The Dumbest Things People Say To Vegetarians and Vegans
Most vegetarians and vegans have to put up with a lot of questions about their diets from curious omnivores. Some of these questions are the result of legitimate (if perhaps ignorant) curiosity, such as "Do you need to take supplements?" or "Do vegetarians eat eggs?" Most vegetarians and vegans are happy to answer these types of questions, at least the first few hundred times.
Quite a few other questions and comments are so dumb they're just plain obnoxious, though. This type is most popular with internet trolls and other omnivores who think they're funny, and there's no legitimate curiosity about them. Here are some of the dumbest:
Do you eat animal crackers?
Har har har, vegetarians are so dumb they can't tell the difference between dead animal flesh and a bunch of ground grains, refined sugars, and chemical additives molded to look like animals humans don't even typically eat! Har har har! I'm slapping my thighs over here!
In fact, I'm pleased to report that Nabisco's Barnum Animal Crackers are not only vegetarian, they're vegan, too! Some other brands do contain dairy or whey, however, so check the ingredient list.
I didn't climb to the top of the food chain to eat plants.
Vegetarians and vegans are often accused of being city slickers, but I think this comment reveals who the real city slicker is. Only somebody who has never had to make peace with the possibility of becoming something else's dinner could make a statement like this. As a frequent hiker in grizzly country, I'd be an idiot not to take sensible precautions when I hit the trail, but I can do everything right and still become prey.
Grizzlies are just one of the small but legendary group of species that occasionally remind us that humans are NOT, in fact, the top of the food chain. We like to pretend that we are - in part by killing off the real tops of the food chain wherever we take up residence - but they're still waiting out there in the wilder corners of our world, haunting our collective nightmares. It takes a city slicker to forget it.
If God didn't want us to eat animals, why did He make them out of meat?
The Good Lord made humans out of meat, too. Does that mean He wants us to be cannibals?
Seriously, people, if you're going to drag religion in to muddy up the issue, there are plenty of legitimate ways to do it. This is not one of them.
If we stopped eating meat, the world would be overrun by animals!
Believe it or not, this one may be even dumber than the last one, completely ignoring the reality that livestock species only exist in the numbers that they do because humans breed them for meat and other animal products.
Wild animals, meanwhile, keep their own populations under control just fine... as long as humans stay out of it. Ironically, ecologists have learned in recent years that grizzlies and other top predators are killing us even in their absence, through auto collisions with deer, hantavirus spread by mice, and other symptoms of prey populations run amok.
But you eat fish, right?
Um, no. Vegetarians do not eat dead animals, therefore vegetarians do not eat fish. Same with chicken.
In fairness, some of this is semantic confusion. For whatever reason, the word "meat" in English is usually taken to mean red meat, while fish and chicken are labeled "seafood" and "poultry" respectively. As a result, when vegetarians say they don't eat meat, a surprising number of people assume that means only red meat, as if fish and birds are some sort of plant.
Adding to the confusion, some pescetarians (people who eat fish but not red meat or poultry) and pollotarians (people who eat poultry but not red meat) call themselves vegetarians or semi-vegetarians, either because it's simpler or because they don't know the correct terms themselves.
So what DO you eat, salads?
Some omnivores appear to suffer under the ridiculous misconception that vegetables are the only foods vegetarians eat. In fact, some go even further, with an apparent belief that lettuce is the only food vegetarians eat. Others will generously offer to give you their lawn clippings.
In fact, many vegetarians eat a significantly more varied diet than typical omnivores consuming the Standard American Diet. The initials spell SAD for a reason!
Almost all vegetarians probably eat a more varied diet than the sort of omnivore who asks "But what do you eat?" when you say you're vegetarian, as if the idea of a single meal without meat is some sort of incomprehensible alien concept.
The snarky reply is "Everything but dead animal corpses." If the question appears to be genuine, you can be more polite and say "Everything but meat," maybe adding a list of a few of the delicious vegetarian meals you've eaten recently.
This one is just plain obnoxious but there's a related question that occasionally is serious - "Why is it okay to eat plants but not animals?" - so I'll put some effort into countering it anyway.
There are several related points you can touch on here.
The most basic is that plants have no central nervous system and cannot feel pain. Animals can, and despite efforts to minimize the suffering of slaughter, the truth is that these measures often aren't enforced, and even when they are, they don't always work.
It's also worth noting that very few plants are actually killed by being eaten. (Carrots are one of them - at least our dumb omnivore got that much right.) The majority of plant foods that people eat are forms of fruit, nut or seed. Harvesting these types of plant food neither kills nor harms the plant in the slightest.
If the goal is to minimize suffering (in the sense that a plant experiences suffering, anyway, which has little similarity to the ways in which humans and animals experience suffering), you can point out that eating animals causes twice the "suffering" that eating plants does, because plants are eaten by animals and then animals are eaten by people. Vegetarianism and veganism isn't about being perfect, it's about doing less harm. This is also a good answer for people who bring up the issue of insects and other animals killed during harvesting of plant crops - there is no perfectly cruelty-free diet, but the lower you eat on the food chain, the less total harm you're racking up.
I'm a member of PETA -People Eating Tasty Animals.
Obnoxious for the sake of being obnoxious. Ignoring them is the best solution.
Defensive Omniovore Bingo
More by this Author
Despite the wars and hardship they experienced, and the constant threat of smallpox and other epidemics, the nutrition of the nomadic Plains Indians tribes was among the very best in the world. Average height is an...
The vegetarian lifestyle is more popular than ever, but there are still many misconceptions about what vegetarians and vegans do and do not eat. Whether you're thinking about becoming a vegetarian or vegan, or you're...
Ticks are an annoying and potentially dangerous pest throughout most of the United States and the world. Not only do they suck your blood (and not in some sexy, sparkly vampire way either), they can carry diseases such...