Do your vegetarian friends make you feel ashamed to eat meat?

Myra and Janice had been friends for ten years until an argument over the morality of eating meat resulted in the end of their friendship. Myra became a vegetarian in 2006 and in Janice’s opinion soon began to take her vegetarian agenda a little too far, trying to push her new-found belief that eating meat was wrong on everyone around her. Every time they would go out to eat Myra would criticize Janice’s meal choices which invariably included some variety of meat since Janice was an unapologetic meat lover.

“She kept insisting I was selfish and lacking conscience,” explained Janice. “It got to where I dreaded going out to eat with her, but she was my best friend and we’d had our Friday night ritual of going out for dinner for years. I didn’t know how to just suddenly stop going.”

Janice tried having rational discussions with Myra about freedom of choice and opinion versus fact, explaining that what’s regarded moral or immoral is a matter of opinion and that it was no more okay for her to tell people they were selfish to eat meat than it would be okay for them to tell her it was stupid not to eat meat; but Myra was never interested in having a rational discussion. She seemed to be on a determined mission to make all meat eaters around her feel ashamed of themselves for their willingness to eat meat.

“She would even pretend to jokingly call me Ms piggy,” said Janice. “She’d blame my few extra pounds on my habit for eating fatty pork telling me that’s what I get for refusing to do what I know is right.”

“I took it all in stride the best I could; but one day I just lost it and went off on her.”

The gist of what Janice told Myra was that she had as much right to eat meat as Myra not to eat meat; that she wasn’t going to stop eating meat just because Myra was suddenly convinced after years of eating meat herself that it was selfish and immoral and because she was on a mission to make meat-eaters feel like the worse people in the world for liking to eat meat. She called Myra some names that weren’t particularly nice and told her she’d become tiresome and that she wasn’t interested in going out to eat with her any longer because it had become a highly unpleasant experience.

While they might not all end in the severing of a ten year friendship, disagreements between friends over the choice to be vegetarian and the choice to eat meat are not all that uncommon. Many vegetarians consider their lifestyle to be something “anyone with a conscience” should be practicing; and they can become as actively opposed to meat-eating as people who participate in organizations like PETA dedicated to fighting against cruelty to animals. It can put a strain on a friendship when one person is a stalwart opponent of eating meat and the other is a meat lover.

What do you think about Myra and Janice’s story? Should Myra have been more respectful of Janice’s right to choose whether to eat meat or not to eat meat, or was she right to push until Janice finally snapped and their friendship ended over their differing beliefs over eating meat?

Image: Hunan Food in Shanghai by Prince Roy via Flickr

Leave a Reply