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My new vegan lunchtime experiences

February 2, 2012

lunchtimeI recently started a new job and with it comes new colleagues, new experiences and new confrontations. I was bracing for the worst of it, but I actually have been pleasantly surprised by the response to my being vegan.

Initially, I was prepared for the potentially negative impact my “coming out” given my past experiences. It didn’t entirely faze me that I received the following responses to my reporting I was vegan (among the usual “shit people say to vegans” — ad nauseam [1] [2] [3]):

— I love steak.

— I would be hungry like all the time.

— It must be so hard to find stuff to eat!

— My sister was vegan once, but she realized she loved cheese too much, so now she is just normal vegetarian.

But among these standard, run-of-the-mill responses, I also was surprised to hear the following:

— I wish I could be vegan.

— I really admire you for being vegan.

— Arguably, being vegan is the best way to protect the environment and fight food shortages around the world.

What?? How is it that I witnessed general respect and understanding for my choice to be vegan? In fact, I noted not only a general acceptance of my veganism, but in certain instances, reverence for my decision to be vegan. It made me not want to hide away at lunchtime, a time usually spent comparing and inspecting food. I developed a mutual respect for some of my colleagues based on their opinions of me, notwithstanding their choice to continue eating meat.

As is in my nature, I immediately developed a theory as to why I received such surprising, positive reactions. I posited that given the fact that the competition for these few permanent jobs was extremely tough (there were around 1,800 applicants) and that the competition process was very much skill based (highlighting analytical skills in particular), the result was a fine group of young professionals who were–for the most part–informed, highly educated, rational human beings with a thirst for knowledge. Therefore, their general respect for vegetarianism stems from their background, education and general intellect, which helps them to understand and weigh morality and ethics as one would in a court of law. While it always still shocks me that one can be cognizant of certain apparent hypocrisies, yet still not change one’s behaviour to eliminate them, I felt much more comfortable with and accepting of my current colleagues than with others in the past.

These combined experiences have shone a bright light on my new position. In a way, it has given it an advantage in terms of my initial feelings towards it. Of course, there are many other more relevant factors considered in developing first impressions of a job, but evidently, my relationship with my colleagues and mutual respect come a long way to adding to the benefits and overall good feelings associated with any job. I am relieved to know that I may have more positive experiences to come in the lunch room and that ignorance is not pervasive in all corners of society.

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