A Conversation With An Angry Vegetarian

From a recent reader comment on my Why I'm a Part-Time Vegetarian post:

There's never anything wrong with what or how you eat, & the way you write about it here sounds like you know there's something wrong with it, & that's why you are talking about it. That is inconsequential. My main point is, one cannot be a "part time vegetarian" You either are or are not a vegetarian. And the worst offender of your post is the assumption that the vegetarians are not healthy. You seem to live in the isolated world of the whites (I am taking a big risk of being branded a racist). But that's a myth propagated by those who have this opinion of themselves being superior to all else & that they are some god's gift to humanity. BTW, there's absolutely nothing wrong with you or any one putting meat in the vegetarian dishes. Just as long as you don't put it in the ones u're servbing to the vegetarians. & please, stop being a spokesperson for the pharmaceutical companies for the multivites & et all. I can only guess your background from your post, that you are one of the meat & potatoes person who uses the "part time vegetarian" status as a pretense for being modern & scientific & cutting edge & whatever. But you sure do not have any knowledge about the nutritional science, though you do have some information. And, I wonder who these friends of yours are who you think "use you for your cooking skills" There's much more to vegetarian cooking than the west will ever know.

From time to time I get comments like this. It's easy to discount them as simple, garden-variety narcissism (um, no pun intended). People who pound out an angry wall of text like this are usually writing to themselves more than to me.

But what's more important is how this comment actually accomplishes the exact opposite of what its author intends. Even with a blogger like me, who's as vegetarian-friendly as they come.

Here's the thing. Let's say you've taken some moral position--it can be a position on food, on a political issue, or whatever. Do you want others to be able to grasp your point of view? Do you want people to agree with you? Or do you want to push people away?

Imagine the reaction that a perfectly nice "meat and potatoes" person might have after reading a wall of text like this. Wouldn't they cling even tighter to their views? So, what does this comment really accomplish?

Readers, what do you think? Share your thoughts!

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Anonymous said...

Wouldn't they cling even tighter to their views?

People on the extremes ("I have to eat meat with my meal." to vegans.) Cling tightly to their views regardless of the drivel left in comments on a blog post.

I have vegan acquaintance who runs around calling eggs "chicken periods." I still had chicken fried rice for dinner last night. Not unlike the comment that you quoted, there was no effect on my eating decision.

The Social Dietitian said...

As a dietitian, I truly believe in a diet centered around plant foods. After years of education, I know that if not strategic about meals, vegetarians, and especially vegans, can develop nutritional deficiencies. That's why as a dietitian, I promote a 80:20 rule for plant based diets for the "general population" (80% plant, 20% animal). For those clients who I know have the capacity to eat a varied diet, take their supplements etc., then I have the confidence of standing behind a 100% plant based diet. But what are "you" getting out of labeling your lifestyle? The only person it should matter to is YOU and whether or not your lifestyle is beneficial to YOUR body.

Louisa said...

Really, it's vegetarians like this that give the rest of us a bad name.

I don't care what anyone eats, as long as no one is making me eat something I don't want.

The unfortunate thing about people with such narrow viewpoints is that they will probably never let go and let their views evolve.

It's called growing up, man ;)

chacha1 said...

That comment looks like someone has confused a dietary strategy with a religion. It is very ideological.

Ideology turns me off, regardless of context, because ideology = bias. There's no getting around it.

Once people start basing their actions on "belief," a lot of them stop thinking. A "belief" is not a fact.

This kind of comment is something I skim right over when I see it in a forum, because I know I'm not going to learn anything from it, and I probably won't be entertained by it either. It's just tiresome and pointless.

Which (overt flattery) is never the case with your original posts, Dan. :-)

chacha1 said...

p.s. Louisa I was referring to the comment quoted in Dan's post, not to YOUR comment. Just wanted to be clear ... and inoffensive. :-)

Diane said...

I don't understand all the anger personally.

I cook veg South Asian most of the time and for most meals of my day. I also eat meat, and cook Western food and a lot of decidedly UN-veg Southeast Asian fare from time to time (Thai pork belly curry - awesome - just sayin'...). I fully support others eating what they want, whether for personal preference, religious reasons or whatever. I don't try to make them eat as I do, because that would be presumptuous.

But when I see all that anger I just figure the person is a bit of a crank, and has other issues going on. It's not their business how I eat, or what I think of food. If people want to share conviviality and food with me, great! I always try to accommodate people's preferences and restrictions. If not, please decline politely and leave me be. But lecturing others isn't good manners.

Diane said...

@chacha1: For some it is indeed a religion, and needs to be respected as such. My Brahmin Hindu friends, and my Jain friends don't eat meat as a core part of their religious practice.

Eleni said...

That's a great example of UN-constructive criticism. They rant, but they offer no advice. They rave, but they offer no alternative. Plus, they've clearly never met any vegetarians who live on pizza (I have met many). And they clearly didn't read ANYTHING else on your blog.

Personally, I think you always offer a pretty sensible, balanced view on food and the food industry, but the most important thing to me, as a reader, is how much thought you put in to your food choices. Surely nobody can criticise that?

Let's go round his house and throw burgers at this windows ;)

chacha1 said...

@Diane, actually no, I don't have to respect someone's religion. I respect their right to FOLLOW IT.

But the instant anyone starts preaching I tune out and go away. Their faith is not my truth; and no-one is qualified to judge my (or anyone else's) choices simply based on religion.

I'll bet your Hindu/Jain friends are not all angry bastards like the person who wrote to Dan! Most of the Hindu/Jain/Sikh people I've met have been lovely, kind, tolerant people. (And if they had been born outside Southeast Asia they would probably be lovely, kind, tolerant Christian or Muslim or Jewish people.)

Daniel said...

Great comments so far.

For me, the issue is effectiveness... or the lack thereof. My goal here at CK is to try and get people to think, and I use all sorts of rhetorical techniques: appeals to logic, reverse psychology, humor, etc. Insults just never worked.


Daniel said...

Also a few reactions:

Anonymous: Yes. I consider your vegan acquaintance's example and mine to be essentially identical in their ineffectiveness.

The Social Dietitian: I'm intrigued by the phrase: "what are YOU getting out of labeling your lifestyle?" (This also ties into Louisa and Chacha's points.) I think problems arise when the label becomes more important than the thing itself. When people try to enforce some kind of rigid ideological or dietary purity in others, it's a recipe for repelling people from your cause.

Eleni: Thanks for the kind words, and yes, clearly this commenter never read anything else here at CK. And as for ranting and raving, there's only one thing that bothers me more: yes-butting. :)


Jack said...

I think the commenter immediately labels him/herself as a crank by blending in a racial comment ("world of the whites") that doesn't connect to anything said previously.

A person can certainly self-identify as a part-time vegetarian - for example, following Meatless Monday or only eating meat a couple of times a week or whatever. And yes, 'real' full time vegetarians like our illustrious commenter can look down their noses at these impure examples of the vegetarian cause. The fact is, gentle suggestions about Meatless Mondays are going to win a lot more converts than complaints and odd, irrelevant racial comments.

Joanne said...

Honestly, I consider myself wholeheartedly to be a vegetarian even though I eat sushi once every few months, and I really see nothing wrong with being a part-time vegetarian. I also couldn't care less what anyone else eats and so it's always so weird to me when people get really defensive when they eat meat around me. Just enjoy your steak! I guess it's people like this commenter who give them that impression.

Marcia said...

Yeah, I assume that these kinds of commenters are cranks. I can't tell you how much the crazy vegans who go on and on about how everyone can thrive on a vegan diet just drive me bonkers. They are unable to admit that just because it works for them, doesn't mean it works for everyone. I've known a few people who have gotten sick after decades on vegetarian or vegan diets...long term deficiencies, age-related, who knows. But their answer is always "they aren't doing it right".

So even people who ARE "doing it right" never get credit for that. So you just brand yourself as a crank.

KitschenBitsch said...

Dan, I am utterly exhausted and have little to offer, though I agree with much of what's been said in these comments. However, I just needed to let you know that I've had a wretched day and "garden variety narcissism" made me spit bourbon. Thank you.

Janet C. said...

Dan: As you may know, my husband is a Hindu, and now is almost entirely vegetarian (but not totally: he eats seafood occasionally and indulged in turkey at Thanksgiving....but certainly never eats beef or other red meats). I respect his religious views, even though I don't share them...and I would never dream of preparing beef for his dinner. (and when I eat out with his family, I try not to order it out of respect for them). And I see nothing wrong with the concept of "part-time" vegetarians. After all, that is exactly what I am. Jerry travels a lot, and I will sometimes indulge in meat while he's gone (tonight I had my annual corned beef and cabbage - heavy on the cabbage:-) But I won't eat it on a day I know I'll see him (after all, I want a good "I'm home" kiss:-)....and I'm ok with that. I think its healthier for me that more than half my meals are vegetarian...and I have the bonus of enjoying my husband's delicious and laughably cheap Indian cooking!

Melissa said...

It doesn't accomplish anything at all and yes, I think it would make people cling even more tightly to their views to be attacked like this. Not YOU because you're a critical thinker. ;)

I couldn't help but chuckle at:

I can only guess your background from your post, that you are one of the meat & potatoes person who uses the "part time vegetarian" status as a pretense for being modern & scientific & cutting edge & whatever.

Wow, they really nailed you, Dan. *Dying*

Daniel said...

More great thoughts, thank you for the good discussion. A couple more reactions:

KB: Thanks for noticing. I was more proud of "garden-variety narcissism" than anything I've written all year. Sorry about the wasted bourbon though.

Jack, Joanne and Marcia, thanks for sharing your views. And agreed, nobody wins friends by being a crank or getting defensive.

Janet, I think our eating philosophies are pretty much identical. Preach it.

Melissa: Funny! Not to mention: a spokesperson for pharmaceutical companies. Yep, nailed me.


Emmy said...

Sorry to have nothing constructive to offer, still doubled over laughing at "chicken periods"! OhmyGAWD!