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Whenever I meet a new vegan or vegetarian, I avoid asking them why they made that dietary choice because I know that it will have one of three outcomes: First and foremost, I might put my dining mate on the defensive, as they must reenact the multitude of times a meat eater has tried to interrogate them for their audacity to not wanting the fish.

Second, I might find myself at the mercy of a vegetarian or vegan who is too busy masturbating over being so good for the environment or animal rights or whatever legitimate cause they’ve decided to use in the name of suggesting their moral supremacy over me.

Finally, and most desirably, my dinner date will be open to having a constructive, educated, and open-minded conversation about food industry, ethics, and a whole bunch of other interesting subjects. I’ve found that this is the least likely to occur, unfortunately.

The odds are, if someone asks the “Why are you a v—-?” question, someone is coming out upset on the other end.

It’s not hard to see the ways in which we hold food or the act of eating to be a sacred matter. How and what we eat can be anything from a statement about culture to an indicator of class. The media is constantly telling us we’re eating too much or the wrong way. A lot of the conversation we have about our diets concentrates on what we’re not supposed to eat—carbs, fat, gluten, high fructose corn syrup.

And that’s where the conversation ends, where we end—our waistlines, our cholesterol levels, our blood sugar. If we’re privileged enough to have a steady source of food, we are made to constantly worry about how that food will make us feel and look. This is the weight that we already feel when we ask or are asked the vegan question.

Maybe it’s because our national narrative is so stuck on the diet/obesity/diabetes that we aren’t ready to have the conversation about how problematic our meat consumption is. Because when someone asks for a sandwich without mayo, or to have a side salad instead of fries, we know why they’re doing it. Maybe they’re trying to lose weight. Maybe they are actually just trying to be healthy. But either way, the gesture usually doesn’t warrant the same investigation as the vegan question does.

There are a lot of different diet choices, and just as many reasons for or against any single one. But as long as we remain so removed from where our food comes from, it is going to be something that we need to talk about. I don’t want to be scared of this question anymore, and I shouldn’t have to be. Food is an essential part of most of the daunting problems our nation faces, from healthcare to fossil fuel consumption.

So stop being dicks to your friends and have an open conversation about how fucked up our food system is.

But maybe don’t do it over dinner.



  1. Lauren Lauren says:

    Carnivores are dicks. They’re always asking you what you’re eating and why when you’re on your lunch break, just trying to shovel some food down your gullet before you have to go back to work. They feel entitled to your opinions whether they know you or not. Should you be honest about your decisions to go veg, you are called a ‘dick’ and accused of masterbating over your self-righteousness. If you don’t engage in conversation, you’re called a ‘dick’ and accused of being self-righteous. Carnos don’t start this conversation because they have an interest in veganism – they are no doubt already aware of PETA,, or the internet – but because they want to ensure that we are the weird ones, the mutants, the outsiders. That we’re doing it because we ‘have’ to and not because we ‘want’ to. And after being vegan for most of a decade, I can assure you that I don’t fucking tell anyone I’m vegan unless they ask me. Because it’s embarrassing. Because then I get to endure my coworkers telling me what I ‘can’ and ‘cannot’ eat. Because then I have to answer asinine questions like “Do you eat honey? Bees aren’t really animals” or “what’s wrong with silk?” or “If you were on a desert island that had no food except animals, would you eat them?” and then criticized for my answers. (1. No, and bees may not be animals but they sure as hell aren’t plants. 2. Lots. 3. How the fuck would there be an island with no food, yet full of animals?) No, I will NOT tell you I’m vegan if I can help it at all.

    Let me be honest with you: I don’t care what you eat, or why. I assume whatever you’re eating, you eat it because you’re hungry and it’s delicious. Or it’s what you can afford. The very same thing is true for me. I don’t eat anything I think is garbage unless I’m too broke to get anything decent, or too hungry to care. I eat food I like. I generally like to be healthy too, but not 100% of the time. Fair enough? If you’re really interested in why a friend is vegan, take your own advice and don’t bring it up at dinner time. If you want to know more about it, you are also free to read a goddamn book.