Monday, October 4, 2010

Ultimate Guide to Dating Non-Vegans

Why would you want to go out with someone who isn't vegan? Perhaps you've already started a relationship with someone and would rather work out this one issue than give up on what you have and start over, perhaps you've realized that the vegan pickings are pretty slim where you live and you want to keep your options open, or perhaps you've realized that dating non-vegans is an excellent way to go about making new vegans. As Ingrid Newkirk has even said, “if [you] get someone to see how wonderful a vegan diet is, I say, 'Dump him [or her]. Move on now! It’s his or her turn to go out and get somebody else over to our side.' When you talk to people, one of the strongest reasons they go VEG is because they had a girlfriend or a boyfriend who was VEG.” Perhaps you're not ready to go quite as far as Ingrid Newkirk suggests, but this is a guide to getting whatever partner you may have over to veganism as efficiently and reliably as possible.

When starting a new relationship let your partner know that you are vegan as soon as you are comfortable doing so. Letting them know earlier on will make it easier for your partner to appreciate that it is an important issue for you, while putting it off puts you at risk of putting them off when you begin to stress the issue more later on. Be prepared for your partner to ask a few questions as to why you are vegan when you tell them, and try to answer in a way that emphasizes that you are vegan for ethical reasons, but doesn't imply that this is something you expect them to do right off the bat. For example consider telling them, “I chose to be vegan because I couldn't justify the way we deny animals all of their most essential interests for what was, for me, a relatively menial interest in the taste of their flesh.” Ultimately our goal is going to be to get your partner to go vegan by letting them believe as much as possible that it was entirely their own idea.

Over the next couple weeks, let veganism come up casually, but don't push the issue too much. Pondering philosophical questions with your partner is a great way to get to know them better, and some questions can help lead their thinking in the right direction. For example: “Imagine humans and chimpanzees had evolved as a ring species, how do you think today's society would have to change to cope with this?” You may need to premise this with asking your partner if they know what a ring species is or explaining it to them. Another excellent question to ask your partner would be, “If you could go back in time and kill one person whose death you think would have the largest positive impact on the present, who would you kill and why?” They will almost inevitably say something along the lines of Hitler, Stalin, or perhaps Pol-Pot because it is very difficult to brainstorm through every notable person in history in a number of seconds, but asking this question gives you the opportunity to share your own answer with them. For your own answer pick someone who wasn't necessarily specifically evil, but someone who played a pivotal role in defining our views towards non-human animals, such as Aristotle or Rene Descartes. Both of these individuals were fine individuals who, through their ideas, ended up laying a groundwork that continues to justify out treatment of non-human animals to this day. Aristotle in particular would be an excellent choice for an answer since his views toward non-human animals were very tightly linked to his views of women and people of other races and they largely went on to be incorporated in Christianity's justification of the mistreatment of women and the condoning of human slavery. If you bring up all of these issues together it will seem much less like you are trying to lecture them on animal rights, while still getting an important message across to them on how you feel the present could be largely improved by eliminating our mistreatment of non-human animals.

Over this period try to share your food with your partner as much as possible too. Do try to get an idea of what they will like beforehand, but be willing to introduce them to new foods too. Try to avoid calling things “vegan” before you offer them to your partner, but do try to introduce them to vegan alternatives to their favorite non-vegan foods so they know that those things are available. Cooking something that will get them to say, “Mmm, that smells good.” is a great way to get them to try something new while having a positive attitude toward trying it. Some people will try to make a big deal out of the fact that they are going to be eating something vegan. If that is the case with your partner try to diffuse the situation with a line like, “Don't be silly. You're not a martyr; I'm sure you eat things like this all the time.”

Once this has gone on for a few weeks your partner will hopefully have become much more comfortable with the idea of a vegan lifestyle, and now it is time to go in for the kill. Ask your partner if they'd be willing to watch the film Earthlings with you, implying that it is something you've wanted to see and that you would like their company just in case it proves to be too intense for you to handle alone. This film is not without its faults, it may exaggerate some environmental risks, show some clips in entirely misleading contexts, and the bit at the end about there being “three life forces in the world: plant, animal, and human” bothers me immensely; however, this film is incredibly effective with its animal rights commentary and emotionally wrenching scenes from within the industry. Your partner will certainly be shaken from seeing this film, and use the time immediately afterward to discuss how they are feeling with them. As always, try to ask questions that will guide their thinking in the right direction rather than simply giving them answers. “What did you think about their commentary about speciesism at the beginning?”, “How did you feel about such-and-such practice used to produce so-and-so?” You will hopefully have gotten to know your partner fairly well at this point and try as best as you can to anticipate any objections they may make. Try to respond to these objections as if you are trying to agree with them, but that their objection doesn't seem to take into account (some point that you don't think their objection stands up to), therefore the issue is still bothering you.

Hopefully this will have been enough for your partner to decide to go vegan, but don't be too put off if they don't agree to go all the way immediately. They will at the very least have seen that meat and factory farmed animal products are worth cutting back on and if they continue to see all the different ways you have cut these things out of your diet they will pick your habits up over time as well.

13 comments:

  1. Are you serious? You advocate meeting someone you hit it off with and then setting out right from the beginning to change a huge aspect of their life in a very large way??? Wow, this is terrible! Here's my much simpler, more effective, and and more respectful way of dating: If you can't handle being with a meat-eater, seek out fellow vegans. If you want to be with a meat-eater, you have to accept this difference and show the same tolerance and respect to their lifestyle choices that you expect them to show to yours.

    I am a vegan who is dating an omnivore. He doesn't consider it a meal unless it contains large amounts of meat. To make it even harder, he only likes maybe 4 vegetables. Not only is he a wonderful man and the type of person that I could see spending my life with, dating him has taught me a lot. His food preferences have forced me to get creative in the kitchen, and it's been a lot of fun trying to cook things that he will like. He also cooks for me and modified his favorite homemade sauce (veggie broth instead of chicken) and baked some tofu with it. (He had it on ribs that night.) With a side of mashed potatoes and corn, it was perfect.

    We've also had a lot of fun trying new and exotic cuisines, because a lot of Asian and South American restaurants have amazing vegan options, while still offering plenty of high-quality meat. We have both learned a lot from each other and expanded our food horizons.

    He always makes sure that before suggesting a restaurant that there is something I can eat there, even if his family is in town and it's an inconvenience to them. At the same time I don't try to change him, and I try to make sure that he gets the kind of food that he loves, even though I won't eat it.

    Its called respect, compromise, and love. We found out about our extreme dietary differences on our first date, and we both knew that we couldn't change the other, so we just went with it. Besides, why waste time trying to change someone into the person you want them to be? Either have fun with them and love them as they are, or find someone else that will make you happier. You aren't being fair to either of you.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Dear anonymous,

    If veganism to you is nothing more than the foods you choose to eat then I entirely understand why you wouldn't go about trying to change your partner's eating habits. You seem to have done quite a fine job writing your own guide to dating a non-vegan in this case. For myself and those this post was targeted toward, veganism is part of protecting the interests of non-human animals, which there is no excuse for anyone to violate, regardless of what they mean to me. A relationship can enjoy respect, compromise and love without having to make sacrifices of the basic rights of those outside the relationship.

    For the animals,
    VeganSkeptic

    ReplyDelete
  3. I agree, I am a vegan primarily because animals are not mine to abuse and kill when I can live just as well without doing so. I equate this to a Baptist dating me (a firm Atheist). I would have no problem being with a Baptist, but I'm pretty sure that a lot of my values and actions would be repugnant to this person's own worldview. Assuming that this person had everything that I was looking for in a mate, I may give them a shot. Now, I will not be this person's own little project or mission. I would not deal with attempts to convert me and I would not handle being told that I could not have a glass of wine with dinner. At the same time, I would show respect to my mate's beliefs and preferences. I would not plan dates for Sunday morning, when he would be at church and I would be doing my own thing, and while I may enjoy a glass of wine or a beer with dinner, I would not serve alcohol with romantic dinners that I prepared for special occasions.

    If this person could not deal with my lifestyle, then they would have to go. They would obviously need to be with another Baptist to be happy, and that simply isn't me. (This would probably be the most likely result.) I have a right to do my own research, explore the world in my way and in my time, and determine what is best for me. I also deserve a partner who can love and accept me for the conclusions I draw and the decisions that I make.

    My omnivorous boyfriend is in the same position. He can be with someone who has a different outlook and different beliefs, but at the same time he has the right to make his own decisions. If I can't deal with that, then I need to find a fellow vegan.

    Going into a relationship with the intent of changing your partners actions and worldview so dramatically (and in many ways the vegan lifestyle is more intense and more involved than most religious choices) is simply not fair to anyone. You are depriving yourself of the chance to find someone with values and practices that you desire and need in a partner, and you are wasting their time by not being able to love and accept them for who they are and how they want to live.

    This just sounds like a lot of wasted time and energy, and a great way for someone to get hurt. Besides, if it doesn't work you have them telling their friends and family about their "crazy" vegan ex, which just closes more people off to the idea and perpetuates the myth that we are all just a bunch of intolerant, loud, pushy extremists.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'm sorry, this should be posting with my Gmail account, but I'm pretty bad with computers. Both the first comment and the other one comparing the situation to dating a Baptist are from the same person. With any luck I will eventually be commenting as Sadistic Cuddlebunny, but it doesn't seem to be working.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm generally agreeing with Anonymous here, despite agreeing with the original poster that we're talking about objective ethical decisions based on moral facts, rather than personal opinions.

    The reason I'm agreeing with Anonymous, I think, is mainly that the post reads too much like a Five Step Guide To Trick Someone Into Veganism, which is creepy. In my case, having my partner leave a Peter Singer book lying around and telling me she found it extremely persuasive was enough to (eventually -- moving all the way to veganism was a four-year process for me!) convince me, and it didn't come with the condescension and manipulation I felt while reading your post. So, I think you might have made a mis-step here, even though I agree with much of what you say.

    ReplyDelete
  6. As a non-vegan weighing in, I have to agree with Anonymous as well. I'm currently dating a vegan, and clearly doing research as to how best to make our relationship work. If I felt at any point that the vegan I'm dating was proselytizing or pushing me into a lifestyle choice that I'm not completely prepared for, I would run for the hills, abandon all desires to go veg, and carry a resentment towards the movement. The original post just seems so... well, militant, and cold, and calculating. But at some point you can't help who you fall in love with, so I think we should all keep in mind that it will never be easy for either side. On my end, I have a deep respect for my vegan's beliefs and all it took for me to consider going at least vegetarian was seeing him make it look significantly simpler than it originally seemed to be. Thankfully, my vegan has made it clear that it's my choice to make and that he's available to answer questions or be supportive if I need his help in any way. I think that's the best thing you can do for the cause- be supportive instead of vitriolic, have knowledge on hand but don't push it, and go about your daily life and make it look easy, so we can see that it really won't require that much sacrifice.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Just to chime in here. I am a vegan dating a non-vegan and it is extremely difficult. It is painful for me to watch him consume animals...that is the difficult part.

    I agree that everyone should make their own decisions and we should respect that. It is just hard to respect a decision that involves victims of violence, suffering, abuse and slaughter.

    Comparing this issue with Baptism or any other difference is not the same because there is no victim.

    I want to respect others choices but when there is a victim involved where their life ends solely based on our taste buds or simply because we can...it makes it all the more difficult to respect.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is the hardest thing!! I'm dating a non-vegan and I love every other part of who he is, but when I see him eat meat I feel physically ill. We've been together for almost a year and we've had SO many rational, non-proselytizing discussions about animal rights and while he says he agrees with me and respects my decision, he still can't imagine being a vegan. I have very consciously avoided pressuring him or making him feel too guilty, but I just can't understand how such a kind, intelligent person can learn about this stuff and not WANT to be vegan.

      Delete
    2. Exactly, Oh I love her/him but he/she enjoys and condones rape, torture and murder... but she/he appreciates that I do not... open your eyes people someone who does this is NOT a good person. If you think someone can someone be a good person and still eat meat and condone the rape/torture and murder you are kidding yourself and cant be vegan or vegetarian for moral or ethical reason.

      Delete
  8. Get real ! Respecting other people's choices to be complicit in rape, murder, infanticide, and other forms of heinous torture, when most other humans don't respect vegans is just not on for me. That they come up with myths about veganism and refuse to open their eyes when it's so easy to do so, spells disaster from the start. I can handle associating with others socially, but sharing one's life and being with someone who's at the other end of everything, well that's never going to work out. What bothers me most is when women simply presume they're tolerant, intelligent and informed purely by virtue of their sex, all the while chomping down on a piece of dismembered chicken and calves' milk shake. Gross !

    ReplyDelete
  9. I would straight out tell whomever I wanted to date or was interested in dating me that I cannot be with a non-vegan. It is a moral issue that is a cornerstone of who I am and what matters most to me and it is completely unacceptable to me to be with someone who is part of the reason non-human animals suffer so much in our non-vegan world. If my partner was not vegan, it would never work as I wouldn't be able to stomach his choices to harm others even after being informed. Perhaps I am being impractical, or too hard on myself and potential partners to bring this up upfront, but I believe in being direct and do not wish to put hopes and feelings and expectations into someone who may not become vegan, nor waste that person's time. If he was still interested we could explore the possibilities, if not, that's fine. I would look for vegans or be alone.

    ReplyDelete
  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  11. The post by the vegan skeptic was written nearly four years ago, and please forgive me; I'm a few deep as I write this.

    I'm an omnivore dating a vegan. She's quite fantastic, I love her honestly, and I'll hopefully be making a cross country move with her shortly. I really enjoy cooking for/with her, meals containing no animal products, and try to find places that cater to her values. She's a gem.

    About me, I eat meat. However, not a lot. I'd say that I'm a "flexitarian" if I have my terms correct. If I eat meat, it winds up that I killed the animal myself. I say killed because a lot of hunters say "harvest". I did nothing to raise or shelter the animal, feed it or nuture it, before it came time to kill it. Harsh words, but they are the truth.

    If you're looking to convert an omnivore or flexitarian to veganism, I'm really not sure if you can try to go head on and challenge their core beliefs without become annoying. She doesn't try to change me, and I don't try to change her. However, I'm doing my best to try and understand the way she feels and why she feels the way she does.

    I think I can understand it, but I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to, as we're not the same person. The more thinking and the more searching I do, the fuller picture I can create in regards to what eating meat really entails. (I’ve stopped buying meat from the store. It’s a first step, eh?) Is veganism a reaction to factory farming and is it relevant to small scale farming? Veganism and pet ownership, veganism and participation in the local community. Lots of things to think about, at least for me. It’s akin to religion in that different people have different limits to which they take it. The old honey debate, right?

    In the end, I think it comes down to personal choice. Would it be better to eat the soy products (I'm a big fan of Seitan by way) shipped from wherever, or the animal products from literally just down the road? What has a larger environmental impact? I know there is grass fed beef shipped from New Zeeland to the U.S., and a lot of people will buy it just because it is "grass fed/finished" but is that right? How much fuel was used to get it to your grocer? What recources were used to grow that beef and get it to where it was sold? What did it take to get it here? What has less of an impact on the earth?
    How are we respecting the earth?

    Anyways, long, possibly scatterbrained post. I'm a fair bit deep into fermented bevvy at the moment, so forgive if possible. Cheers to everyone, we're all in this together. Honestly, I’d really, really like to talk with some vegans about their views so I can learn more to shape my own views. Feel free to contact me if you would like.
    -P

    pierce.postma@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete