That’s kind of what happened to me this morning. NPR ran a blog post called “Do Vegetarians and Vegans Think They Are Better Than Everyone Else?” After reading the post, I couldn’t help but be ashamed that NPR is using the divisive “us” versus “them” sensationalism usually dominated by local news outfits. There were enough “yes” responses though, that I couldn’t help but feel a little attacked for my personal choices.
As a vegetarian of 18 years, in my experience this is only a real issue for other people. That is to say, the only time my being a vegetarian has become “an issue” is when someone else takes issue or is otherwise uncomfortable with it. I don’t know why a statement uttered for logistical purposes has set them off, but they often start talking in a way that starts making me slightly uncomfortable. Stating a dietary constraint I practice is not an attempt to convert you, I’m only saying it so we can find a place where we can both eat. I’ve shared a meal with plenty of omnivores in the past, and I’d love to share one with you as well.
Most other dietary restrictions aren’t subject to the same scrutiny. Rarely have I found lactose-intolerant people accused of acting morally superior. Allergic to peanuts? No problem! These dietary restrictions aren’t an intentional choice though, based on a highly personal belief that likely took a long time to develop.
A better question then: would NPR run a headline asking if those who follow a kosher diet are better than everybody else? Somehow I think they wouldn’t.
I’ve also heard this claim made of bicyclists—that we think we’re just morally superior to auto drivers. I’ve met plenty of people who do feel that way, and are relatively vocal about it. I feel belittled by those people too, despite also riding a bike. After all, there are plenty of other things for those people to still feel morally superior to me for—I still own a car, I don’t have a CSA share, and I don’t compost my own feces. (How gauche!)
Instead of classifying all vegetarians (or cyclists, or whatever else) as one thing and treating them as such, I’d suggest recognizing jerkish behavior as such no matter who it’s coming from. That means recognizing that not everybody is like you, and respecting them anyway.