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Vegetarian When Convenient
When I was eating out the other night, my partner and I were given free wine and food from one of our favorite restaurants. They were having a party and we are regular patrons. When they brought out a dish with egg noodles and meat, I politely told the waiter that I don't eat meat but I appreciated the wine. My partner (mostly vegetarian except in situations like these), who is a people pleaser, ate the meat and some of the veggies off of the dish. Her rationale is that it doesn't make environmental sense not to eat what has already been killed or cooked. I am too grossed out to pick out veggies. This isn't something we fight about; rather, we just don't see eye to eye. What argument can I use with her or others in the future?
There are countless motivations that cause people to alter their diets. Some rationales are rooted in the head, others in the waistline, some in the wallet, and still others in the heart. When our approach to food contrasts with other people's philosophy about what is and isn't acceptable to eat, there is little we can do to force them to change their outlook or convince them we are right and they are wrong. If they do not understand or appreciate vegan values, it will be as if we are speaking different languages.
People whose sole inspiration for being vegetarian is a concern for the environment or their personal health may feel that one burger, one slice of cheese, or one bowl of ice cream isn't going to deplete the rainforest or give them heart disease. And, of course, based on logic they would be correct. Furthermore, there are environmentally-sound ways to engage in animal agriculture, so most environmentalists who don't grasp the vegan ethic of reverence for life prefer to promote a shift toward more sustainable, organic animal husbandry practices rather than a change in diet.
Your partner's view that "it's already killed and cooked" could apply to all the animal-based commodities sold in every mainstream grocery store. Based on this notion, there wouldn't be any incentive for anyone to change their diet, because there always will be animal-based foods that "need" to be purchased or consumed as long as consumers still clamor for them. Unless more people take a concerted, uncompromising stand, the law of supply and demand will keep the meat, egg, and dairy industries profitable and prolific.
When we let our hosts know that we appreciate their thoughtfulness but we do not eat animal products, we gently educate as well as inspire them to provide animal-free foods for events they want us to attend in the future. We also are modeling our beliefs. For people whose diets are based more on convenience than ethics -- or those who are head-strong rather than heart-strong -- example is the best "argument" we can have.
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