At work, I have no choice but to eat with the nonvegans while they eat meat. Otherwise, I could risk alienating my coworkers, and if that were to happen, I might be branded as someone who isn't a 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 with them. 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 their own level of tolerance for sitting through a meat-centered meal. It's 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 pleasure of vegan dining rather than the revulsion of eating meat. Consequently, opportunities for education abound regardless of what the people surrounding us are eating.
Gatherings can become volatile when people feel rejected or put down just because 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 won't 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, social, 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 don't 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'd prefer.
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