Monday, April 20, 2009

Opinion: 'Tofu and Steak Sitting In a Tree'

Written with a vegan website in mind.

If you ever want to elicit a raised eyebrow and a snicker from a pizza boy, try the following order: one Meat Lovers with extra cheese and extra bacon, one Vegetarian with no cheese. Any vegan or vegetarian who, like me, has ever dated a hardcore omnivore will know you can sometimes feel like a bit of an odd pair, especially when eating out. It can also seem like their lifestyle so strongly violates your personal beliefs, that there is no way you can co-exist.

Having recently stood by my partner’s side as he chewed his way through a Hungry Jack’s Quad Stack burger (four beef patties, two rashers of bacon, four slices of cheese, no less) I tried my hardest to be as supportive of his lifestyle as he had admittedly been of mine, whilst fighting down physical repulsion. It was at that point that I realised his omnivorous diet is, if I’m painful honest, a downright unattractive quality to me. As I declined a kiss post-burger, knowing some part of the four beef patties he had just consumed surely would have remained behind, I was reminded of a news article I saw some months ago.

Annie Potts, co-director of University of Canterbury’s New Zealand Centre for Human and Animal Studies, coined the term ‘vegansexuals’ back in 2007, when her research into ethical food choices revealed a large number of veggos get squeamish at the thought of being intimate with partners who ate meat. I’m not convinced that a dietary preference for who you’ll jump into bed with constitutes a whole new sexuality to be formed – who needs more labels these days? Nevertheless, it does raise an interesting issue. It would certainly create less tension during mealtimes if both partners in a relationship were passionate about ethical lifestyles, not to mention the compassion often found in vegans and vegetarians could certainly be a positive quality in a prospective partner. Perhaps this is why a minefield of online dating sites have now become available to help vegans, vegetarians, and those favouring ‘greener’ lifestyles, find compatible partners. boasts over 2,000 members across the globe, ranging from hardcore vegans and raw foodists, to ‘vegetarian-ish’ singles. With several other veggie exclusive dating sites gaining members in the thousands, it seems there may well be more than a few ‘vegansexuals’ out there.

Whilst I would love my boyfriend to discover the joys of tempeh and embrace the vegan lifestyle, I don’t really see his partiality to bacon and pancakes (occasionally consumed at the same time) to be a deal breaker. Although I encourage him to try vegan foods and to make ethical purchases in the same manner I do anyone else, I believe it is important not to be overly aggressive. As vegans or vegetarians, we have certain expectations of those around us; we expect our loved ones not to be critical of our decision to lead an alternative lifestyle. In turn, we should show the same respect back to them. I have a sordid history of making nasty comments as my omnivorous friends consumed their carcass-based foods. I later realised this not only hurt my relationship with these people, but further alienated them from veganism. It helps to remember that constantly pushing omnivores to ‘convert’ could be as offensive as hearing “Just eat some god-damn steak”, as a vegan. When it’s obvious you aren’t judgemental of your partner’s choices, it can make it much easier for them to accept any ground rules you may need to lay down.

As with any other aspect of our relationships, the boundaries we enforce as vegans or vegetarians are highly personal to each individual. Some vegan friends of mine won’t date omnivores as a general rule, others are a lot more relaxed about their requirements. What you decide works for you all comes back to what you are comfortable with, and what you negotiate with your partner. Personally, I think I ask rather little of my favourite meat-eater. I can’t stand kissing after he’s eaten animal flesh, so as a courtesy to me, I ask him to at least wash it down with a drink beforehand. Friends I know who have the same issue request vigorous teeth brushing, others ask their partners not to consume animal products in their presence. Whatever your personal boundaries, it is just important that you make them clear from the offset to avoid conflicts down the track, and try to clearly communicate your reasoning.

Ideally, you and your omnivorous partner can reach a mutual respect for each other’s lifestyles. It may at first feel like too much hard work, but such contradicting lifestyles can co-exist harmoniously if both parties strive not to alienate each other, and to respect particular boundaries. Who knows, maybe one day after seeing how rewarding an ethical lifestyle can be, they’ll come around of their own volition. Just don’t count on it...

By Anna Angel


  1. ha ha.
    it's funny, I used to be a big meat lover, but these days I hardly eat any animal products...
    well I still drink milk, and there is probably cream in some of the soups that I eat, but my diet is basically made up of fruit, vegetables and pastas... haha.. funny.. don't think i could give up meat entirely though, still have a slice of ham on my sandwiches :)

  2. hahaha you know that's probably really good for your health.. especially if you really did quit smoking! ýou'll be like super health man!