Full admission, it's quite common knowledge that individuals who live and promote a vegan diet/lifestyle are often viewed negatively by their carnivorous counterparts. While it's far from being a consistent truth, it's not always a completely misguided sentiment.
They may see vegans as being self-righteous, ill-informed, unhealthy, disruptive, arrogant, weak, even dangerous. Of course, the reverse also occurs; many vegans may see meat-eaters as being guilty of exactly the same traits, or worse.
It's an issue of often serious contention for a great number of people, but this conflict does not serve any side or view point in a beneficial manner. Passing harsh judgement on others for their individual choices is something that seems to be innate in most modern human beings, unfortunately.
What we forget to remember, time and time again, is that we all exist at different stages of knowledge, education, finances, physical and emotional health, growth, spirituality, sexuality, morals, accomplishments, failures, and general life experiences. Simply put, there are too many variables that determine who an individual is (or becomes) to assume a line of reasoning for a particular behaviour.
We tend to have no idea why some people make the choices they make, but while it's not necessarily fair to form assumptions one way or the other (i.e. judgements), it is a natural response and it can be harnessed more constructively.
For example, if you feel negatively about somebody after learning they are vegan, try to have some mental dialogue with yourself; ask yourself what it is about the individual that instigates those feelings. Is the person displaying genuine arrogance? Giving genuine reasons for you to feel negatively towards them? Some people, regardless of their lifestyle choices, are plainly and simply just assholes. They can be vegan, they can be meat-eaters, they can be anything.
If their bad attitude is palpable, you have every right to think they are an asshole [they are!]. However, if they seem good-natured enough, but it's simply their lifestyle choice(s) that provokes you, then take a moment to be introspective. There is no obligation to fully accept the person's choices, but it's very important to understand that they have the right to make these choices for themselves. Sometimes in life, tolerance and a drive to understand are more important than acceptance.
Many vegans will never be able to accept the fact that other people eat/use animal products. They tend to possess a deep passion and commitment to the earth, its creatures, and its future; they may see veganism as being the only answer to correcting the many ailments of our planet.
Many carnivores will never be able to accept this "alternative" lifestyle, as they believe that animals can and should be ethically harvested for food. It's kind of hard to blame them when meat-eating has been such an integral part of so many societies and cultures for centuries. In certain areas of the world, an animal-based diet is actually a necessity, as there is a severe lack of vegetative protein and nutrition available. Oddly, meat is often cheaper and more readily available than plants and whole foods, not to mention it's just hard to shake old habits and appetites.
With these components in place, it's a little easier to see why people make different choices.
You are not doing the world a favour by assuming the position of some moral grandstander, whether you are vegan, meat-eating, or some other dietary variation. Positioning your lifestyle as the only correct way of living is unwise, unfair, unintelligent, and detrimental. A shoe might fit one person, but it pinches the other – one manual for living does not suit all cases (observe the sheer number of religious institutions today, for example).
Remember that humans are essentially a transitional form – we learn everyday about newer, better ways to conduct ourselves. Greater access to education, resources, experiences, etc. is driving our evolution, but as mentioned previously, we are all at different stages in this evolution. It's not that you shouldn't stand up for what you believe (you absolutely should!), it's that you can only control your own actions.
If somebody eats meat and you are vegan, learn to identify if the person is an asshole, or if they're really just a good person with a different point of view than your own. Do the reverse if you're a meat-eater amongst a vegan. Surprisingly, vegans can also be very critical of vegetarians, other vegans, and "plant-based" individuals.
It's not a point system, it's not for optics, it's not for superficial grades amongst a peer group. Sincerity frees you and compassion strengthens you. If you are good to people, and animals for that matter, it inspires others to do the same. Your intentions matter.
People will be much more willing to seriously consider your angle if you lead by example, not by dictation or misguided displays. Convey an openness, a desire to better understand the reasoning behind other individuals.
A respectful and meaningful dialogue can be achieved with the right approach, and you aren't going to change the world over night. Patience truly is a virtue. It can be extremely difficult to subscribe to this when you see such a drastic need for change, but the size and variation of the earth guarantees you a waiting period.
Some people may never learn to have an open mind, but with the right approach that's just not most people today. Carry on and do what you feel is right, understanding that others will develop at their own pace.
Author: Taylor Nason