By Mark Shrayber
I haven't eaten meat for over 10 years, which seems to shock, astonish, and anger other people around me. Most of all, though, being an herbivore brings a lot of well-meaning questions and suggestions from others that come off as mildly insensitive at best and totally offensive at worst. Here's a list of things you should avoid saying when talking to those eating a plant-based diet in your life.
I don't know, why do you like the color blue? It's just a valid choice. Trust me, the first time you get asked this question, it's fine. So is the fifth. By the time you get to the 50th time, it's a little repetitive and feels like you have to defend your choices. Why not ask, "How did you become a vegetarian?" or "How long have you been a vegetarian?" Those questions are much more rare and sound way less accusatory.
2. Is it some kind of religious thing?
Sometimes! But not always! Don't assume everyone has the same reasons for being vegetarians. Actually, don't assume! Does it really matter if it's religious or not?
3. But you're not one of those weird animal nuts, right? Right? [Awkward laugh.]
I went through a pretty intense animal rights activism phase in my early 20s and some would have definitely called me devoted. But no one likes being called a "nut," even if they are delicious. Plus, no one asks, "But you're not one of them animal-murdering nuts, are you?" when you order a steak at dinner, so let's leave the stereotypes out of it.
4. Humans were meant to eat meat.
Humans were also meant to dance naked in the streets and live outdoors forever and wipe their poop on their hands. Times have changed and what used to be a necessity is no longer. I don't have to eat meat, you don't have to eat meat, no one has to eat meat! And yet some people do! I'm not going to lecture you on your choices, so unless you have a scientific paper proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that I must eat a hamburger, I'm gonna do me, you know?
5. Where do you get your protein?
Lots of places! Tofu! Beans! Vegetables! Protein doesn't just come in meat (although that's what I used to believe.) I've been a vegetarian for over 10 years and I haven't been struck down with anemia, polio, septicemia, or any of the other diseases I've been warned can come from a lack of protein. To be fair, these diagnoses all came from my mother, who is not a scientist.
6. How do you know plants don't have the same feelings animals do?
One day science might discover that plants scream bloody murder as we gnaw on their fleshy green bodies and millions of children will rejoice when they're told they don't have to eat broccoli ever again. While this hasn't been discovered yet, what has been discovered is that animals do have feelings and have some of the same characteristics we do. They make friends, they have emotions, and most importantly they feel pain. I wouldn't eat my best friend, so I'm also not going to eat a cow.
7. But meat is delicious.
Yes! It is! I agree. I don't know what else I'm supposed to say here. Good talk!
8. What if your mother was dying and you had to eat chicken to save her?
First of all, my mother and I have a complicated relationship that wouldn't lend itself well to this scenario. One day I might eat the chicken, one day I might not, you know? But moving past that, this is just unrealistic. Who's going to hold me hostage and make me eat a chicken in order to save my mother? (The person asking the question would be the most obvious guess.) And why would you want to do that in the first place? To show me I'm not a good vegetarian? To test my ethics? To demonstrate that in a moment of desperation all men might do something that is out of character for them? Thank you, I already know that! I got a C in philosophy.
9. You're a vegetarian for the wrong reasons.
Nope. Just like there's no way to eat a Reese's, there's no wrong reason to be a vegetarian. This one is mostly annoying because you get this from other vegetarians as well. There seems to be a hierarchy for which kind of vegetarian is better, but I disagree with that. Being a vegetarian doesn't automatically make you a better person and whether you quit eating meat because animals are cute or because factory farming is ruining our climate doesn't matter. All that matters is that you're making the choice for yourself.
10. You should just try this meat.
No, thank you.
11. Does that mean that you don't have oral sex? (Hyuk hyuk.)
Nope. Oral sex between two consenting adults is totally OK for vegetarians. People have different opinions about bodily fluids, but if you're not planning to eat each other dead during the oral sex, I don't see why this would even be a thing to say. (But it is. People say it all the time.)
12. This meat is already dead.
Yes, I see that now! Your powers of observation are astounding. Have you considered a career in forensic investigation?