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A dilemma that keeps turning up in my life is the issue of sharing meals with nonvegetarians while they eat animal flesh. My wife is very much against it and has decided to arrive at parties or holiday gatherings after the food has been consumed. Some family members are okay with this, while others are not. My mother feels that we should be with the entire family to "break bread," as she says. I say that "breaking bread" would be fine, just not "breaking animals."
At work, I have no choice but to eat with the nonvegetarians while they eat animals; otherwise, I could risk alienating my coworkers. If that were to happen, I might be branded as a non-team player, which could adversely affect my career. When I appear to be tolerant of their choice to eat animals, I notice that many of my colleagues become interested in my diet and in turn have made changes to their own diets. My wife, on the other hand, feels that since she refuses to eat with others while they consume animal flesh, many people are extremely curious about her convictions and also have begun to change their diets. What do you think is the best way to handle this?
As vegans, our philosophy of life and how it is expressed sets us apart from nonvegans, even if we have many other aspects of our lives in common. Although this may not necessarily be problematic, it does have the potential to be detrimental in certain situations. We are social beings, and food frequently is a central feature of human interactions. If we allow our veganism to isolate us from family, friends, and coworkers, we may be destined for unhappiness.
Each vegan must determine her or his own level of tolerance for sitting through a meat-centered meal. It is understandable that some vegans are upset by the sight of people gnawing on animal parts, because our acute awareness of the sentience of other animals and the suffering involved in meat production are at the heart of vegan practice. Informing others about the unsavory origins of their food while they are eating it, however, rarely is the best route for enlisting adherents. On the other hand, an enticing plate of vegan food can be the stimulus for positive and equally enlightening conversation that delves into the pleasures of vegan dining, rather than the revulsions of eating meat. Consequently, opportunities for education abound regardless of what those surrounding us are eating.
Gatherings can become sticky when people feel rejected or put down by virtue of what they eat. This is true of both vegans and nonvegans. No one wants issues around food to destroy a relationship, and if the bond is one that is valued, food will be a secondary concern. Certainly, we wish those we love would share our values and beliefs, but segregating ourselves from them will not change the fact that they don't. Furthermore, distancing ourselves limits our chances to express our point of view in a warm and caring way. Separation rarely advances understanding and mostly just makes us feel alone.
As long as there are ample vegan selections at a family, holiday, or business function, it makes perfect sense for vegans to participate. Shunning events will turn us into outcasts and cause us to appear antisocial. Most vegans are unwilling to be estranged from society. We have myriad interests and activities that do not necessarily revolve around or are connected with veganism or animal rights. As a result, we have to pick our battles carefully and occasionally be willing to endure situations that may be less pleasant than we prefer.
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