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Because of work reasons I often share meals with different people every other week or so (such as customers, etc.) More often than not, either by refusing food or simply because of the contents of my plate, people notice that I am vegan. This is of course not a problem but then the inevitable happens; People get curious about it and ask A LOT of questions.

In the worst cases, some people even take the opportunity to enumerate all the "reasons" why they think veganism is wrong.

This is not an easy conversation. I would really rather chat about something else than my dietary choices. I feel like living the vegan groundhog day.

How can I politely deflect this curiosity?

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    This is tough. Vegans are often accused of preaching or imposing their views on others but the reverse is common: many non-vegans try to impose their views on us. – badjohn Jul 25 '19 at 12:42
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Just be direct with them. Say "Veganism is just my preference and is something I do because of x (health/morals/whatever) and its tiring having the same conversation each day. I'd rather talk about something else".

If they continue to press, express you don't wish to continue the conversation and that you would rather go and eat elsewhere as its tiring repeating yourself. Hopefully they then change the subject. If not, go sit with other people.

If you are worried that people may find it rude, then don't. They are being rude by continuing to press in a subject you have told them you do not wish to converse about.

Unfortunately, this is the only real way to deal with it. All the politeness and niceties in the world won't stop the majority. Sometimes blunt and direct is the best way to communicate

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After 15 years of having these conversations, I've found that the most conversation dampening reply is simply "I'm vegan because I don't want to kill animals". This is said in a very matter-of-fact tone, like "it is what it is" kind of reply. I don't have any explanation why it works, but empirically that's what I've found and I use it whenever I'd like to avoid further questioning.

If people continue with their questions, you can use other, non vegan related, tactics to change the topic. If they seem positive and open, suggest sending them some info about it later. If they seem negative or make snarky remarks, simply ignore and say something along the lines of "anyway... moving on" and start talking about something else.

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I think intent behind the questions is important too. Some people ask not out of judgement or to start an argument, but because they are genuinely curious. I had a boss a few years ago that always wanted to know what I was having for lunch. He had no arguments about my diet and asked some pretty good questions. He grew up a cattle rancher, and still had some cattle of his own. He never tried to argue the merits of his diet over mine. I've noticed this a lot more often when I'm in a small town. People are curious about the unknown. I try to answer general questions borne out of curiosity as much as I can until the rest of the group gets bored, lol.

If they're being rude or condescending, there's no harm in reminding them that you didn't comment on their plate and you expect the same respect from them.

Most often it goes "You don't eat meat?" And I say no, and there's no follow up. I've been told that I'm a bit intimidating though, so maybe that's it?

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As a lifelong vegetarian since adulthood, I agree with the answers provided by others above.

But I think it's important to note that when you're being asked about your choice to not eat meat, that you're actually bumping into a social "norm" which is the de facto, well-established custom of unquestioningly eating meat. In other words, meat eaters simply can't wrap their heads around the fact that someone would actually choose to NOT eat meat.

When I'm asked, I simply say it's for ethical reasons and that usually either ends the conversation or the person asking is too confounded with my answer to push the issue further.

If I sense the person asking is sincere in their question and simply wants to learn more, I'm certainly willing to share my outlook without moralizing about why I don't eat meat.

Needles to say, people should be allowed to come to any decisions in this matter of their own accord and with out any 'proselytizing' from me. I just give them my views and thoughts and let them decide for themselves.

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It may be easier if you use a lower status to opt out of chatting. If you spend time with someone who has never had a chance to discuss their daily routines, it is possible for them to say "I never learned to explain this." It is a simple method of explaining how troubling a conversation is. You can continue to reinforce the argument with statements of support.

  • I don't normally talk about it.
  • I don't get involved in outreach.
  • I couldn't debate this subject if I tried.
  • I leave the talking to other people.
  • I'm not the best person to talk to.
  • Talking about this is annoying and I don't feel good about it.
  • I don't know a way to summarize it.

A denial of qualification permits you to work to your strengths in telling people that you don't like being questioned. It's honest, and if they find that tiresome, that's their problem. At some point, you can call out any ongoing harassment. All you have said is that you want to avoid a controversial subject with the person. You have the right to abstain from any subject, and that has nothing to do with veganism. Etiquette requires that they drop it.

This practice also allows you to follow up if you are publicly addressed as "the vegan". You ask people not to identify your veganism because you don't want the subject mentioned simply to avoid discussing it. Again, the etiquette requires them to drop it. It won't stop everyone, but you can certainly tell when people are passive aggressive over the controversy surrounding veganism. If they hate veganism, and become enthusiastic about discussing it, then you have previously earned an opportunity to demand a way out of being their trapped audience.

And best of all, any ongoing discussion of your daily practices can be forced into the simpler category of "monkey see, monkey do". If they have an interest they will follow along with easy discussions about vegan things - not reasons.

One negative of this approach would be dinner conversations. Dinner conversations have the right to be about hobbies and food. It would be bad etiquette not to discuss a little about veganism and vegan food at a dinner party. Perhaps be ready to discuss it, and signpost the points that get into heavy controversy. I'd suggest getting in some practice before attending a holiday dinner with extended family.

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