A common joke I hear is “How do you find the vegan at a dinner party? Don’t worry, they’ll let you know.” While I think it would be polite for a vegan, or anyone with a specific dietary preference or food allergy to inform the host of this beforehand, this joke implies that vegans are pretentious and preachy, when this is not the case.
I am not claiming to be better than you. I am just trying to align my actions with my beliefs, like most humans. For me, I do not feel comfortable with the reality of inflicting pain upon creatures for a tasty dinner or fluffy coat.
Other vegans may have chosen this way of life because of the vast environmental damage caused by the dairy and meat industries or for the health benefits of avoiding fat- and cholesterol-packed animal products. Did you see that WHO report?
Other people may disagree that all species are equal and decide that humans have a right to farm and kill some animals (while keeping the cute ones as pets). If you are aware of the horrors of factory farming and still want to eat meat, your choice is fine by me. I do not care what you eat. Of course, I would prefer if you did not, but I am not here to tell you what to do. Similarly, you are not here to tell me what to do.
It fascinates me how quickly people can become nutrition experts, questioning my protein and iron intake. I have plenty of other unhealthy habits, like sleeping for far less than eight hours per night and consuming too much caffeine, but these choices never seem to be critiqued. Being different or doing something against the norm is bound to invite ridicule, whether friendly joking or hostile accusations. I am not angry; I am just annoyed and mildly confused. The point of veganism, for me, is not harming animals. Why do people feel the need to harass me for not harming something?
Not harming a few animals does not make me ethical. In this modern world, it is impossible to not leave nasty footprints everywhere. From cheap clothes manufactured in slave-like conditions to the pollution caused by all the electricity needed to power my conflict mineral-ridden electronic devices, I assure you that I am not better than anyone.
Everything we do has some negative consequences, but that does not mean that we should not care. For me, that caring is not a question of animals versus people; the two are not mutually exclusive. I want to help both, and in fact I would argue that by helping animals, people are helped as well.
Of course, the preachy vegans exist, just as the man-hating feminists and Starbucks-cup-hating Christians exist. In all cases, these people are in the minority and do not represent the whole. Please, do not assume I am judging you. I can happily coexist at omnivore dinner parties, especially if you save your hypothetical questions about desert islands for someone else.