In the UK, 1 in 8 adults have decided to give up meat and devote themselves to a vegetarian lifestyle.
However, something I seem to notice quite frequently online, is the constant shaming from vegans that vegetarians and those who simply lower their meat consumption are ‘not doing enough’ and are ‘part of the problem.’
Despite many vegans having the intention to encourage others to join the vegan community, I feel as though some of the discourse used within the community only serves the opposite.
On a number of different social media platforms, the same messages are often portrayed by vegans:
‘Being a vegetarian doesn’t help the animals as you’re still supporting the harmful dairy industry.’
‘If vegetarianism is your end goal, then it’s pointless.’
Yes, the dairy industry is corrupt, and yes, veganism is the purest and best way to boycott all injustice against animals – but it’s not often so clear cut.
For many, like myself, leaving meat behind is a gradual adjustment. Currently, I would define myself as a ‘pescatarian’, which means the only meat I consume is fish, and I believe this works best for me for now. Even this journey hasn’t been straightforward, and I know for many others it is the same. So let’s not guilt-trip people for either not wanting to, or for having a difficult journey doing so.
Particularly in the Western world, meat consumption is deeply ingrained within our culture, and is often encouraged as part of a ‘healthy diet.’
Due to this, we rarely think to challenge our long-term eating habits, and when met with haunting images of slaughterhouses, many of us outright refute the facts: ‘but the meat I buy is organic! They were killed humanely!’ Yet as someone very eloquently worded on Twitter: ‘animals go into the slaughterhouse alive and come out chopped into pieces and people like to think something humane happens along the way.’
This torture of animals is only one of the many reasons vegetarians and vegans decide to boycott meat, and both can find common ground here. So why is there conflict?
I sincerely commend anybody that lives a vegan lifestyle – but that shouldn’t allow a divine right to look down upon others.
If we want people to stop eating meat, and for vegetarians to specifically boycott all animal products, then vegans should be careful not to portray their world as something of a battlefield.
Let people know the facts, of course. But don’t patronise others. It is so important to let people make choices in regards to their diet at their own pace, or else they may never opt to make the change.
Hostility is only going to discourage both meat eaters and vegetarians to not want to take the steps to become vegan.
I will always re-emphasise just how important it is to grasp the extent to which meat is such a prominent asset in today’s diets. To give up meat, and especially dairy – a staple in many meals – is to change ones routine to a large extent. Therefore, it is so important for people to have the freedom of choice in regards to what they believe is best for themselves.
Additionally, to go vegan is not always a cheap option. It can be particularly damaging to label vegetarians and those who do eat meat as ‘inconsiderate’ for these reasons – no one is aware of what others are going through in their lives, especially in terms of finances.
Vegans argue that their diet is ‘easy and cheap’ – yes, fruit and vegetables can be cheap sometimes, but this depends on multiple factors: the local supermarkets available, allergies, and other things that many vegans fail to recognise.
Not everybody’s local shops supply vegan suitable food either, making efficiency another factor which may be difficult to overcome.
It’s also essential to note how intolerant some people are to meat replacements too, with large numbers of people reporting suffering allergies after consuming ‘Quorn’ – a vegetarian substitute to meat.
Hopefully vegan eating will one day be easy, affordable and convenient. Until then, every effort to reduce meat consumption and enlighten others of the cruelty present in the animal industry is truly commendable, but does not mean that your dietary choices give you the privilege and rights to act condescendingly towards those who may not be able to achieve the same lifestyle as you.
Everyone takes things at their own pace, each for their own reasons. For individuals to give up meat or lower their consumption is an achievement in itself, and is a big step in the right direction in our meat saturated society.
Rather than create a warzone between veganism and vegetarianism, both lifestyles should combine their efforts to help promote reducing meat consumption, and show others the benefits of viewing animals as our friends rather than our food.
Most importantly, instead of judging, patronising, or shaming, let’s not forget what this is all about – compassion. Compassion for the environment, compassion for animals, and compassion for each other.