For all the Vegans out there, having to lunch/dine with non-Vegans is one of the most challenging moments of being an Ethical Vegan. Health based Vegans might not mind seeing animal carcasses on other people’s plates but Ethical Vegans would hardly ignore it.
I was faced with such dilemma last Friday as I was coerced (not asked) into attending an office lunch at the 4 Seasons Star Hotel in Beverly Hills. “Wow, chic hotel”, you may think. Yes, it was definitely a beautiful place. The toilets even have their own sink with cotton towelettes to dry your pretty hands and you don’t need to share the sink with someone else (sic). So far so good, there is a little bit of eco-friendliness to the place. The restaurant was Italian and, lucky for me, made it therefore easy to get something Vegan. This was the easy part. I didn’t want to go but I didn’t want to lose a vacation day either (so many of these in the USA, right?).
So what is an ethical Vegan to do when confronted with this situation? I would like to point out that the day before, my boss came to me and told me what wines we were gonna have for the lunch (he likes to provide the wine himself being a connoisseur). I confirmed they were all Vegan! I must say that he tries very hard to accommodate my lifestyle and that is very appreciated. I don’t know of many employers who would bother. However, as you all know, a non-Vegan doesn’t “get” why eating with them is uncomfortable. As Vegans, we don’t see food, we see a being who has been mutilated, tortured, poisoned with antibiotics and other unpleasant substances and lived the most miserable life before being butchered without mercy to just end up satisfying someone’s palate for a brief moment (and we know that it is not needed). We have made that connection. They have not. They find the sight of animal carcasses perfectly normal as they are totally disconnected from the reality of what and WHO they eat. Each time I tried to explain this to my office manager, she quickly changed the subject after 1 minute once I started telling her about the intelligence of pigs. I can tell that she is disturbed by that truth and she chooses denial. She always had and the majority of people, when confronted with looking at what their food is, are. Once I had a postcard from an animal group laying around which said “Which one do you eat, and which one do you pet? and why?” (with a cat and a pig). She picked it up, intrigued, and started reading it astonished at what it said about the pig. So for a short time, she made some connection. But quickly went back into denial mode later. It is important to realize that some people may make the connection but don’t want to accept the truth and may never do so. And short of forcing them to watch Earthlings, we can only continue to plants seeds (and some even continue the denial after seeing Earthlings as the conditioning is so strong).
I probably drank too much for that lunch but was lucky not to have to smell it or see it too much. In the end, it was a mostly smooth drive. I should consider myself lucky. When I was at the Animal Rights Conference last year, I went to a discussion about how to deal with non-Vegans in the family and workplace. I heard some really tough stories of people who have a difficult time to make others accept their choices. I tried to offer ideas of how I have managed the small victories I have in my workplace. I truly felt for all of them. I don’t have a family to be accountable to, just my job. And for the most part, they are mostly tolerant. They even got me a Vegan birthday cake for my birthday!
How does anyone feel about eating with non-Vegans? How do you handle it? I would love to hear your thoughts on this and read your comments.