no troll quite like an academic troll.

I'm a flexitarian and am pretty darn sure I have never convinced anyone to adopt my diet by eating meat in front of them. More common are folks who have observed my tofu-eating ways and ask, with genuine concern, whether I can eat X that they're serving.
posted by toastedcheese at 11:28 AM on August 8 [4 favorites]


Why are some omnivores so incredibly invested in telling vegetarians how to live?

So, would this be "Meatsplaining?"
posted by leotrotsky at 11:28 AM on August 8 [33 favorites]


I'm a pretty "flexible" vegetarian--in that I don't eat meat at home and rarely eat it when not at home. But my flexibility is basically I won't ask if there's chicken stock in your pasta sauce or I'll pick the bacon off the deviled egg and still eat it. Or I won't complain when everyone wants to go to Restaurant OF MEAT and there's not a lot of options for me there. I'll just order the least meat thing and enjoy being with my friends. My husband, on the other hand, won't eat in those circumstances Which makes everyone uncomfortable, but you know, he does not eat meat. It's got nothing to do with how uncomfortable you are that he's not eating; it's got to do with his decision not to eat meat. (and I'm more likely to mention it than he is and I try hard to remember not to)

Expecting a vegetarian to eat a pork chop because you've invited them to dinner without bothering to notice they are a vegetarian is . . . . weird. Sometimes when my friends and I are doing take out, I'll say "sure. order the shawarma" and eat a bit, but that's not the same thing at all. One is me, controlling flexibility in my diet; the other is someone not respecting my diet.
posted by crush at 11:30 AM on August 8 [25 favorites]


Omnibore-us?
posted by maxsparber at 11:30 AM on August 8 [2 favorites]


I prefer "non-practicing vegetarian."

I have been vegetarian and vegan before at various points and half the reason I quit is because it's so annoying to talk about it and for whatever reason everybody wants to talk about it when they find out someone has a diet that has any sort of guidelines outside the norm. This same thing happens with keto or Whole 30 or whatever. We find it endlessly fascinating to discuss what we eat and why vs what other people eat and why and half the time it escalates into somebody being an asshole. Humans are fun.
posted by something something at 11:31 AM on August 8 [2 favorites]


Why are some omnivores so incredibly invested in telling vegetarians how to live?

I don't know, but I find it weird. It's as if they interpret a vegetarian's choice not to eat meat as a criticism of themselves, and they get really defensive about it.

There's also more than a little bit of misogyny involved, because vegetarian stereotypes are is coded as unmasculine. Vegetarian women get lectured because they're ignorant and their decisions unserious, and vegetarian men ... well. And yes, any sign of inconsistency is just more ammunition for the attack.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 11:33 AM on August 8 [37 favorites]


I suspect this article is flavored by the very bizarre youtube phenomenon of (usually) vegan callouts, where I put up a video where I rant for 20 minutes about NeverEatAnimals392 because I saw an animal-tested lipstick on the table behind her in one of her videos so she is a FRAUD.

I do think people get weirdly hung up on orthodoxy, which is why I refuse to identify myself as any particular foodreligion but will identify a food or dish or restaurant as whatever. I think the culture could be changed, though, by people backing off the orthodoxy and say "I try to stick to a plant-based diet" or "I avoid animal products" rather than "I am this thing." But I'm not going to tell anyone they have to, they can come to that on their own or not.

There are certain things I almost never buy/use because of problematic production, and there are certain types of food I eat very little of for health reasons. If you've made something for me, I will eat it. If I am out and hungry and my choices are limited, I will eat what's available. If you tell me you can't or won't eat something I won't serve it to you. If you tell me you won't donate money to the county food bank or summer lunch program for kids because it might be used to buy animal products, I will adjust my opinion of you accordingly. All this keeps my life much simpler.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:33 AM on August 8 [7 favorites]


I'm a quiet vegetarian/struggling vegan. Whenever people find out, there's the inevitable meat jokes. Or telling me how much they love a good, bloody steak. It feels like a test. Testing my commitment, or trying to gross me out.
It's not a commitment, it's just something I don't do. I'm not committed to not touching my cat's butthole, it's just something I don't do because it feels icky to me. And probably my cat.

I went vegetarian after a long time struggling with the thought of something dying for my benefit.
Meat eaters: THIS IS NOT A JUDGEMENT ON YOU. If you are feeling some kind of guilt, maybe you should explore your feelings about meat. You may come to the same conclusion as me. Also, you might not. And that's OK. While I wish that people didn't eat meat, I completely understand why they do. It's delicious. Which is why I'm always seeking out better meat substitutes.

I eagerly await the day we have vat-grown meat.

My SO is a militant vegan. And she proselytizes, and I fucking hate it. Because guilt and shame NEVER win people over. Not that I'm actually trying to win anyone over; it's hard enough for me to control my own life. I'm not going to try and control yours too.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 11:35 AM on August 8 [26 favorites]


Why are some omnivores so incredibly invested in telling vegetarians how to live?

Why are some vegetarians so invested in telling omnivores how to live?


Can we please not get into this for like the millionth time?

Not a fan of the article. It's based around the premise that abstaining from meat is a signal to the meat-eaters, which I think is... not true? I mean, get over yourself. I never worry about it unless someone is directly confrontational, and that's happened maybe once in my life? I think my sister once told me I was gross for eating meat at dinner, but that was a very long time ago.

I do think there's some value in not thinking in terms of whether you are strictly omnivore or strictly vegetarian. You can eat less meat and still have a big impact on the environment. You can choose only to eat meat that didn't come from factory farms. You can avoid meat altogether because you aren't comfortable eating it, or because you don't like it, or because you just don't want to. The problem is when it has to be this strict identity thing (and that applies to "lol but bacon is delicious" omnivores).
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 11:35 AM on August 8 [3 favorites]


Uggghhh. I moved to northern California so I could *stop* having conversations about my vegitarianism. I'm not exaggerating a bit. 1) Stop having to shovel snow 2) Stop having to defend my eating choices 3) Put some distance between me and my family. Those were the reasons for moving here 12 years ago. Best decision ever. I went from defending my eating choices every meal to never having to talk about them. Ever. This whole "vegetarians feel the need to convert people" thing seems mythological to me. It's been mostly meat-eater defensiveness in my experience.
posted by greermahoney at 11:42 AM on August 8 [26 favorites]


My choice to not eat animal products is my own and none of your business. Nor does it have a single thing to do with you.

just like

My choice to not drink or do drugs is my own and none of your business. Nor does it have a single thing to do with you.

just like

My choice of who I do or do not want to fuck is my own and none of your business. Nor does it have a single thing to do with you.
posted by n9 at 11:45 AM on August 8 [5 favorites]


Or, and this is clearly the most difficult option, nobody could give a shit about what everyone else prefers to eat and nobody makes a big deal out of what they eat.

If you serve a vegetarian a pork chop? The vegetarian politely says "would anyone like my pork chop? I'm sure it's lovely but I'm not a fan" and someone who would love some extra pig will surely graciously accept it. Nobody gets into vindictive philosophical debates, we all eat what we want, and we enjoy delicious food.
However, by not eating meat, and especially by not eating meat when they are offered it in front of non-vegetarians, vegetarians send out a message to other people. By sticking to their ethical commitment, vegetarians signal that there is something wrong with being a carnivore, thus prompting other people to consider the morality of their habit of eating meat and perhaps even persuading them that consuming meat is wrong.
My honest opinion is that this individual should seek professional help for his clinical levels of narcissism.
posted by Talez at 11:46 AM on August 8 [22 favorites]


This is actually something I was surprised by when I was a flexible vegetarian. That it almost always took a small amount of emotional labor to eat meat in front of someone who had me classified as a vegetarian, because they wanted to know what was going on, why I was violating a moral code they didn't hold themselves to.

I have skipped events because of this. I can go to my friend's party at a restaurant and eat a few crackers while everyone has dinner, or I can participate and have to endure a long discussion about my ethics and life choices.
posted by tofu_crouton at 11:47 AM on August 8 [5 favorites]


That being said, if you're a vegetarian/kosher/halal coming for dinner please let me know before I sautée the brussel sprouts in bacon grease. I don't want you to come to dinner and have nothing to eat.
posted by Talez at 11:49 AM on August 8 [5 favorites]


My honest opinion is that this individual should seek professional help for his clinical levels of narcissism.

I think that the thing is this: you never really get to know how much of this shit is going on, just how utterly awful so many people are at managing their cognitive dissonance until you do something out of the norm that triggers these folks. And then you see it literally everywhere. Including in vegans who don't stop talking about how they are vegans and making it everyone else's problem.
posted by n9 at 11:49 AM on August 8 [3 favorites]


As a vegetarian I can confirm that I have personally never tried to convert anyone, but most people who find out feel the need to argue or make jokes about it. At this point, I actively try to hide the fact that I'm vegetarian to prevent those types of conversations.
posted by exolstice at 11:49 AM on August 8 [22 favorites]


Including in vegans who don't stop talking about how they are vegans and making it everyone else's problem.

#notallvegans
posted by Talez at 11:52 AM on August 8 [3 favorites]


The 'why can't you just eat it?' people are closely related to the 'vegetarian is some effete western fad that if you were a proper, decent person you'd ignore' people and the people who deliberately pour chicken fat on vegetables and serve them to you without asking, and then tell you they're so amazingly delicious because of that fat. (Note: they're not. They're disgusting. I'm just trying to be polite and eat a bit of them because I thought you just didn't realise you'd done something problematic.)
posted by lesbiassparrow at 11:53 AM on August 8 [6 favorites]


By the way, in my last comment I didn't mean to minimize how awkward/awful it can be when there's no vegetarian option. I eat meat, but I have a bunch of dietary restrictions AND I'm wildly obsessive about food safety. I always worry about being a jerk if something turns out to be something I can't eat, or worse, something I'm just not comfortable eating for personal reasons. I understand that sometimes someone forgets (uses chicken stock, or in my case, makes something spicy or handles it a certain way), but it's still a headache. I sometimes have to bring snacks just so my stomach doesn't fold in on itself before I can get home and eat something I can eat. It would be absurd to suggest that my thought process should have something to do with how best to "convert" other people, but that's the way vegetarianism is written about here, as if it can't just be personal preference. This article reads like it was written by someone who has primarily encountered vegetarianism through arguments about it.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 11:53 AM on August 8 [2 favorites]


#notallvegans

lol. I'm a vegan. ;)
posted by n9 at 11:54 AM on August 8


I eat, like, a bunch of meat, and this take makes me want to flick the v's at the screen while blowing raspberries.
posted by ominous_paws at 11:55 AM on August 8 [2 favorites]


wow. this is amazing:

This article reads like it was written by someone who has primarily encountered vegetarianism through arguments about it.

I think we live in a world of:

This article reads like it was written by someone who has primarily encountered _______ through arguments about it.
posted by n9 at 11:57 AM on August 8 [8 favorites]


shapes that haunt the dusk I'm the polar opposite to you. I cannot eat most fruits and vegetables. My only vegetable that I can readily eat is potato. Nothing dietary, just fucked in the head.

I went to a Christmas dinner once that was being organized by a cousin in law. She was a vegetarian. The Christmas dinner was 100% vegetarian.

The bread was delicious.
posted by Talez at 11:57 AM on August 8 [1 favorite]


LOL

I'm a pre-natal vegetarian – aka my parents are vegetarian – and from my holy moral pulpit I decree that the author of the linked article is a twit.
posted by nikoniko at 12:01 PM on August 8 [7 favorites]


My experience may be an outlier, but for most of the vegetarians I know, the moral superiority seems to be the best part.
posted by OHenryPacey at 12:02 PM on August 8 [3 favorites]


Why are some omnivores so incredibly invested in telling vegetarians how to live?

Those omnivores are probably paleo adherents.

Just kidding, but honestly the barn door on talking about the correct way to eat has been blown off it's hinges a long time ago. Now, it's just something people talk about, like the weather.
posted by FJT at 12:02 PM on August 8 [1 favorite]


This author who decided to write an article all about vegetarianism clearly has not spent much time actually talking to vegetarians about what it's like to be a vegetarian, because if he had, he would understand that many vegetarians actually GET SICK if they randomly eat meat. I don't mean that some vegetarians "get sick" at the idea of eating meat-- I mean that if you have completely or nearly completely avoided eating meat for years, and then eat more than a couple of bites of it-- even entirely accidentally and not knowingly-- there is a decent chance that you're going to spend the next hour or three in gastrointestinal distress because your body has literally forgotten how to digest meat. Many people who deliberately decide to quit being vegetarian find it takes weeks to reacclimate their digestive system to the point where they can eat an entire pork chop. (For much anecdotal evidence of this, search AskMe.) Expecting your dinner guests to "cheat" on a diet they've chosen for genuine ethical or health reasons for the sake of your personal convenience is a pretty rude thing to do as a host; expecting your guests to LITERALLY MAKE THEMSELVES ILL just so you don't have to feel bad for even a minute about forgetting their dietary restrictions is beyond rude-- it's just straight up being a bad person.
posted by BlueJae at 12:05 PM on August 8 [19 favorites]


(I would like to add that, I am at work right now, where we have catered lunch once/week. As per usual, the bulk of employees are making fun of the vegetarians. This is a weekly occurrence. Also, they order much less vegetarian food than non. And they wind up eating all the vegetarian food, and leaving over tons of meat. And often times, the vegetarians don't get anything at all. I've asked the powers that be about it, and I get asked, "why are vegetarians so demanding". Sigh.)

I recognize how lucky I am to have get free lunch at all. But if you're going to do it, accommodate everyone appropriately
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 12:08 PM on August 8 [18 favorites]


Cat Pie Hurts, I was once responsible for the weekly free sandwiches at seminar and it took me months to tune the orders so we reliably had at least one veg sandiwch left over. When I handed over the algorithm the next guy was taken aback, but after two weeks he came back and agreed.
posted by clew at 12:20 PM on August 8 [11 favorites]


Alberto Giubilini is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics

The math behind "Practical Ethics" sure becomes a lot easier when you assign a zero weight to the preferences of anyone you might ever encounter, doesn't it?

What's the Latin for "Christ, what an asshole?"
posted by tonycpsu at 12:25 PM on August 8 [12 favorites]


he would understand that many vegetarians actually GET SICK if they randomly eat meat.

Oh, yes, I meant to bring this up. While I have no idea if meat will make me sick (I'm strict enough to have not eaten any, to my knowledge, in over 15 years) I would absolutely *not* want to find out I *do* get sick when eating it while at a dinner party. Yikes.
posted by greermahoney at 12:28 PM on August 8 [3 favorites]


I recognize how lucky I am to have get free lunch at all. But if you're going to do it, accommodate everyone appropriately

When it comes to free office food, I've learned the hard way that there is only one rule: The earliest and quickest feast, the rest drink condiments.
posted by FJT at 12:39 PM on August 8 [2 favorites]


Anecdotes aren't data, but I was a vegetarian for a good five years, and broke that streak by gorging myself at a Fogo de Chao, to no negative consequences.

I know bodies and constitutions vary, that the human body is weird and full of variance, but the "vegetarians get sick if they eat meat" thing always struck me as a psychosomatic thing. Unless you're a vegan, you're probably eating other animal products (dairy, eggs, etc.), so it's not like your digestive system isn't primed.

Then again, it's always gonna be anecdotal, because a scientific study would be kind of impossible.
posted by explosion at 12:47 PM on August 8 [2 favorites]


Also, they order much less vegetarian food than non. And they wind up eating all the vegetarian food, and leaving over tons of meat. And often times, the vegetarians don't get anything at all.

TRUTH. It was exactly like this at a place I used to work. I think they were mentally translating "10% of people are vegetarians" to "10% of the food needs to be vegetarian"... which is like the Red Cross translating "10% of people are type O-negative" to "10% of the blood supply needs to be O-negative".
posted by aws17576 at 12:47 PM on August 8 [7 favorites]


It's 2017, someone being vegetarian should not be a shock to anyone and if you care about your guests, you will find out/ask about food tolerances, allergies, preferences and respect the answers.

Sure, it makes it a bit harder when I have to organise an event and cater to vegetarians and vegans and to avoid nuts and make sure the meat is halal and there are non-alcoholic beverages and gluten-free options. But that is the point of a party or a shared meal: to make people feel welcome and enjoy themselves. Is this such an alien concept?

In my experience omissions usually end in a polite-off of 'oh, don't worry/bother on my account' and 'no I insist on finding/sorting something out' rather than righteous indignation and drawing of battle lines.

And self-proclaimed carnivores are the most insufferable group spending far more time complaining about vegans than vegans have ever spent talking about veganism.
posted by slimepuppy at 12:51 PM on August 8 [23 favorites]


Okay, maybe it's just my Southern upbringing, but I find it damn near impossible to wrap my head around the idea of having a dinner party or a gathering with food and NOT asking your guests about what they like or don't eat. Hell, I'm having a hard time thinking of any person that I would invite to dinner that I don't know their dietary preferences. That's just being a good host.

For work people or casual acquaintances, how frakking hard is to ask "Bob, are you good with going to a steakhouse or would you rather go to this more flexible restaurant." I mean, yeah, you probably don't know the intricacies of whether Sally is vegan or if Bob is lactose intolerant, but damn. It's not that complex to ask first.

I mean...to write an article and all, he could have just made a veggie friendly dish and shut the hell up about it. That's what we do when we have folks over for BBQ. There's always a non-pork/non-meat version of something so everybody gets to eat good food. Like, that's just basic politeness.
posted by teleri025 at 12:55 PM on August 8 [15 favorites]


So, like, this guy seems to think this is some mind-bending moral conundrum, when in fact vegetarian religious orders have been thinking about this for literal centuries. It's not like vegetarianism sprung ex nihilo from the Bay Area circa 1970. (For the record, the Buddha forbade monks to eat meat that had been killed expressly for them, but not meat that was given in offering. Turning down someone's hospitality and forbidding them a chance to be generous was seen as the bigger sin.)

On a more personal level, you don't need to be vegetarian for very long for this to happen to you. It's an awkward social situation for sure, but that's just life and everyone finds their own solutions. I've been vegetarian or pescatarian for 30 years and I've had to navigate many instances of "all my friends want to go to House of Meat for dinner" or "catered meal has no vegetarian entree" and 100% of the time I just quietly deal with it. If I can have a roll or something, I won't starve, I will be fine, the fate of the world is not resting on me eating a meal RIGHT NOW IN SEQUENCE WITH OTHER HUMANS. As long as those other humans don't over-personalize the fact that I'm not eating while they are eating. I can still have a good time and be social. We don't all have to be synchronized chewing.
posted by soren_lorensen at 12:58 PM on August 8 [11 favorites]


Also: aggrieved carnivores are the weirdest. I used to encounter them more often than I do now probably just because I used to be 20 years old and hung out with other 20 year olds and now I... don't.
posted by soren_lorensen at 1:01 PM on August 8 [13 favorites]


Judging what other people eat is a monkey thing - and like the desire to jump on some guy and start pulling all his hair out, or the desire to rip someone's clothes off and hump like a maniac, we are all better off and happier if you can just sublimate the impulse and find a nice healthy consensual outlet for the urge.

The desire is nearly universal, but it's just ugly. You don't need to do it. Especially not with strangers or people who haven't explicitly and vigorously expressed their interest in it.
posted by idiopath at 1:02 PM on August 8 [3 favorites]


Also, I was raised vegetarian and "lapsed", and meat eaters are a lot more pushy about this stuff than vegetarians are. The comparison isn't even close.
posted by idiopath at 1:05 PM on August 8 [9 favorites]


When I first read just the title of this Metafilter post, I thought it was going to be something about how years from now we may not have enough vegetable/fruit crop because of crappy climate conditions and we are all going to have to rely on meat as a source of food, which means vegetarians have to be flexible. As upsetting as that is for a vegetarian, I could have maybe given a little bit of thought to the legitimacy of the author's point if that was actually what it was about. Now that I read it and know it's got nothing to do with the future of our planet, I can honestly say that this author has no idea WTF he's talking about.

Unless a vegetarian at a dinner party decides to give an unsolicited lecture about his/her reasons for not eating that pork chop and/or shames those who do choose to eat it, in what world does simply saying, "Sorry, I don't eat meat" imply just that? If the author is so worried about how the host or other guests will feel about their own morals, he should also consider the utter inconvenience and sacrifice of well-being that the vegetarian would go through just for the sake of eliminating any guilty thoughts that other people could have otherwise. It's people questioning their own morals versus a person having to give up their own morals, so it's a ridiculous expectation. Any decent person, even if they can't help but feel guilty about eating meat in front of a vegetarian, will not blame those guilty feelings on the vegetarian. If they strongly believe that there is nothing wrong with eating meat, then simply being in the presence of a vegetarian will do nothing to sway that opinion or induce guilt. A discussion about it might, but that's only if people choose to make it a topic of conversation, and healthy debates between willing participants to challenge each other's views is never a bad thing either.

As a vegetarian with a lot of non-vegetarian friends, I always encourage them to choose whatever restaurant the majority prefer when we go out for dinner, as I can always find options. Not only do my friends have zero issues with me not indulging in the same things with them, but despite my encouragement, they also always leave the restaurant decision up to me because they want me to enjoy something more than just a salad. So maybe I have high standards for friends, but I would never be friends with people at a dinner party if the expectation is that I have to eat a pork chop just so that others don't notice that I'm vegetarian and have guilty thoughts swarming around their heads.

The author does mention that a flexible vegetarian diet should be an option for people, and I absolutely agree with that. For those that choose to incorporate more vegetarian foods in their diet for whatever reason (ethical, health, etc.), they shouldn't have to feel like they have to be one or another but not in between. However, the onus is not on the strict vegetarians to abandon their principles just to show people that it's possible. We as a society need to stop shaming people for the diet they choose so that they can eat as they please rather than do what they think other's will not judge them for. It's a ridiculous notion that anyone, vegetarians or not, have to demonstrate a diet they don't want to adopt just to rid people of their guilty feelings about what they eat.
posted by cocoaviolet at 1:05 PM on August 8 [3 favorites]


This whole premise that we should bend over backwards to avoid even the vaguest sense of judgement is such BS, too. If someone asks I tell them straight up that it's an ethical concern. If they don't like the answer, cool, they can judge themselves by my standards all they want, my attention will be on my own dinner and having good conversations. Accepting a little conflict in life is part of being sane, and it's less stressful in the long run than avoiding it at all costs or dwelling on every little disagreement. If it's that big of a deal, maybe there's some repressed guilt at play.
posted by nwwn at 1:24 PM on August 8 [6 favorites]


Humans are fun.

But chewy if not properly tenderized.
posted by chavenet at 1:44 PM on August 8 [5 favorites]


Just seconding that living on the West Coast is awesome for (among other reasons) the relative normalization of vegetarianism.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 2:31 PM on August 8 [3 favorites]


Heck, as a west coaster, I have a number of friends that aren't full time vegetarians but have taken to not eating meat for evening meals. It's just simple courtesy to pick a restaurant that will allow everyone to enjoy the meal. Vegan's a little harder, but there are still plenty of Indian and Vietnamese places that are tasty for all.
posted by tavella at 2:47 PM on August 8 [1 favorite]


Why are some omnivores so incredibly invested in telling vegetarians how to live?

Because vegetarians are telling omnivores what to cook when they drop over for dinner?
posted by QuietDesperation at 2:49 PM on August 8


Why are some omnivores so incredibly invested in telling vegetarians how to live?

I don't know, but I find it weird. It's as if they interpret a vegetarian's choice not to eat meat as a criticism of themselves, and they get really defensive about it.


I think it's pretty much the same reason that any time a woman talks about something sexist that happened to her, a million guys rush forward to assure everyone listening that they aren't sexist and how dare you imply that they were?
posted by straight at 3:02 PM on August 8 [8 favorites]


Because vegetarians are telling omnivores what to cook when they drop over for dinner?

Vegetarians influencing what an omnivore cooks for one night is not the same thing as someone trying to change a person's lifestyle entirely or asking them to abandon their morals.
posted by cocoaviolet at 3:07 PM on August 8 [7 favorites]


Because vegetarians are telling omnivores what to cook when they drop over for dinner?

If a friend with a peanut allergy came over for dinner, would you consider that "telling [you] what to cook"?

If a Jewish or Muslim friend came over for dinner, would you consider that "telling [you] what to cook"?

If a lactose-intolerant friend came over for dinner, would you consider that "telling [you] what to cook"?

If providing food that your friends can actually eat is that much of an imposition, maybe don't invite people over for meals.
posted by Lexica at 3:38 PM on August 8 [28 favorites]



Also: aggrieved carnivores are the weirdest.


beyond belief they are. When I was a teenager trying to fundraise for some environmental org for my first ever job, I had this terrible spiel I delivered terribly, but the gist of it was please will you give me some money to save some timber wolves, somewhere, because they are unhappy or lost or near extinction or something and I am a terrible canvasser but love animals, so please let pity for one or the other of us move your heart.

mostly it didn't work or it did, but one time this guy (who, to be fair, I was bothering) listened to my whole spiel and I guess had some kind of instant trigger reaction to the word "environmental" because he said to me, "What would you do if I told you I was going to go eat a rare, dripping, bloody steak for dinner right now?"

(thinking, I guess, environmentalism + blanching stammering young teenage girl = delicate fainting vegetarian)

and I gave him the blank stare that only the very young and exquisitely socially anxious can produce and said "Sir, what do you think wolves eat?"

and he gave me some money to make me go away.

anyway I was not a vegetarian then or now, but I am getting closer and closer. and I have always thought they had the clear moral high ground over non-vegetarians. they have to work really hard to come off badly. some of them manage it, but even so.
posted by queenofbithynia at 3:43 PM on August 8 [37 favorites]


Outside of maybe doing first-line relief work where there is no food except fresh-caught fish which is suspect because of polluted water, or being lost in the desert with nothing but bugs and lizards, how is this going to happen?
posted by Lesser Shrew at 3:44 PM on August 8


At this point, I actively try to hide the fact that I'm vegetarian to prevent those types of conversations.

Yup! And when someone figures it out, I'm sure I look squirrelly and rude in my rush to change the subject. But after nearly 30 years of spending my mealtimes being interrogated by omnivores who insist they really, really want to hear about all the reasons I don't eat meat (spoiler alert: they are almost universally mistaken), I just want to eat my food in peace.
posted by jesourie at 3:48 PM on August 8 [6 favorites]


If this asshat spent less time worrying about what other people eat or don't eat and why, he would have a lot of time to learn how to not be an asshat.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 3:55 PM on August 8 [1 favorite]


The only thing worse than a militant vegan is a pre-emptively defensive carnivore (to be fair, omnivore) who you can see start to quiver at the mere mention of the word "vegetarian" (even when it is not directed at them and ultimately is none of their god-damned fucking business, pal). They are actually more obnoxious than the hyperreligious.

I was vegetarian, then vegan, for a good while. I made note of it when questioned, made my own arrangements when required, and considered matters well in advance where food and socialising crossed paths. I anticipated situations and brought my own shit along when I knew it would be easiest or necessary, and never once, once, commented on what others chose to eat. I was always very grateful to those who accommodated my preferences and even if what they prepared tasted like garbage, I thanked them for their effort. When drunk I might have ribbed people about it in a jokey ha-ha-look-at-this-prescriptivist-hippy kind of way, and under the surface, sure, everybody enjoying some good vegetarian chow would have been my personal preference, but ultimately, whatever.

BUT THE FUCKING MEAT-EATERS HOLY SHIT. Just saying "no thanks" to a sausage INSTANTLY got them onto the "Oh what are you a vegetarian?" train and when I reluctantly admitted yes they were INSTANTLY on the fucking "OH BUT WHAT ABOUT HAVE YOU EVER SAID A SWEAR WORD TO AN ANT?" and I lived in a constant state of wanting to throttle everybody.

I'm not vegetarian or vegan now, principally out of moral laziness. I eat "ethical" animal products (yeah, whatever that means), which is a whole other bundle of issues that needs to be unpacked and explored. But when I WAS vegan I never made a deal out of it to others, it was just how things were. True it would be mentioned in appropriate contexts, probably on here a few times under different accounts. But IRL? Never once judged a person, never a single unsolicited comment. Meat-eaters, though? In the presence of a vegetarian or a vegan they are easily most precious, thin-skinned, blatantly guilt-ridden daisies to ever walk the earth, near as I can tell.
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:11 PM on August 8 [20 favorites]


Vegetarianism and veganism are already very very accessible to most folks in 2017. If anything, being "flexible" sends the message that they aren't accessible (even a self proclaimed veg person can't adhere to them fully!). It's bizarre how often nonveg people have these strong yet utterly uniformed opinions about veg advocacy.
posted by Gymnopedist at 4:18 PM on August 8 [5 favorites]


I'm a vegetarian. Have been for 35 years. It's a habit I started when I briefly lived with a vegetarian. I discovered after a few months I didn’t miss meat. I figure it's good for me. It would likely be good for you, if you wanted to try it.

That's the total of my talking points, which I make only if I’m really pressed.
posted by young_simba at 4:27 PM on August 8 [4 favorites]


"Who says plants can't feel pain?" is another good one. Like, first of all, if they did, at least I'm only causing plants pain, and not plants AND sentient animals. Secondly, they most likely (probably definitively) do not, because a) that would be a dumb thing for them to evolve since they can't do anything about it or b) that would be a pretty wicked and cruel feature for a creator-god to imbue them with.
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:28 PM on August 8 [5 favorites]


It would likely be good for you, if you wanted to try it.

NO THANKS I PREFER TO CARVE MEAT DIRECTLY AND DRIPPING FROM A STILL-LIVING COW, MMM STEAK, AND ANYWAY DID YOU KNOW THAT WHEN THEY HARVEST WHEAT SOME FIELD MICE LOSE THEIR HOMES, YOU'RE NOTHING BUT A HYPOCRITE! I BET YOU'VE EVEN GOT A LEATHER THING SOMEWHERE IN YOUR HOUSE.
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:31 PM on August 8 [18 favorites]


"OH BUT WHAT ABOUT HAVE YOU EVER SAID A SWEAR WORD TO AN ANT?"

why won't these pricks come argue with me, I would enjoy it. I don't eat lobsters because they are devil spiders and I don't eat rabbits because they are adorable, I got a different moral for every animal. I do eat fish because they are boring. belligerent indiscriminate omnivores can't even handle it, just let them try to comprehend my complicated system.

and I do swear at ants, it's the most ethical thing to do about them

seriously though, it is absolutely grotesque how certain people will just look you in the eye and say, I am going to go hurt an animal because I know it will bother you. like the possibility of upsetting someone gives them a furious meat hunger all of a sudden. I can tolerate a holy vegan and I can tolerate a carnivore who just really hates cows but I cannot tolerate anybody who has ever eaten a burger at someone.
posted by queenofbithynia at 4:32 PM on August 8 [36 favorites]


I cannot tolerate anybody who has ever eaten a burger at someone.

Perfect!
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:35 PM on August 8 [5 favorites]


I don't really give a shit what any of you eat
posted by thelonius at 4:37 PM on August 8 [4 favorites]


By sticking to their ethical commitment, vegetarians signal that there is something wrong with being a carnivore

Only if the carnivore knows that the vegetarian is not eating meat for ethical reasons. Which the carnivore only knows if the vegetarian tells them.

He could have accomplished the same thing by encouraging vegetarians to lie and say that they don't eat meat for health reasons, not moral, so that turning down the pork chop is not a moral statement.

[I am not in any way encouraging vegetarians to lie. It is none of my business why you don't eat meat and I will roast you some lovely veggies].
posted by bunderful at 5:21 PM on August 8 [1 favorite]


. like the possibility of upsetting someone gives them a furious meat hunger all of a sudden.

Well, here in the US we did just have an election where half of the voters said, "Oh, it really bothers you when we do this? Well, we're going to do this extra hard, how you like them apples?" There's a lot of broken fucking people out there who never learned the difference between good attention and bad attention.

Anyway. I have a friend whose (blessedly now ex-) husband used to loudly and at length tell my husband and I how gross our vegetarian food was. They'd have cook-outs and me and the hubs would bring our own veggie burgers or tofu-kabobs to throw on the grill and he'd just go on and on and ON about how tofu tastes "like dogshit" and how disgusting our faux-meat products were. As a host, at his own house, that he (well, his wife) had invited people to come and enjoy companionship in, where we brought our own food and didn't ask him to eat any of it.
It was such a weird dominance ritual thing.
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:27 PM on August 8 [13 favorites]


I don't really give a shit what any of you eat

I'm going to eat your french fries, and everyone saw where you said that was cool.
posted by ernielundquist at 5:35 PM on August 8 [20 favorites]


Well, here in the US we did just have an election where half of the voters said

Yeah, that made me think how weird that anti-vegetarianism is mostly a US thing. I've never heard of it happening in Asia at all, probably because of Hinduism and Buddhism.
posted by FJT at 5:56 PM on August 8


I've been placed on a vegan diet for health reasons and I can do it about 90% of the time, but sometimes I'm what my wife calls a "social omnivore." To whit, I will eat the clucking vegetable or the mooing vegetable (or the vegetable that comes in a white shell) in public situations with very little prompting.

Of course, since its for health and not for a deeply held belief, its somewhat easier for me to cheat.

On the other hand, I had to quit sugars and white starches due to diabetes and I've almost never cheated - I just like to have a steak every now and again.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:58 PM on August 8 [1 favorite]


I'm very much in agreement with the author's view that being a little more vegetarian/eating a little less meat is better than continuing to eat the same amount of meat that many people do, and that a lot of people could see their way to eating less meat if they stopped thinking in terms of status quo vs. full vegetarian (or vegan) diet. It's a very short article that could have benefited from a couple sentences to the effect of "I'm just offering this for your consideration, and maybe you just can't see your way to eating meat ever and won't like my suggestion", but that probably wouldn't have made a difference to this thread. The author is apparently (and certainly writes like) a philosophy student, and this is definitely not a philosophy forum (which I sometimes find disappointing, but on the bright side, the prose style is *much* better).
posted by uosuaq at 6:12 PM on August 8 [1 favorite]


Humanitarians recognize that the best way to minimize one's own carbon and ethics footprint is by eating people with large carbon and ethics footprints.
posted by sebastienbailard at 6:27 PM on August 8 [8 favorites]


a lot of people could see their way to eating less meat if they stopped thinking in terms of status quo vs. full vegetarian (or vegan) diet

Yeah, I think that's a great message, but I don't think the problem here is that this isn't a philosophy forum, it's that other people have said the same thing without fundamentally misunderstanding vegetarians. I first heard the suggestion in an interview with Mark Bittman probably six or seven years ago, and I'm sure he wasn't the first to say it. Wild shot in the dark, but I'm sure Michael Pollan has probably said it too. Alice Waters, probably. That's not to say it doesn't bear repeating, but speaking for myself, at least, all the weird framing around social stuff and "have you considered eating meat?" spoils an otherwise decent point about the potential for moderation.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 6:28 PM on August 8 [3 favorites]


"a lot of people could see their way to eating less meat if they stopped thinking in terms of status quo vs. full vegetarian (or vegan) diet"

This seems like a message for the meat-eaters more than the vegetarians.
posted by bunderful at 6:35 PM on August 8 [7 favorites]


To shapes that haunt the dusk's comment -- I don't know that there's a "the problem" here, and I'm not prepared to say the author fundamentally misunderstands vegetarians (might be one himself, for example, but I did say above that he should have acknowledged that not everyone is going to be ready to consider his suggestion). I agree that it's a flawed article -- it seems like either the stub of a real philosophical article he's working on, or maybe just some stray thoughts...I really have no idea.

To bunderful's comment -- yes, it's absolutely a message for meat-eaters. I read this as, I guess, a suggestion about how vegetarians could "model" semi-vegetarianism for meat-eaters. Again, in a very "philosophical" mode, which would play out better on the kind of website where people say things like "on this view..." and "ceteris paribus" a lot.
posted by uosuaq at 6:54 PM on August 8 [1 favorite]


Can't people make the decision to eat LESS meat without me having to eat MORE meat? It seems really fucking bizarre to lay that responsibility at the feet of practicing vegetarians, whatever the reason for their vegetarianism may be. If he's seriously just interested in convincing people to eat less meat, why not just model that behavior himself?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:54 PM on August 8 [6 favorites]


Wild shot in the dark, but I'm sure Michael Pollan has probably said it too. Alice Waters, probably.

It's not even those two that were first. When I was googling vegetarianism in Asia, it's mentioned that eating less meat or being vegetarian for a period of time (for health or religious reasons) is NOT AT ALL uncommon. Literally hundreds of millions of people do this!

The more I think about it, the more bizarre it seems that US Americans are all hung up about this, when it's pretty much NBD in many parts of Asia. And yeah, in the US it seems that there are more vegetarians and it's becoming more familiar, but the conversation about it have not really seemed to have improved.
posted by FJT at 6:56 PM on August 8 [1 favorite]


yes, it's absolutely a message for meat-eaters. I read this as, I guess, a suggestion about how vegetarians could "model" semi-vegetarianism for meat-eaters

Oh, I get it. But it's not clear why, if less meat-eating is the goal, this is best accomplished by vegetarians taking the hit. I mean I get that at least some vegetarians would be more motivated than meat-eaters in this regard, but why not point at some existing flexitarians like Bittman instead?

If the article was prefaced with a comment such as "A vegetarian friend of mine was presented with a pork chop when he recently dined at a friend's home. In a discussion over beers the next evening he mentioned it to me, and he bet me that I could not possibly make an argument on the ethics of eating the pork chop. Here goes!" I think it would work better for me.
posted by bunderful at 7:08 PM on August 8


Heck, there are many Christian traditions (orthodox mostly) that have such rigid regulations about what you can eat during Lent and on various (and copious) other holy days throughout the year that you might as well be vegetarian or vegan. Ethiopian food is so great for vegans because Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity is heavy on the no-animal-products-allowed days.

The grief I get from omnivores has taken a sharp downturn in recent years (I live in a liberal city). I don't know if it's just that I'm hanging out with less obnoxious people or that it has finally become so normalized that there aren't that many people left in my immediate orbit who care.

But the US has a strong undercurrent of people taking "individualism" to mean "whatever the opposite of what would be good for society as a whole is, that is what I am going to do, because I'm an individual!" Our national motto might as well be "whatever, whatever, I do what I want!" I saw it all the time in animal rescue. "Backyard breeding leads to pet overpopulation, you say? Well then, I'm going to breed an extra litter, just to prove that no one can tell me what to do." We're a nation of toddlers.
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:14 PM on August 8 [15 favorites]


As an omnivore who eats a lot of meat, I still basically lost it for this article in the first sentence.

It’s a common enough scenario. A vegetarian has been invited to a friend’s place for dinner. The host forgets that the guest is a vegetarian, and places a pork chop in front of her.

Uh, what? Common enough for who, assholes who are awful dinner hosts? What in the actual fuck?

I sure hope nobody this person considers a friend has a nut allergy or something, since apparently remembering basic stuff about your friends is too much to ask.
posted by tocts at 7:34 PM on August 8 [11 favorites]


Ha! Yeah. Good cooks remember what their guests eat and enjoy. So in this scenario not only are you, as a vegetarian, going to be served some kind of meat dish, it's also going to be a really shitty one prepared by a clueless idiot. Pass, thanks.
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:39 PM on August 8


Reflecting on this (and the phenomenon of "eating a burger at someone"), it occurs to me that in in mainstream US culture, omnivores are a privileged class, and the reactionary hostility toward vegetarian accommodations much resembles the societally-unhealthy tendencies that give rise to gamergate, MRAs, and the like. People lashing out in fear of losing their taken-for-granted advantages without even consciously understanding that that's what they're doing. Reacting defensively against anything that might cause them to question their own status - "if someone else is being vegetarian for ethical or dietary reasons, and I'm not, then we've got different ethical/dietary reasoning - but what I'm doing works fine, surely there's nothing wrong with my own decisions, so their decision-making must be flawed instead" - and this unconscious line of thinking leads to the aggressive fault-finding in order to find reassuring confirmation of that preconceived conclusion. It's a very common human thing to be emotionally invested in "being right" - and the path of least effort in satisfying that emotional desire is not to correct wrong beliefs, but to convince oneself that their existing beliefs aren't wrong. Changing habits is hard work; it's far easier instead to decide that nothing needs changing.

The eating-burgers-at dominance display is a monkey-brained attempt to make the threatening idea go away.
posted by NMcCoy at 7:42 PM on August 8 [6 favorites]


Changing habits is hard work; it's far easier instead to decide that nothing needs changing.

Yes, I have to admit that it took far too long for me to realize that trying to poke holes in someone else's logic was less about actually having a constructive discussion, but more about me wanting to be right or score a "win" (and not have to challenge or change myself).
posted by FJT at 7:54 PM on August 8


Agreed, NMcCoy. The story is much the same here in Australia, with some variations. There's also a good deal of - I hesitate to say racism, but perhaps culturalism? - in the reactionary way that omnivores deal with vegetarianism. White Australia, after all, was built by (primarily) whitefellas, on the (fried) backs of mutton and beef. The United States shares a similar story. Back then vegetarianism certainly existed, but not to any great extent, and not for the same reasons. My guess is vegetarianism in a true sense (in colonial Australia, mind, not indigenous Australia) probably didn't really gain much steam until the Chinese labourers arrived in 1840-whatever.

Plus modern Australia still primarily believes (falsely) that our livestock exports (pretty much all we appear capable of doing, beyond digging holes in the ground) are a significant boon to our economy and that eating meat is therefore the Australian thing to do, because we need to support our farmers and graziers and such. So vegetarianism becomes not only an "unAustralian" thing, it becomes literally a foreign and alien thing, in the minds of most.
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:01 PM on August 8


attempt to make the threatening idea go away.

I wish that were true because it would be an intermediate step on the road to self-reflection. but I do not think it usually is. because I myself was stricken by guilt and contradiction at a very early age due to the usual animal-rights propaganda exposure, and the effect it had on me was to make me compartmentalize real hard for many years, so that I could yell at people about cruelty to animals out of one side of my mouth while eating them [animals] out of the other. plus, allowing vegetarians to think I was one myself, when in their company, without outright lying, because of shame and peer pressure. this developed very gradually over the years into eating no meat that is not "ethically" killed and less and less meat overall, and less and less reluctance to admit that my current practices are not the best I can do with the resources I have.

people who do the shoving meat at vegetarians thing, on the other hand, do it very often because they honestly look at an animal dead or alive and see a prop, a thing of some use or no use. like that Ayn Rand thing about looking at the Grand Canyon and thinking only about how great human beings are, that we can produce enough garbage to fill it up if we want. except if the Grand Canyon had nerves and a few thoughts and was a miserable herd mammal.

people in the that latter category can get to decency if they decide to try, with or without vegetarianism. but cognitive dissonance is far in their future and out of their current range. anxiety or guilt's even further.
posted by queenofbithynia at 8:02 PM on August 8 [2 favorites]


Plus modern Australia still primarily believes (falsely) that our livestock exports (pretty much all we appear capable of doing, beyond digging holes in the ground) are a significant boon to our economy and that eating meat is therefore the Australian thing to do, because we need to support our farmers and graziers and such. So vegetarianism becomes not only an "unAustralian" thing, it becomes literally a foreign and alien thing, in the minds of most.

Things are changing. Even Sam Kekovich was in an ad that refused to make fun of vegetarians.
posted by Talez at 8:13 PM on August 8


...daisies to ever walk the earth...

Daisies walk the earth.

Thank you for this. My soul is afire with possibility. I will never be the same again.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 8:59 PM on August 8 [1 favorite]


It definitely isn't just a North American/Australian thing. There's a huge focus on eating meat in the Pakistani/Indian Muslim community as well. If I were to guess it has something to do as a way to show that we aren't Hindu. When I tell people I don't eat meat its like I've sprouted a second head or something.

Its funny though because I go about my vegetarianism to them the same way I go about my Islam to others: I don't practice it perfectly and I'm not going to apologize for my belief but I also am not going to draw attention to it or try to convert you. Sort of the passive version of لَـكُمۡ دِيۡنُكُمۡ وَلِىَ دِيۡنِ (to you be your way and to me mine), which for religion I'm OK with because we're only talking about your immortal souls but the meat eating is something that affects us all so maybe I should ask them to justify their choice to eat meat instead of allowing them to make me justify my choice not to.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 9:18 PM on August 8 [9 favorites]


I'm having a lot of trouble getting the hate here. This seems like a straightforward presentation of 'it's better to maximise utility through compromise rather than limiting utility in the interests of adherence to absolutism' arguments put forward in a range of areas. You might not agree with it (I'm always sceptical of utilitarian claims myself) but the 'this guy is a blathering idiot' stuff is bewildering. If that's the case, then there are some very influential philosophers out there who are also blathering idiots, and that seems unlikely.

For example, Singer argued that it was immoral for you to hang on to or enjoy wealth that could alleviate the suffering of another person. The logical conclusion of this maxim is that you should give away all of your wealth until you're no better off than other people - that, or find a creative argument for why you should eat while another starves.

But over time he realised that in practice almost nobody was going to do this. Could he maximise utility - that is, increase net happiness - by modelling a compromise more likely to be adopted? Would it be better to have a very small number of people adhere to the first maxim, for very little gain, or for a very large number of people to adhere to something less strict, but for a very large overall gain? I think in his case it was saying that you should donate 20 per cent of everything you earn to alleviating poverty, and that if everybody did this the world would be a much better place.

In this way, he strayed somewhat into deontology by adopting a maxim he would be happy for all others to follow, and in so doing somewhat alleviated himself of the burden of having to give away all of his stuff. "I don't have a duty to give away all of my stuff; we all have a duty to give away some of our stuff; I am modelling this behaviour, and so I am moral; if you are not, then you are not, but that is not a moral failing on my part."

The author of the linked article argues that there are moral vegetarians (that is, vegetarians for whom eating meat is a moral choice, rather than a health choice or a taste preference) who want to see other people become vegetarian. I don't think that's up for debate, because there clearly are such people, whether you are one or not. And at some point they might wonder: "There's no way I'm ever going to get everybody to be vegetarian. What, then, is the best way to convince people to make choices that reduce animal suffering? A lot of people making a choice that alleviates a smaller amount of animal suffering has to be better than an absolute choice that would eliminate that suffering but almost nobody is going to make." And that's all the author seems to be saying.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 9:20 PM on August 8 [1 favorite]


I'm the friend vegetarians come to when it's time for them to have meat. Whether it's a bacon cheeseburger, chicken tikka masala, seared venison, or pork rinds, I'm the guy they schedule lunch or dinner with. I make a mean roasted trip-tip and sharp cheddar sandwich that's made more than one vegetarian cry into their duck frites. Some admit to it, some don't. All are awesome friends.
posted by Revvy at 9:49 PM on August 8


The author of the linked article argues that there are moral vegetarians (that is, vegetarians for whom eating meat is a moral choice, rather than a health choice or a taste preference) who want to see other people become vegetarian. I don't think that's up for debate, because there clearly are such people, whether you are one or not.

“Clearly,” eh? I don't know that that's clear at all. I've never seen one, met one, or heard of one outside of the strawmen created by overly defensive meat-eaters.

Yes, there are people who eat a vegetarian diet because they believe it's the right thing to do. But the people who eat (or adopt any kind of lifestyle change) differently than the majority generally put a lot of thought into it and come to the conclusion that it's the right decision for them. It does not automatically follow that they expect everyone else to follow suit. Only someone who’s into evangelizing themselves would draw conclusion. The author has a deeply flawed understanding of vegetarians and vegetarianism, which gives him a faulty premise to begin with.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:07 PM on August 8 [3 favorites]


To obiwanwasabi's comment:

"A lot of people making a choice that alleviates a smaller amount of animal suffering has to be better than an absolute choice that would eliminate that suffering but almost nobody is going to make."

Yes, absolutely, the author's argument about having the option to reduce meat consumption rather than eliminating it altogether makes complete sense. It doesn't have to be as binary as vegetarian versus hard core meat eater. But the reason for the hate is that the author is approaching that argument with a solution that shows a complete misunderstanding of vegetarians and a blatant assumption regarding what their intentions are, not to mention, gives no respect to an individual's morals and choices. Yes, people can absolutely make the choice to be an occasional meat eater if they choose to be vegetarian otherwise, but there is no reason for strict vegetarians to feel compelled to do the same thing they want to do (reduce rather than eliminate meat) just to show someone that this is a valid choice to make as well. Vegetarians do not have a responsibility to validate other people's choices to eat or not eat meat.

The author is assuming that every vegetarian that comes out at a dinner party is implying that others should feel guilty about their choices, even if that may not be their view whatsoever. There certainly are militant vegetarians/vegans who do that, but not every vegetarian has it on their agenda to try and convince everyone to be vegetarian, and it's wrong to assume so if a vegetarian has never brought up the topic unsolicited. On top of that, the author seems to be implying that a dinner party host will always be completely ignorant to their guests' dietary restrictions, and giving any consideration to these restrictions is a huge inconvenience and a fuel for their insecurity. So basically, the least a guest could do is to eat whatever is in front of them even if they don't want to, or are allergic/intolerant to it, or are morally against it? No, the least a host could do is ask about dietary restrictions beforehand so that 1) their guests enjoy the meal, and 2) they don't prepare a full menu only to displease some of the guests. Like some of the previous comments said, don't host a dinner party if you don't care about providing a good experience for your guests.

From the argument he's making, I'll venture to say that the author may have had one or a few experiences where either the host (whether it's him or not) did not take into account dietary restrictions, or a vegetarian at the table outwardly made people feel uncomfortable for their choices, or he might even be formulating this narrative in his own head. Either way, this situation is not the norm, at least if people with some amount of decency are involved.

I myself am a vegetarian since birth, and I do have strong ethical views on the subject. But I would be disheartened if someone thought that I'm judging them for their choice to eat meat when I have never said any such thing, because I recognize that my views are my views, and that justifies my own choice, but nobody else's. I'm always happy to have a healthy debate about the topic if they choose to bring it up, but despite that, I aspire for there to be a mutual respect for each other's choices. I just hope that not everyone perceives all vegetarians to be so militant about their views, because that is a misconception.
posted by cocoaviolet at 10:28 PM on August 8 [5 favorites]


“Clearly,” eh? I don't know that that's clear at all. I've never seen one, met one, or heard of one outside of the strawmen created by overly defensive meat-eaters.

I was one, and became so precisely through the kind of direct advocacy I'm talking about, and I was part of a large group of people who also advocated for vegetarianism. I'll be sure to shunt myself to an alternative dimension to avoid upsetting you. I'll have to bring these lovely people with me, along with any of the other many groups that show up with a two second Google search for 'vegetarian advocacy', who will no doubt be disturbed to learn they are made of straw.

But the people who eat (or adopt any kind of lifestyle change) differently than the majority generally put a lot of thought into it and come to the conclusion that it's the right decision for them.

You misspelled 'some people who eat'. You don't speak for all vegetarians. I very deliberately avoided doing so.

The author has a deeply flawed understanding of vegetarians and vegetarianism

This is hilarious coming from somebody who thinks there are no vegetarian advocates.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 10:33 PM on August 8


he would understand that many vegetarians actually GET SICK if they randomly eat meat

Well…some years ago we went to a Thai place while visiting San Diego. They had a bunch of mock-meat dishes on the menu, so I ordered a fake chicken thing. I tasted it and thought, "This is interesting—the texture's pretty close to meat but the flavor's nothing to write home about" and I finished the whole thing. When the bill arrived my dish was listed as "Chicken Whatever," not "Mock Chicken Whatever." Oops.

I felt a bit queasy, but it was purely psychological and I had no gastric distress. I refused to restart the clock on my then-20-year-long run of vegetarianism, however.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 10:37 PM on August 8


The author is assuming that every vegetarian that comes out at a dinner party is implying that others should feel guilty about their choices, even if that may not be their view whatsoever.

The author says no such thing. The author says that making a choice to be vegetarian sends a message, and that if a vegetarian is interested in that message, and if a vegetarian has a particular desire to achieve a particular outcome, then they should consider how their actions shape that message. Does he really need a #notallvegetarians tag?

I, on the other hand, will say such a thing. If you're a vegetarian for moral reasons, and yet you go through life saying to other people 'nah, it's cool, what's morally right for me might not be for you', then that's absolute moral relativism and that's a problematic place to be.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 10:48 PM on August 8


I'm having a lot of trouble getting the hate here. This seems like a straightforward presentation of 'it's better to maximise utility through compromise rather than limiting utility in the interests of adherence to absolutism' arguments put forward in a range of areas. You might not agree with it (I'm always sceptical of utilitarian claims myself).

This seems a good thing to hang my comment on, which is that this article reminded me that utilitarians are monsters.

Obviously if you think it's an unnecessary burden on the environment or you want to discourage Big Agriculture there's room for flexibility in those tactics. But if you think meat is murder (I don't FWIW) you shouldn't eat it. This doesn't strike me as very complicated. It's like saying if you hang out with cannibals you should eat human flesh so you have more credibility when you do criticize the practices, or abolitionists should've kept a couple slaves they were welcomed by the nice people in the plantations they needed to convince.

You can really make almost any argument as a utilitarian when you get into speculating about how other people react what you do and go all game theory on it. (Along those lines, Dan Davies described the Folk Theorem as proving there is a game theory rationale for practically fucking anything.)

Of course most utilitarians are not really monsters, but it's because they decide what a decent thing to do is, just like most people, and then construct an argument using the above technique. But for that reason I don't think contrarian utilitarian "observations" deserve the time of day.
posted by mark k at 11:16 PM on August 8 [5 favorites]


I can relate to a lot of the comments. I decided to be vegetarian before I remember with no pressure I can think of. in my 20s, I worked as a chef and this prompted me to expand my horizons started eating nice seafood when I go out - about 10 years ago. As a chef I always tasted meat before I served it - I have preferences for how to cook it. At a dinner, chicken stock, bacon fat I would just eat, enjoy the effort, and shut-up, near really need to mention it. Eat around stuff - have a light salad dinner but also great to try new flavours. ill try anything once. Only time Veg thing comes up is when people make dinner plans - I will say I prefer seafood and vegetables. If someone somehow is so attentive to notice my eating preferences and offers me a choice - they win - I'll take something "special". Ask for special treatment and you often end up with an "appologetic" vegetarian dish (bad). Really I have learnt to avoid conflict by and large over my eating choices. Yeah I care for animals but that is easy for me giving I dont really know why im 100% vegetarian when given the choice. It is grey to many of us selective eaters. I think and some people hate ambiguity. Its not black and white - even ardent meat eaters have a laugh when Im willing to try their food. All I think about it is that people should think about where the meat comes from (hence eat less), cook it less fancy and appreciate the flavours.
posted by d4zzlebird at 11:29 PM on August 8 [1 favorite]


I mostly don't get that so-defensive-it's-aggressive reaction to vegetarianism in the liberal west coast cities where I've spent most of my life, but you'd better be prepared for it if you ride a bicycle. Thing is, when somebody spitefully eats a steak at me, I just find it mildly annoying (though I suppose the cow might feel more strongly). Someone spitefully driving a car at me, on the other hand...

Anyway, one of the more amusing conversations I've had recently was with a kid who discovered I was vegetarian and proceeded through about 50 iterations of "So can you eat _____?" with detours into cheeseburger ontology (well, I can if it's a veggie cheeseburger) and repeated questions about carrots (yes, I like them). I then reassured his embarrassed mother and had the opportunity to outline the difference between vegan and vegetarian. I felt very informative.
posted by sibilatorix at 11:30 PM on August 8 [3 favorites]


If you're a vegetarian for moral reasons, and yet you go through life saying to other people 'nah, it's cool, what's morally right for me might not be for you', then that's absolute moral relativism and that's a problematic place to be.

Oh, nonsense. I don't try to convert anybody to my belief system because people have a right and a need to make their own decisions about stuff, even if they're wrong. There's a nonlinear threshold involved: if someone is wrong about a minor thing, the correct choice is to let them be and save responses for where they're truly needed. There are a lot of possible ways to feel about vegetarianism even from a purely moral angle, and not all of them require lecturing omnivores.

the 'this guy is a blathering idiot' stuff is bewildering. If that's the case, then there are some very influential philosophers out there who are also blathering idiots, and that seems unlikely.

Were you here for the thread where a published, professional bioethicist killed his own pet bird to absolve himself for the moral crime of pet ownership? I'm not saying all ethicists are full of crap, but being one does not preclude it. When reading something like this, I judge the content and not the title.

The author's argument here hinges on how a minority population needs to coddle a majority population to get their message heard, as described by NMcCoy here. I think that's largely accurate, I think the author of the piece is acting from that frame, and I think any argument springing from that basic premise is garbage. Given this is supposed to be his area, that calls his competence into question.

Upon preview:
You can really make almost any argument as a utilitarian when you get into speculating about how other people react what you do and go all game theory on it. (Along those lines, Dan Davies described the Folk Theorem as proving there is a game theory rationale for practically fucking anything.)

Yep. The thing about utility is that it's a subjective abstraction that we can only really get at indirectly, (price theory has fascinating observations about this). Acting like utilitarianism is enough outside of a more fully formed moral framework is absolutely a recipe for monsterism.
posted by mordax at 11:40 PM on August 8 [5 favorites]


I find saying "I don't eat meat" provokes marginally less reactionary bullshit than "I'm a vegetarian." Whether it's more decisive-sounding or just that "vegetarian" is a trigger-word for several specific classes of irritating white man idk.

Also, if the inevitable "People Eating Tasty Animals" comment has been moderated away thank you, and if it's because a t-shirt kiosk in a shitty mall in 1994 finally called and took its joke back thank god.
posted by wreckingball at 12:22 AM on August 9 [7 favorites]


Wild shot in the dark, but I'm sure Michael Pollan has probably said it too. Alice Waters, probably.

It's not even those two that were first. When I was googling vegetarianism in Asia, it's mentioned that eating less meat or being vegetarian for a period of time (for health or religious reasons) is NOT AT ALL uncommon. Literally hundreds of millions of people do this!


Er, I'm aware that Michael Pollan and Alice Waters didn't invent the concept of eating less or no meat. Yes, the idea goes back a very long way in many different societies (I have a vegetarian Quaker cookbook from the 19th century, for example, that talks at length about the virtues of abstaining from meat). I was talking specifically about the argument that eating less meat is a reasonable alternative to abstaining from meat altogether, especially in the context of what's best for animals and the environment. As in, Michael Pollan's whole "eat food, mostly plants" thing, or Mark Bittman's thing about how he never eats meat past a certain hour of the day. Those statements are specifically a reaction, aimed at meat-eaters primarily, to the idea that a person must completely abstain from eating meat in order to reduce their carbon footprint or their reliance on factory farms, etc.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 1:54 AM on August 9


Just chiming in to say that serving meat to a vegetarian is unforgiveably rude and this article is, honestly, trash.
posted by nerdfish at 2:25 AM on August 9 [2 favorites]


I think I've figured out part of what is going on here.

The author places a high importance on his identity as an ethicist.

And then some vegetarian dares to get all ethicy all over a dinner plate right in front of the author, on issues which the author has been (at least relatively) neglecting.

If your status as someone who is an official ethicist is the primary ethical goal in your life, the important ethical fact here is the vegetarian is threatening to show up the genuine "(postdoctoral) research fellow at the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics." That is the most significant issue! That is an affront to the proper order of things! (A proper order in which the author is a superior ethicist who ethicisises, and the non-specialists at best have opportunities to learn from his excellent superiority over the non-labeled.)

To straighten things out, it is necessary to write an article explaining that the vegetarian is doing vegetarianism wrong!

So what if the vegetarians snicker at someone who has so clearly not done the research that he doesn't even seem to be aware of the word 'flexitarian,' and instead insists on trying to get all vegetarians to redefine the word vegetarian? If they were not by definition wronger than a genuine ethicist, they, too, would be genuine research fellows (postdoctoral) at the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics!

Metafiler: where everyone can ethicise all over their dinner plate of beans.
posted by cattypist at 2:45 AM on August 9 [9 favorites]


I was going to ask if anyone could kindly point me to some ethicists who do better than merely pandering by rationalizing the preconceptions and prejudices of a target audience or power group; but happily, people keep reminding me of Peter Singer.

But would anyone like to nominate any additional names? Maybe this would make a good 'Ask Metafilter' topic.
posted by cattypist at 2:57 AM on August 9 [1 favorite]


It definitely isn't just a North American/Australian thing. There's a huge focus on eating meat in the Pakistani/Indian Muslim community as well. If I were to guess it has something to do as a way to show that we aren't Hindu. When I tell people I don't eat meat its like I've sprouted a second head or something.

That's very interesting because among the Indian circles I moved in (South Indian Brahmanical circles mostly - I'm not a Brahmin, but those were the circles we moved in) - vegetarianism is very privileged. My mother got tons of kudos for being vegetarian even though she's not a Brahmin and I remember instructing my parents to never send me meat in my lunch for school, because most of my classmates were Brahmins and I desperately wanted to fit in. The default was generally vegetarian, and then there was an additional meat thing. My dad was a Christian from Kerala and in his family, meat eating was the norm, but there were still plenty of vegetarians, probably as a result of influence from the surrounding Hindu culture.
posted by peacheater at 4:11 AM on August 9 [1 favorite]


I haven't been vegetarian for a really long time, but my reasoning behind doing it was that I wasn't comfortable with eating meat, and I had the capacity not to. Not that I was trying to convert everyone else, and in fact, I usually didn't mention it until it was unavoidable just because so many people get defensive and hostile about it.

The way I see it, ethically, I do lots of things that I shouldn't, and don't do lots of things I should, but I can't do all of them and still function relatively normally. So I pick my battles, and sometimes switch them up, and do (or don't do) what I can at any given time. I figure if everyone just does that the best they can, the collective effort improves things, and it's actually a good thing that different people prioritize different things. Like many others, I would almost never mention being vegetarian until I was backed into a corner, because there was always that subset of people who would take it as a personal slight. There's always someone who gets hostile and defensive when you make any kind of choice that's significantly different from their choices, and if it's a principled thing, it's even worse. People threaten to have your kids taken away. People still argue with you if you give some other reason--I'm allergic, I just don't like it, it's for health reasons--but they only get mad when they think you're doing something for ethical reasons.

Like I said, I am not vegetarian now and haven't been for a very long time, but I do go for periods where I don't eat meat. That does not make me vegetarian, though. That is, or I thought it was, pretty normal. Just not eating meat every day doesn't make you vegetarian. It actually can cause issues for vegetarians if you claim to be one and then people see you eating meat, because the people who saw you will go out and confidently inform vegetarians that they do, in fact, eat meat sometimes because they have seen it.
posted by ernielundquist at 8:51 AM on August 9 [10 favorites]


My daughter had a high-school science teacher (biology) who insisted that humans evolved to be vegetarians, not meat eaters, and it was entirely more healthy to never eat meat. Daughter got in trouble for arguing with her; teacher called us, and agreed, grudgingly, that the claim "humans are biologically supposed to eat only plants" was false, but that it was totally justified to teach that to kids because it was for their own good to become vegetarians.

I don't care what other people eat; I'd like a lot more veggie-based options in restaurants and public settings; I get really annoyed at proselytizing vegetarians and vegans who try to convince me that meat is (1) terribly unhealthy and (2) entirely immoral.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 2:05 PM on August 9


> "It’s a common enough scenario. A vegetarian has been invited to a friend’s place for dinner. The host forgets that the guest is a vegetarian, and places a pork chop in front of her."

This has literally never happened to me in 26 years of being vegetarian.
posted by kyrademon at 3:35 PM on August 9 [12 favorites]


This has literally never happened to me in 26 years of being vegetarian.

Me, neither. And if by some odd chance it did. I, like any vegetari an I've ever encountered IRL or online would, you know, just not eat it, and nobody but a raging asshat would care.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:55 PM on August 9 [4 favorites]


A host who had been told that I was vegetarian, but who has neurological issues that affected forming and retaining new memories, has served me a dish with meat. (I think I ate around it.) So, she made a mistake and it was objectively a rude thing to do, but I don't think of her as a jerk.

turbid dahlia, I adore "OH BUT WHAT ABOUT HAVE YOU EVER SAID A SWEAR WORD TO AN ANT?" so much. Thank you.
posted by brainwane at 10:50 AM on August 10 [3 favorites]


"I myself am a vegetarian since birth, and I do have strong ethical views on the subject. But I would be disheartened if someone thought that I'm judging them for their choice to eat meat when I have never said any such thing, because I recognize that my views are my views, and that justifies my own choice, but nobody else's. I'm always happy to have a healthy debate about the topic if they choose to bring it up, but despite that, I aspire for there to be a mutual respect for each other's choices. "

Same thing.

For my parents, it's a moral thing. Mostly my mom, who starts the whole causal chain for our family, when she was taken on a field trip to a slaughter house and was like welp no. Then she told my dad that he had to be vegetarian if he wanted to date her, and since he ate like oh dee oten doten day, it was easy to say yes. For my mom, it's very much about preventing harm to animals, and she sees it as GROSS, values she tried to inculcate me and my brother with.

But I feel like reasonable people can differ on it, and a lifetime of having strangers, friends and relatives be randomly shitty to me about it makes me much less inclined to be the public diet judge for others. And along the way, I got exposed to so much other food that I probably wouldn't have tried otherwise — it's one big reason that I'd love to visit India (even though the idea of visiting India is kinda overwhelming, when I'd really be visiting like a couple of cities or states — both it and China seem almost unimaginably vast).

It is interesting to hear people say that Asian cultures are much easier on vegetarianism, which hasn't really been my experience. Going without red meat is much easier, but even starting with what foods fit the category "meat" is an open question. In many places — Thailand, Vietnam, Korea, at least — there's basically fish in everything, so some flexibility is necessary, but being a lifelong vegetarian means being pretty decent at not asking questions I don't want answered. There's temple cuisine (shojin in Japanese), but that's relatively rare and you're just as likely to get Spam bits on a "vegetarian pizza" in Korea, because small bits aren't "meat." (I have a laminated, paragraph-long card from my Korean sister-in-law to distinguish what in English is just "ovo-lacto vegetarian" largely because the things an average Korean will think of as meat include eggs, but not fish.)

Thailand has a reputation as being one of the easiest places, in part because so many men there do a monk year, but it's still tricky, especially around fish. In a lot of ways, my experiences there have been similar to trying to eat veg in Latin America, where it's often totally doable (if a bit odd) as long as you don't ask too many questions about lard.

In my experience, plenty of people in Asia and Latin America do see it as an effete thing, and there are plenty of Koreans who will tell you it's impossible, but that seems to happen a lot more when I meet immigrants in America than when I'm in their countries. Like, I've been ridiculed for thinking that it's possible to eat vegetarian as a Korean by Korean-Americans, but know at least a handful of Koreans in Korea that do it (without living in a temple, even!). That's very different from most Indians I've met, who all seem to have some favorite vegetarian entrees, no matter what Indian culture they're from. I'm curious about how integrated vegetarianism is into Chinese regional cuisines, but they don't seem very integrated in the restaurants I've visited in the states that purport to represent a regional cuisine.

Because of the way that I've experienced carnivorous chauvinism in Europe too, it seems like a lot of the brio is over the idea of tradition and how these things have always been, etc. I've been told that you can't be an Italian and a vegetarian, despite one of the oldest vegetarian cookbooks being written by an Italian; I've been told you can't be a vegetarian and a Spaniard, despite knowing several. But one of the reasons I've avoided visiting Germany or Eastern Europe is the sense that unless I want to eat potatoes and beets at every meal, I won't have a lot of options.
posted by klangklangston at 10:23 PM on August 10 [4 favorites]


In my experience, plenty of people in Asia and Latin America do see it as an effete thing, and there are plenty of Koreans who will tell you it's impossible, but that seems to happen a lot more when I meet immigrants in America than when I'm in their countries.

I'm not vegetarian, but I'm not unfamiliar with vegetarian food and sometimes eat it. I admit my own experienced is heavily influenced by Taiwan, which from a little more googling seems to have a reputation of being a lot more vegetarian and vegan friendly than other places in East Asia. From my visits there and conversations with relatives and friends from there, I've never gotten the idea that vegetarianism is an effete thing. The labelling for vegetarian foods seems a lot stricter over there, so I think the issue of fish sauce or bits of meat in dishes encountered elsewhere is probably a less common issue in Taiwan as well.
posted by FJT at 9:49 AM on August 11


Huh, it was my impression that Korea had quite a vibrant tradition of spectacular vegetarian food, from a tradition of Buddhist cooking, it was just that it was the more conventional meat-infused cuisine that traveled abroad. I didn't realize it was hard to obtain in Korea.
posted by tavella at 10:18 AM on August 11


I wonder how much vegetarianism in China has changed since I studied there 20 years ago. Buddhism has made a comeback on the mainland since then, so that might have changed things, but back then being vegetarian full-time was seen as really really unusual for someone who wasn't a monk or nun (and being a monk or nun was already highly unusual). Chinese temple food is fantastic, and you could find it here and there in China, but status quo was a little bit of meat "for flavor" in a lot of dishes, as in ma po tofu--the classic version of that dish has ground pork. Broth for noodle soup is always meat-based. I could usually find vegetable steamed buns but when it came to dumplings, it was always pork.

I did it a bit of meat when I lived there. When I was on my own for food, I'd try my hardest to get vegetarian, but when visiting others' homes, or traveling with other people, I just tried to get the least meat possible for the situation. Which, in Xi'An, was still a whole lot of mutton. (It was delicious.)

Dammit, now I want a steamed bun.
posted by soren_lorensen at 12:07 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


But one of the reasons I've avoided visiting Germany or Eastern Europe is the sense that unless I want to eat potatoes and beets at every meal, I won't have a lot of options.

I suppose it depends where you travel, but if you're in a larger Polish city you'll find vegetarian and vegan restaurants, or at least vegetarian and vegan options on the menu. For example, a Google map search of 'Gdansk vegan' shows about 20 hits.

Outside the larger cities, you might have a harder time.
posted by pracowity at 1:25 PM on August 12


The last analysis I saw out of ?the transition town movement in the UK? decided that the least environmentally destructive diet measured by humans-fed-per-acre was mostly plant based, but definitely with some meat and animal products (eggs, milk, manures).

This makes sense ecologically -- we are omnivorous but need high-calorie, easy-to-digest food, nearer the top of a trophic system than in the middle. And probably, although this is getting handwavy, diets of long historical tradition have moved towards "mostly but not entirely plants" averaged over the whole society because more wasteful diets lead to more frequent collapses.

We can make the average more vegetarian by having a few people be completely vegetarian, which brings us back to the OP... I actually *have* had hosts offer me meat while saying "I know you're a vegetarian but you can cheat this once, can't you?" And have often said No because the social dominance attempt was so annoying, also because I really didn't want to make life harder for more rigorous vegetarians than I am. Twice I've been offered a beautiful bowl of spinach and had hot bacon grease poured over it at the last minute. (Ate it, after laughing comment, in the Midwest where I was an outlier; refused it on the West Coast at a business lunch with a strictly vegetarian SE Asian coworker.)
posted by clew at 2:01 PM on August 12


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