Random Thoughts On Dialogue

Everyone has their own way of thinking... their own philosophy on how life should be lived, how you should interact with other beings. Personally, I'm not interested in confrontation. I'd rather things be peaceful. Now that doesn't mean that I won't voice my opinion, but I don't understand why people do that in a manner that is antagonistic. I think you can present your point of view without alienating your audience, even if you are passionate about your subject. (But you probably already know that if you've spent any time reading this blog.)

Tonight I was reading The Calgary Herald, and found this in the "Real Life" section:

My three grown daughters all became vegans in their mid-teens. They're also animal-rights activists -- I think they're fanatics, refusing to celebrate Thanksgiving with us, with a "dead bird" (turkey) in our home, though I've prepared a tofu turkey for them.

My husband and I try to accommodate their diet and are sensitive to their activities, but they're increasingly rude and ugly, condemning everything we eat, and that we kill flies and earwigs in our home.

First, let me state that I understand this is only one side of the story. But for arguments sake, let's just assume this account is actually 100% accurate. I don't understand the behavior of the daughters. What is the point of alienating their parents / other people? The parents are not vegan, but they do accommodate their daughters' way of eating. Personally, I think that's wonderful. The parents are preparing some vegan foods for the daughters to eat. Presumably they will taste those foods and, perhaps incorporate them into their food rotation. In any event, they are learning about a vegan diet. They are willing to try!

But what are the daughters attempting to achieve by being antagonistic to their parents? This type of behavior only gives vegans a bad name, and isn't likely to result in anyone changing their thoughts. Typically, it results in people shutting down. Without a dialogue, there can be no change.

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Comments

  1. I agree with you!
    Every vegetarian should read this book -
    “Living Among Meat Eaters: The Vegetarian’s Survival Handbook”
    It really helped me deal with my Mom’s behavior. She insisted I was starving myself…

  2. I understand your view point and I agree 100%, but if I had to create a theory based on the daughters behavior it would be,

    “Their participation in Thanksgiving with a ‘dead bird’ is in some way saying that they accept that tradition and increases welfarist mentality.”

    Their goal is probably is the complete abolishment of animals as commodities, which I think is the goal of most vegans, but there is a fine line (in my opinion).

  3. I agree!

    Like you, I suspect there’s more to that story. I could buy it if it was just one child, but for 3 siblings to turn on parents doing their best…well, I have to wonder.

    But if it’s true, I would argue that the daughters aren’t truely vegan. The heart of veganism is compassion, and we have a duty to extend that to other humans, family or not, as well, if we are to truely live as vegans.

  4. I agree that there is no point in being a “fanatic”, especially if it’s going to damage your relationship with your family. That said, it really seems like this woman is exaggerating quite a bit. Having been called a fanatic before simply because I don’t want to eat animal flesh, I know that sometimes meat eaters can take things way out of proportion and blow them up due to their own discomfort, and sometimes even shame. Does not wanting to share a table with a dead turkey make one a fanatic? Maybe it does in the eyes of the person who spent all day cooking and preparing that dead bird, but I’m sure the dead bird would see it differently if it still had a head and eyes to see with.
    Check out this excellent post by Joshua over at The Discerning Brute called “It’s Me or the Turkey” where he talks about how he will not be sharing Thanksgiving this year with any dead turkeys on the table. I think he does a really good job explaining his position on the matter without coming off in any way like a fanatic:
    http://thediscerningbrute.com/2008/11/14/its-me-or-the-turkey/
    While I will still be spending this Thanksgiving with my family who will have a giant dead bird on the table which does offend me, I will be bringing my own vegan meal to eat, and quite possibly, I will be bringing along a framed photo of the turkey I recently adopted from Farm Sanctuary. Will my family see me as a fanatic for doing so? Maybe, but frankly, I don’t care. Turkeys are awesome creatures and some of us really do consider them our friends, no different than a cat or dog. Would it make someone a fanatic if they refused to have dinner with their parents who were serving up deep-fried kittens on Thanksgiving? No, probably not because in this country it’s accepted that it’s ok to eat turkeys but not cats. Many of us no longer distinguish between animals like that… we don’t believe that the turkey should be eaten any more than the cat should. We find both examples equally horrifying.
    While I realize that it can be upsetting for some families when a vegetarian or a vegan in their midst all of a sudden rocks the boat and is vocal about their distress over what’s for dinner, I really feel that to label those people as fanatics is unfair, and again, I think the mother who wrote that article is blowing things way more out of proportion than are her vegan daughters are. I think we need to be careful about who we label as fanatics, and who we accept as following their own beliefs as how to live with the most amount of compassion. True compassion should extend to our families as well, but it’s hard to feel compassion for someone who’s spent a whole day stuffing a beautiful animal with bread crumbs and sees that animal as nothing more than food, knowing all along that at least three other people who will be coming over for dinner (her own daughters) are morally opposed to seeing or taking part in such a cruel and unnecessary ritual.

  5. Good post, good comments. I loved Sue H’s point about remembering to spread compassion to humans, also. Sometimes those who we may consider “evil” or “totally uncaring” at first glance have more complex and nuanced dynamics influencing their behaviors and attitudes, and more than once the most hard-hearted people have come around with persistent but gentle persuasion.

    I also wonder how much of the daughters’ approach might be chalked up to being teens. Not that I’m condoning blatant antagonism toward one’s parents, but I think in our teens is when we’re most likely to think we know it all and our parents understand nothing, and over time we tend to get better at diplomacy and crafting our message in a more engaging (and usually effective) way.

  6. Hi Kara,
    There were some really good tips in that book. Although I disagree with the authors premise that every antagonistic omnivore is really afraid of becoming a vegetarian (I read the book last year, so I may recollect whatever it was that bothered me incorrectly.)

    Hi Greg,
    Yes, you’re probably right about their goal being the ultimate abolition of animals as commodities. However, that certainly isn’t going to happen overnight. It’s my belief that if someone is trying (ie the parents preparing some kind of alternative meal), then that should be lauded instead of being condemned as not doing enough. It’s not always easy to make a change in your eating habits, especially if you’re older.

    Hi Sue,
    Ageed! Compassion cures more sins than condemnation!

    Hi Foodeater,
    Thanks for the link. It’s always interesting to read other people’s perspectives on things.
    I guess the real problem I have with this is… do these people who can’t bear to share a table with a dead bird only eat at vegan establishments? If not, it seems utterly hypocritical to me. Ordering a vegan meal at a non-vegan restaurant means other animals will wind up on plates very near yours (not you personally). And why make a stand at turkeys. Cows are intelligent, pigs are intelligent.
    I’m with Gary, that a more diplomatic approach is likely to be more effective.
    However, I’m sure there’s more to their story!

    Hi Gary,
    Agreed. And with 97% of the population being omnivorous, I think it’s up to us to be a bit more understanding when people continue to want to eat meat. Gentle persuasion in those instances is, IMHO, much more likely to be effective.
    (As for the teen theory… there are one or two things I can remember saying to my parents that make me cringe to this day.)

  7. These grown adults seem to be attempting to remain teenagers. Seems like they are being quite cruel to a couple of very important living things, their parents.

    One of the biggest problems in society today, in my opinion, is the inability of other people to accept the religion, opinions, lifestyle, politics, clothing choices, etc. of their fellow humans. If we were all the same, I think everyone would agree that life would be extremely boring. I may not choose to live my life like you do yours, and I may think that you should live it somewhat differently, but I’m most likely going to accept it as your choice. And I just might ask you why you choose to live so and ruminate on that. But, if you start lecturing me/berating me for my choices, I’m going to proceed to ignore you and assume that you are not worth my time.

  8. Hi Eris,
    You sound exactly like Jane. She runs around saying that all of our troubles stem from peoples’ lack of consideration for others. You/she may have a point there. Tolerance and consideration go a long way in making for a better world.

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