Elena Orde debates the hotly contested topic
During my time in vegan-internet-land, I’ve encountered the topic of vegans dating non-vegans on a few occasions. There’s a wide spectrum of opinion on this one, ranging from those who could never conceive of being in a relationship with a non-vegan (ew, meat breath, ew) to people who can’t fathom why this would ever be an issue. It’s evidently something that we have a lot of feelings about.
I’ve been with my partner Ian for six years (can we have a round of applause for the smug couple, please?). I was vegetarian when we first got together, while he was an omnivore who was phobic about trying new food. If it didn’t fall into either the ‘well-done meat’ or ‘some form of potato except mashed’ category, it was avoided. That may be a slight exaggeration, but I once saw him panic order chips with a side of potato wedges for lunch in a vegetarian café.
"You may also find that by simply being with someone, what is important to you will often become important to them."
A few years (and many, many potatoes) down the line, I became interested in going vegan. When I took the plunge, Ian decided to go vegetarian at the same time as a result of all the hearty ethical debates we’d been having. When we moved in together a couple of years later, I asked how he felt about an animal product free flat. He made a sad noise for a couple of seconds, which in retrospect could have been a quiet goodbye to halloumi, then agreed that would be fine.
I then suggested that Ian try the Vegan Pledge, as he was pretty much there already. A year or so later and here we are – both vegan, while he makes the best barbecue seitan ribs and also gives adorable (I mean important) talks about animal rights at schools.
You may also find that by simply being with someone, what is important to you will often become important to them. Even the most die-hard steak fan, even someone who hasn’t ever previously considered animal rights to be important, can surprise you.
But I know that this isn’t the case for everyone, and that being a committed vegan in a relationship with someone who has no intention of re-evaluating their lifestyle can be difficult. So here are some thoughts to bear in mind if you’re in this situation.
Give your partner an insight to the thought process that made you want to go vegan. This is different for everyone, so helping your partner see it from your personal perspective will allow them to understand you and your decision better. Brace yourself to hear some nonsensical or defensive arguments in response – most of us spouted this kind of stuff before we properly understood veganism.
Be prepared to have these kinds of conversations a few times – often people, even people very close to us, misconstrue a conversation as something to win, rather than something to learn from. But if you give someone time to step back and mull over your arguments, the next time the topic crops up their perspective may have changed slightly.
Sharing a space
While some don’t mind, many vegans find aspects of sharing a house with non-vegans difficult. From seeing animal products in the fridge, to sharing cooking equipment, to what you buy with any joint money, there are often a few issues to be navigated.
If it upsets you too much to see animal products in your fridge, or to have them on your table, then your partner should be receptive to having discussions with you about this. Likewise if you pay for things like meals out and food shopping jointly: if you don’t want your money to fund animal product industries, this is your choice. Chat to your partner – if it’s important to you, you should be able to come up with a solution together.
If your partner shows no desire to ever go vegan, the key to a happy relationship will be respect. Clearly, if your partner mocks you for being vegan, or brings it up in a derogatory way in company, this isn’t OK.
In my internet-trawling I’ve seen a lot of comments from vegans (exclusively women) who are vegan but cook meat for their partners. If someone honestly doesn’t mind doing this then that’s a different issue, but if someone has gone vegan for the animals then this is a bit concerning. Preparing animal products for your partner isn’t something which should be expected, and isn’t something which someone should feel pressured to do.
So what’s the answer? Should vegans date non-vegans?
Well I’m afraid going to have to plead liberal on this one. Whoever someone chooses to be with is up to them. While not being vegan is a deal-breaker for some, it’s not for others. And that’s probably a good thing, meaning that we can expand awareness and understanding of veganism wider than if we only dated vegans. But don’t let anyone tell you that you should use your dating life as a means of vegan activism – frankly, that’s just creepy. Simply: do what makes you the most happy!
By Elena Orde
The views expressed by our bloggers are not necessarily the views of The Vegan Society.