Vegan Deli

Vegan Deli  by Jo Stepaniak

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Raising Vegetarian Children
by Jo Stepaniak, M.S.Ed., & Vesanto Melina M.S., R.D.

Raising Vegetarian Children

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Do you have questions about being vegan? Send them to Jo using this easy form. She would be happy to address your individual concerns as well as general inquiries about vegan ethics, philosophy, practical applications, and living compassionately. Jo cannot respond to questions about nutrition or answer questions that have already been addressed in the Archives

Jo will make every attempt to answer each question personally, however, due to her schedule, this may not be possible. If a reply is forthcoming, it could take up to a few weeks, so please be patient. It is also possible that your question will be answered directly in the "Ask Jo!" column rather than an individual response.

If you'd like to view previous questions Jo has answered, visit the Ask Jo! Archives.

Can't Take the Teasing

question.gif - 1.4 K I am a senior in high school. I've been a vegetarian for a long while and really want to become a vegan. I find it very difficult to be around people who eat meat because they do not feel for the poor innocent animals they consume. How do I deal with a friend or boyfriend who refuses to stop bugging me about my compassion for all animals?

answer.gif - 1.3 K The vegan way of eating is not much different from observing religious dietary laws or avoiding certain foods due to allergies. As a society, we don't question these practices because it is impolite and politically incorrect to challenge a person's religion and cruel to imperil anyone's health. When it comes to the ethics of food, however, there are no cultural guidelines. Electing to step outside mainstream eating habits is considered extremely odd.

Most people don't think about -- or want to think about -- where their food comes from, how it is produced, or how it ends up in their grocery store and on their table. Our lives are too complicated to attend to such matters, and the masses merely want food that tastes good, is familiar, and fills them up. At some level, meat eaters are aware that it was necessary to kill an animal in order for them to have their burgers, steaks, legs, limbs, and ribs. But more often than not, they were taught (like we were) by our educational systems, medical establishments, government guidelines, industry and restaurant advertisements, grocery store literature, and the culture at large that meat is essential for a balanced diet and good health. The death of animals who are raised for food is accepted as necessary. Consequently, the consumption of animal products is not only sanctioned but encouraged.

Our various cultural institutions foster moral numbing when it comes to connecting meat eating with death. In essence, most people are asleep at the table. As vegans, we must appreciate how deep and pervasive this perspective is, and realize that no one individual is to blame. We must also remember that most of us were once meat eaters as well, and our wakefulness came upon us gradually, often with some initial resistance and consternation.

It can be agonizing to watch people we care about engage in actions we feel are dead wrong. Nevertheless, the harder we force our beliefs on them the more we will drive them away and the tighter they will cling to their own assumptions. Everyone is entitled to her or his opinion, whether or not others agree with it. And, of course, each of us thinks our stance is the true and correct one. Your friends probably feel just as strongly about their position as you do about yours, and no amount of discussion or arguing is going to persuade them otherwise. In the end, the only viewpoint we have control over is our own.

Some of your friends may not want to hear about veganism because they know in their heart you are speaking the truth and if they acknowledge this they would be compelled to change their habits. Few people want their world turned upside down, so most are more inclined to ignore, disapprove, or discredit threatening perspectives than to modify their lifestyle and give up personal pleasures.

There are some people who may never grasp the vegan message. If a friend's heart isn't open or ready to hear what you have to say, your attempts will be futile. Because, at times, it can be painful to be around meat eaters, some vegans prefer to keep company only with other vegans. Although this is certainly understandable, it minimizes options and closes off relationships that could otherwise bring joy and fresh perspectives to our lives. Our nonvegan friends have many positive attributes that caused us to seek them out as friends in the first place. These qualities do not change simply because our own view of the world has shifted. Our friends have remained the same -- we are the ones who have moved in a different direction.

Instead of being frustrated that your friends have not chosen the same path you have, you can help them understand the vegan point of view by sharing the reasons for your choice. However, this should not be done with the underlying intent of getting them to "see things your way." That would be manipulative and deceptive and could easily backfire. The purpose of explaining your motives for becoming vegan should be to garner acceptance and respect -- not to convert. Your friends will be able to hear what you are saying and think about the issues more objectively if they do not feel put down or attacked in the process.

After your friends are aware of why you decided to become vegan, they will most likely be more tolerant of your choice, especially if you demonstrate the same nonjudgmental consideration toward them that you hope to receive. If, on the other hand, their taunting persists and you find it too distressing to bear, let them know in a calm, rational voice how it makes you feel. They may be completely oblivious to how much it hurts or bothers you. If the derision continues in spite of your efforts, you may need to sacrifice your friendship, at least for the time being, and start to develop relationships with people who are more open-minded and nurturing.




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