Other Vegan Views articles
Problems with Friends by Myer Samra, Vegan Views 27 (Spring 1982)

I've recently had a very frustrating argument with one of my non-vegetarian friends. She claimed to 'respect' my beliefs and diet but said I should respect those of other people. That really riled me. In most things, I do see the other person's point of view. I got really angry because as I tried to explain my point of view, she wasn't really listening. The angrier I got, the more smugly convinced she was of my 'problem' in seeing the other side.

What I was trying to get across to this friend was that from my standpoint 'respect' for the other's viewpoint could not be a neatly reciprocal matter. Whereas she could 'respect' my belief that animals should be treated more compassionately than they normally are in our society, I can't respect the right of other people to blithely go on eating meat - because I see what they're doing as ignoring the basic rights of animals which from my perspective do have the right to live. Even though in fact I don't attack my friends for what they eat, or preach to them of the evil that they do, for me killing animals for food is tantamount to murder. I suggested to my friend that I could not 'respect' her right to eat meat anymore than I could respect her 'right' to kill another human being.

Unfortunately, after two long sessions of this argument, we got no closer to a common understanding. My friend is now convinced that I am a closed-minded extremist of some sort - and of course, annoyed as I am, I recognise (am I being cruel?) that she actually is closed in her mind! Does anyone have a suggestion on how to go beyond this impasse? Would anyone like to criticise my tack, to help me see another perspective?

I have another little problem with another of my friends, who admires and 'respects' my will power and conviction in avoiding animal products, sticking to what I see as moral standards. This really puts me in a bind. When you're being praised for something, it's very difficult to disclaim the praise, to say (and genuinely sound as if you mean) that you don't deserve it. The trouble with the 'praise' in this case is that by implying there's something extraordinary about my keeping to a vegan regimen, it makes it seem a difficult thing to do, and therefore something that ordinary flawed/weak humans should not consider trying. I've tried to point out that from my perspective a vegan diet is the only way to maintain ethical integrity - you can't keep eating meat if you see slaughter as immoral. Unfortunately, this response hasn't reduced the size of the halo that my friend sees hovering above me. I find this an even more difficult problem than that of my friend who wants me to 'respect' her right to her diet. Has anyone else faced this problem? How do you overcome it?

Related Vegan Views articles...
Cross-reference: Meat Eaters - Coping with them