My Thoughts About Vegetarian and Vegan Stuff

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This post was originally published on 2019-08-14 and was refreshed and updated with current information.

It's rather strange, since leaving uni, people tend to ask me if I'm vegetarian or vegan, just because I happen to pick up some vegan products while grocery shopping, especially when it's tofu. I fill my tofu with minced meat, so no, I'm not. To me, vegan sweets and the like are just easier to discern then looking up if any product might contain lactose. Why do strangers even care about what I eat? I mean, you're not going to invite me over for a barbecue, are you? 

When I was still at uni, I've never had to deal with such questions. In my time at the Student's Union, in fact, I was completely unaware of people I was working with being vegetarians or vegans for quite a while. I only noticed it one day when we were preparing for a camp when I looked at the participant list. And these are my thoughts about the matter:

I stopped caring what reasons people have to eat like they eat — be it beliefs or some disease or even just as a fun challenge. It's not my business. Yes, sure, I am slightly interested. But to me, accepting their eating habits entails not bothering them about it. After all, they might not even want to talk about it. If they talk do about it, I happily listen and talk about it: about where they buy their food or how they manage their iron and other stuff. Let's be honest, the meat replacement meals you find in discounters and at some other places, at least in Germany, are quite terrible.

I do enjoy good vegetarian food. Also, as an Asian, I think tofu is quite nice if you don't treat it as meat replacement. But everywhere you go, you see the nasty meat replacement in the vegetarian sections! And because of that, I see people everywhere react negatively to the word tofu. Because in the meat-eaters mind: tofu equals meat-replacement. And it's not. Sure it's gotten better in the last years, and there are some products that sound promising and I would like to sample, but it's 2021, and I'm in Germany, and those products are only available in the US.

While I haven't ever seen a vegetarian complain about bad food, I do have seen people working around it. One day, I saw a professor at the meat buffet. I knew she was vegetarian. That was before I realized, it's not by business what they eat. She simply got some salad that was part of the meat buffet. “The salad here tastes better than the vegetarian food they offer,” she still politely explained. My point exactly.

I hear meat-eaters complaining about vegetarian food all the time. It would taste bad. Yes, as I said, tofu meat replacement tastes bad! Have you ever eaten good vegetarian food? A meal without meat replacement? Usually I get a no.

Of course, this is not only a problem from the meat-eater side. Some vegetarians think it's a good idea to show off meat replacement to people that aren't interested. Please, just don't do that! Don't go there saying it doesn't taste that bad. Meat-eaters expect it to taste like meat. So even if it tastes good, any other than meat taste will be a failure in their eyes. Sadly, many eateries just go for the easy route of meat replacement products. And it emphasizes the notion, non-meat diet means giving up on something.

Give them actual good vegetarian or vegan food, and you'll get much better results. I mean, at events that do organize good vegetarian food, you often see the non-vegetarians eat the vegetarian food. Sometimes to the extent the vegetarians don't have enough for themselves. No, that's not an outlier. I've seen it multiple times before. So you might need to plan for it and allocate more of it. Or keep the meat-eaters away from the vegetarian food.

Some people joke about vegan declaration on plant-based products or non-food products. It's just a case of misinformation that's a result of how veganism was communicated over a long time: until recently (a few years now), I thought veganism means not eating animals and their products; and it's just a term describing eating habits — a food term only. With that definition, I can't help but laugh about the thought a vegan might at a vegan declared soap, that's all to it.

I haven't thought about veganism, I regularly consume meat. So using other products that come from animals isn't that a big deal. In fact, why shouldn't I? It'd be a waste not to use all of the cow! Or pig. Or whatever animal it was. But veganism isn't only about food. It's about not exploiting animals at all. So extending the vegan declaration to non-food items does make sense. But people forgot to tell the non-vegans about it. And instead of properly explaining things, some vegans immediately feel insulted and start insulting others for not caring about what they use.

At least the people that I met in the Student's Union were quite level-headed and explained things to me. We had quite a healthy discussion. Would I buy vegan mustard over non-vegan mustard? For myself, probably not, after all, I'm putting it on a piece of meat. So its ingredient being filtered using gelatin isn't that a big deal to me. I'd buy it for shared use in an office, though. After all, there might be vegetarians and vegans that care. And this time it really does taste the same. How about vegan soap? Why do I have to think about the Camel Dung Soap from Ragnarök Online?1 I better check what's actually in my soap…

  1. In the Veins Siblings Quest, you find a little girl chained in a dungeon. To free her, you need to feed a Silk Sand Camel until you get 5 bottles of dung, so you can get the soap to make a mould for the locksmith to create a key for you.  

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