Cal State Fullerton's Daily Titan printed an opinion piece yesterday by student April Ehrlich ("Shades of Green: Vegan Arrogance"). In it, Ehrlich complains about a friend (maybe a former friend, after this public diatribe?) Ehrlich and her father recently invited along on a camping trip. She sets the piece's jeering tone at the beginning, writing:
I don’t know why I took my vegan friend camping with me and my family. You’d think a vegan would know better than to trek off on a week-long vacation without an endless supply of trail mix or dried edamame, or whatever it is that vegans live off of when they’re on the road.What precipitated such a complaint? Ehrlich's father offered her vegan friend foods containing animal products and she chose to decline them. Ehrlich shows a complete misunderstanding and lack of acceptance of her friend's ethical choices by accusing her of being "snobbish" and of not being "open-minded" for having turned down cheesy eggs and for refusing crackers that contained chicken broth, melodramatically emphasizing the disappointment and distress her father purportedly experienced when her friend did so ("[h]is heart was broken") and whining that her friend would "rather starve than eat horrid, lowly camping food".
It's obvious that (so very easily) preventable miscommunication occurred before the camping trip. Ehrlich apparently knew that her friend was vegan, but seemed (and still seems) to fail to grasp what this entails. All parental woes and awkwardness (and one would hope, Ehrlich's own indignant public shaming of her friend) could have been averted with a simple discussion beforehand to confirm her friend's needs and whether or not her friend should bring her own food for the trip. This simple discussion could have been initiated by either party involved, host or guest. Ehrlich complains: "The girl could have brought her own food if she didn’t want to torture my family and I with her snobbish remarks regarding our eating habits". By this point, it's too late.
With this comes a valuable lesson for Ehrlich's friend--one that every vegan eventually comes 'round to learning: Life is so much simpler for everyone involved if you are proactive and cover all bases to look after yourself in social situations that involve eating food or consuming (or using) other items that may be non-vegan. Combine this with clear communication beforehand and you end up with a win-win situation where you're not left with a grumbling stomach and your hosts are not left confused or offended. Heck, if you bring a little extra, you also have an opportunity to show people how easy to find or prepare, and how delicious vegan food can be. The point is that it always helps to plan ahead and planning ahead can be an easy and effective way to leave others with a positive impression of veganism.
I'll play devil's advocate and wonder if, given Ehrlich's accusations, her friend actually may have said anything worthy of being judged so harshly. Ehrlich only indicates in her piece that her friend remarked that some foods have hidden animal ingredients, so we're left to speculate that Ehrlich merely made an incredibly defensive leap that in refusing to eat animal ingredients, her friend was somehow judging her and her family for doing so. Given Ehrlich's hostility and aversion to mincing words, it's highly doubtful that she would have overlooked the opportunity to quote her friend if there had been offensive words to quote. The intensity of her defensive hostility is obvious when she continues, writing:
Unfortunately, I think that’s what she enjoyed most about it. She sat high up on that throne of “I’m-better-than-you-because-I-love-animals-more.” [...] So, who’s better than who? I don’t eat red meat, so I must be better than you. Well, I don’t eat ANY meat, so I’m better. Well, I don’t eat any meat OR dairy. So?! I don’t eat any meat OR dairy OR anything that’s not organic OR anything with preservatives. I ONLY EAT RAW VEGETABLES. SO THERE. I WIN.After a token bit admitting that after watching Foer on Colbert she agrees that not eating animal flesh is healthier, she snarks about factory farming and then takes a parting shot at her friend and at all those who take the interests of nonhuman animals seriously enough not to consume them, chastising us for being rude:
[W]hen the time comes to enjoy something cultural, or if a family cooks a meal for you, it’s offensive and snobbish to deny the offer. Basically, nobody is going to shoot you on site for eating an egg or maybe a piece of chicken every now and again.You're right, April. Nobody is going to shoot us on site for eating an egg, but that's obviously beside the point. It's a real shame that you, on the other hand, would choose to personalize our ethical choices by going off on an ignorant and judgmental tear for not, in fact, eating that egg. Lest we hurt your feelings, or something. "Good job."
(Edited to add: It's worth noting that you can leave comments or responses to the original article at the Daily Titan. Many have already done so.)