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9 Perplexing Things Meat Eaters Say to Me When They Discover I’m Vegan

And what we can all learn from these

a perplexed man
Photo by Jukan Tateisi on Unsplash

I went vegetarian in 2011 and vegan in 2016.

I always try to keep this a secret so I don’t have to get into debates about health issues, essential nutrients, global warming, or animal rights.

But sometimes it happens. I’m sitting in a restaurant and inevitably a friend of a friend, a relative, a colleague, or an acquaintance discovers I don’t eat any animal products.

And the conversation starts.

In over a decade, these are the 9 most perplexing questions and comments I’ve heard.

Whether you’re a vegan or not, I think you can relate to what you’re about to read.

#1 “If everyone went vegan, cows would invade the world.”

A Dutch guy in Australia said this to me and he was serious about his claim. He argued that cows would keep reproducing and run around uncontrolled because no one would eat them anymore.

Never say never but I replied that this couldn’t happen for 3 reasons:

  1. It’s highly unlikely that 8 billion people will all go vegan.
  2. If everyone adopted a vegan lifestyle, we wouldn’t need cows anymore and so the global population of cows would decrease.
  3. Cows would struggle to survive in many environments. What happens when a cow meets a lion?

I don’t think we’ll see a cow invasion any time soon.

#2 “Oh, so you don’t eat fish? What about eggs? And pasta? Can you eat crabs?”

Very common questions I get asked all the time. I appreciate these inquiries as they indicate some people know little about the vegan diet.

They’re trying to learn more and I appreciate the curiosity.

I normally stop the storm of questions by saying, “I don’t eat anything that comes from animals — not even honey. Yes to pasta. Yes to everything that doesn’t contain animal products.”

“So not even mozzarella?!”

desperate man
Photo by Ryan Snaadt on Unsplash

#3 “I don’t eat a lot of meat either.”

I never know what to say when people tell me this.

Should I congratulate them?

Should I encourage them to go 100% vegan?

Should I clarify that being vegan doesn’t mean eating meat in small amounts?

Most times I just give an embarrassed smile and say, “G-g-great!” What I don’t understand, though, is why people feel the need to let me know about how much meat they eat.

As if eating a lot of it would make you a horrible person.

It doesn’t.

If you have no intention of going vegetarian or vegan, please don’t feel bad because you eat meat. Eat whatever you want (if your doctor is OK with that).

#4 “Don’t you miss steaks?”

Erm…no, I don’t. Why would I? I made a conscious decision not to eat them anymore, y’know.

It wasn’t due to some health issue or imposed by a religious dogma that I was forced to accept. I deliberately decided to quit steaks.

Asking a vegan if he misses meat or cheese is like asking a woman who dumped her boyfriend if she misses her ex-boyfriend.

“Man! I dumped him! I don’t wanna see that asshole anymore!”

#5 “Plants feel pain too.”

Aha! I see what you’re doing here: you either want me to feel bad because I make plants suffer or you’re trying to provoke me and start an endless debate that will take us nowhere.

Yes, plants suffer too. But I’ll keep eating them until the day I hear a carrot scream in pain.

And no, I don’t want to get into a debate. I don’t want to change your mind about what you should or shouldn’t eat. You know what’s best for you.

So most times I reply, “I know! That’s why I eat plants!”

#6 “Where do you get your proteins?”

This question comes from a popular misconception that proteins are only found in meat.

Not true. Google or ChatGPT it if you don’t believe me.

Though there’s a difference between animal-based and plant-based proteins.

Proteins are made up of amino acids — don’t ask me what they are — and, in general, animal proteins contain all 9 of them. They’re “complete proteins”.

Plant-based proteins, on the other hand, are incomplete as they don’t contain all the amino acids.

But no panic, if you get a combination of “incomplete proteins” by eating a variety of plant protein sources, they’ll complement each other.

So, where do I get my proteins? From a variety of veggies, nuts, grains, fruits, seeds, and beans. More expert info here.

vegan food
Photo by Victoria Shes on Unsplash

#7 “What about child labor, huh?”

I’ve been told this many times.

After I say I don’t eat animals because I consider them defenseless beings who deserve to be respected — not exploited, killed, and eaten — there’s always someone who goes, “What about those kids who work in factories and mines? Don’t they deserve respect?”

No, they don’t.

Of course they do!!! Come on! What a dumb question that is!

This is called whataboutism — i.e. the action of avoiding discussing an uncomfortable topic by making counter-accusations or raising unrelated issues.

Here’s another example of whataboutism:

“I donate to charities that buy mosquito nets to prevent people from dying of malaria.”

Whataboutist: “Oh, what about those who die from cancer then? Don’t they deserve your money?”

Whataboutism is a common practice that you might have seen in political debates thousands of times.

My best answer in response to a whataboutist is, “You’re right, sorry, but I can’t solve every problem we have in the world. I’m just a lazy activist.”

I’m often left wondering what the whataboutist does for those children though.

#8 “I only consume grass-fed beef, free-range eggs, and organic milk.”

Most vegans I know went vegan for ethical reasons and I’m one of those.

So I normally reply that, to me, it doesn’t matter if you provide farmed animals with the best living conditions if you then kill them.

The next question I get asked is, “Not even if they’re killed humanely?”

Not even. You can shoot them in the head, kill them in their sleep or torture them to death. I think killing them for food is wrong. There’s no such thing as “humane killing” in the animal food production industry.

Humane killing is an oxymoron. It’s like talking about “humane murder” — nonsense.

You’re NOT inhumane if you eat meat. As I said before, you decide what’s best to eat.

a meat eater
Photo by Sander Dalhuisen on Unsplash

#9 “Wouldn’t all those farmed animals die anyway if everyone went vegan?”

Again with this “if everyone went vegan” theory. Please relax. It won’t happen.

A friend asked me this. He claimed that all farmed animals would be left to starve to death, so we might as well kill and eat them.

I was speechless. I didn’t know what to reply.

I looked him in the eye and he went, “You see! That would be a problem! So eat them and shut up!”

Lol!

Final thought

Vegans aren’t better people than meat eaters and vice versa.

If you’re one of those vegans who’s always aggressively persuading others to quit meat, I hope this post will make you more tolerant and open-minded towards those who haven’t made the dietary choices you made.

If you’re one of those meat eaters who think vegans are freaks, hippies, or members of a dumb cult, I equally hope this post will make you more tolerant and open-minded towards those who made dietary choices you may not be willing to make.

Whoever you are, enjoy your meal and let others enjoy theirs.

Food should bring us together, not make us fight.

Go eat your broccoli now 🙂

people eating together
Photo by Spencer Davis on Unsplash
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Fabio Cerpelloni is an English language teacher, writer, author, and podcaster from Italy. You can find out more about him and his work by clicking on his glass of beer in the photo.