I am sometimes asked to purchase, handle, or cook meat and other animal products for my family and friends. I want to refuse on ethical grounds, so how can I explain my position effectively?

The ideal answer will explain how I can act on my ethical position without coming across as rude, or seeming to force my views on others.

  • 1
    Appropriate to whom? People choose to be vegan or vegetarian (you don't specify) for a variety of health, environmental, or ethical reasons. But you don't provide any context by which anyone can reasonably answer your question with any authority. See my Should Ethics be allowed? discussion. I'm sure the folks here will be eager to help clarify whatever confusion you may have encountered, but this question is virtually unanswerable except as an unqualified poll of whomever happens to chime in. That doesn't fit the purpose of this Q&A. Feb 22, 2017 at 16:51
  • I did make sure to include ethical opposition as part of the context. I left vegetarian/vegan unspecified as it seemed possible answers would apply equally well to a vegetarian or vegan context. Do you have any recommendations for how this or similar questions could be more appropriately formed? The goal here was not to ask about either external morality or internal consistency, but about getting along with people who hold differing opinions.
    – nloewen
    Feb 22, 2017 at 17:22
  • I can't think of any definite way to salvage it. I guess you could try editing to ask only something like "how can I justify my decision to someone in this case", which might be somewhat answerable, though still on the opinion-based side. The topic is great, it's just totally a discussion forum question where every answer is equally valid, which is not how Stack Exchange works at all.
    – Zanna
    Feb 22, 2017 at 19:44
  • Do you want me to try to edit it for you into something I personally could vote to reopen? I just voted to leave closed, but maybe we can try to fix it and encourage others to reopen
    – Zanna
    Feb 22, 2017 at 19:48
  • @Zanna It doesn't seem to me to be a question where each answer is equally valid. At a minimum, it is different than the "What is your favourite ____?" type question given as an example of that type of question in the subjective question guidelines. If you have idea's a similar but acceptable question I would be interested.
    – nloewen
    Feb 22, 2017 at 19:53

2 Answers 2


Your question is a bit vague, so I'll answer the question I think you're asking ("How do I explain to meat-eaters that I'd rather not cook/handle/buy meat/animal products for ethical reasons without being rude?").

First I think we should define "rude" as some people will take offense at the mere mention of your choice to abstain from the meat industry in all ways possible. The line between explaining a choice and being rude is when the explainer shames the other party for not making the same choice as they have.

In order to avoid being objectively rude, the explanation of your refusal to handle meat should stay centered on you and your choices not on the person who made the request and theirs (i.e. "Handling meat makes me uncomfortable, so I'd rather not cook that steak for you." vs. "Eating meat is disgusting and immoral, how can you support such a terrible industry?!"). If the recipient of this explanation is not satisfied with you saying it makes you uncomfortable and is dead set on pushing your boundaries, only then should you go deeper into your reasoning for abstaining from handling animal products. Even then, you should keep the focus on yourself (i.e. "Some people volunteer abroad, or build houses for the homeless, abstaining from animal products and the industry as a whole is my way of doing good in the world and I have a personal boundary when it comes to buying/handling animal products as I would be supporting that industry.").


In case you need to bring out the heavy artillery:

Make them support their decision to buy (or cause the purchase of) "products" that are directly linked to heavy suffering.

Do not use the term "product" in such discussions - while the vegetarian spectrum loves the term "animal products" for being so all-encompassing, it affirms the belief that animals are mere raw materials/products - things that can be MADE in arbitrary numbers only constrained by demand and economic criteria! - in the rest of the population. To the contrary, challenge their view of animal bodies as products.

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