>> Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Shakespeare asked: I am upset by the bad press vegans and vegetarians get. I can't seem to find a fictional account (film, book, tv show) that doesn't include negative stereotypes of vegetarians. Why is that? Why do meat eaters hold so much antipathy towards those who choose not to eat meat?
I don't have a simple answer. There are several aspects to the problem.
One, as the mother said, is that people concern themselves with things that don't have anything to do with them. People love to judge. Look how many have their knickers in a twist over gay marriage - and that affects everyone else how? For people who feel like sticking their nose into your business is their business, all I can say is: dummies!
Also, the real life examples that get publicity are probably part of the problem:
- Wanting to go all vegetarian or vegan is more challenging than an omnivorous diet to ensure nutritional health. That doesn't mean it can't be done, but, if not planned well, nutritional deficiencies can result. Deficiencies in calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, iodine and omega-3 fatty acids can result unless efforts are taken to ensure the right foods are eaten (wherein dairy and meat products provide these readily). Animal proteins also provide complete proteins (with all essential amino acids), plants are generally not as complete, requiring more efforts to ensure the right proteins are included. Again, it can be done, but to just stop eating meat and dairy does not assure a healthy diet. And, if parents don't know what they're doing, children can be affected adversely. These bad examples are the ones that make the news rather than the untold thousands (if not millions) who conscientiously manage their diets effectively (and those of their children).
- PETA and other fanatics commonly associated with vegetarianism give the whole concept a bad name. Many people who might be live and let live on the vegetarian topic are confronted with extremists who are not satisfied with tolerance and require conversion. PETA adds to the confusion with their other ridiculous antics ("sea kittens" instead of fish, wanting breast milk in ice cream, sexually abusing vegetables in commercials) that have nothing to do with thoughtfully choosing to go meat- and/or dairyless. But their flamboyance is more easily remembered than those that go quietly vegetarian. Ditto for other vegetarian crusaders who won't settle for acceptance.
Also, I've seen several vegetarian protagonists, like the groom from My Big Fat Greek Wedding of the lead in Avatar. The thing is, a positively portrayed vegetarian is just like a regular person - they look just like the rest of us and the only ones we notice in the movies are the ones that conform with the stereotypes.
It should be noted that I am definitely an omnivore, but I don't see any reason why there isn't room for all of us.