Looking at the Menu

The world has changed a lot since 2011, a time when being vegan/vegetarian meant you were forced to stick to the appetizer and sides menus at restaurants. In 2017, nearly every restaurant I go to has at least one meatless entree item and choices that accommodate the dairy-free. When I went to this restaurant called Earls a few weeks ago, I ordered a vegan burger which prompted the manager to come by our table just to tell us that they offered a vegan alternate to every item on their menu (side note: Earls has the best vegan sushi rolls I’ve ever tasted, which the manager gave to us on the house).

If I’m out to dinner and there’s someone at the table I’ve never met, one of our mutual friends will undoubtedly make my diet a topic of conversation before the waiter comes by to take our order. It usually starts off with someone saying, “oh, Natalie is vegan by the way,” to which this new acquaintance will either say “me too!”, or ask a bunch of questions about what it means to be vegan like “where do you get your protein?” or “do you care if I eat meat in front of you?”

As a culture, we are desensitized to what it means to eat meat. Even as a vegan, I can’t say it bothers me to see people eat meat because it is so engrained in our culture. But if I really think about the question “do you care if I eat meat in front of you?” I have to think, why are you eating meat if the ethical option is there for you? When we think about the health risks of eating meat, how animal agriculture is damaging our environment, and the millions of animals who are suffering for five minutes of our gustatory satisfaction, contributing to this industry seems insane but our society does it anyway. The right choice is clear but we’ve designed it to be the alternative, and although the groupthink is changing, it’s not changing fast enough.

This week I’m going to write about the three common reasons people become vegan/vegetarian: health, environmental, and moral. I think a lot of people who aren’t vegan/vegetarian assume vegans/vegetarians abstain from meat eating because we don’t think animals should be killed for human consumption. While that is part of the reason for many of us, it’s not all of it.