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What is it about meat eaters that make them so defensive?

I think that some view vegetarianism as a rejection of their lifestyle. As if somehow my choice to not eat meat is a comment on their choice to keep eating it.

Red meat, especially, has been demonized in the US for the last few decades. True, there's a lot of media attention in the other direction, especially when it comes to advertizing, but a lot of "eat healthy" messages have a subtext of "meat is bad." So I think some people feel conflicted about eating meat. And when someone shows up who doesn't eat meat, it reminds them of all the bad things lurking in their unconscious mind (high cholesterol, heart attacks, stroke, etc.), and they get a little afraid and a little too defensive.

I sometimes get the "why do you wear leather shoes, then" arguers. Those annoy me. Life is not lived in black and white.

But sometimes they're genuinely interested. The oddest conversation I had was with a fast-food drive-thru guy: try explaining that your vegetarianism stems from a concern for the humane treatement of animals and the reality that commercial beef and chicken production are severely damaging the environment and that while I want to enjoy modern conveniences I felt I could at least make some choices to cut out some of my poor behavior -- with a whole lane of starving customers lined up behind you.

I myself have never met a preachy vegetarian, but then, I went to a very open, touchy-feely school where it was good to validate all "life choices"; what you ate generally wasn't considered a threat. There were a lot of vegetarians, which, in a weird way, helped to balance the power and everyone seemed to get along.

I now live in a conservative lower-middle class town, dominated by recent Mexican immigrants. Eating out is a challenge, but the local taqueria now knows I'm the "veggie tacos" order. (And yes, the beans have a good chance of containing lard. But life is short and I don't intend to live it too rigidly.) I get some confused looks, and sometimes have to send an order back because the waitress didn't understand the gringo, but everyone's always been nice about it.

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