It’s been a little while since we’ve written up an article built almost specifically to get people talking and really take a stance, so it only felt right to do just that. There’s a certain stigma seen on the Internet and in social circles that paints the entire vegetarian and vegan movement, and that’s the stink of superiority. A lot of current meat-eaters get in quite a stink just by the mere mention of a vegetarian diet, regardless of how it’s presented, though the reason isn’t because it involves a diet lacking meat. Rather, the problem is that they feel they’re being talked down to. That vegetarians are smug and hypocritical. That we walk around as if we’re better than everyone else. Is this true? Well let’s take a look.
Within the vegetarian community, a number of differences crop up. First, there’s a general splitting between roughly four reasons for becoming vegetarian, those being for health reasons (“a vegetarian diet is health”), ethical reasons (“a vegetarian diet is friendlier to animals”), environmental reasons (“a vegetarian diet is more beneficial for the environment”), and religious reasons (“my religious forbids meat”).
Stop me if you’ve heard some of these responses here. Health reasons: “Stop suggesting you’re healthier than me!” Ethical reasons: “Stop suggesting you’re a better person than me!” Environmental reasons: “Stop suggesting you’re more aware than me!” Religious: “Stop pushing your beliefs on me!” There are variations all around there, and the religious reason tends to be less of an issue, save for with those that have problems with other religions in general, but the consensus is that non-vegetarians tend to view vegetarians as people walking around just waiting to be told off.
And the problem is we aren’t entirely guilt-free in this issue. There is a definite attitude of superiority going on to some degree, at least among those who speak the loudest. Perhaps this is a public image sort of deal, but there’s a stereotype out there that in movies or TV shows, any character who needs to be shown as being high-and-mighty or hypocritical with the fewest words possible is almost always labeled as a vegetarian, allowing the other characters to groan and say, “That explains everything!” Suddenly we’ve got to a point in society where “vegetarian” has become shorthand for “elitist jerk.”
So how do we reverse this? Well, a lot of it has to be with our attitudes. I can’t think of a single vegetarian currently in my life who has been pushy, rude, or done anything to suggest that their diet or lifestyle is superior to anyone else’s. However, I do distinctly remember knowing people in high school and college who proudly pointed out that their diet wasn’t just better, but anyone who didn’t follow it was wrong. Not experiencing a difference of opinions, just plain wrong, full stop.
The real problem with this attitude, whether you believe it or not, is it ends the possibility of the other person ever taking you seriously. A handful of things occur in the moment that you say “My lifestyle is better than yours and if you don’t agree then you’re wrong.” First, you have placed your life above theirs, making them feel that you think less of them (which you did technically say). Secondly, you have pointed out that not only are your choices better than theirs on the scale of “good and bad,” their choices are near the bottom, thus telling them that the difference between the two of you is quite vast. And finally, you’ve left no room for discussion with the use of absolutes. You’ve said your lifestyle is better without any reasoning and then just said they are wrong, a phrase which has no defense whatsoever that doesn’t lead into an argument.
With humans, arguments aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but the goal is always open discussion rather than full-on argumentation. No matter what you believe or why you believe, you will never, ever, EVER convince someone to agree with you if you act as if you’re better than they are without reason. You may feel that animals deserve better and live an active life that seeks to end their suffering, but someone else may not view your sacrifice as valid since they just don’t view animals in the same way. And stranger still, this isn’t exclusive to the vegetarians vs meat-eaters arguments. The worst part is, vegetarians argue amongst themselves.
This is most prominent between vegetarians and vegans as you’ll find the two groups at odds, usually for the same exact reason that a standard vegetarian will argue with a meat-eater: your level of commitment. You’ll hear a vegetarian tell a person with a standard diet that they need to have more compassion for animals, eat healthier, or be more considerate about the environmental effects, then you’ll turn and hear a vegan get into the same accusatory stance against a vegetarian, then turn again and hear someone on a raw food diet blast a vegan for the exact same things.
The hard truth is that as humans, we’re not programmed to agree on anything besides the need for food, water, and air as our bodies don’t give us a choice in the matter. Other than that, we’re entirely without a universal compass. The more we start to preach though and the more we walk around as if we’ve hit the enlightened viewpoint, the worse things become. And before you point out that meat-eaters can be just as high-and-mighty as any vegetarian or even worse so as their diet is already considered “standard,” don’t forget that it’s that exact reason why we have to be more aware of how we act: We’re the ones having to make the hard sell! We’re the ones who have an uphill battle! We’re the ones who have to convince them, not the other way around! A vegetarian diet takes discipline whereas a standard diet doesn’t, at least not in the same way. The worse thing we can possibly do is act as if we’re better than our friends, family, or even strangers in general.
And that about does it with me. I’ve now talked quite long enough and I need someone else to step up and speak instead. Do you feel that there’s a general feeling that vegetarians of all sorts have a superiority complex? Or do you think that it’s an unfair stereotype? Or do you believe that they should have a superiority complex? I’m very curious to hear your thoughts, so leave a comment and let me know! I want to see some discussion going on, so please, let’s get into it!