Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 23 September 2019

Why evangelist vegans need to stop making other vegans look silly

Doing things like suing your neighbour for barbecuing in their backyard is giving veganism a bad name

I turned to plant-based food with trepidation, but at least I can still enjoy vegan steaks. AP Photo
I turned to plant-based food with trepidation, but at least I can still enjoy vegan steaks. AP Photo

The press had fun this week, reporting the news that Cilla Carden, a vegan in Western Australia, has taken her neighbours to court for cooking barbecues in their backyard. “They’ve put it there so I smell fish,” Carden told 9 News. “I can’t enjoy my backyard, I can’t go out there.” She’s also suing them for smoking and bouncing balls, all of which, she claims, they are doing deliberately.

The headline was enough to make me groan. From death threats to dairy farmers to vandalism on butchers’ shops and now nightmare neighbours, news about irate and aggressive vegans are always bound to go viral, as people just love to hate us. As a vegan myself, that is exactly what I don’t want.

I adopted a fully plant-based diet with a certain amount of trepidation. I’ll admit, I was worried about how my friends and family would react, and how much of a burden I was going to be at dinner parties. That didn’t stop me, of course, but, for many vegans, this is a very real concern. We’re not out to get at meat-eaters, we have simply come to the conclusion that our consciences cannot take our carnivorous habits any more.

But, as I said, people love to hate on vegans. A recent story about choline, a little-known brain nutrient that is said to be lacking in the diet, also did well online. I do not for one second believe it is because hordes of us were concerned we are not getting enough cauliflower or quinoa in our diets (both foods contain plenteous choline). I do believe it is because thousands of non-vegans were keen to find yet another reason why they shouldn’t switch to a plant-based diet, because they’re sick of hearing how “healthy” and “environmentally friendly” it is.

There is absolutely no need for actual vegans to feed into that distrust, as Carden has. I’ll put my hands up and say, I do not like it when my veggie burger is cooked on the same grill as a beef burger. But do I make a scene and ­embarrass whoever it is making my food when the mushroom patty slips on a bit of fat? No. I quietly remind the chef that I’d prefer my food not to taste like meat. They get it, they are apologetic and they more often than not remember for next time. I’m certainly not going to complain about the smell of their sausages.

No one likes being told what to do, especially by someone who is lording it over them from their so-called “high horse”. That is why I don’t ­understand why so many vegans do exactly that. It is extremely unlikely that said vegans have eaten plant-based their entire lives. That will likely change in the future, as more and more parents choose to bring up their children vegan, but as it stands, those old enough will have eaten meat and/or dairy at some point. We all need to remember that, especially those who just made the switch two weeks ago.

Animal rights activists, like the UK's Earthling Ed, all over the world are taking incredible action to spread the message of veganism among people who may not already know about it. They do so in a knowledge-based and peaceful way (because if veganism is about anything, it’s about not being destructive, right?). That, I can get on-board with.

Despite the stereotype of the preachy vegan, I rarely initiate conversations about the ins and outs of my diet, unless asked. I simply don’t feel the need to push my beliefs on anyone. And perhaps because of that, I’ve found non vegans are actually very keen to talk to me about what I eat (or don’t).

American author Maya Angelou once said: “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” My thinking is: you are only going to get frustrated by preaching to people who are not interested, so why not save yourself the grief and just enjoy that Beyond Meat burger you’ve been craving all day in peace? I’ll be right there with you, my friend.

Updated: September 5, 2019 04:14 PM

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