I follow the hashtag #veganinspiration on Instagram. Normally, it’s full of delicious recipes, cute animals, and funny memes, but one picture in particular caught my eye earlier this week. It was an account that regularly appears in my feed, and they’d posted a picture that labelled vegetarians as cruel.
My question is this:
Why attack people who are trying to make a positive change?
If you stop eating meat and fish, you’re voting with your wallet. Your consumption of animal products decreases significantly. Your carbon footprint is reduced. You’re doing more than most people.
Yes, going vegan causes even less damage to animals and our planet. The egg and dairy industries are horrific, as the picture shows. But you can criticize them without dragging down anyone who’s already making an effort.
Not everyone can go vegan, or even vegetarian. Various illnesses (IBS, for example), eating disorders, lack of money and shopping facilities, and mental health conditions all influence the way we eat.
Some context about my own situation: I’m a vegetarian who eats a mainly vegan diet. I found myself getting too unhealthily obsessed with what I was eating when I tried to go vegan, which is why I allow myself a little flexibility. I saw a few comments on the Instagram post saying vegetarians should think about why they’re offended—is it because we know deep down we’re not doing enough?—but came to the conclusion that I was offended because I’m already doing as much as I can, and was still being told it wasn’t good enough.
The post is divisive, and may even dissuade people from trying anything in the first place.
Sure, some people willingly bury their heads in the sand. They don’t want to know. But a vegetarian has already made a significant change. Many of us are aiming to transition to veganism, or we’ve veganised our diets as much as we can.
And we shouldn’t discourage anyone who isn’t vegan or vegetarian, but is still making an effort to change their habits. Whether it’s a meat-free Monday, making vegan lunches, visiting a local plant-based cafe, or just ordering the vegan option at the pub, it all adds up. Plant-based foods and free-from sections (and even entire aisles) wouldn’t have exploded the way they did last year if people weren’t curious. We should welcome them. Half the battle is changing opinions, by showing people how tasty vegan and vegetarian food can be when it’s been prepared thoughtfully.
Doing something is always better than doing nothing. Do what you can whilst also looking after your body and mind—no one can be perfect, but we can all try. You’ve got this.
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Beth, 25, South East England.
Lover of books, dogs, yoga, travel, gin, and the Oxford comma.
I write about cruelty-free beauty, vegan & veggie food, and trying to lead a less wasteful life. I throw the odd think piece in there, too.