Vegetarians aren’t all self-righteous hipsters: we’re normal people too!
Eat your greens.
Telling people you’re vegetarian still feels like admitting you don’t shower or use deodorant. The harsh realities of the 21st century – the war on terror, economic crises, the disenfranchisement of youth – has hardened our generation to anything that isn’t motivated by materialism and rational self-interest. We are so focused on the struggles to get employment after school and university that sometimes we forget life isn’t just about living it’s about how we live.
An article published today quotes a survey which claims that vegetarians are more unhealthy and “twice as likely to suffer from anxiety and depression”. Aside from the actual findings and evidence the survey relies upon, what really gets me is that the article begins with “I knew it”, revealing the kind of pre-conceived notions many people hold against vegetarians and vegans.
Almost everyone I meet struggles to imagine a diet that doesn’t involve meat. “So, do you just eat grass and leaves?” is something that people have un-ironically said to me. People can’t imagine that there is actually other vegetarian food out there that isn’t tasteless and green so I usually just say yes – the truth that meat only makes a tiny portion of edible resources readily available to us is often met with disbelief. This is not because carnivores are in some way incapable of comprehension, but because they’ve grown up in a certain lifestyle that is very close-minded when it comes to dietary alternatives.
I’ve been vegetarian my whole life and from personal experience I can tell you that there has been a surge in a cynicism that ridicules the vegetarian/vegan lifestyle. Popular opinion paints vegetarians as implausible, expensive, unsatisfying and idealistic. True, there are vegetarians out there who probably worry more about the ozone layer than they care about body odour, but myself and plenty of people I know are not like this, we’re normal people too.
As far as I can see, the biggest problem people have with vegetarianism is the perception that all those who abstain from meat are self-righteous bores. We’re painted as healthy-eaters with toned bodies, beaded necklaces and strict morals who think they are better than your bog-standard carnivore.
This is why people often mock vegetarians. There is a certainly an element of self-righteousness present in some vegetarians and vegans, as there would be in any counter-culture lifestyle. However, most vegetarians recognise that they’re not perfect and certainly not superior to anyone else. I’m not vegan, which means that I still contribute to the incredibly cruel dairy industry but I never claimed to be perfect, just a human trying to improve his lifestyle a little. Cutting down on meat is a step in the right direction and something to be commended both for its ethical and environmental implications.
We are all human. We can’t all cycle everywhere, recycle all our waste, abstain from meat and dairy products as well as live a carbon-neutral existence. But we can try to be better. We shouldn’t mock people who are trying to better themselves. You would be condemned for mocking an overweight person for going to the gym; likewise you shouldn’t mock someone for trying to develop a more ethical and environmentally conscious diet. We claim to be a civilised society of tolerance, but we still have a long way to go. It’s up to us as the next generation to create a culture that encourages self and social development, not because we are a bunch of self-righteous hipsters swaying with the tides of PC culture, but because we’re humans trying to live the best we can.