22 August 2018 – my random vegan/environmental debate-argument with an Italian meat-lover

Never would the old Mei have foreseen myself ever to be a person who would be someone who stopped eating meat. The past Mei would have never predicted my current self to be interested in trying a vegan diet and defending veganism. In fact, I used to even negatively judge my cousin for being vegetarian. But as I’ve grown up and only mildly exposed myself to the cruelty which the animal kingdom is subjected to in the agricultural industry, I’ve developed strong empathy for animals…which has led to my significant decrease in meat consumption and consumption of animal products.

But I have to preface this blog by explaining that although I support vegetarianism and veganism, I’m currently eating all sorts of meat at the moment as part of my world trip experience (to embrace and enjoy the cultures properly ~ since it’s a huge part of each country’s culture, especially in places like Asia, France and Italy). Strangely, I don’t actually completely support the culture surrounding omnivorism…but despite my reservations, I don’t negatively judge people for eating meat or preach to people about it (I believe in respect for others’ decisions but just in raising awareness and consciousness).

I am already aware of how contentious this topic is – to me, veganism could probably be categorised together with politics, religion, the environment (climate change) and abortion. People feel so passionately for and against it. So I’ve accepted that maybe I will also spark some hot debates…but then again…maybe I won’t.

In any case…I need to write this blog for my own expression and satisfaction.

So what’s the story?

It was a beautiful night. Me and ‘Mr Bologna’ had a nice time together for the past 2 days and sat down to eat at a locally recommended restaurant after waiting for probably an hour with our wine. We were sitting on steps on the side of the road leading to the door of an apartment building, just outside the restaurant. We got some olives and nuts to eat while we waited.

We finally decided to sit inside to eat after the maitre d called my name. I ordered an eggplant parmigiana (I had to try this in Bologna right?). I can’t remember if we shared an entrée.

It’s so funny when you think back about a fight ~ I like to think of it like sex: you kinda remember how it started and ended but forget about all the things in the middle…You only remember some small details ~ maybe the things which affected you the most, the things you liked or disliked the most.

That’s certainly how I felt about this fight…I remember how everything started and ended but nothing in the middle…

Things were looking peachy…

Everything was happy and warm…until I told him that I would try being vegan for about 2 weeks when I returned to Australia, just as an experiment out of curiosity.

As soon as I said the word “vegan” and explained that I was almost vegan for 3 years before coming to Australia, his face went black. It looked like blood started boiling in his veins. There was no sign of any smile on his face.

All I could see was a judgmental frown. Disgust. Disbelief.

I feel like the thought which went through his mind at the time was something along the lines of: “I can’t believe that I became friends with a person who wants to be vegan.” (but obviously I’m assuming a lot here ~ maybe he was just offended). I think he was also in shock and didn’t expect me to be in the category of people he appeared to loathe (vegans). Maybe loathe is an over-exaggeration, but it’s definitely how I felt ~ that he loathed that I wanted to try being vegan.

It was such an interesting and strange experience because I saw the old version of myself in him ~ the old Mei who negatively judged my cousin. I knew I wasn’t going to change his mind but it was my mission to raise his awareness and consciousness of his food choices, despite not changing his mind. Maybe I would convince him to eat at least one less meat dish per week or even per month. No matter how small, if I convinced him to eat just that little bit less and to think a little bit more, then I will feel that my efforts were not wasted.

So what did we talk about? What transpired in our ‘healthy’ debate?

I can’t remember exactly what we spoke about word for word but I remember parts.

I remember him asking me why and my answer was along the lines of:

  • “I love animals and I don’t like the cruelty that goes into the agricultural industry”
  • “It’s also bad for the environment ~ the production of meat”

Then I remember asking him back as a thought-provoking question: “do you think we eat too much meat in the world?”

He responded by questioning me: “what is too much? And why?”

I couldn’t give a clear answer but my uneducated guess (based on what others have told me) was that we only “needed” to eat meat a few times a week, not 2-3 times a day. I couldn’t help but express my concern of people feeling “the need” to eat meat with every meal. Honestly, to me, the need to eat meat so much is a little disturbing.

I also remember making the argument: if we don’t need to eat meat this much, then why should animals needlessly suffer, just because humans are selfish and greedy?

I remember him responding by plainly saying that he doesn’t care about the suffering of animals ~ he doesn’t care about animals and argued that they exist for us to eat.

This enraged me (on the inside ~ much compassion and empathy?).

He also made some argument where he wouldn’t eat dogs but he loves pork.

I couldn’t help but ask: “what is the difference between the two?”

He disagreed about all animal meat being bad for the environment – claiming that perhaps beef is the real culprit.

I’m not going to lie, many of the things he said and the questions he asked me upset me, made me a little passionately annoyed, frustrated. I was borderline angry. I was emotional. Because it’s something I really care about.

But I know he felt the same way but in the opposite shoes…and even though we could have stopped and changed subject to avoid all sorts of uncomfortable feelings, I couldn’t help but keep pushing the debate ~ once it was out, all I knew was that I had a goal in mind ~ to raise his consciousness. This is always my goal when it comes to someone less environmentally conscious.

I know that many people won’t change…but if I can even just plant a seed and invoke an ever so slight change in a person to benefit the environment, I am happy…because EVERYTHING counts.

Post-war reflections…

Almost immediately after, I couldn’t help but reflect on how I felt and what we discussed.

I realised that what frustrated me the most was that I couldn’t aptly argue against him because I didn’t have my own solid foundation of knowledge (I like to win arguments I’m not going to lie)!

But you know what it inspired me to do and made me realise on the positive?

It inspired me to do some self-initiated research because I realised then and there that during most of my life, I haven’t really done my own research on many things. I’ve based a lot of my beliefs on the information others have fed me just by telling me and I’m kinda done with it!

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