I remember the first time I came home for the holidays, after I had become vegetarian back in 1987. My family knew of my decision, yet when we sat down for the holiday feast, my dad still asked if I’d like any turkey, as if somehow, white meat had become a vegetable.
After 25 years, it’s very clear to my family that I won’t be eating any meat, and they are pretty respectful of that. But I’ll bet that Spencer will still get asked if he’d like to sneak a morsel at the carving station. My young niece, now 10 years old, is a huge animal lover. I’m guessing she might have some curiosity over the Tofurkey, and why I’m not eating certain things. As a role model, how will I respond, and how will Spencer respond ?
According to Sarah Taylor, Author of Vegan in 30 Days:
“Many people take two extremes when questioned about their uncommon eating habits:
- They either don’t want to rock the boat, so they stay very neutral and non-offensive, but don’t really state their case at all
- They take the in-your-face angry veg*n approach, battering the questioner with detailed accounts of the slaughter that took place for that person’s plate.
Perhaps the best approach – to keep your friends/family in your life and to perk their interest in the diet – is to take the middle way.
First, remember that most people in our society have not heard the same information we have heard on the health, environmental or animal cruelty differences between a veg*n diet and a meat-based diet.
Remember back to a time when you didn’t know this information yourself, or someone you know and love didn’t know it? Have compassion for your questioner – even if he or she seems argumentative from the start.”
I searched the internet high and low to find out how other people address this sometimes uncomfortable situation. Here’s my list of the “Top 10 Compassionate, Sometimes Humorous” ways to say “No Thank You” to the meat offerings at the holiday table:
1. According to Taylor, one great approach, that allows you to answer without starting an argument or getting in too deep, is to say: “Well, I never really knew how my food got to my table, but then I saw this video that showed exactly what happens in the slaughterhouses, and it literally changed me forever. If you’d like, I’d be happy to tell you more about it, or I can forward a link that can explain much better why I eat this way.” This approach allows people to open the door and ask you more, or shut the door, but you still get to send them information that might make your case for you.
2. If you want an excuse to not consume ANY substance whatsoever: “My doctor said I should cut it out” always, always shuts people up. Whether true or false, nobody really wants to know more about which horrific digestive problem (meat/coffee/booze/ex-husband/whatever) was ailing you. This might be a perfect opportunity to bring up The China Study if they press further.
3. Don’t feel it is necessary to explain yourself, period. If people ask, you can always try to change the subject: Why don’t you eat meat? … Why do you ask? … I was interested. … Oh, ok. Have you tried the cranberry salad? It’s really delicious (other subject) …
4. Boast “I decided to give a veg*n diet a try, and I have felt 100% healthier ever since! It’s simply working for me.” Hopefully they’ll notice how good you look too and ask for some pointers and recipes !!
5. If you happen to be with people whom you don’t intend on getting to know better, you can always claim: “My parents brought me up veg*n and I never really wanted to change”. For some of you, how wonderful if this is true !! If you are Spencer, you can also claim “my girlfriend made me do it”. This ticks me off because I know he has his own reasons, but sometimes, it’s just easier that way, and that’s ok.
6. Just say: “I don’t like it”. It’s tough for anyone to argue against that. And if they keep asking, then you can always grin and say “Because I don’t like it, there’s more for you, right?”. LOL!
7. With a wink, you can smirk “I am not a veg*n because I love animals; I am a veg*n because I hate plants.”
8. If the peer pressure gets too much for you and you aren’t comfortable speaking up, you can always add meat to your plate (it’s there anyway), and simply eat around it (or sneak the meat to the dog or cat). You, and only you, know why you have made the commit to be veg*n. Having meat on your plate doesn’t change that. But if you leave the meat on your otherwise empty plate, be prepared for the hostess to ask “Oh, you didn’t like the meat?!?!” to which you can say “I’ve been trying to cut back, and I’m simply stuffed with so many other tasty side dishes”.
9. And my all time favorite answer to that pesky relative (who has a sense of humor): “I don’t eat anything that has eyes or has a mother. So don’t worry, I’m not going to eat you!”
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
It is okay to believe in your own decision to not eat meat, but if you hope to gain other people’s understanding, chances are you’ll have to lend them your own understanding first.
10. So what I think I’ll say to my young niece is: “It’s how I personally have decided to show compassion for all living things”. Ahimsa – non harming – is an important part of my Yoga practice. Have you heard of Gandhi? This is what he taught. This is my truth, so I know I can say it with sincerity and compassion.
What’s your favorite reply (or not)?
Being Vegan by Joanne Stepaniak