No One Wants to Talk About It

One of the more surprising outcomes since becoming vegan is how people I’ve known for years have avoided asking me about my lifestyle change.  The “don’t ask, don’t tell” is something I expected from co-workers or casual acquaintances but people I’ve known for decades who obviously know this important to me, seem disinterested.

There may be several reasons for this, one being that I could be misinterpreting their response as disinterest when it might be something else.  Most of my friends and family have read the story of how I became vegan and maybe they feel they already know everything they need to know (though most have not even mentioned reading it). Perhaps it is unfair of me to expect that they would ask “how the vegan thing is going” since they can’t be inside my head and shouldn’t be expected to realize the extent that this has changed my life.

Maybe they think I’ll preach to them or they’ll feel judged, which is fair based on some of the stereotypes.  But these are people who have known me for years – do they really think I would do that to them? Do they think I am incapable of discussing a major life change without making it about how they’re living?  Perhaps I give off a more judgemental vibe than I think, although it would still be nice to be asked at least once about something that has clearly become so important to me.

Another scenario might be that they already know what a vegan is and have no interest in knowing any more about it.  I get that as well but only to a point.  It’s now a part of who I am and as my friends and family, isn’t the idea that we share journeys and know each other on more meaningful levels? Otherwise, what separates our relationship from the co-workers and the casual acquaintances? To not ask at all because you’re not interested makes the relationship a one-way street.

Maybe they just don’t see it as a big deal.  But if it isn’t, all the more reason to inquire. Maybe they’re awkward or uncomfortable to bring it up.  That I accept from people who don’t know me; I have much harder time with that from people who do.

When these instances occur, I think back to when I was a meat-eater which was a mere six months ago.  I didn’t know a lot of vegans but I certainly knew some and I knew a lot of vegetarians. If someone at work said they were a vegetarian, I’d usually respond with something innocuous and maybe ask how long they had been one.  I may even ask them what their reasons were (health, ethics, etc.,) since I knew even then not everyone changes their diet for the same reasons. But that would probably have been the extent of my inquiries.

As for the vegans I knew who I saw on a regular basis, I definitely went through a phase where I was not going to let their food choices interfere with mine even though they never once made me feel bad for eating meat. To be adamant about a belief is one thing when you’re in your own home or on neutral ground like a restaurant but sometimes if I was in their home and we ordered take-out, I would order a dish with meat.  I am mortified now to think about how disrespectful that was.

I certainly didn’t always understand vegans and if I did ask questions, it was usually in an accusatory tone like, “Well, don’t cows need to be milked?” not realizing that cows are kept perpetually pregnant (via artificial insemination) in order to keep producing milk and that all their milk goes to humans, and none to their calves.

I would say at the time I was a mix of not wanting to know and writing off vegans as flaky hippies or whatever the hell stereotype they’ve been made into. When I met Julian, my husband, who was a vegan when we met, we had that conversation very early on: he had his food choices and I had mine and we agreed to respect one other (although I confess, I didn’t always hold up my end of that agreement). All that to say is: I get it – I get the apprehension of not wanting to know and not wanting to deal with it.  But at least have that conversation.

Now when I’m with my friends and family as a vegan – many who have known me longer than Julian – it’s like the elephant in the room. I’m starting to feel like I’m in Shaun of the Dead, a zombie movie that only says “the ‘Z’ word” once and even pokes fun at the fact that no one is actually saying what it is.

I know people are uncomfortable with me being vegan and I am very careful not to “be different” around them.  I will meet a friend at any restaurant because I can always find something to eat on a menu. I try not to make it “a thing” even though were I diabetic, Celiac, Muslim or anyone else with dietary restrictions, I could drop those words no problem.  It’s a Catch-22: I don’t bring it up unless someone asks but no one asks.

To compensate for not talking about it but wanting to acknowledge it in some way, being vegan is simply referred to or implied: “Does this agree with you?”  “Are you still on your diet?” “I’m sorry I’m about to eat this meatloaf with bacon.”  In fact, this past Easter dinner, which was in our home that I cooked and was obviously vegan, the “V” word was not uttered once. How’s that for avoidance?

Most of me understands and accepts it but part of me is hurt and doesn’t want to. Soooo, you only want to know certain parts of my life, not all of it? You’re only interested in how I’m doing so long as it isn’t about something you don’t want to talk about? That’s not friendship. That’s not family. That’s every other person I pass during the day who could give two shits about the real me or what is happening in my life.



4 thoughts on “No One Wants to Talk About It

  1. Marisa says:

    Sadly, this will be commonplace for you now. It has been my experience ever since I became vegan. Your friends and family will NOT want to talk about this because as gentle and non-judgmental as you can be there is an implicit accusation with veganism…an accusation that with every meal most humans are complicit in cruelty of unimaginable proportions. Just by not eating meat or dairy or eggs when you sit down to a meal you are making a statement and people cannot help but look at their food slightly differently because of that. And that unnerves them because they have to face some very uncomfortable truths.
    I don’t think people want to talk about this because it’s one of those lifestyle changes that holds the moral high ground. I’m sorry…but it does. There is not one good reason for people continuing to contribute to the suffering of farm animals except 1) I’m too lazy to make a change or 2) I don’t give a shit. And, people know those are not good reasons. I can’t tell you how many people have told me how much they love animals and how they would never harm an animal BUT they really like eating chicken. And they could never give up ice cream. Lame, lame, lame.
    So, rather than expose themselves to a discussion about something that makes them feel uncomfortable people will ignore an entire part of who you are. To ask you about your veganism is to ask themselves about veganism and that creates serious cognitive dissonance. And this will extend to any discussion about animals even if they are not animals generally found on a plate because who knows where that discussion will circle back to. I don’t think my family ever talks about animals now…even as a passing reference. They’re too afraid of where that reference might lead.
    And don’t feel badly if people see you as judgmental. We SHOULD be judgmental. Billions of animals who have no power against the corporate dismemberment machine are counting on us to be judgmental. Sure, your friends and family can say, “Well, that’s your and let live.” But are THEY living and letting live? No…they’re living. The “letting live” part is sadly absent from their ethos.
    Eli Wiesel wrote this regarding human rights but I think it applies to the suffering of animals perfectly:
    “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

    Oh…and if you haven’t seen this I thought you might like it:


  2. NcSark says:

    You’re right, Marisa. I need to take more of a stand. If I’m really honest about it, I’m judging their food choices anyway. I just wish more people would be willing to have the conversation at least once but it seems that I may be kidding myself on that front. If that’s the case, I might as well speak up when I can and “take sides”. I find how people have responded to me lately only adds to my disappointment in humanity.

    And thank you for posting the video – it’e excellent. I especially love what Leslie Bisgould says about animals as property (as they are currently classified under the law): “We don’t treat animals badly because they’re property; we classify animals as property so we can treat them badly.” So well said.

    Thanks for posting (you’re my first comment on this blog!).


  3. Marisa says:

    Don’t get me wrong! I didn’t mean to imply that you weren’t taking a stand. Your choice to abstain from animal products is already taking a huge stand. And you’ve launched a blog as well. So you are definitely taking that stand!! None of us want to be on our soapbox 24 hours a day alienating ourselves from the people with whom we must interact on a daily basis. Knowing where and when to pick battles is an important skill when you become vegan.
    I just think that often we’re made to feel badly when we raise the specter of veganism. Immediately we’re condemned as being “holier than thou” and judgmental and I’ve just decided to embrace those stereotypes rather than always letting the other person off the hook so they don’t feel so guilty about their choices. We can talk about all sorts of atrocities happening to humans in everyday conversation but talking about the institutionalized cruelty to animals is still a taboo subject in our society. And I think we should feel OK that we’re not neutral about it and we shouldn’t feel pressured to retreat to the very polite but empty platitude, “Well, it’s just a personal choice.” Maybe we need to start a support group, “It’s OK to be Vegan and Judgmental.” 🙂
    But I totally get what you’re saying. I would LOVE to be able to engage in more discussion about this type of thing if only for the very basic reason that it’s what I care about and what occupies my mind the most.


    • NcSark says:

      My fault – I didn’t express that well. I know you weren’t implying that so not to worry. I think I was talking more to myself there as in, “Marisa’s right – take a stand!”

      I think I might be in a little bit of shock too at people’s response (or lack thereof). You think you know people and that you’ve established a relationship with them and then….they completely surprise you. I suppose it’s for all the reasons you’ve indicated (and with which I agree). I love how you put it: “…it’s what I care about and what occupies my mind the most.” Yet the people who love and care for you still put protecting their own interests ahead of a more meaningful relationship with you (which is really what they also do with the food on their plate). It’s not right and they’re missing out, frankly.


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