Many mainstream media personalities and organizations involved with promoting vegetarianism and veganism are not only ineffective, they are sometimes counterproductive and antithetical to the cause. Some of the most prominent examples are Gary Yourofsky, Vegan Gains, and PETA. These of course are the extreme examples, but the problem is widespread within vegetarian and vegan communities. Ridiculing and shaming meat eaters is not only obnoxious, it makes the message unpalatable for those who might otherwise have been willing to engage in discourse. Many vegans and vegetarians are too absorbed in touting their own moral superiority to realize that discourse is the only way forward. You don’t create a paradigm shift by being condescending to the people you’re attempting to persuade.
I personally decided to stop eating meat because I heard sound arguments about environmental impacts and the suffering endured by animals. I was also exposed to friends who offered arguments about compassion and sustainability without any element of shame. I was not convinced by shock value, or cuteness, or people stating that meat consumption was immoral with no justification. I don’t think meat production is sustainable or moral. Does that mean I think people should cut meat out of their diet immediately? No. Suggesting that ANY amount of meat consumption is evil is just going to polarize. Switching your diet to exclude meat is a big change for some people. This change needs to happen slowly, with health effects being considered carefully. Yet I think for the majority of people it would merely be mildly uncomfortable for a while. It’s not that hard. And that’s a much better message to spread.
What I find absolutely infuriating (though I haven’t experienced it personally) is this zealous vigilantism that seems to occur among certain vegans and vegetarians. People are trying to improve their habits and they are attacked if they “cheat”. It’s disgusting. The point of avoiding meat consumption is to limit production. Even getting someone to go from eating meat 7 days a week to 4 days a week should be considered a huge success. And if someone accidentally gives you bacon on a salad, or pepperoni on a pizza, why would you throw it out? People treat these choices as if they’re some kind of religion and anything that could even be interpreted as a transgression is a sin. It’s great to have moral values, but rather than force those values down others’ throats, why not encourage discussion of the things you care about.
Instead of dehumanizing the majority of society, we should seek to humanize the experience of animals, and to remind people that not only animals suffer from factory farming, but the environment does as well.
If this topic interested you at all, be on the lookout for my take on oysters and other bivalves and their relation to meat-free diets.