Do you ever find yourself staring in horror at someone else’s salad as everyone else at the table scarfs down bacon cheeseburgers? Perhaps you automatically assume that the slender girl on your floor calls herself a vegan because she rocks a model’s body. Now, let’s take a step back. What exactly about other people’s eating or lifestyle habits bothers you so much? And more importantly, why do you care?
Think about the last fancy dinner you attended. You probably saw options like steak or chicken, and also the special “vegetarian option,” as if not eating animal products makes people strange. Doesn’t it seem like a little bit like discrimination? Unfortunately, vegans and vegetarians face all that and more everyday.
Although some colleges offer great vegetarian/vegan options, that doesn’t always happen. According to Luther College junior Bella Newman, she faces a lack of options, especially since she’s required to purchase a meal plan. “They were frequently out of soy milk and other veg-friendly products, and sometimes the only vegan food in the caf would be something along the lines of steamed broccoli,” said Newman. “So, basically, I was stuck paying for an expensive meal plan and still going hungry!” Doesn’t that sound ridiculous? People who make a simple lifestyle choice are stuck with little to no food options. It seems almost like they’re not allowed to not eat animal products.
Or, worse, staying away from all things animal-related feels almost like a disease when it comes to the food shaming. “I still am subtly food shamed by [my family] in a sense because they make no effort when I’m home to include me in meals and they never want to try my vegan versions of common dinners, like stir fry with tofu,” said Winona State University junior Sara Wakeham. Come on people, not all veggie-based dishes taste like dirt.
Since food basically equals a social life (hello, pizza and Netflix nights), your eating choices affect more than just what you choose for lunch. “You probably will if you stay vegan end up finding and spending time with completely different people then who you currently socialize with, because you simply lose more and more in common with those you currently know, and it becomes irritating dealing with their guilt, or lack thereof about eating animals,” said Prairie State College sophomore Adam Alderson.
Vegans/vegetarians face a ton of criticism, like it’s simply not ok that they choose not to consume animal products. “I usually stand uncomfortably silent when somebody tries to explain to me all of the reasons that it is okay to eat meat, eggs, dairy, honey, you-name-it,” said Newman. “It is frustrating because I really am not usually in the mood to argue about it. I just want to peacefully mind my own business and eat my own food.”
Clearly, you can’t think of vegans or vegetarians as crazy, holier-than-thou hippies that the media portrays. They just have different beliefs. “What is interesting is that they mostly shame vegans for shaming people eating the standard American diet,” said Winona State University junior Alexis Prowizor. “It’s so funny because I have never met a vegan who was disrespectful towards meat eaters, but I have experienced disrespect by meat eaters.”
University of Florida sophomore Natalia Hanabergh advocates and chose veganism because of the health benefits and cruelty animals face. But she won’t jump in your face for devouring a plate of bacon. “I will not insult a stranger for eating animal products, nor will I insult my friends. I won’t jump at them if they are eating anything of the like in front of me,” said Hanabergh. Maybe vegans seem angry because they just want to help but nobody ever listens. I think that would make anyone crazy.
The bottom line? If you eat meat, good for you. For all you vegans out there, keep doing your thing. “The best way to change paradigms about vegans is to simply live a full life as a vegan, being who you are and excelling at what you excel at as a vegan is really all that’s needed. Those worth changing will change or at least start to see veganism in a new light,” said Alderson.
At the end of the day, it’s someone else’s choice, pure and simple. Do you prefer lattes to Americanos, or comedies to horror movies? That’s your choice, and so is what other people eat.