Vegans vs vegetarians - horizontal hostility

Indian Summer

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People whose ideologies are close but not identical often seem to hate each other the most. Consider the quarrels among various brands of progressives captured in the phrase “the left eats its own.” Freud called this phenomenon “the narcissism of small differences.” Recent research has referred to it as “horizontal hostility,” which grows as a reaction to “distinctiveness threat.” The distinctness under threat is differentiation from mainstream groups, a differentiation that minority groups usually value as part of their identities.

Psychologists have studied this dynamic among strict vegans and less-strict vegetarians, finding that vegans often were more hostile toward vegetarians than they were toward meat eaters. [...]
More: Can't vegans and vegetarians just get along?

What do you think, are vegans, vegetarians and meat reducers all "fellow travellers"? Should we all embrace the "reducetarian" identity? (Why?) Are we less effective in ending factory-farming because we're not more united? Do vegans really prefer to hang out with meat eaters over vegetarians?
 

beancounter

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Oh, sure. I've encountered this. "Either you're 100% with us, or 100% against us." Gray need not apply...

The lesser form of this is "You're not a good ally" :rolleyes:.

It doesn't matter how small the difference, it seems that people naturally gravitate toward an us vs. them mentality at every opportunity.
 

Spang

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The lesser form of this is "You're not a good ally" :rolleyes:.
If a person tells you that you are not being a good ally, and they explain why, instead of rolling your eyes at them, you should work towards becoming a better ally.
 

Andy_T

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Interesting ...

For a meat-eater, a vegetarian not wanting to eat meat definitely seem to be closer to a vegan than to a meat-eater.

For a vegan, a vegetarian who has heard about the problems with dairy, but steadfastly refuses to give it up, because "CHEEEEESE!!!!" ... seems to be closer to a meat-eater than to a vegan.

And yes, I understand why a vegan would be more disappointed about a vegetarian's refusal to give up cheese than about a meat-eaters refusal to give up meat, because that a meat-eater would not want to give up meat is something I understand.
 
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beancounter

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If a person tells you that you are not being a good ally, and they explain why, instead of rolling your eyes at them, you should work towards becoming a better ally.

But your statement presumes that the person claiming "bad ally" is correct in their thinking, and the recipient is incorrect in their thinking. Couldn't it be the other way around?...

Expecting everyone to be in lock step with a certain view is unworkable unless you're trying to form a cult.
 
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This is a very good article and worth a read, some smart analysis. I am not sure about using reducetarian as a word because there are too many terms flying around but it would be great to see a coalition of vegans, vegetarians (and perhaps even meat eaters opposed to factory farming) working together to end factory farming.

When the arguments between vegetarians and vegans are about eating eggs/dairy regularly they make more sense, but when it's about the occassional milk chocolate or checking how your beer was made this is a secondary importance compared to the general fight for animal liberation.
 

Spang

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But your statement presumes that the person claiming "bad ally" is correct in their thinking, and the recipient is incorrect in their thinking. Couldn't it be the other way around?...
It seems you're more interested in winning the argument than becoming a better ally. If someone points out that you have broccoli in your teeth, you remove the broccoli. They're trying to help you.
 

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Spang makes a great point, but I'm also very hesitant to compare this situation in any way to allyship with another subset of human beings. Not because I value animals any less than people, or because I don't want their suffering to end, but because of the culture surrounding their situation.

Caring about the suffering of other groups of human beings outside of one's immediate experience is a jump for a lot of people. It shouldn't be, but it is. Getting them to empathize with the suffering of beings viewed almost universally as lesser, intellectually and morally deficit, sources of food is even more difficult.

Legislatively, meaningful advances in animal rights just are not going to happen in the world as it is now. Animal welfare, sure. If you think "humane slaughter" is a thing, then we are definitely making progress. I don't think it's a thing.

The demand for meat is simply too high on a global scale and especially in industrialized consumer-driven countries. Even the most successful outreach campaign asking for people to consider animals as unique beings deserving of respect and some degree of autonomy is attacked on every imaginable front, by people who are sitting comfortably at the head of industries that are not just thriving, but integral to the social foundations of our society.

This is not a battle we can win with traditional activism, is what I'm saying. It's a dark conclusion but it's one I keep coming back to after being vegan for eight years. In no respect am I saying we shouldn't keep trying. More vegans is numerically a good thing. What this amounts to is, on a vast cultural scale, we are going to need a serious paradigm shift to change the way animals are thought of in relation to humans, and although I can see that happening, I certainly can't see it happening for at least centuries. It takes a while to iron this stuff out, and it won't be appeals to common empathy that win it over - it'll be a matter of practicality or economics, because humans in general are just not empathetic enough (especially not toward animals) for that to be a major factor.

Simply put, meat production will not cease until meat is both considered culturally distasteful and economically disastrous as an enterprise. Even if you believe this could happen without some kind of huge transformation of what it means to be human and/or a shift in the conditions that make certain industries profitable, you have to agree that numbers are the best bet at shifting the scales in our favor.

How does this relate to the topic of the thread? Well, if you accept that on a grander cultural scale this is a hopeless battle, you realize that changes on the individual level are the only thing really helping. We need everyone we can get. It's a matter of numbers. Attacking someone for doing what they can to affect those numbers, or deeply scrutinizing whether or not they can do more, doesn't help. Even if someone just drops eggs they're doing more to help shift those statistics than basically anyone else, against the massive odds that our culture stacks against us. So fighting them on it on the grounds of moral purity is both snobbish and ineffective, because you are driving them away from possibly making further changes to their lifestyle which benefit animals.

This can't be related back to a social situation between humans because mindsets of discrimination from one group of humans to another translate directly into actions that affect others, often visibly. People who discriminate against other people can be called out; their actions are harmful on an interpersonal level that can be displayed and discussed. Farming animals for food, on the other hand, is so ingrained within us on every cultural level that getting someone who hasn't given it much thought to even see it as marginally wrong is often incredibly difficult. It comes back to that issue of empathy. This is more distant.
 

Tom L.

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I have mixed feelings about this.

Maybe someone (an omnivore) has difficulty going vegetarian in the sense that they crave animal-based foods more than I did, and still do sometimes. But suppose they at least make an effort to reduce their consumption of those foods, hopefully with the goal of eventually dropping those foods completely? That is something I could support whole-heartedly, and would accept them as an idealogical brother or sister.

Other measures, though... Even granted that they might make things easier on animals in some ways... I can't bring myself to trust them. Humane slaughter was mentioned above, for example. If someone's job involves taking the life of an animal, I just do not trust them to maintain whatever compassionate feelings for animals they might once have had. I'm also concerned that such a notion does more to enable and validate the meat industry than benefit the animals they "process"... that the idea of killing an animal "humanely" might make people feel less revolted about eating them, and less motivated to stop that.

At the same time, I don't want animals to be killed more brutally than they are now, suffering as well as dying, just so that this might motivate people to stop eating meat.

I read an article about a couple who heard about animals at a major slaughter plant being killed painfully, in violation of "humane slaughter" regs- and they both went vegetarian...

...Until a year or two later, when they commenced raising and slaughtering their own animals. The article quoted one of them as saying he "Didn't hate their animals. He liked them. A lot." (whiskey tango foxtrot??...)

*shrug* Like I said... I have mixed feelings. But I think the feelings of committed meat eaters are far more... mixed.
 

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Humane slaughter was mentioned above, for example. If someone's job involves taking the life of an animal, I just do not trust them to maintain whatever compassionate feelings for animals they might once have had. I'm also concerned that such a notion does more to enable and validate the meat industry than benefit the animals they "process"... that the idea of killing an animal "humanely" might make people feel less revolted about eating them, and less motivated to stop that.

I totally agree. For the record, on an individual level, I am beyond horrified at the entire meat industry and everything it does. I wouldn't be vegan if I wasn't.

All I'm arguing or will ever argue is that in the world as it is today, with the context of history, I just can't see the meat industry going anywhere for literal centuries. In that light, even the smallest victories are leaps forward, because we will not live to see full elimination or anything approaching it.
 

Andy_T

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In that light, even the smallest victories are leaps forward, because we will not live to see full elimination or anything approaching it.

Yes, but there's a catch.

Animal exploiters typically only implement animal welfare measures that either reduce their costs or make the customers feel better about the product, thus perversely this can lead to an actual increase in demand for the animal product (and increased suffering as a consequence).

“Happy” Meat/Animal Products: A Step in the Right Direction or “An Easier Access Point Back” to Eating Animals? – Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach
 

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I couldn't be more hostile to vegetarians than meat eaters - otherwise I'd have no friends or family. :rolleyes: My husband and best friend are pescatarians, and most everyone else (except my father!) tries to eat vegetarian around me. And I certainly appreciate that.

That being said, deep down inside I honestly do not understand how long-term, well-informed vegetarians can continue to eat dairy and eggs, knowing how horribly cruel those industries are, and knowing how easy it is to do without. While I live in a city where substitutes are now readily available, for the early years of my vegan adventure, there were very few substitutes of any kind. (Remember Galaxy Nutritional? It was the only vegan cheese and it was horrid). So I learned to do without - and I lived! And now with resources like Miyoko's Homemade Vegan Pantry and several excellent vegan cheese cookbooks, even people outside of major metropolitan areas can easily make delicious vegan butter, mayonnaise, hard cheese and cheese spreads, seitan and non-dairy milks.

I understand that no one is perfect. I understand that sometimes there are social situations where you really have to cross your fingers and hope what you're eating is vegan. But trying your best, using your imagination, and taking responsibility for your own direction is what makes this whole vegan thing fun.
 
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That being said, deep down inside I honestly do not understand how long-term, well-informed vegetarians can continue to eat dairy and eggs, knowing how horribly cruel those industries are, and knowing how easy it is to do without.

I agree!
I must add that I have encountered a few vegetarians online who reacted even more aggressively when this was pointed out to them than meat-eaters typically react when confronted with veganism.....
 

beancounter

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I agree!
I must add that I have encountered a few vegetarians online who reacted even more aggressively when this was pointed out to them than meat-eaters typically react when confronted with veganism.....

Maybe because they're tired of vegans trying to shame them?

More flies with honey than vinegar. It is the only way to get beyond 3%.

But clearly, vinegar seems to be preferred. So nothing will change.

Thus not worth discussing further.
 

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Maybe because they're tired of vegans trying to shame them?

More flies with honey than vinegar. It is the only way to get beyond 3%.

But clearly, vinegar seems to be preferred. So nothing will change.

Thus not worth discussing further.
It's not vinegar or shaming; it's presenting actual information (when asked), and I think some, not all, vegetarians are as defensive as meat-eaters when the facts and horrors of the dairy and egg industries are presented to them, because they don't want to hear it, just as meat-eaters don't want to hear it.

Years ago, a friend who was vegetarian was quite blunt, in a polite way, though while I was eating chicken, about informing me that I would never eat chicken again if I knew what happened to chickens in the slaughterhouses. So after dinner, I asked her, and she told me. That's pretty much when I went vegetarian. It took me years to eliminate dairy and eggs, even after I learned about those horrors because I didn't think I had the willpower to do it. So really, it was about the convenience of my life, not of the animals' lives. After a few years, I felt increasingly guilty about consuming eggs and dairy, and one day, I just stopped. I am truly grateful that my friend helped send me on my veggie journey. She, too, is now a vegan, after I returned the favor of letting her know about the evils of dairy and egg production.

I do agree that every little bit helps, and I try not to judge, because people have to start somewhere, just as I did. But if someone goes on about "happy meat," I cannot stay silent. Killing is killing, and to me, that is pretty black and white. The debate about "happy eggs" is a little different, if people are truly consuming eggs from local people who don't cage or crowd their chickens into small spaces. The argument is more about commodification than cruelty, and some people will never let go of the idea that animals are here to serve humans. I have a friend who finally has stopped crowing about "happy meat" around me, because my answer is always: You do realize that it's not so happy for the cow whose life is cut short, right? She pats herself on the back for consuming it, and I just want to scream most of the time. It takes every fiber of my being not to be a total b*tch about it, because I no longer can understand how people can consume what was once a sentient being.

The whole "happy meat" campaign does seem to me counterproductive to actually ending meat consumption, because it does somehow lend justification to, and even encourages, continued consumption. But, as Tom said, I don't want factory farming to continue with the horrid practices they use on animals.

What it comes down to is convenience, and I think a lot of vegetarians aren't willing to make further sacrifices when it comes to dairy and eggs. Many just think it's too hard to be vegan, both for them individually and socially. Just the other day, a friend and I went to lunch. She picked the place, but she always makes it known that it's a bother to "find" a place where I can eat. I always tell her that it shouldn't be a bother, as I can eat anywhere. So when she said chose a place that had a veggie burger, I was like OK, fine. I then asked the waiter whether the burger had egg or cheese, and when he returned and told me that it indeed did have egg, I said thank you and promptly ordered a salad and fries. My friend had the nerve to say, "Would it kill you to eat a little egg?" I'm sure the look on my face said it all. I was livid; I wanted to throttle her. I had to take a deep breath, and then I said, very directly and with some annoyance: "Yeah, it would. It's against my principles, as you know. I don't consume anything from animals because I don't believe they are here for our pleasure." She shut up quite quickly and moved on to other topics.

So, yes, being vegan can present difficulty in social situations, but for me, it's a no-brainer to live in a manner that eases the exploitation of other beings. Am I perfect? No, no one is, but I will not compromise with "just a little egg" so that I can make someone else feel less guilty about chowing down on an egg and cheese omelet or a beef burger. I don't offer my take unless it comes up in conversation, but I have warned more than a few friends that if they want to debate me on this, I will be blunt; I will not sugarcoat it. Thus, the frustration on the vegan side is that vegans can't understand how vegetarians who are in full knowledge of what happens in the egg and dairy industries can continue consuming those products, given what they now know. That makes it difficult to work together sometimes when it comes to outreach. I try to remember that I was once in their shoes, and that it took me a while to come around. That gives me patience to understand where they are coming from. And I figure if I could do it, someone else might be able to as well. I try to live by example and educate when called upon.

I think FortyTwo is right that it could be centuries before animals are not considered food, but then again, I always have hope that things will move a bit faster if we just keep at it. Every person who reduces consumption of animals and their byproducts is doing something positive in my eyes. As someone said eons ago, "Veganism is a journey, not a destination."
 
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Poppy

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Maybe because they're tired of vegans trying to shame them?

More flies with honey than vinegar. It is the only way to get beyond 3%.

But clearly, vinegar seems to be preferred. So nothing will change.

Thus not worth discussing further.

Absolutely you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. But we're not talking about flies, we're talking about people who typically claim to be animal lovers yet continue to eat dairy and eggs. Is stating that fact considered shaming?

I never (ok, almost never :rolleyes: ) bring up the subject of the evils of dairy, eggs or seafood with my friends or family. But I know for certain that these people know full well what these animals are subjected to just to have a slice of cheese on a sandwich or an omelette for breakfast. And in my experience, it really does come down to a matter of convenience and effort.

So then how do we get beyond the 3%? We make sure that vegetarians hear that it's easy, affordable and it's actually pretty darn great to ditch the dairy and eggs and embrace a fully plant-based diet.
 

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I never (ok, almost never :rolleyes: ) bring up the subject of the evils of dairy, eggs or seafood with my friends or family. But I know for certain that these people know full well what these animals are subjected to just to have a slice of cheese on a sandwich or an omelette for breakfast. And in my experience, it really does come down to a matter of convenience and effort.

Ay, there's the rub.

This is why we have to accept every inch of ground we can hold, and not risk losing it by kicking at people who are at least doing something. Because at the end of the day it is very easy for someone who is partially invested, to go right back to how they used to live. It's significantly easier, and, if you're the type of person who ignores or doesn't care about the truth behind what you eat, objectively just more fun to eat meat anyway.

What we are essentially telling people as vegans is: the way you live your life, the cultural paradigms you have accepted since birth and that nearly every civilization on Earth has accepted since the infancy of human sentience and even significantly before that, is inherently wrong. Living that way is incredibly easy and fun to do, but also morally unjustifiable. Stop doing the easy thing and having fun with something that has always been a part of your life. Look, I did it, after all!

It is very easy for them to ignore the consequences of their actions, because those consequences, as a norm, aren't even given the time of day. We have no legislative heft, no systemic power, through which to implement any of the things we consider morally upright, and due to the exact problems described, I don't think we ever will, unless the entire situation of humanity shifts around.

Like, imagine a colony on Mars. They could spend millions of dollars per cow, chicken, whatever, to transport livestock there, try and get it set up and contain it, keep it alive, and eventually breed and kill it for a tiny amount of meat that will barely feed anyone. Or, they could send up tons of seeds, which would be way more feasible to grow, and just farm those. Soybeans, probably. Now, imagine that society in fifty years. That's the kind of total shift in focus, living conditions, and culture necessary to produce a vegan society from what we have now. And even then, you probably have monthly supply shipments with freeze dried beef jerky or something, because no one on Earth is going to stop. You can theoretically hop an entire planet sideways, decades into a future where we actually get our **** together, assume that society gets going just fine, and hundreds of years later still end up with people participating in the meat industry, because that is how ingrained into human culture eating meat is.

In the face of that truth, being indignant toward vegetarians, who are already at least doing something, seems silly and self-destructive to me.