I’m A Vegan Dating a Non-Vegan

As you may have noticed by now, I’m vegan. It’s sort of a big “thing” about me.  So when I introduce my girlfriend to my friends, it’s with a bit of a surprise that they discover she isn’t vegan.

Sharing dishware, let alone a dinner table, with those who aren’t vegan is a no-go for some vegans. I have had to talk down an irate vegan friend after discovering her roommate used her pan to fry up bacon. The prospect of dating a non-vegan disgusts some vegans.

There was a time when I held similar sentiments. Dating and dining with strictly vegans does make life less stressful. The frustration of learning how to respect and love those who haven’t committed to living the life of a vegan is definitely challenging.

Would I prefer my girlfriend, whom I love, always eat vegan meals? Obviously. The same is true of my father, mother, and sister. And all those activists in other movements I seek to learn from and work with in collaboration. Understanding how to communicate our differing ethical perspectives, and being open about doing so, is of utmost importance.

Truth be told, my girlfriend cooks and shops vegan about 95% of the time, so my scenario of dating a non-vegan is somewhat unusual. We regularly have potlucks with friends where many of the dishes are vegan, and we always bring a vegan dish to add. She also happens to be an amazing cook and continually introduces me to new vegan dishes.

I don’t have some eloquent wrap up to the vegan dating debate other than to say that this much I’ve learned: whether or not friends and loved ones become vegan is up to them. Living by example with an open mind to those not yet part of the vegan team has been a continual process for me, and finding the lines and points of compromise with meat eaters has changed over time.

By Jamie J. Hagen

Jamie J. Hagen lives in Brooklyn and is a Contributing Editor for Autostraddle and writer for The Line Campaign. Follow her on twitter @jamiejhagen and visit her personal website for more of her work.

17 replies on “I’m A Vegan Dating a Non-Vegan”

I need help! What does a vegetarian gal dating a non veg guy do when the baby talk comes up? I have been veg for about 11 years and my bf of a few years told me today it is unfair for him or potential offspring for me to be veg during pregnancy. I am torn and upset. I figured he assumed I would maintain my veg lifestyle throughout my pregnancy ( I know it was stupid of me to assume). I always took the ‘I will deal with it when I am pregnant ‘and would play off my natural cravings but never assumed it would be guaranteed I would eat meat. He is veg 5 days a week because I do the cooking and he is great about it and thinks it fine. All and any advice is welcome.

Huh? How is it unfair on him for you to stay veggie during pregnancy?

I’m assuming his other concern would be the baby’s health? If so, do your research and show it to him: AFAIK it’s perfectly healthy to be veggie during pregnancy. The main concern is anaemia which, if you were to develop it, could be managed with diet and iron supplements. I’d be worried that he’d expect you to immediately sacrifice your lifestyle and beliefs for a hypothetical baby.

I agree with QoB – why would it unfair to him? Does he think its dangerous? From what I’ve read it’s fine to maintain a vegetarian diet while pregnant. But just like any diet during pregnancy, you have to make smart food choices and follow your doctors advice. If he won’t listen to research, take him to meet with your OB to discuss his concerns.

Right, unfair because he believes it would be unhealthy and not optimum for a baby. It’s funny because of all the other things that had been discussed and agreed upon this never crossed my mind as a potential issue. I think some research, talking with a doc and someone who been pregnant and veg are all in order…Thanks!

As far as I’ve read with anaemia as well, it’s not a problem for the baby so much as it’s a problem for you. The baby would be getting your iron stores, it’s happy:)

Best of luck, hope you find some good information and your partner takes it on board!

I’m a vegetarian, not a vegan, but I’ve come up with this philosophy for dealing with the carnivores in my life: you do what you need to do, and I will do what I do. I will not cook meat under any circumstances (except for my dog, who eats chicken breasts) but I won’t tell someone else they can’t eat it. If they don’t try to convert me to meat, I won’t try to convert them.

I’m not sure why we can’t come out and say that factory farming is wrong whether or not your are vegan. That being said you shouldn’t be judged or treated differently for your food choices. I would like to call a spade a spade here regardless of your dietary choices.

Co-signed; but I think you can be a meatatarian or whatever they are and still make ethically informed decisions about the animal products you choose to eat. I have some extremely humane – if we’re comparing to the atrocities of the factory farm – egg, milk, and cheese vendors at my local farmer’s market, whose farms are small, kept up to an extremely high ethical standard, and who do their best to run their farms in a way that is morally commendable, so I don’t think it’s fair to judge omnivores or lacto-ovo vegetarians who make informed decisions about their milk, egg, and meat sources as if they are just blindly engaging in the inhumane practices of the factory farming business. It’s not fair to assume, just because someone hasn’t entirely cut these groups of foods from their diet, that they are morally inferior, ignorant consumers of a dangerous and broken system.

I have no problem with what anyone chooses to eat. I have a problem when someone tells me my choice is wrong — a feeling I have on many things. Your wording, that you’re “living by example” for those who “are not yet part of the vegan team” makes it sound like you’re trying to make us omnivores/lacto-ovo-pescas “see the light.” I am fairly certain, having read your columns for a while, that you didn’t intend to sound this way, but when I read your piece, it made me feel like you thought I was leading an ethically inferior lifestyle by choosing to eat meat – a diet that is perfectly healthy, by the way. Vegans may continue to “live by example,” but I can’t say I’ll be joining the “vegan team,” as you put it, any time soon, particularly if vegans believe they are ethically superior to me because they do not eat meat. Frankly, being a vegan zealot is just as bad as being a religious one.

But good on you for loving your partner anyway. It would be terrible to allow something as inconsequential as food choices to come between you two.

I have to say I don’t think what Jamie wrote sounds like the words of a zealot. If someone adopts a lifestyle, in this case vegan, on ethical grounds, it follows that they believe those ethics are superior. As a non-vegan, I can say my choice to eat meat is not conscious, ethically grounded decision to abuse animals. But, (and please anyone correct me if I am wrong) it sounds like being vegan is a deliberate choice based, in part at least, on ethics. It would follow that anyone who takes an ethical stand on an issue, believing that their position is the superior position, would want other people to agree and take the same position as well. It is the way in which people who have made these ethical choices, in this case vegans, try to sway the rest of us that matters. “Living by example” sounds like a very congenial, non-judgement way of expressing one’s ethical positioning, be it food choice, lifestyle choice, religion, politics, etc.

I agree – the tone at times came across as quite patronising in some places. I’m not arguing for complete ethical equivalence – “All lifestyles are equally valid! Eat all the animal products you want, however the animals were treated!” – but if you were to replace ‘Christian’ with ‘vegan’ in some of the sentences above…?

On a totally separate point, I eat a vegetarian diet about 90% of the time, and for me, that’s good enough – the thought of having to be 100% ‘perfect’ is just not worth the psychological burden. Similarly, 95% may be ‘good enough’ for your girlfriend for the rest of her life.

I think that with most things, there’s a continuum of belief that ranges from “doesn’t care one bit” all the way over to “fanatic.” People who identify as “believers” or “adherents” are more open to people who believe different things, and more willing to live and let live without being judgmental. And when someone is fanatical about anything, whether it’s a religion, a movie, or a dietary/lifestyle choice, then pretty much by definition, people who don’t feel the same way are wrong, and somehow lesser.

I’m grateful that the vegans in my acquaintance have never made me feel like a terrible, unethical, disgusting person because I made a different choice about what I eat.

I’m sure Jamie can tell you much more about this, but milk production is a big part of factory farming and the meat industry. Cows are inseminated over and over to keep them producing milk, and their calves turned into veal or beef. Battery-farmed hens are kept in horrific conditions.

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