One of the absolutely surprising and truly positive experiences of my weekend away was how I was treated as a vegan. There were 11 of us women, and I was the only vegan in the group. We did huge communal feast style cooking for lunch and supper, and we took turns, and at every single meal I was taken care of, honoured, consulted and respected. Special food was made for me, but I was never made to feel bad, and not once did I ever go hungry. It was the best and most wonderful response that I have had since becoming a vegan almost 8 months ago.
And it got me thinking. I am much more accustomed to having to defend myself, explain myself and go into battle. My conversations around being a vegan are usually challenging; where people demand to know why I have become vegan, demand a list of where I get my protein, and demand to know how I negotiate the meat eating world. I have even been challenged on my world views, religion (or lack of it), and how I come to terms with having animals as pets.
What this weekend away did for me was make me realise that, really, the tables need to be turned, properly and 180° towards challenging people who eat meat. Just because meat eaters are a majority doesn’t mean they are the ones off the hook. The eating of animals needs to be challenged more than the not eating of them. It is the meat eaters who are problematic, and need to justify and answer for their ways. And this is why they get in first, call us names, become confrontational, and make the Vegan memes. They feel bad, and their best defence is to point fingers and criticise.
I have never tried to force anyone to become a vegan (it took me long enough to commit to it), and I am careful about initiating the vegan conversation. Mainly because I am familiar with a teasing (at best) or even hostile (at worst) response. I am careful not to make my choices impact on others and am used to ‘making a plan’ if people haven’t catered for vegans, or considered the possibility of them. Film sets are a challenge. Mainstream restaurants can be tough going. But truthfully, it should work the other way around; like it does for smokers. Smokers are made to feel bad, and their habit is frowned upon. Don’t you think it is the meat eaters who are like the smokers, not the vegans?