Why vegetarian? Sometimes it’s curious, other times accusatory, others it’s simply nonplussed – either way it’s a question that vegetarians get asked a lot. Depending on the person asking (and how diplomatic you want to be), it can be a good idea to reply in different ways.
Choosing to live a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle is a personal choice that is up to each individual to make, but is sometimes difficult for non vego’s to understand. For many, giving up meat or dairy would create an enormous hole in their diet, and it may be difficult for them to imagine the reasoning behind it. In some cases, they may become angry as they misinterpret your choice as a judgement against them. There is no one answer to give these people, so when faced with a questioning “why vegetarian?” look, the best thing to do is to give the reason that most describes you in a clear and final way.
- I dislike the taste or texture of meat. If you know that you might be about to launch a philosophic debate about eating meat and want to avoid it, attributing your diet to personal preference makes it hard to argue with. It’s also a legitimate reason for many, particularly pescatarians who are fine with the texture of fish but not other meats.
- I am against the killing of animals. Another one that is difficult to argue with, particularly if it’s backed up by the boycotting of animal products such as leather in the rest of your lifestyle. Something to be wary of, however, is that some non-Vegetarians may interpret this as an attack on themselves. This will just lead to aggression and defensiveness, so it’s important to phrase your choice in a non-judgemental way.
- It’s against my religion/personal beliefs. Another response that (hopefully) takes argument off the table. Most people in New Zealand are raised to respect other people’s religious or spiritual beliefs, so stating it in a clear manner (and possibly mentioning what those beliefs are) should send a signal that while it’s okay to ask, it’s not okay to argue.
- I don’t agree with the current agricultural system. This is probably the answer most likely to incite debate, but sometimes this discussion can be useful in opening the minds of people who have never questioned where their food comes from. It’s difficult to deny that current methods of farming cattle and overfishing the seas are having detrimental environmental effects, and probably cannot be sustained.
At the end of the day, it’s up to you how much you want to explain or defend your position. On the one hand, lively debate can be healthy for all involved and introduce a viewpoint you’d never considered before. On the other, it can completely spoil a meal or gathering when it’s unwanted.
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