bawk bawk!

i am kind of a chicken when it comes to activism. or talking about veg*nism at all, really. it’s embarrassing. i’m not really sure what my problem is. i am very passionate about it, and i am very confident in my decision, but i have a difficult time talking about it with people.

last night we went to the baseball game with other faculty members and grad students, and some people tailgated in the parking lot beforehand. we brought sub sandwiches, but some of the grad students brought stuff to grill. anyway, we were standing in a group of about 10 people, and somehow the discussion turned to super size me, which i have not yet seen (but am dying to). i enthusiastically jumped in and said i was so eager to see it, and one of the grad students said that she and her fiance haven’t eaten fast food since (about 5 months now). a few others had also seen it, and had been put off of fast food. i was really psyched that it had such an effect on them, but i didn’t ask what was really on my mind, which was why they were making a distinction between "fast food" and "meat." i haven’t seen the movie but i’ve heard it’s pretty pro-veg*nism, so i was curious about why they were drawing this particular line.

one of them said that the film points out some of the horrors of the chicken industry, so i took that as an "in" and said, "they do? awesome!" (i know that’s kind of a weird response, but it was all the activism i could muster)… a little while later, one of the other grad students, while taking a bite of her hamburger, said something that ended with, "…and this is from a long-time vegetarian!" i was floored by this statement, even though i hadn’t heard the first half. she went on to say something about how she really likes meat now, but she "was really glad she did it." i wasn’t sure if she was glad about the eating meat again, or the one-time vegetarian-ness. i didn’t ask. bawk bawk!

i have met three former vegetarians in the past three months, and i’m never sure what to say. i feel so compelled to say something, but i never really do. one of them said something like, "i was vegetarian for ___ years, but then i had a hamburger." in that case i mustered up all of my courage and said, "so that meant you had to go back to eating meat full time? you could have stopped after that hamburger, you know! we would have taken you back in the club!" smiley smile. i didn’t push it, though. i just don’t want people to feel that i am judging them; i am more comfortable with trying to set a good example and hope that someone will follow it.

anyway, this is rambly and not flowing nicely. it’s something i’ve been thinking about a whole lot, and that is perhaps why my thoughts are so muddled. i was just (once again) frustrated at my inability to talk intelligently about veg*nism when the subject was just hanging in the air yesterday. to my credit, whenever people ask me questions (which also happened yesterday), i am able to answer them and am quite enthusiastic. i just have a very tough time introducing topics myself.

i think i am even more frustrated because not only am i passionate (and not really showing it), i’m a frickin’ interpersonal communication professor (and not really proving that i have mad skillz). i think i’ll have more to say on this subject soon. thoughts still germinating.

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9 comments

  1. I know where you’re at. No one likes a proselytizing vegan. They just plain suck, and they also don’t help to sell the cause very much. Plus, talking about veganism or vegetarianism or animal rights over food is always hard. How do you talk about what you see as completely bloody and unnecessary murder as someone is happily munching on the products of that murder?
    I guess there’s a legitimate concern about finding an appropriate balance, and I get that. I generally don’t engage the issue unless I’m engaged about it.
    As for ex-vegetarians, they’re an annoying breed of whiners. These are the folks who generally took up vegetarianism because they thought it was cool, or that it made them distinctive, or someone that they liked was doing it. I’m guessing that their heart wasn’t really in it, at least for most of them. I’m fine with that, everyone should do what’s right for them, but when they come at us like it is *our* fault that they aren’t vegetarians anymore, or that there’s something wrong with vegetarianism, I wonder what they’re really up to. In that case, what really needs to be said to these folks is “hey, it isn’t our fault if you couldn’t stick to your principles.” Of course, that’s not very nice, but neither is this “I used to be a vegetarian” crap. ; )

  2. I too am a total wuss when it comes to such things, even though I am throroughly resolute in my vegan-ness. I hate confrontations and I usually just sit there and smile politely. But, like vegenaise said, in such situations it probably would have been counterproductive anyway. I generally prefer to do more personal activism kind of things like put posters on my door or support the Farm sanctuary, etc. You should think of your work at the animal shelter as part of your activism! You also might want to check out a book like Carol Adams’ living among meat eaters. She has an interesting take on the situation, saying that we should just show how happy we are with our choices by showing what wonderful food we eat and how confident we are with our lifestyle choices. Then we can give meat-eaters things to read (rather than talk about it over food) which can inform them about our choices.
    And I can never come up with the right thing to say in any conversation, despite the fact that I am a linguist (so I know how it feels!)

  3. I too am a total wuss when it comes to such things, even though I am throroughly resolute in my vegan-ness. I hate confrontations and I usually just sit there and smile politely. But, like vegenaise said, in such situations it probably would have been counterproductive anyway. I generally prefer to do more personal activism kind of things like put posters on my door or support the Farm sanctuary, etc. You should think of your work at the animal shelter as part of your activism! You also might want to check out a book like Carol Adams’ living among meat eaters. She has an interesting take on the situation, saying that we should just show how happy we are with our choices by showing what wonderful food we eat and how confident we are with our lifestyle choices. Then we can give meat-eaters things to read (rather than talk about it over food) which can inform them about our choices.
    And I can never come up with the right thing to say in any conversation, despite the fact that I am a linguist (so I know how it feels!)

  4. Since I was a kid, I’ve always been a little more vocal about my point of view being right, though I’m quick to accept when I’ve been knocked off my high-horse or proved wrong. That said, it can kinda floor people, and I think it’s kinda cool to be able to maintain your cover. You probably get to know more about what these people are thinking by keeping your mouth closed.
    I have fortunately grown over the years to taking my conversations into one-on-ones with people who are legitimately open to having reasonable discussions on the subject. Though I’m not ashamed of my veganism, I realize that being the only vegan in a group of meat-eaters is the worst time to try to have a reasonable discussion on the subject.
    To me, your aversion sounds more like self-preservation, and probably helps reduce the number of incidents fortifying people against veganism that might be galvanized by group-think arguments against you.

  5. Since I was a kid, I’ve always been a little more vocal about my point of view being right, though I’m quick to accept when I’ve been knocked off my high-horse or proved wrong. That said, it can kinda floor people, and I think it’s kinda cool to be able to maintain your cover. You probably get to know more about what these people are thinking by keeping your mouth closed.
    I have fortunately grown over the years to taking my conversations into one-on-ones with people who are legitimately open to having reasonable discussions on the subject. Though I’m not ashamed of my veganism, I realize that being the only vegan in a group of meat-eaters is the worst time to try to have a reasonable discussion on the subject.
    To me, your aversion sounds more like self-preservation, and probably helps reduce the number of incidents fortifying people against veganism that might be galvanized by group-think arguments against you.

  6. I believe they probably thought it had a Vegetarian slant since Morgan’s girlfriend, Alex, is a vegan chef. She speaks a little about Veganism in some of her chats.
    I think part of the “I used to be vegetarian” comes from people not making healthy food choices when they switch to Veganism. Instead of looking at what they possibly are eating having a negative effect on them they automatically blame Veganism. Why not it is viewed as ‘unhealthy’ by the masses. I think others cave to pressure from the ‘supportive people’ in their lives. I have encountered a few like that, but I could care less what people think about my way of eating. My lifestyle is not hurting them and I will never live my life to make others comfortable. I agree with vegenaise that some are doing it because they think it is cool/distinctive you have people who eat fish who claim they are vegetarians. You have restaurants that classify themselves as vegetarian even though they serve fish.
    I prefer the one on one approach instead of being the lonely Vegan preaching at the masses. People will learn more just by your example or causal conversations you have.
    I am still looking for Vegan workout tshirts I can wear in the gym. I do get shocked looks from people when they approach me about me workout routines and what I eat. Where do you get your protein? Is the number one question I have received. The animal profiting industries have done an excellent job of brainwashing people into the mindset that anything not slathered with animal products is inferior.

  7. I believe they probably thought it had a Vegetarian slant since Morgan’s girlfriend, Alex, is a vegan chef. She speaks a little about Veganism in some of her chats.
    I think part of the “I used to be vegetarian” comes from people not making healthy food choices when they switch to Veganism. Instead of looking at what they possibly are eating having a negative effect on them they automatically blame Veganism. Why not it is viewed as ‘unhealthy’ by the masses. I think others cave to pressure from the ‘supportive people’ in their lives. I have encountered a few like that, but I could care less what people think about my way of eating. My lifestyle is not hurting them and I will never live my life to make others comfortable. I agree with vegenaise that some are doing it because they think it is cool/distinctive you have people who eat fish who claim they are vegetarians. You have restaurants that classify themselves as vegetarian even though they serve fish.
    I prefer the one on one approach instead of being the lonely Vegan preaching at the masses. People will learn more just by your example or causal conversations you have.
    I am still looking for Vegan workout tshirts I can wear in the gym. I do get shocked looks from people when they approach me about me workout routines and what I eat. Where do you get your protein? Is the number one question I have received. The animal profiting industries have done an excellent job of brainwashing people into the mindset that anything not slathered with animal products is inferior.

  8. vegenaise, i know how you feel when you say that it’s like the ex-veggies didn’t have their heart in it. i think, actually, maybe it’s more like they allowed themselves to forget *why* their heart was in it. “time heals all wounds” and all that… maybe after long enough, they can forget the images and the stories that led them to go veg, and instead focus on how much they miss cheeseburgers. which i do get, really. i’m at a rough point right now where i would practically walk hot coals for some goat cheese. BUT. what i don’t really get is why the decision to have, say, one cheeseburger means that that’s it for the veg*nism. i wish people didn’t equate one “slip up” or one “indulgence” or one whatever they’d like to call it as a total backslide into meat-eating. it makes me kind of sad that the combination of putting those icky pictures/stories out of their head, plus having one tasty meal that they’d been missing, equals no longer caring about those original things.
    pleather, thanks for the book recommendation! i’ve just added it to my amazon wishlist. birthday coming up soon. 🙂 and you’re right, i guess i should give myself some credit for the humane society stuff and the posters on my door and the million and one t-shirts i wear and the money i send to farm sanctuary (not to mention my spiffy new farm sanctuary mastercard!). i do like the idea that i might be “setting a good example” for way more people than i could effectively talk to, so maybe i’ll just try to keep that angle in mind. i figure the more casual i can be about my veganism (how easy it is to make choices that involve less cruelty; how calmly i can discuss my reasons why), the more feasible i might make it look to people. but i’m still frustrated by my paralysis sometimes.
    eric, good point about having meaningful one-on-one scenarios. in fact, i forgot to mention that one of those ex-vegetarians i talked about recently was cutely complaining about eating crackers for the duration of passover, and i emailed her a link to vegan passover recipes (via a PeTA site), and she responded that she ordered the veg/judaism packet. score! i also realized while reading your comment that one way i try to do my wacky brand of “activism” is through cracking jokes. one of my students was explaining that coach sells not only purses, but also shoes, belts, “basically any leather good.” i jumped in with some over-the-top delivery and said, “any leather BAD!” and everyone laughed. i think maybe that’s more my speed; making a dumb joke but regardless (hopefully) getting people to think.
    VeganMomma, actually, this group of people seemed to be *missing* the veg slant of super size me. instead, they focused on the fast food angle. that is what really puzzled me. i mean i know fast food (McD’s) is the focus, but it seemed to me that they would have been more than just “put off fast food” by the film. oh well, it’s a step in the right direction at least. 😉 i also love your point about using your physical fitness as a poster for veg*nism, little ms. bodybuilder! a bunch of my veg t-shirts were purchased at herbivore’s online store, maybe that’s a good place to start?

  9. i love you.
    you do a lot of things (all the time) that make people think. you make me think. you just do it in a non-confrontational way and personally, i find that more effective.
    in the situations you’ve mentioned, i see someone who has instinctively evaluated the context and made a decision based on the environment and its players. no shame there.

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