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Preparing for the Onslaught

My husband has two friends (a male/female couple) who are transitioning from vegetarian to vegan and I also have two friends (both women) who are transitioning from omnivore and all are dreading Thanksgiving. The conversations with family and friends have already begun about "Turkey Day." And of course if you correct someone and say "Dead Turkey Day," you're "buzzkill," or imposing your beliefs or being judgmental.

Here's today's question: When a group of omnivores begins the inevitable round of jokes about veganism and even about slaughter ("I love turkeys–with sweet potatoes," or my cousin this week on Facebook, "I love the cow, therefore I eat her cheese," or something equally insensitive and ignorant), what do you do?

I've had family members ask me to refrain from "proselytizing" to not "spoil the day" for everyone and to "give it a rest" and let everyone eat in peace. Everyone clearly doesn't include the turkey and the other animals on the table. I haven't had a Thanksgiving with family members in years.

But what do you say to those friends at a table of say, 10, who deliver every cliche as if they're the first ones on the planet to think of them. I note the size because many people find it easier to have a serious conversation one-on-one, but in a larger group the dynamic is different. You can't play to everyone in a large group (unless it's homogeneous), so many people don't try.

I have a terrible habit that I developed as a child of stopping a conversation or argument with the worst possible thing I can say. To me, it's efficient and effective because I don't like long, drawn out fights. I'd rather make my point and end things. So I might say, "I fail to find humor in the enslavement, rape, torture and slaughter of anyone. Not humans, not animals." And though my response might initially be met with silence, I usually get a question or two ("What? Rape?"). I doubt anyone has gone vegan due to my response at dinner parties, but I do know that I don't get mocked as often as I used to (except by family members . . . lovely). Now I'm called "hardcore," though.

Is anyone proactive? Does anyone walk into a room or sit at a table and request a moratorium on jokes about what we do to animals? I imagine people I know then calling me "paranoid" or "defensive." How could I even think they'd do something so insensitive? I don't know, maybe 20 years of experience.

It certainly is odd that people who are concerned for justice in some areas are respected, yet in others they are mocked.

Finally, it unfortunately must be said that people mock what they don't understand. And they also lash out with humor in defense of their own practices. Meanwhile, they don't want to be reminded of either of those facts.

Interesting predicament for us: how to be most sensitive to them while they're being completely insensitive to us.

9 Comments Post a comment
  1. Honestly, I wish my real life personality was more like my online one and I spoke up more often. But usually I just change the subject or leave the room. Every now and then, when I don't feel like I'm under attack, then I can have a good, thoughtful conversation with someone. But that's kind of rare and that's why I prefer the kind of activism that I do: leafleting, blogging, vlogging, etc.

    November 21, 2009
  2. Gee, I always thought it was just "crass" me and my clumsy approach in the real world. It's comforting to know two "pros" also have a not-so-easy time with nonvegans during holidays…

    For me, it's almost impossible to begin on a "friendly note"… Especially with people who "know" and still choose the turkey carcass. They put themselves in a position where I'm strained to offer comradery or respect. So I opt to avoid the effort at all cost.

    I don't (and never have) liked "fake" or "phoney" sentiments… That's all these holiday meals do, is bring out the hypocrisy of the "bounty of life" or "peace on earth". But none of it is sincere of course… And I fail at "tolerance" after a certain point. Yes, I'm a coward, I spend my ThanksLiving Day with 200+ other "cowards" who all choose to enjoy good REAL food, at the expense of no sacrificed lives!

    On the flip side when I'm forced to attend these things… It's painfully obvious how quite I am… Because I know in truth, nothing I can say about the meal will be welcome. Silence is golden, but sure makes for a lot of bitten lips.

    November 21, 2009
  3. You couldn't pay me to attend another family get together. Though this year will be my first Thanksgiving where it's just me and my boyfriend, I don't intend to ever go to another omnivorous Thanksgiving again. I've gotten to the point where I just want to smack people on the head for being insensitive assholes. Though I know it's better for the animals if I show people how happy a vegan can be without turkey or butter or what have you, I've gotten to the point where I can't stand people who say negative things about vegetarians/vegans, vegan food, veganism, animals, ect, ect. So not worth it.

    November 21, 2009
  4. John Carbonaro #

    My wife and children join the family get-together after we eat at home, and join them for socializing. I don't get jokes from them, but i do point out animal relationships that each of them have with their pets, and any other behaviors/acts of love and otherness that they show (child raising, being there for friends with cancer etc) and then i say that everyone can extend that same love to all lives, (a recognizable care that is embedded in most sentient beings).

    November 21, 2009
  5. We only celebrate with other vegans or family members who have enough knowledge and respect for us and the suffering of animals who will not belittle or heckle us. Dan Piaro had a cartoon some years ago that I use often this time of year. "This month the massacre is all about Thanksgiving and Next month the massacre continues in the name of Peace on Earth." That usually shuts the insensitive barbarians up.

    November 22, 2009
  6. I agree with "People mock what they don't understand". If they don't understand vegans, they will always poke fun at them. The world is so corrupt now that torturing animals is playing second fiddle to socialized healthcare..

    November 22, 2009
  7. Okay, as an omni, I thought about this a lot before commenting (why the comment is so late). I think, nobody wants to hear why they are wrong on a holiday. In fact, I will go so far as to say that it is worse to tell them about the animals and being vegan on a holiday than any other day of the year. It's because holidays are so important and so tense already, and people just want the day to go well. (It's not just this issue, either.)

    That said, if someone makes a joke that is offensive, I don't think there's anything wrong with saying "I find that offensive." But I would drop the subject then, and if the person tried to carry it further, just say "I don't want to spoil the day. I can tell you more about it tomorrow. For now, let's talk about (introduce some completely innocuous topic here)." Then if they argue, everyone else knows you didn't start it.

    I know vegans here just want to get the word out about the treatment of animals, but I honestly don't think arguing on a holiday is the way to go. People are just way too defensive. I hope I don't offend anyone, and I hope this comment is taken in the spirit it is meant, which is to be helpful and offer an omni's perspective.

    November 22, 2009
  8. Morgana,
    It's really difficult to find any sympathy for meat eaters be it a holiday or any other day of the year. Many people know of the unimaginable torture and suffering of these helpless and innocent beings, yet choose to partake for a mouthful of their battered and broken bodies. The animals don't have until tomorrow or some other day when it's convenient to let omni's and carnivores be made aware of their choice to be complacent and compliant when it comes to such egregious behavior. I don't tell anyone they are wrong for choosing suffering over compassion, they know they are; but for taste they continue to live in denial and some how condone their actions.

    November 23, 2009
  9. I'm not exactly dreading Thanksgiving, but I'm not excited about it either. I ranted about it on my blog a few weeks ago. My mom grew concerned, and asked me if I would be okay seeing a turkey on the table, because while she was willing to do without it, other members of our family weren't. She also asked me to help her veganize our side dishes, and we've done a good job of planning the menu together. I feel a little better about it, but I'm sure I'll still be biting my tongue. My husband's family isn't nearly so accommodating, so I won't be eating much over there. He's actually going vegetarian on Thanksgiving, so I'm sure they'll have plenty to say about that.

    November 23, 2009

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