Opinion: Why Being Vegan is Not "Closed-Minded"

July 15, 2016

Opinion: Why Being Vegan is Not "Close-Minded"

Does choosing to follow a certain diet for ethical reasons stem from closed-mindedness?

A couple months ago, I was home in Luxembourg and was supposed to have dinner with a friend. I love her so, so much, and I really enjoy spending time with her. I hadn’t seen her in a while, and she didn’t know yet that I went vegan since moving to NYC–or at least she hadn’t clearly registered it.  I reminded her of my new lifestyle, and she asked me to pick a restaurant.  I wanted to go with a delicious Thai place that I have been to many times before. When I told her, she didn’t seem excited, and said, Well, it’s a bit difficult to go out with you these days. Your choices are a bit restricted, and you are so closed-minded now. We decided to go to an Italian place instead.

When I decided to transition into eating vegan, for real, 100%, I was definitely scared of judgments. Not because I cared what other people think about me per se, but more so because I didn’t want to appear ridged, strict, or closed-minded.

Closed-mindedness is the last thing I want to be associated with. I love traveling, meeting new people, exploring new activities, and learning others’ traditions. I love progress, change, evolution, and the unexpected.

When it comes to my moral convictions, what I would call my principles, it’s different. I came to learn that I have to embrace, open-mindedly, a conviction that others might perceive as closed-minded. At some point in my life, I decided that I didn’t want to harm other beings. Neither humans nor non-human animals. That means no eating, no using, and no wearing of animals (and humans for that matter). When I’m in a situation where this topic becomes relevant, such as at a restaurant with friends, I stick to my guns. I can’t be “open-minded” about sharing a chicken dish or ordering the special dessert that contains eggs and dairy. I can’t just eat a “little animal here or there.” It’s not morally compatible with either my rational or emotional brain. It’s the same when you decide that you don’t want to steal because you consider it morally wrong. Would you figure that just once in a while it would be okay take some stuff home from the grocery store without paying for it? I believe the answer is no.

So maybe I’m not narrow-minded. Maybe I’m just sticking to personal principles that make me feel better and more balanced as a human–principles that also benefit fellow living creatures and the environment. If that makes me selfish, then fine, I accept that 😉

A funny thing is that I feel that veganism has actually made me more open-minded. I eat a large diversity of plant-based foods and keep discovering and trying new ones, whereas before my transition, I ate the same foods over and over again. I’m also more receptive to other people’s personal choices and opinions, especially if they are in a minority situation. I listen more and ask more questions. My veganism has never prevented me from participating in any social events–if anything, it has pushed me to have incredibly interesting conversations with all kinds of different people. I feel like I’m more awake and aware in my life, more conscious and open than ever before. The key, in my opinion, is to steer away from trying to convince, convert, or patronize other people. I try to share and educate if my counterparts are interested because I truly believe that every choice you make in life is only going to stick if you make it yourself and if it comes from within. If you allow yourself stick to your true beliefs and follow your gut, you will never become narrow minded.

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So how did my relationship with my friend evolve you might ask? Well, I later found out that she doesn’t like Thai food. She doesn’t like any “exotic” food as she calls it–no Thai, no Indian, no Chinese, and also no Latin foods. She doesn’t like to eat with chopsticks or with her hands. She basically only eats French or Italian cuisine, with a fork and a knife. So the restaurant choice truly had nothing to do with me. Another example that open mindedness is not related to animal consumption.

Have your been accused of being closed-minded for your lifesyle choices? How have you responed?

Also by Isabelle: How My Better Half Become Vegan

Related: Why We’re Hardwired with Compassion Instinct

Why Vegans Should Care about Prison Abolition

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Photo: Lily Lvnatikk via Unsplash

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​Isabelle grew up in Luxembourg and transitioned from an omnivore, cheese loving life to a plant-based diet after she finished her master's in urban studies in Paris and moved to NYC in January 2013. Her decision was triggered by environmental, ethical as well as health reasons. She is passionate about veganism and health and has a plant-based nutrition certificate from e-Cornell. The Plantiful is her blog and creative outlet that she uses to share her love for all things plant-based. Isabelle is also a health coach and a certified yoga teacher with focus on restorative.

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