There is more to vegetarians than the stereotypes suggest

Hannah Bealer and Hannah Bealer

I first became a vegetarian in the winter of 2006. I honestly didn’t have a particular reason other than that I was looking to make a change that would better myself and the environment. Since then, I’ve been answering the classic questions every vegetarian is familiar with: “Why did you do it?” and “Can I eat meat around you?”

I’ve also encountered several “vegetarian myths.” I am going to attempt to clear up those misunderstandings. Of course, no vegetarian is alike so keep in mind that this is simply my opinion.

Myth #1: All vegetarians only do it for the animals.

Absolutely not. There are plenty of vegetarians (and I include myself in this category) who do not eat meat for other reasons. Many animals are pumped up with steroids to make them fatter. Just like some people prefer their vegetables and fruit to be grown without pesticides, some of us don’t want to be eating steroids and other growth hormones animals are subjected to. This can also tie in to the conditions the animals are kept in. A sickly animal turns into bad meat.

Myth #2: Vegetarians hate everything about meat and slaughterhouses.

Personally, I can appreciate the methods kosher slaughterhouses use. Under kosher law, animals are slaughtered using a technique that apparently reduces the pain and they must be slaughtered by a licensed professional called a shochet. While kosher slaughterhouses are sometimes called out on their inability to follow kosher dietary laws, their attempts to decrease the cruelty and terrible living conditions of slaughterhouses does not go unnoticed in the vegetarian community. I also applaud restaurants like Chipotle that claim to use meat from animals raised in a humane environment. Everyone in the world isn’t going to become a vegetarian, so why not attempt to provide those who don’t with good meat from healthy animals?

Myth #3: Vegetarians are grossed out by meat eaters.

I’ve run into people who are hesitant about eating meat in front of me because they think I’ll be disgusted. Not true. If I couldn’t watch people eat meat, I’d definitely be sitting alone during my meals. Generally speaking, vegetarians respect the eating habits of others and aren’t going to freak out if you order a steak.

Myth #4: Vegetarians are self-righteous and will lecture meat eaters about their choices.

While some vegetarians might do this, we’re not all like that. See ‘Myth #3.’ We’re good about respecting the choices of others and often won’t even talk about vegetarianism unless directly asked.

Myth #5: Vegetarians are health freaks.

I cannot count the number of times my friends have asked me: “So, did you eat lots of grass today?” While I try to eat as healthy as possible, I won’t deny my love for fries and pretty much anything that comes from a potato.

Myth #6: Vegetarians throw red paint on fur coats/Vegetarians are all spawns of PETA.

You’ve all heard this one before. Unfortunately, some of the crazier vegetarians will throw red paint (symbolizing blood) on animal products such as fur coats or do other destructive things like harm the people wearing them. Just because someone is a vegetarian doesn’t mean they’re going to attack you for wearing leather shoes. We’re not all associated with PETA, either. PETA is infamous for their craziness. While PETA does do a number of good things like expose inhumane slaughterhouses, they don’t necessarily have a good reputation. Don’t make the mistake of assuming every vegetarian is a follower of PETA.  

Myth #7: Going on a vegetarian diet will help you lose weight.

This is a terrible delusion. Cutting meat out of your diet doesn’t mean you will lose weight. Vegetarians don’t live off of carrot sticks and apples. Cheese pizza, fries, mozzarella sticks and plenty of other greasy and delicious fattening things are vegetarian. Vegetarians can easily be unhealthy or overweight. Personally, following a vegetarian diet has kept me feeling healthy and strong. Others, however, might find their body growing weaker or unhealthier. Vegetarianism isn’t necessarily for everyone, and it certainly isn’t a miracle diet.

There you have it! A handful of fallacies I’ve come across during my time as a vegetarian. As I mentioned earlier, all vegetarians are different. We don’t all hold the same beliefs and values, so talk to your vegetarian friends about their own experiences and you’ll probably realize just how diverse we are.

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