“‘Vegan morality’?... A life-threatening eating disorder whose roots lie in a pathological absence of sensuality! Does Talshir seriously think that anyone seriously thinks that vegans are ‘moral’?... Amazing.”
– Internet comment
The above is a delicate response by a commenter, compared to some of the reactions elicited by posts or articles I write, or things I hear in passing in conversations. Those speaking are sometimes rude and impatient when it comes to those of us who are mindful about what we eat, be it vegans or vegetarians, macrobiotic people or what have you. And it seems that the more that people are interested in healthful eating, the more irritated their critics become.
On Passover, when everyone gathers together – both vegans and those who eat everything, health addicts and devourers of junk food – a reminder of the traditional focal points of friction around the holiday table might be helpful. I’ll start with the kind of complaints I hear from those omnivores who are fed up with us vegans.
1. Are you bugging us about cruelty again?
The truth is, no one really wants to know what goes on in the farms and abattoirs. Non-vegans have heard it already, and they don’t want to hear it again, certainly not during the seder meal. Stop recommending horrific documentaries to them – you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. And the books that vegans like to give meat-eaters on their birthdays? Studies about the damage caused by the food industry aren’t their idea of a present. And one more thing they’ll tell you: Stop bandying about words like “coercion,” “slaughter” and “Holocaust” in every context.
2. Me? You’re saying that I don’t like animals?
No one, certainly not anyone who raises dogs and cats – and certainly not people who prefer nature movies to TV reality shows – wants to see their reflection through the eyes of vegans. For most carnivores, the fact that they love schnitzel has no connection with their warm feelings for stray dogs around the world.
3. If it’s nut spread, why call it “cheese”?
4. What do you want, a medal?
The holier-than-thou look of people who don’t eat animal-based food – not to mention those who also don’t wear leather shoes and whose bag is made of recycled materials – makes carnivores feel like reminding them about the environmental damage caused by the leather substitutes they wear.
5. Do you really think you have a monopoly on morality?
And what about those who only eat meat from animals that are bred in humane conditions? And what about those who pay more to eat free-range eggs? And hey, what about those who devote their spare time to helping refugees?
6. We’re going to that vegan restaurant again?
Everyone has a vegan friend, or maybe a third cousin, who insists on dragging the whole crowd to a restaurant that smells of wheatgrass and offers nothing tasty or satisfying to eat.
7. Why do you insist on calling so many things – dates, for example – “sweets”?
8. Why quote endlessly tendentious facts, or “data” that are controversial?
When vegans encounter a study that clashes with their worldview, it always seems – isn’t it always like that – to have been conducted by a “problematic” research organization. Or course, when it’s something that vegans know for certain, it’s been confirmed by objective organizations, with no commercial or political agenda – in their opinion, naturally. These assumptions only become more extreme in connection with nutritional questions – but don’t get me started on proteins.
9. Why spoil the party?
Last Rosh Hashanah, the vegan aunt spoiled everyone’s enjoyment of the gefilte fish. All she did was bring a dish that looked just like gefilte fish, but with one tiny difference: instead of fish, nuts. Actually, it was tasty. Very tasty, even. So why is it so irritating? Maybe it was because of the look on the face of Uncle Arik, who makes traditional gefilte fish every year, which is based on the traditional recipe he inherited from his grandmother.
10. Okay, so you gave up meat. Did you also have to give up a sense of humor?
Not one word in the above list was made up. These really are things that irritate people about vegans, and they’re only the tip of the iceberg. And yet, this is nothing, compared to what bugs vegans themselves. They include:
1. “As if” veganism.
Vegans expect more from prepared or catered food when the packaging states that it is “Vegan” in large letters. So why does it turn out so often that the baked goods have eggs in them? And why, when they complain, are they asked why they need to make such a big deal when, after all, for 10 blintzes, only one egg was used? The chef, after interrogation, will admit that she “tried all kinds of substitutes,” but that nothing worked as well as eggs.
2. Everyone is an expert.
Vegans never stop hearing complaints about how they never stop insisting that beans and other legumes, along with an array of foods that are hard to find and even harder to prepare, have at least as much protein as eggs. But that they suddenly become silent when they are asked about the vegan neighbor who died of a heart attack at the age of 30. And why, they are charged, do they develop a facial tic when they’re told about the grandmother who never touched fruits and vegetables and died at the age of 100 (and even then, only when she fell out of a tree)?
3. Rice paper is not a meal.
Bourekas made with rice paper, rice-leaf delicacies reminiscent of schnitzel – and what not? Mountains of rice and its derivatives are served ceaselessly, and with great pride: We made it specially for you, we are told. And so vegans find themselves staring at rice rolls at weddings, family meals and romantic candle-light dinners. Okay, we’re grateful you for the invitation, and it was nice of you to prepare a vegan substitute. But don’t expect exultation. The same is true of potatoes in their millions of versions, even if they’re chocolate-crusted. And sorbet for dessert? Even vegans don’t get excited about colored ice in a glass.
4. You can’t please everyone.
How often do we need to hear that when a vegan feeds his dog meat, he’s a hypocrite, but that if he deprives the dog of meat, he’s nuts?
5. Other vegans.
Especially those who think they’re better, or more ethical than you are.
6. Vegans who get annoyed by people who get annoyed by vegans.
Why not suppress all the irritation and simply acknowledge that its source is the simple human need to shut up everyone who thinks a little differently?
7. Those who stick their nose into the children’s plate.
There’s not enough room in this whole paper to describe how deeply this tendency – of kindergarten teachers, nurses in well-baby clinics, grandparents and even doctors – to cast aspersions on the food of children that departs from the norm, bugs parents. And it doesn’t matter if the critics are vegans, vegetarians or just people denying their kids junk food.
8. Every article, without exception, that has ever been written about vegans.
9. And the response of non-vegans to those articles.
“Vegans don’t care about the children in Aleppo or about the drowning migrants but about animals, yes. There’s something nauseating about that.”
– Internet comment.
Nissan Shor wrote in this paper last month that, “Vegans remind us that most of us are complete nothings. People have gotten used to the absence of all ideology. When we get angry at vegans for supposedly being pests, and complain about how they never let up, what we are really getting angry about is their attempt to push for significant change. We’re angry at them because we, in fact, have relinquished the possibility of even attempting to make a difference. They are reminding us of our own impotence. And that’s insulting. People don’t like to be insulted, and so they insult in return.”
Maybe consideration of these words can serve to prevent additional insults around holiday tables this year. Happy holiday.
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