Precisely 7 months and 9 days ago – on the same day I started this blog, in fact – I made the decision to stop eating meat. I’ve already discussed this on here before and won’t bore you with the details again but there is one thing I’ve discovered that’s worth mentioning: the strange snobbery which seems to exist between vegans and vegetarians – and also, to an extent, between vegetarians and meat-eaters.
I’m perfectly happy as a vegetarian. To my parents’ relief I have no plans to become a vegan, largely because I know I’d struggle with the diet but also because I don’t see an ethical need to do so (though I am becoming increasingly concerned with dodgy elements of the dairy industry). My general rule is that I avoid if possible all products which require animals to be slaughtered to eat – so I avoid leather and marshmallows but don’t mind eggs and milk. I therefore find it quite bizarre that some vegans would criticise me for this decision. I’ve never encountered it personally, but even the most limited foray into the vegetarian society shows this to be the case. Just read any comments on the various vegetarian groups which exist on Facebook or elsewhere and you’ll find such condescension and negativity between vegans and vegetarians. Vegans accuse vegetarians of taking ‘the easy option’ and only making a superficial effort whereas vegetarians accuse vegans of being excessive and impractical.
What irks me about this is that we all have the same aims: we all believe that a limited consumption of meat is better for society from both a moral and environmental point of view. Sure, vegans would extend this definition to all animal products but essentially we’re on the same side. This in-fighting presents such an unwelcoming and intimidating message to outsiders who may be considering becoming a vegetarian and therefore does nothing for the cause. It’s like certain elements are trying to achieve this Stalinist purity of the vegetarian/vegan ideology, opposing all other versions even if they’re similar in most respects. It’s senseless.
Another interesting thing I’ve experienced is that people tend to mention meat a lot when I’m around – often in a joky fashion like, “look at this yummy murder!”. This is probably largely because I have an irritating habit of being rather frank about my beliefs so people might get the impression that I judge them for being different (which I definitely don’t! I was eating meat myself only just over 200 days ago so I can hardly pass judgement). It’s harmless but does raises interesting questions about potential snobbery between meat-eaters and vegetarians. It’s all too easy for vegetarians to look at meat-eaters as immoral, selfish collaborators with an evil industry, while meat-eaters may look as vegetarians as wishy-washy tree-huggers (not a description I’d disagree with but, you know, it’s not very constructive!). Whether or not an individual eats meat should be seen as a private lifestyle choice. We can promote our own ideas through visibility and reasoned argument but, ultimately, nobody should feel compelled to make one particular choice. Snobbery from any direction – vegan, vegetarian or other – should be opposed.