An Awkward Vegetarian Problem

When I moved into my Swiss apartment, I was surprised that not one of my new housemates (of which there were almost twenty) was vegetarian. I guess vegetarians have a tendency to surround themselves with other vegetarians for convenience’s sake.

It was only a matter of time before my new housemates started to question my vegetarianism. I never try and “recruit” people as vegetarians, and as a rule I presume that no one cares what I eat which is thankfully most often the case. I’m always really happy, though, to tell people more if they show an interest – and not once since September have I had to field the age-old, “but where do you get your protein from??”. Nine times out of ten, people don’t want to lecture you on your dietary choices – more often they’re just making polite conversation.

My problem is, this topic of conversation always seems to get raised around mealtimes – for obvious reasons. My choice not to eat comes from a purely ethical basis; I’m always a bit smug when I read about the health/environmental benefits of cutting down on meat, but I can’t pretend that’s my number one reason for avoiding it. For this reason, it’s quite difficult to answer this question in a way that doesn’t make it sound like I’m judging everyone else. When the rest of the table have just ordered massive steaks or veal-and-foie-gras-wellington or whatever, I really don’t feel like getting all Morrissey about it. This usually leads to me claiming I, “don’t know” why I’m vegetarian (which is unconvincing at best), or point blank refusing to discuss the matter, which I’m pretty sure is just as much of a mood killer as going into the gory details of the beef industry during the main course.

So, this goes out to anyone who’s quizzed me on my eating habits recently: Thanks for asking! I know this probably reads as a deeply entitled, self righteous rant, so well done for making it to the end.

And for any other vegetarians/vegans reading: Do you encounter this problem too? Let me know how you field it in the comments!

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4 comments

  1. Sun

    This is definitely a tough one to answer. I always just say I don’t like the taste of meat, which actually became true after a year of vegetarianism.

    • chemily

      Thanks for the comment Sun – that’s a very diplomatic way of dealing with it. I respect that – if pushed for an answer, I have a tendency to go down the somewhat more childish “I don’t eat things with a face” road..

  2. RORI

    I made the decision to become a vegetarian when I was fairly young, and have since forgotten all of the “factory farming is unethical” research I did. Since I don’t really want to get into a big long discussion with it, I usually just say that it’s what I’m used to and that I /personally/ have no desire to eat meat, and it usually keeps things peaceful.

  3. Natalie Tamara

    Oh what is it with people bringing this up at the dinner table of all places? As you said, it can so easily turn into a massive mood killer if you are open and honest so I don’t know what response people are looking for (though it’s true, they are probably just making conversation).

    I usually say something vague along the lines of “oh you know, too many reasons to go into now” and direct the conversation away from it – if I’m pushed, I might say I don’t like the idea of eating an animal (which was the first reason I became veggie). Funnily enough, uni was probably the worst time for being asked this all the time, maybe people are encountering vegetarians for the first time..!?

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