This is an occasional series exploring questions of consistency and other moral dilemmas facing vegans and animal rights advocates.
With the major food-centered holidays and family feasts, parties, and gatherings right around the corner, this might be a good time to explore our ethical eating options. How do we, as vegans, deal with our nonvegan family and friends?
For dinners, parties, and gatherings that we are hosting, do we provide only vegan choices? Many of us would find it offensive to buy, handle, prepare, and serve nonvegan food in our homes—especially in an all-vegan home. The downside to this is that it might appear as if we are being selfish by imposing our ethics on others. The upside is that we can showcase some of our favorite and (surprisingly to nonvegans) incredibly delicious vegan foods-both homemade and purchased. For example, for the holiday feast, there are now tasty alternatives to turkey (like Tofurky) and roast (like the Celebration Roast). Many grocers, including Whole Foods, sell vegan pies (pumpkin, apple, cranberry, etc.), and seasonal soy and rice nog that can replace the traditional egg nog is appearing on more and more store shelves.
Do we need to inform our guests ahead of time? If so, instead of taking the negative route (“no meat, no eggs, no dairy,” etc.), try a positive stance (“all the food will be cruelty-free”).
For gatherings that we are invited to, what do we do? Informing or reminding the host ahead of time seems like a reasonable approach. Do we offer to bring something vegan to make sure that we have at least something to eat (but without upstaging the host)?
Then there’s the thorny issue of the confrontational tit-for-tat that some guests might engage in. For example, if a nonvegan host had provided us with a vegan option at his or her event, then do we have to reciprocate and provide him or her with a nonvegan option at our event? Or if we brought something vegan to the host’s event, does he or she have the same right to bring something nonvegan to our event?
If we’re dealing with people we like and respect, they should respect our food choices as well. If not, can we use the vegan angle as the perfect excuse to decline the invitation, noting that we only participate in food events that are cruelty-free?
While all these issues can be stressful for everyone, they can also be a great opportunity to raise awareness and educate others on both what we eat and why. How do you handle these situations?