In the past, I never dreaded eating with someone I was newly acquainted with. I have been pescatarian (on and off, but mostly on) for about five years now; a decision I made for health reasons and convenience. When I was still consuming seafood, my explanation about my diet would usually last for about 20 seconds. People easily understood my diet because there were a lot of pescatarians out there, even though they’re know as “vegetarians who eat fish.”
Nowadays, as soon as I utter the words “I’m vegetarian” at the dinner table, I’m presented with either two of these reactions: worry or unexplainable outrage. They’re either concerned about my food selection or they go on some sort of a rant about how vegetables have feelings too. (Someone took Sausage Party way too seriously, huh?) Others even go the extra mile and present me with nutritional facts of a slab of meat. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one experiencing this. Back in high school, I heard the same reaction from my classmates when we met a vegetarian for the first time. It made me wonder: why do people hate vegetarians?
Contrary to popular belief, animal slaughter videos aren’t the only motivating factor for someone to go plant-based. The day I decided to cut out fish from my diet was the day Trump won the American presidency. I know; it’s totally unrelated. But it was an act of protest against what’s happening in the world — the political tension, the wars, the environmental degradation. It made me feel like I’m doing something to help the Earth last a little bit longer.
I went on Twitter a few weeks ago and asked why people hate vegetarians. A lot of responded that they found vegetarians to be too preachy, which I agree to some extent. As I said, there are different motivations for someone to go meat-free. Some want a healthier lifestyle, while others do it for the environment and animals. Those who do it for the latter are often passionate about it. While there may be some who can go from a calm tree-hugging guru to a religious fanatic real quick, do understand that they’re coming from a place of love (for you and the environment, but mostly for the animals), and sometimes paranoia. Changing the world requires cooperation and the first step is understanding and acceptance. This is just like convincing your friend who still hasn’t seen Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, but this time, the stakes are so much higher.
According to the movie Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret, raising livestock causes 51 percent of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions which is a surprise because most of us blame traffic and factories. Methane, a by-product of raising cows (it’s in their burps and farts), is 20 times stronger than carbon dioxide. It absorbs the sun’s heat, thus making our temperature warmer and that’s bad news for our ecosystem. Ice caps will melt faster, the sea levels will rise, farmers will have a harder time to raise crops, and animals will lose their habitat.
I started spreading the word because this requires some sort of group effort. The less meat we consume, the less cows, pigs, and poultry we have to raise. A handful of people can’t change the course of the Earth, no matter how strongly they feel about it. Despite the cold hard facts, people still choose to turn the other cheek. They say that it’s hard to change diets or that the facts aren’t true (only in the Philippines!), but at this point, I don’t think we can still risk it.
In my case, I’ve been trying to push the idea of going meat-free as a New Year’s resolution to my friends since last year. While a few agreed to try it twice in a week, others just gave up without even trying. Some even got defensive, so I let it go. But it made me wonder: Do people hate vegetarians because their mere presence remind them of the fact that they can do so much more to help the planet? Is it some sort of passive guilt-tripping that even vegetarians aren’t aware of?
If that’s the case, then we’re happy that we’re doing our job. We’ll take all the bullying that we can get if that’s what it takes for people to change their minds. There are times when we get pushy and annoying, but that’s just because we want you to eat healthier, and help save the Earth (as to why this is still a point of argument, I don’t understand). We apologize if our goal to get you to eat less meat reminds you of your nagging pediatrician and grandma, but just like them, we only want what’s best for you.
For my fellow vegetarians, let’s take it down a notch. Old habits die hard, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t create new ones. Instead of telling them to stop eating meat altogether, maybe they can lessen their intake instead. Recognize their efforts to help the Earth (like using less plastic and paper products), and don’t breathe down their necks every time your friends order steak for dinner. Their way may not be in line with our way of helping the planet, but it still contributes to our advocacy.
Let’s just all agree that we live in the same planet. We breathe the same air. If we don’t do something to at least control our meat intake, we might be inhaling cow farts in the near future, and we don’t want that, do we?