I’ve got a bone to pick with some of you. (Don’t worry, the bone came from a sustainably-raised grass-fed cow who lived a long happy life. Moo.)
My recent health scare is responsible for my return to plant-based cuisine, and I’m so grateful for the not-so-subtle reminder of the healing power of food. Plants, specifically. But this Instagram-post and years of reading online comments on various social media posts reminded me why I put down the rutabaga in the first place:
Vegans are often the most obnoxious, cliquish, evil-spirited people on this planet. Hands down.
That shouldn’t have swayed me, but it did. Very rarely will you hear a meat-eater write a comment on a stranger’s online post that says, “Hey bro, I noticed you’re eating bacon. You didn’t cook it long enough and you’re ruining your breakfast. Do better.”
But we see this with vegans all the time. If you can get past the barrage of disturbing (but albeit necessary) videos of farmed animals being castrated, killed (minutes after birth), tortured, crammed in tight quarters, pumped with growth hormones or antibiotics, mutilated or violently separated from their mothers, you’ve only made it through Round One of the plant-based community’s gladiator game.
Round Two: The Comments
“You should go raw. Cooked veggies don’t provide benefits.”
“Buy reusable bags. Plastic is ruining the planet.”
“That avocado wasn’t ripe enough.”
“You’re not vegan. Your shoes have leather soles.”
“Cook your veggies. Raw is hard to digest.”
“Stop eating out of boxes. That’s not real food.”
“Fasting doesn’t provide any benefits.”
“Stop eating meat. You’re going to get cancer.”
“That’s on the Dirty Dozen list. Don’t buy that.”
“Juicing is bad for you. It’s pure sugar.”
“That has eggs in it. You’re eating a chicken’s period.”
“Black people aren’t vegan. That’s a white thing.”
“You should grow your own food.”
“Don’t kill bugs. They have feelings too.”
“You wouldn’t get sick if you were vegan.”
“Eat soy. Soy tastes just like meat.” (Lies!)
“Don’t eat soy. It wrecks your hormones.”
“Raw honey has dead bees in it. That’s not vegan.”
The list goes on and on. But here’s my question: If you’re a vegan, why are you so mean? If the goal is to heal the environment, heal our bodies, protect the animals, and make the world a kinder place, then you’re missing out on an opportunity to do any of that when you mistreat another human being.
If I learned anything in journalism school (which wasn’t much), I learned the method of delivery is just as important as the contents of the package. It doesn’t matter what you meant or if it’s true if how you said what you said was whack. You’re basically a stranger telling another stranger they suck at life. In the words of Kanye, “Feelings matter, bro.”
So please, do everyone a favor: change your approach. Just live your life, eat your kale, discuss the benefits of going meat-free, and offer help in a way that’s easier to digest. Congratulate someone when they make a step in the right direction, but don’t publicly berate someone who isn’t on your level. You’re not as enlightened as you think, Miss Perfect. Being kind to animals and a jerk to humans is a bit counter-productive is it not?
Change is really, really hard. If you didn’t grow up eating quinoa, switching to a plant-based diet feels like learning a new language. Criticizing someone who is making an honest effort at adopting healthier practices is the equivalent of saying, “I know you just moved to this country last year, but your English sucks.” Just be nice, be helpful, or be quiet. Telling someone they aren’t vegan-ing hard enough isn’t helpful. It’s divisive and mean.
Let’s face it: We are all under attack by the food industry. Ingredient labels are misleading. Everything labeled organic isn’t organic. Finding a watermelon or grapes with seeds is as rare and as exciting as watching a dog walk on its hind legs. Soy is in everything. Food just isn’t food anymore. It’s getting harder and harder for me to find canned soups or frozen vegetables that don’t contain sugar. (Don’t come for me about my canned soup or frozen vegetables. Just don’t.) Most of us grew up watching commercials that claim, “Milk does a body good.” Twenty years later we realize they were referring to a cow’s body. (Like, why did we ever think drinking a cow’s breastmilk would benefit us as adults? Gross.)
Shopping for healthy plant-based options (that the family will eat) in the grocery store is often really difficult and frustrating in the beginning. Honestly, for me it still is. Just when I think I have a grocery cart full of healthy food, I get home and read about the negative aspects of soy and wheat. (Great – now I have a pantry full of food that could spike my estrogen levels or bloat my belly. Stupid fibroid just got a free lunch.)
Words have power. Speak life. You have no idea how many hurdles someone had to climb before they made that one misstep you criticized them over. Convincing anyone to make a change is impossible if their first interaction with you is negative. Lead by example. Simply introduce yourself and invite them to check out your website or social media page. If you have advice on ways someone could improve, write them privately or share your personal, positive experiences with plant-based eating. Congratulate any attempts at making positive change. Emphasize the benefits of change without criticizing someone’s shortcomings. Ask yourself how your former self would react to what you’re about to say. Before you speak (or type), check your motives: Are you sincerely trying to help, or passive-aggressively attempting to prove you’re better, smarter, or more “woke.” Be honest with yourself. Will your words unite or divide?
If you’re on the other side of the spectrum and find yourself the unfortunate recipient of the above unsolicited, mean-spirited comments from the “Online Enlightened Ones,” (I like that term. Patent pending!) don’t take it personally. Many who drift in cyberspace have lost the art of cultivating real connections (I struggle with this), so use whatever you can from the critique and leave all that doesn’t serve you. You’re doing the best you can, which is the absolute most that anyone can ever ask of you.
PS – If you’re struggling to afford organic food, just purchase what you can afford and soak/wash your produce with a mix of vinegar and water. Eating fruits and vegetables should always be your first goal. Buying organic should be second. Also, don’t forget about your local dollar store. I always find organic produce, organic drinks, and canned and frozen vegetables. The goal is progress – not perfection. Be well.
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