(ETA Please don't mainpage. Not that anyone would. But I don't want to wake up to 600 comments like the one below about awful I am, juuust in case.)
I see this topic come up with some regularity. Some veganvegetarianfruitarian dared to hassle ME, ME CHAMPION CONSUMER OF BEEF!!!, about my dietary choices! Veganvegetarianfruitarians are judgemental, preachy assholes! Fuck them all to hell!
Here children, gather around and let me tell you a tale. There are three attitudes that most vegetarians and vegans I've ever known face: defensiveness & aggression, concern-trolling, and treating us with disrespect. I'd like to tell you about them.
I am approaching 18 years of being a vegetarian. The reason at first was something about how eating animals is bad or something? I didn't really have much of a firm reason, just that I really, really did not want to eat meat. My reasons have varied but my overall diet has remained consistent: I consume no meat or fish but I do eat dairy and egg products, which makes me a lacto-ovo (milk & eggs) vegetarian. Nothing died in order to produce those, however it's not totally straightforward because cows and chickens still are kept in captivity to produce what I eat.
I'm comparatively very strict - "cheating" isn't a concept to me. I can eat meat if I want to and I do not want to. I don't eat soup with meat stock, I don't eat food with lard or fat in it. I don't pick pepperoni off my pizza. I can taste it, thank you very much. I avoid gelatin and rennet but I know that sometimes they're in food I eat.
Nowadays the main reasons I don't eat meat are taste/preference, the environment, health, and habit. I see no moral issue with the consumption of animals, though others definitely do. So that's me.
I rarely mention to people that I'm vegetarian. To be honest, I find few things more odious than discussing food choices. Just eat what you eat and let's get on with it. But then I find the whole fetishization of "slow food" and "real food" and all that mind-numbing too. Anyway, whenever I'm out for a meal with someone who doesn't know I don't eat meat and we all order our food, within a minute flat I get side eye for ordering the eggplant and someone says suspiciously
"are you vegetarian?"
I reply that yes I am. More suspicion. "Why?"
I take a deep breath and smile politely and say "oh it's just a personal decision. Hey, how is that still life painting class you were taking?"
That doesn't placate the soul of the tender (pun) meat eater, though. "Why are you vegetarian though? What's your reason?"
I say "oh it's just something personal I've chosen, we all make personal choices that are right for us. So that painting course, did you enjoy it?"
Our tender meat eater continues demanding and becomes increasingly insistent and aggressive until I give bare bones reasons: "Mostly for reasons of health and taste and environment, but that's just me." Then the SHIT HITS THE FAN.
The following words inevitably coming streaming forth at me in a barrage of abuse:
The list goes on.
Well, that's fine. Those are all wrong, but okay. I smile and ignore them and continue with my eggplant.
The point is that I and many other veg types can confirm that we receive an inordinate amount of aggression borne of defensiveness for our meals. I don't have a great deal of sympathy for meat eaters, the overwhelming majority of the population in anglo and other western countries, who moan that the odd herbivore was mean to them. I don't doubt that those preachy vegetarians are awful - think how much they offend all the normal vegetarians of the world - but I don't want to hear "vegetarians are assholes" based on those few loudmouths.
When people spare us the anger and defensiveness they like to tell us that we're about to have all the teeth fall out of our heads and we'll suddenly become severely anemic. They're so worried for us! "I knew a vegan and he was so skinnny. You don't look like a vegan though." Thanks, asshole!
This was even worse when I was pregnant.
"Aren't you worried you're hurting the baby?"
"The baby that I am gestating as we speak"?
"Yes! You must be so worried that the baby won't develop properly if you're not eating meat!"
"Nope, I'm doing okay, thanks."
"Why isn't he eating meat? Are you worried about how this will slow down his brain development?"
The thing is that a wholly or partially vegetarian diet is recommended by national health organisations, nutritionists, multiple long-term studies, and numerous heart and stroke orgs. Vegan diets are a bit more complicated mostly due to lack of vitamin B12 - the only vitamin that cannot be sourced from entirely plant-based sources, but simple fortification more or less erases that issue.
The next concern that comes up is "oh no, it's so hard to be healthy on a vegetarian diet. It's so hard, that's why it's so unhealthy."
Well that's actually a load of bullshit. Putting aside issues of food security and class, there are unhealthy people among all dietary choices. There are meat eaters who are suffering all manner of diet-related ailments, including high cholesterol, heart disease, bowel disease, and high blood pressure. Similarly, there are perfectly healthy meat eaters. Also, it takes nearly zero brain cells to remember "meat potato veg" (or whatever floats your meat boat). Similarly, my tiny brain can handle "grain legume veg". It really is just about that simple.
Strangely, this is the one I find the most upsetting, because it has often taken an intrusive and malicious turn, worse than dumb, defensive rage. Picture the setting. You're politely eating your lunch, tasty beans or whatever, and some jackal starts cackling insanely, dangling their bleeding beef over my lovely beans, and says "oooooh loooook, bloooooooooooood!!!! BUAHAHAHAHAHA", thus ruining my meal.
I have had meat snuck into food just to see if I notice (spoiler alert: of course I notice).
I have been knowingly served the meat option and had my name switched on a form for an event so that I was signed up for the meat choice, meaning that I didn't get dinner that day.
Obviously this is random people out in the world, not close friends, and it's not like everyone is out to get me. Having relative strangers do this makes it worse. People who don't know me think that they have the right to override my beliefs about what goes into my body and laugh while doing so.
There's also now a point of discussion on GT where the 'privileged' nature of vegans and vegetarians in the western world comes up. This is sort of true for middle class people, who are privileged anyway. Being able to choose to choose is somewhat of a position of privilege, though I will say that at least in countries like the UK and Canada with high proportions of south Asian people, that's not at all true, as legumes and grains are exceedingly cheap and absolutely universally available. There's also the question of the time it takes to prepare food, which is a bit misleading. Sure, it takes overnight soaking and then hours of boiling for dried turtle beans to be usable, but who the hell bothers with that? A can of beans is cheap and ready immediately. So I see the point, but it's not completely accurate. In any case, within our society we make dietary choices where we can, and that range of choice is more limited for some than others.
Look at the comments on the other post right now about self-righteous vegans. Those are just as awful as some idiot moron dumbo humanoid blabbering his stupid mouth away about his moron diet choices. The vast majority of humans in the western world consume meat in some form or another, in fact, I made a shitty Venn diagram for you.
You see, assholes come in all dietary choices. Preachy people eat all sorts of diets. There are more meat eaters in our society, though, and that means so very, very many more bacon crunchin' assholes.
So, I don't give two shits what you eat. Please don't hassle me about what I eat.