Should Vegans Respect Non-Vegans’ Choices?

Should Vegans Respect Non-Vegans' Choices

Many vegans have heard the sentence “I respect your choices, so why can’t you respect mine?” It’s often used to shut down a conversation when someone attempts to educate their family and friends about animal rights issues. Some people take it even further. For example, they may insist that vegans should serve animal products to non-vegan guests in the name of showing respect.

This point of view is problematic because veganism isn’t some faddish dietary choice – it’s the deeply-held conviction that exploiting animals is wrong. A vegan would have to compromise their beliefs in order to buy and prepare animal products, whereas a non-vegan’s beliefs are not compromised by providing vegan food to their guests. Few of us would argue that Muslims ought to provide pork to non-Muslim guests, because we recognise that this would go against their beliefs. The same should apply when it comes to veganism.

But back to the main question: if someone has researched where animal products come from and decided they’re happy to continue buying them, should vegans respect this decision? The answer, in my opinion, is no.

You may think this is unreasonable, but hear me out. I’ve previously argued that the production of animal products is inherently cruel – for example, animals have to die for meat to be produced, and calves must be taken from their mothers to produce dairy. Also, animal agriculture is unquestionably disastrous for the environment (see this excellent article from Happy Happy Vegan) and for other people. If someone knows this and chooses to buy animal products anyway, how can we be expected to respect that decision?

Here’s an analogy to illustrate the point. Imagine you find out that your friend’s favourite clothing retailer is using child labour. When informed of this, your friend says that although it’s a shame, they aren’t going to stop buying the brand – they just love it too much. Would you respect your friend’s decision? Probably not.

Of course, some people are unaware of the suffering and environmental destruction inherent in animal agriculture; they eat animal products because that’s what they’ve always done. In that case, they haven’t really made a conscious decision at all. I’m not going to respect the choices of someone who hasn’t taken the time to do their research. There isn’t really anything there to respect.

I hasten to point out that if someone has a genuine reason why they can’t be vegan right now, I do understand. But even so, there’s almost always something that person can do for animals, such as buying cruelty-free products. I respect the choices of people who are doing what they can. After all, veganism is about doing as much as is possible and practicable.

Not respecting someone’s choices isn’t the same as not respecting the person themselves; it isn’t acceptable to behave disrespectfully towards anyone, vegan or otherwise. There are millions of good people in the world who aren’t vegan, and I respect them and the work they do – just not their contribution to animal exploitation.

Finally, I want to clarify that do I respect the choices of people who have made the decision to go vegan but are transitioning at their own pace. I appreciate that many people who try to cut out everything at once end up lapsing because they find it too hard. I’d rather someone took their time and did it sustainably – as long as veganism is the end goal. This approach will likely save more animals in the long run.

What do you think?

Should Vegans Respect Non-Vegans' Choices?

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12 comments / Add your comment below

  1. The Vitamin B12 issue is why I would never go Vegan
    The evidence is that vegans although well meaning is that the vegans assume no one should ever eat animal and we all be fine how ever a human has the wrong gut for a vegan diet proof of that is the vitamin b12 issue. Vegans do not get enough get enough vitamin b12 this can result in death

    1. This is a misconception. B12 is made by bacteria in the soil, so we would formerly have been able to get it by eating plants. However because everything is so sterile these days, this is no longer possible. These days, farmed animals are given B12 supplements – otherwise animal products would no longer contain B12 either. If you’re vegan and take supplements, the only difference is that you’re getting your B12 first-hand. In fact, meat-eaters are just as likely to be B12-deficient as vegans. See this video for more information. https://youtu.be/t3j80WpjM0M

        1. Again, this is untrue. Our bodies can convert the omega-3s in plants into the type we need. People have been developing normal brains without eating fish for thousands of years – see this article. http://www.aquaticape.org/omega3.html. People who were raised vegetarian or vegan are no more likely to have problems with brain development than those on an omnivorous diet. Many people eating a standard Western diet are in fact deficient in omega-3s. Besides, the NHS also states that you can get all the nutrients you need on a vegan diet: https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Vegetarianhealth/Pages/Vegandiets.aspx

          1. Well Bethany I should not say vegans are nutrient defeciant thats a typo my brain goes faster than my hands I meant to type vegans run the risk of nutrient defeciancy which is why I would not go vegan I respect your right and that of others to go vegan. My sources are NHS
            on nutrition what are yours?

          2. Anyone can be nutrient deficient if they don’t eat properly. There is evidence that vegans actually suffer from fewer deficiencies – see these papers.
            Results from the German Vegan Study. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 57(August 2003):947.
            USDA. Food and Nutrient Intakes by Individuals in the United States, by Region, 1994-96.

          3. I forgot to ask you Bethany do you have any qualifications in the subject of nutriition?
            I was aware of the fact the NHS says vegan is fine as long as you plan it properely.
            Were you aware of the small print which is vegans are prone to nutrient defencies something the NHS warns about as does Cancer research UK. There is no certainty of nutrient defeciies only the risk.
            Vegans often say meat causes cancer but read this

          4. If you are not convinced about plant-based nutrition, I recommend reading the China Study and Dr Michael Greger’s How Not to Die. Alternatively, watch documentaries like Forks over Knives and What the Health, or visit nutritionfacts.org. Sources like these are where I get my information. I am currently in the process of starting a business, so unfortunately I don’t have time to enter into lengthy debates about nutrition.

  2. I have an inflammatory bowel disorder and cannot digest vegan protein. Animal protein is one of the few foods I can digest without pain and other unpleasant symptoms. Veganism is not an option for me and I am angry when vegans try to force their beliefs onto others. I believe in my beliefs as much as you believe in yours and you should respect that. You are not an expert on all human health problems and therefore cannot pass judgement on all humans. Plenty of vegan foods are not sustainably-sourced and cause suffering of animals indirectly by loss of habitat, pollution etc. Don’t eat quinoa if you care about not hurting the people and animals and rainforests in brazil. Other carnivores eat meat, are you going to convert lions to veganism? The reason why meat eating is a problem for humans is not about being carnivorous in itself, but about global sustainability and animal welfare in the meat production process. Both of these can be enhanced without the need for enforced veganism.

    1. With regard to your situation, I’d like to draw your attention to this paragraph – “I hasten to point out that if someone has a genuine reason why they can’t be vegan right now, I do understand. But even so, there’s almost always something that person can do for animals, such as buying cruelty-free products. I respect the choices of people who are doing what they can. After all, veganism is about doing as much as is possible and practicable.”

      The point about lions is irrelevant. They are obligate carnivores with no choice but to eat meat. We are not. There are far too many of us now for meat production to ever be sustainable – it’s just too resource-intensive. And for the record, I don’t eat quinoa for that very reason. I believe in doing as much as I possibly can for animals and the planet.

    2. Inflammatory bowel disorder can be dealt with by dry-fasting, here is a link to start your own research https://www.perfectketo.com/dry-fasting/ . We have been living in the world where medicine and doctors ( not all ) have been serving interests farmaceutical giants ( very often unknowingly ). Nonviolence is an integral part of complete and balanced human being; there are always tools that support you in becoming one. Unfortunately, information is not always easy to be found, but with a bit of determination, everything can be done. So YES, vegan is the right choice for everybody. For me, it is Plant-based diet ( i even go further I eat only RAW mostly fruits, that is a most healthy option for the human body ) Yoga, Meditation and every week 36 hour fast. I am 40 years young ( look and feel as if I would 27 – vegetarian for 15 years Vegan for 5 )healed all the diseases that I got as a child ( gastric ulcer, asthma and spine trauma ) …I look forward living at least 100 years 🙂 My comment here is to help you not to open discussion. P>S> We live in the world where carnivorism is enforced not veganism, we merely stand and speak our truth. Also, veganism teaches compassion, and we genuinely want to help you live better and longer lives, would not you want the world to become a little better place?

  3. I tell my meat eating friends that I only respect their meat eating choices if they have killed their food themselves. And it only has to be one time per animal that they eat! Just to really understand & respect the process of getting the meat onto their plate. Really gets them thinking about their food choices and whether they could kill, skin, gut & prepare a cow/rabbit/pig etc.

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