Dealing with Southern Non-Vegans - VeggieBoards

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#1 Old 01-20-2015, 08:45 AM
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Question Dealing with Southern Non-Vegans

My boyfriend is transitioning to Veganism!

Unfortunately he lives in the south (Tennessee) and comes from a southern background.

Everyone around him, especially at work where he needs to remain professional, is very uneducated and unwilling to educate themselves. They have a very close minded view of what should be eaten.


What advice would you give him about dealing with and educating the people around him?

Also, are there any Blogs, Vlogs, or websites that specifically deal with Veganism in the southern parts of America?
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#2 Old 01-20-2015, 07:46 PM
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Relating well to people with diet differences can require experience... in determining what the other persons are willing or able to talk about. And being able to provide good info in an effective way. This comes naturally in time to anyone who cares to do that.
If there is lack of experience (recent change to veg) it can be good to use much caution until it is learned what and how to say things, and about the ways that people react.
Some people are not even interested and some who may listen and some who are interested, adjustments should be made accordingly. Part of being veg is learning to deal with the close-minded population and getting good at relating in a way that sets a good example.
In all it doesn't really matter so much what others are doing (consuming) but what we ourselves are doing and that can involve being help to others and relative aspects of life.

Caring about our health is caring about our very state of being and future which is a very good thing to be seriously concerned about making the most of.

 

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#3 Old 01-20-2015, 09:54 PM
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Originally Posted by TaylorVegan View Post
My boyfriend is transitioning to Veganism!

Unfortunately he lives in the south (Tennessee) and comes from a southern background.

Everyone around him, especially at work where he needs to remain professional, is very uneducated and unwilling to educate themselves. They have a very close minded view of what should be eaten.


What advice would you give him about dealing with and educating the people around him?

Also, are there any Blogs, Vlogs, or websites that specifically deal with Veganism in the southern parts of America?
I advise him to use gentle/ relaxed arguments when just starting out - for example if someone asks why he is vegan he could say something like "I care about animals" or "I am an animal lover"...Nobody can really answer back to that to be honest...In time, perhaps once he has studied some facts/ figures/ learned about the processes involved/ gained confidence he could move onto more extensive arguments
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#4 Old 01-21-2015, 06:04 AM
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The south and even Tennessee isn't one monolithic group or culture, so you'll need to be more specific. What is the ethnic/religious background of his coworkers? Because of years of segregation you will find some differences in what southern culture looks like if you are black vs. white. And there are many immigrants to this part of the country from the Middle East (primarily Kurdish) and Latin American countries who have their own unique experiences. When you say uneducated, do you mean about veganism only, or are you saying he works with people who lack formal education in general? There's this uneducated southerner stereotype out there, but there is diversity too and some very educated people. There are 21 4-year universities in my city alone (Nashville). Do they live in one of the big cities, suburban counties around the cities, or somewhere very rural? Very different expressions of "southern culture" in each place.






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Last edited by Docbanana; 01-21-2015 at 06:10 AM.
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#5 Old 01-21-2015, 11:18 AM
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In some families, generations of poor Southern people got by on basically cornbread and molasses. So you can see how chicken and pork and fish might be considered a huge leap forward from what their grandparents lived on. When he's talking to his relatives, that's what he should compare vegan food to. I have to think a diet rich in produce, nuts, beans, grains, herbs and oils would be considered healthier and more flavorful than corn bread and molasses. If they're skeptical he's eating intelligently, he can also compare his food to Paula Deen recipes. Everything looks healthy compared to Paula Deen recipes. If he has to bring something to a family meal or a party to share, he can veganize a traditional recipe like peanut soup or pecan pie. Many fried-green tomato recipes are already vegan.
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#6 Old 01-23-2015, 12:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Docbanana View Post
The south and even Tennessee isn't one monolithic group or culture, so you'll need to be more specific. What is the ethnic/religious background of his coworkers? Because of years of segregation you will find some differences in what southern culture looks like if you are black vs. white. And there are many immigrants to this part of the country from the Middle East (primarily Kurdish) and Latin American countries who have their own unique experiences. When you say uneducated, do you mean about veganism only, or are you saying he works with people who lack formal education in general? There's this uneducated southerner stereotype out there, but there is diversity too and some very educated people. There are 21 4-year universities in my city alone (Nashville). Do they live in one of the big cities, suburban counties around the cities, or somewhere very rural? Very different expressions of "southern culture" in each place.

You bring up some really valid points, I should have given more information.

He lives in a very nice suburb of Nashville. His work is predominately upper-middle class, college educated, male dominated, and caucasian. From what he has told me it sounds like many of his colleagues are very accustomed to non vegan activities like hunting. (They say they enjoy killing the animals)

He also finds with coworkers and family quoting or misquoting Christian religions is a common practice of defending the abuse of animals.

I try to advise him to brush off most comments unless the person appears to be genuinely interested and then he could direct him to more information online that way he doesn't fall into that trap of defending himself which can be really hard as you start off on your new lifestyle.

Thank you all for your advice, let me know if you have any other ideas or support for him!
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#7 Old 01-23-2015, 07:05 PM
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If they enjoy killing animals then there is no hope for them as a part if their brain has clearly shrivelled and died...

They obviously don't understand Christianity if they think God wants them to kill animals...Either that or they are hiding behind this "belief" so they can just carry on doing whatever they want to...
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#8 Old 01-23-2015, 07:48 PM
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You bring up some really valid points, I should have given more information.

He lives in a very nice suburb of Nashville. His work is predominately upper-middle class, college educated, male dominated, and caucasian. From what he has told me it sounds like many of his colleagues are very accustomed to non vegan activities like hunting. (They say they enjoy killing the animals)

He also finds with coworkers and family quoting or misquoting Christian religions is a common practice of defending the abuse of animals.

I try to advise him to brush off most comments unless the person appears to be genuinely interested and then he could direct him to more information online that way he doesn't fall into that trap of defending himself which can be really hard as you start off on your new lifestyle.

Thank you all for your advice, let me know if you have any other ideas or support for him!
I agree with you, Taylor. I have family in Georgia, including hunters, and I have found the best way to deal with them is not to engage them. Nod at their stupid jokes and move on.

First, for some reason the word "vegan" turns people into monsters, but saying "vegetarian" or "I don't eat meat" is usually accepted.

My son is a 21-year old martial artist who has been vegan a decade. He has 3 older male cousins in Georgia, 2 of whom are marines. They joke with him about being weak from no meat, but know he can kick their butts, so there's no real punch in their words. My son just sits there eating (these things often happen at meals) and says Fine, eat what you want, I will eat what I want. Once when he was younger, he grabbed the wrist of one cousin and returned the wrist to the table when bacon was waved under Son's nose. Not that I recommend that to your husband at work, lol.

The easiest thing to do is avoid eating with coworkers whenever possible. I do this easily because it is a huge hospital with a huge busy cafeteria, and I have a habit of meditating for 15 minutes before lunch (there's a nice garden with benches, it's warm here) so it is easy for me not to go to lunch with coworkers. I really don't like many of them anyway, tbh!
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#9 Old 01-24-2015, 07:12 AM
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It's hard to educate people in the deep South....where they ask you if you want some gravy on your gravy. I think TN might be easier, of course it's hard to change dietary habit patterns overnight.

GOOD LUCK!!!!

All animals should be respected & should have the ability to lead a natural & enjoyable life. This means not eating them, or abusing them in any way.
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#10 Old 01-24-2015, 12:51 PM
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It's hard to educate people in the deep South....where they ask you if you want some gravy on your gravy. I think TN might be easier, of course it's hard to change dietary habit patterns overnight.

GOOD LUCK!!!!
I happen to like gravy on blackeyed pea fritters with greens and sweet potatoes!

I always thought southern cooking adapted very well to veganization. So many veggies and beans!
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#11 Old 01-25-2015, 08:10 AM
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If I worked in an office (Southern or not) where people were challenging my meal choices on the basis of Christianity, I'd ask them why they thought their religious beliefs had any bearing on my diet. I'd say I don't remember "Thou Shalt Eat Meat" being one of the Ten Commandments and that, not being Jewish, I'm off the hook for eating lamb at Passover. If I were Christian I'd acknowledge that Jesus ate meat, but say Jesus had no experience of factory farms and that I didn't think he would condone the animal cruelty built into modern animal agriculture. If they brought up hunting I'd probably acknowledge that being shot with a rifle usually entails less suffering for a deer than a car, a predator, the elements, an injured limb or starvation. But that since I don't eat meat, I'm not interested in meal choices that were hunted or fished. And I wouldn't challenge their meal choices at all.

As far as how to educate others about what foods should be eaten, you can only educate a student: someone who is actively engaged in the process of learning. Co-workers are like cats that way: if it's going to work out, they have to come to you.

Last edited by Joan Kennedy; 01-25-2015 at 11:11 AM.
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#12 Old 01-25-2015, 11:05 AM
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you can only educate a student: someone who is actively engaged in the process of learning
I agree that the person you are talking to has to be in the right state of mind in order to engage properly and consider changing...
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#13 Old 01-25-2015, 11:20 AM
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We're talking about a professional workplace here. If you bug someone and they ask you to stop, they have standing to complain to someone in Human Resources and then you have to go get sensitivity training. You have to stop or be fired, or else the company itself gets sued for being a hostile work environment. If someone asks you on a date and you let them know you're not interested, they have to stop. If they ask you to come to their church picnic with them and you let them know you're not interested, they have to stop. If they keep inviting you to Pampered Chef "parties" or to invest in their pyramid schemes, etc., they have to stop if you let them know you're not interested. If you're a vegan or a vegetarian who tries to educate your co-workers in what foods should be eaten and they let you know they're not interested, you have to stop, because your job is on the line.

The good part is that if they bug you about your vegan lunches and you tell them to lay off, they have to lay off or you have standing to complain and, if HR is no help, to sue the company for tolerating harassment.

Last edited by Joan Kennedy; 01-25-2015 at 11:42 AM.
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#14 Old 01-26-2015, 07:11 AM
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I happen to like gravy on blackeyed pea fritters with greens and sweet potatoes!

I always thought southern cooking adapted very well to veganization. So many veggies and beans!
That does sound good!!! And I'm a big fan of collard greens, too.

My gravy reference was about the unhealthy stuff....like biscuits and gravy. That gravy is made with bacon fat and has beef in it. They are not shy about heaping it on, either.

Overall, I have had no problem finding vegan food down South. I do sometimes get the "You don't want no meat?!!!" question, though.
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#15 Old 01-26-2015, 03:54 PM
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hey i'm southern too (alabama) and i can definitely say vegans are a rarity, as for your boyfriend i wouldn't put too much worry about it. Male culture often involves "taking jabs" at each other but its just joking, they probably don't really care what his diet is but it is an easy target for them
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#16 Old 01-26-2015, 06:22 PM
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You bring up some really valid points, I should have given more information.

He lives in a very nice suburb of Nashville. His work is predominately upper-middle class, college educated, male dominated, and caucasian. From what he has told me it sounds like many of his colleagues are very accustomed to non vegan activities like hunting. (They say they enjoy killing the animals)

He also finds with coworkers and family quoting or misquoting Christian religions is a common practice of defending the abuse of animals.

I try to advise him to brush off most comments unless the person appears to be genuinely interested and then he could direct him to more information online that way he doesn't fall into that trap of defending himself which can be really hard as you start off on your new lifestyle.

Thank you all for your advice, let me know if you have any other ideas or support for him!
The only thing he can really do is be honest with them, and tell them why he has made the change. He can provide additional information, such as, the environmental impact of harvesting animals and such. They will have some basic information to go on, and decide whether they want to make the change or not. At the least they will understand why he has done so.
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#17 Old 02-25-2015, 07:15 PM
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As far as how to educate others about what foods should be eaten, you can only educate a student: someone who is actively engaged in the process of learning. Co-workers are like cats that way: if it's going to work out, they have to come to you.
You are on point with that phrase. Thank you for your input.
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#18 Old 02-25-2015, 07:17 PM
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hey i'm southern too (alabama) and i can definitely say vegans are a rarity, as for your boyfriend i wouldn't put too much worry about it. Male culture often involves "taking jabs" at each other but its just joking, they probably don't really care what his diet is but it is an easy target for them
Yes, I think that is a lot of what is happening. The only problem is I don't feel that my partner feels them as little jabs. Sometimes little jabs can feel like a big attack, especially to someone who is new to this lifestyle.
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#19 Old 02-27-2015, 05:55 AM
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He should just eat alone or only eat with you. At work he can fast just like Jesus and Moses did. In the south if you say that you are fasting like Buddha did, then they may kill you. But they know that Jesus fasted. For decades I have only eaten one meal a day. Some say that would slow my metabolism and I would be very fat. Others say that I would not get enough food and I would starve to death. They are both right. I am the fattest thin man alive!

He can carry around a bible and learn some things in it that he likes to quote like "judge ye not, unless ye be judged." Here is a fact about the south (note the U.S. is very mostly Christian). Less than 2% Jewish and less than 1% Muslim. The south has the highest religious attendance figures of any region in the United States. Being atheist is not a religion.

Here is an article on LinkedIn, the 10th biggest website in the country. It has on it the CDC, Harvard School of Public Health and American Heart Association saying to eat more fruits and vegetables. It is called

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#20 Old 02-27-2015, 06:17 AM
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The south and even Tennessee isn't one monolithic group or culture, so you'll need to be more specific. What is the ethnic/religious background of his coworkers? Because of years of segregation you will find some differences in what southern culture looks like if you are black vs. white. And there are many immigrants to this part of the country from the Middle East (primarily Kurdish) and Latin American countries who have their own unique experiences. When you say uneducated, do you mean about veganism only, or are you saying he works with people who lack formal education in general? There's this uneducated southerner stereotype out there, but there is diversity too and some very educated people. There are 21 4-year universities in my city alone (Nashville). Do they live in one of the big cities, suburban counties around the cities, or somewhere very rural? Very different expressions of "southern culture" in each place.

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Yes a state is a very large diverse area. Take Pennsylvania. Philadelphia is the 6th biggest city in in the country. It has more colleges in its area than anywhere in the country. It has the first university and hospital in the country. On the other end of the state is Pittsburgh, a large city. In the middle of Pennsylvania it is like the opposite. There are Dutch Amish that do not believe in using electricity. Then they have possibly the largest group of white supremacists in PA. Note that Harvard is the first college in the country and when UPenn created the first medical school in the country, it became the first university (a university has more than one college). Harvard and UPenn both have 12 colleges.

Here is an article on LinkedIn, the 10th biggest website in the country. It has on it the CDC, Harvard School of Public Health and American Heart Association saying to eat more fruits and vegetables. It is called

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#21 Old 02-27-2015, 09:26 AM
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It's not a southern thing at all. As a southern vegan (who actually grew up in the segregated south), who has lived all over the US, I can say that people in other places are almost equally accepting or rejecting of veg*ism. I say "almost" because I've found that southerners are actually more likely to have a courteous attitude. They may not fully understand, but that's okay. I don't fully understand calculus, and I'm grateful that mathematicians don't try to, er, shove it down my throat. It's really all about good manners. Good and bad manners are found everywhere.

Religion is used to justify all kinds of things everywhere, not just veg*ism and not just in the south. Here's a link to a map that shows religious affiliation by state. It isn't quite what might be expected.
Religion by US state
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