This article offers some suggestions to consider during a vegan debate in order to avoid an all-out war from launching and escalating the situation into the Vegan Hatfields and the Carnivore McCoys…
It’s inevitable. At some point along your vegan journey, you’ll undoubtedly encounter someone who can’t or won’t understand, support and/or tolerate your decision to no longer consume animal products. And this often comes from those closest to you – family members, friends, co-workers, neighbors, significant others or sometimes even strangers on the street. In person or via an online comment / chat forum or social media, differences of opinion about veganism can sometimes become a little heated.
Common Questions / Points of Debate
It could manifest in the form of what initially resembles ribbing or joking. Or seemingly innocent questions. I’m not always sure why, but there’s something about choosing a plant-based lifestyle that seems to really get under some people’s skin.
Here are some common points of contention, questions, or statements that I’ve personally received and been put into a position of defending or explaining to someone close to me:
- So where do you get your protein if you don’t eat meat?
- Various other questions or statements about nutrition (or rather, malnutrition) in general.
- But what about celery? It feels pain too; vegetables are also sentient / living.
- Field mice are killed during a crop’s harvest.
- Dumb and ugly animals are here for no other reason than to serve as food.
- Fish / shellfish feel no pain.
- If God didn’t want us to eat them, why else did He / She put animals here?
- Not all blood types can survive on a veg*n diet.
Sometimes the other person is just intentionally hoping to stir up trouble or push your buttons. So I’ve found that the best approach to responding to questions and statements like these – assuming an actual response is even expected – is to utilize as much humor and patience as possible.
Vegan vs. Carnivore / Facts to Share / Myths to Dispel
So where and how do you even begin to debate the topic of veganism? What is the best way to answer questions without becoming overly, um, passionate in your response?
In order not to overwhelm others with a mountain of facts and information, you may need to choose just one talking point in which you feel most passionate / informed:
- Carnivore vs. omnivore / vegetarian characteristics.
- Protein, calcium and other nutritional myths.
- Diseases – saturated fat / cholesterol / obesity / heart disease / cancers.
- Animals: “Dominion” vs. torture / abuse / murder.
- Plant-based alternatives are everywhere now and they taste great.
- Reduction / gradual transition vs. going cold turkey.
- Whole foods vs. processed foods – closest to the earth, cut out the middle man, etc.
The one-topic-at-a-time approach is better than trying to spew forth an endless variety of factoids on various sub-topics. After all, you probably didn’t learn everything you now know about animals raised for food in one sitting.
Proper Debate Etiquette
An argumentative or antagonistic tone and attitude from others is also very common, even if your demeanor is nowhere close to a holier-than-thou one.
Needless to say, things can get heated and escalate to an uncomfortable level very quickly.
Some points to keep in mind during any spirited debate include:
- Respect another’s opinions / feelings even if you strongly disagree.
- Try not to get too personal, accusatory or verbally abusive.
- Avoid personal attacks on the other’s character, appearance or stance.
- No name calling (see above).
- Avoid framing, projection, exaggeration or twisting facts.
- Choose your battles – know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em (how and when to walk away).
- Agree to disagree.
- Consider the timing, receptiveness, and your audience.
It’s probably not the best time to share graphic details while sitting at a dinner table loaded with meat, although for some reason that is often the time others choose to ask questions about why you’ve decided to abstain from eating animals.
It can be a touchy subject for some since it seems to trigger feelings of guilt, shame or other uncomfortable reactions. So it’s probably best to approach the topic of how much to discuss veganism in a similar way as making the call about whether to get into a discussion about politics or religion…
It’s not always easy to feel as if you’re gaining ground with someone who takes such an opposing point of view to your extending compassion toward animals and not wanting to cause them harm and/or eat them.
And it’s human nature to want to defend one’s beliefs, opinions and/or behavior / actions– especially if challenged and/or presented with new information that could inspire self-reflection and force one to question those beliefs, opinions and/or behavior / actions.
You can tell the difference between someone who is open-minded enough to listen and try to understand your motivation for not eating animal products – and someone who is just trying to provoke you for whatever reason. For the latter scenario, I’ve learned to just smile and switch the topic to the weather or sports.