Sometimes being around people eating meat stresses me out. Here’s how I responded to a zoom participant who asked for support and guidance with this problem.
C raised an issue that many ethical vegans experience and that is the distress or sadness when a non-vegan friend consumes animals when they are with us. While there are times I can compartmentalize and ignore it, if the meal is particularly pungent or bloody, I struggle. In fact, there are certain invitations I would certainly refuse, such as a pig roast. While there’s no one, correct response to this situation, here are some ways to bring it up in a way that invites connection in that you are offering the other person a chance to help you meet your needs.
If at all possible, it’s best to bring these things up before sitting down to eat, perhaps when the plans are being made. You might suggest a vegan restaurant if that’s available. If the person refuses that option, you can, in your own words, say something like: “I’m looking forward to spending some time with you. I want to give you a heads up that sometimes I feel very sad when I see people eating animals. Would you be willing to order something vegan when you’re with me? It would help me enjoy our time together instead of feeling distracted or upset.” Let’s say the person refuses. One of the things about the CWAFV approach is to let go of the outcome, acknowledging that it is outside of your control. It’s wonderfully empowering to clearly ask for what you need. What the other person does with that information is up to them. If they refuse, you have a choice. You can lovingly decline the invitation or accept the invitation but let them know you may not be able to stay for the entirety of the meal, that you may need to leave as a way to practice self-care. Then, do just that. Pay attention. Stay present, patient, kind and loving with yourself.
Is it okay to stay quiet in these situations? Yes and no. It is okay in the sense that we’re all living and learning and trying to manage situations as best we can. If you have already found yourself staying quiet in order to “keep the peace”, reflect on this: How peaceful did you feel? For me, I’ve often felt inner turmoil, even if my face did not betray that feeling. So, use it as a learning experience for next time. No judgment, just life and all the lessons that go along with it. Ask yourself: What do I need right now? How can I meet this need and honor my own boundaries? Can I ask for the other person to help me meet this need? This is a challenging but rewarding practice.