In the years since I became vegan, I’ve heard a lot of interesting comments from meat-eaters. Sometimes they were baffled by my diet choice, sometimes they were hostile, and sometimes they made me laugh with their unintentionally funny remarks. Here are some of my favorites.
‘And for you vegetarians, we have turkey!’
A coworker heard this one at a corporate barbeque he attended on a business trip. The host company wanted the vegetarians to know that they would be taken care of too. I suppose the confusion is understandable, since many people who call themselves “vegetarian” eat birds or fish. But I always have a hard time resisting the impulse to state the obvious: “A turkey is not a vegetable!”
‘I can’t go vegetarian; my body needs the protein.’
Most meat-eaters don’t know that they’ve been sold a bill of goods by the meat industry about protein requirements. We actually need to get only 10 percent of our calories from protein, and it’s available in nearly all plant-based foods. Soy, legumes, and nuts are especially rich protein sources, and even the spinach in your salad offers a whopping 50 percent of its calories from protein.
‘But I’m an athlete; I really need lots of protein.’
Many world-class athletes are vegan, including my personal hero, Scott Jurek. He is a top ultramarathoner who won the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run seven consecutive times—eating nothing but plants. If there’s some protein issue with a balanced vegan diet, I find it hard to believe Scott could have achieved these results.
On a personal note, I just ran 15 miles last weekend—the longest distance I have ever run in my life. I don’t think my vegan diet is holding me back at all.
‘How do you know that you’re a vegetarian? Does the doctor tell you?’
This one was from my 6-year-old nephew. He really wanted to know. I love how he thought that being vegetarian was like having some kind of disease.
‘If it doesn’t have meat, it’s just a snack.’
An acquaintance said this to me after learning I was a vegan. I suppose he was eating animal products at every meal. I hope for his sake that he makes some changes before his first heart attack. Results from a recent study show a dramatic increase in mortality for people who eat more meat.
‘What do you eat, exactly?’
I was explaining what a vegan diet is to a travel agent, and she responded with this question. I think she literally couldn’t picture what I might put on my plate three times a day if I wasn’t eating any animal products. My answer: “Plants.”
The next time I get this question, I’m thinking about proposing a 60-second animals-versus-plants challenge. It works like this: You have 60 seconds to name as many species of edible animals as you can. While you’re doing that, I’ll name as many edible plant species as I can think of. Longest list wins.
Share your favorite meat-eater remarks in the comments.