Sunday, August 8, 2010

NY Times Thinks Vegetarians Who Don't Serve Meat Are Selfish

I was extremely disappointed to read this article in The New York Times.  The article asks an absurd question -- Should vegetarians and vegans serve meat at their weddings? -- and then answers it with a false dichotomy:
Which decision a couple makes depends largely on their philosophy of weddings: Is it really all about you, or does the comfort of your guests come first?

The article concludes by quoting a guest so frustrated by the vegetarian-only options at a wedding he attended that he decided to sneak off and grab some meat to eat:
“I know it’s your day, but it’s not all about you,” he said. “Why have a wedding if you’re going to be like that? Just print a bumper sticker.”

Frankly, I am flabbergasted.  I would like to see The Onion write a parody of this article entitled, "Should Non-Cannibalistic Couples Serve Human Flesh at Their Weddings?"

Serving only vegan or vegetarian food at a wedding does not make the wedding "all about you."  On the contrary, it shows compassion for a greater range of sentient beings than the human guests at the wedding. Vegetarians should not have to violate their religious or ethical standards in order to purchase meat for the comfort of their guests.  One would not expect an Orthodox Jewish couple to serve non-kosher food at their wedding, and the same standard ought to apply to a vegetarian couple.

Many people are, in fact, vegetarian for religious reasons.  Hindus, Buddhists, and Seventh-Day Adventists, for example, typically adhere to vegetarian diets.  For others, vegetarianism or veganism is an important part of a deeply-held set of core values including compassion, equal consideration of interests, and respect for all of the earth's creatures, not just the one species of great apes that we happen to belong to.

It's one thing to request expect accommodation of a food allergy or similar restriction at a wedding or other catered event.  It's quite another to expect one's hosts to violate their religion or ethics for your personal comfort.  In my opinion, if the guests at a wedding cannot put aside their personal preference for meat for one meal to honor their friends getting married, then they aren't good enough friends to be invited in the first place.  People like that strike me as the selfish ones, rather than those who choose to have only vegetarian food at their weddings.

This is not about self-righteousness or preachiness.  It is not a "personal affront" to one's guests to serve them vegetarian food.  It is nothing more than consistency, i.e., abiding by the same ethics on one's wedding day that one abides by every other day of one's life.

But if that disgruntled guest wants a bumper sticker, I believe this one is appropriate:  "Humans are not the only species on Earth. We just act that way."


  1. I read a similar article recently where they asked how people felt about an open bar, a cash bar, or no alcohol at a wedding. The results were very similar - people pretty much lined up on two sides, one which said it is the couple's day and they should do what they want, and the selfish people's side, who tried to project their selfishness onto the couple, saying that the bride and groom should provide free alcohol to their wedding guests for reasons like 'because I went to the expense and inconvenience to buy them a gift and come to this boring thing so the least they can do is give me alcohol;' and 'they should spend as much on each guest as I spent on their gift'. Every one of the people making arguments for an open bar made some comment about the couple thinking the wedding was all about them and ignoring the guests' needs.

  2. I would also hope that the couple mentioned somewhere in the invite that there wouldn't be meat at the wedding. So the guest shouldn't be complaining cause the lack of meat should have been a given, whether through the invite or through knowledge of the couple's vegetarianism. The guest shouldn't be blaming the couple just because the the guest didn't take the time to become informed!

  3. I do think folks should be aware that the event is no meat, non alcoholic, etc before deciding to attend. I have lived as a vegetarian for a time and it is a fact that it is difficult at first for a meat eater to be satisfied by vegetarian fare.Smokers have no chance of surviving a long gathering without their fix. Folks should be able to weigh their desire to honor the couple with their discomfort and the couple is better off without grumpy guest.

  4. How many vegetarians have gone hungry at receptions or parties that have nothing for them to eat beyond a veggie dip (if that)? A good host will provide some alternative for vegetarians. But it's a different matter to expect vegetarians to provide meat. Vegetarian fare can be filling.
    I have little sympathy for meat-eaters who feel entitled to demand a menu catering to them. (And I'm an omnivore myself.)