What Happens When a Vegan has a Non-Vegan Lover or Spouse?

One of the most poignant conversations I ever had was with a woman whose deeply-held religious beliefs led her to become a vegan… but her husband didn’t share her views and loved to eat meat, dairy, eggs, and fish.

The marriage was falling apart because of the pair’s divergent dietary choices.

The husband labeled his wife a “looney” and “hippie” for recognizing that harming animals isn’t moral.

The wife labeled her husband immoral for not recognizing that his dietary choices support a system that egregiously harms and kills animals.

There were practical problems as well.

They had children; the woman wondered how she could make vegan meals the children would enjoy and that would also be nutritious.

The wife was eager to make vegan foods for her whole family, but her husband scorned veganism, and insisted she prepare flesh foods.

She ended up spending a lot more time in the kitchen than she wanted to, creating one menu for herself, and another for her family.

She solved part of the problem by using cookbooks such as Kitchen Divided: Vegan Dishes for Semi-Vegan Households, by Ellen Jaffe Jones.

Jones is rather controversial, in that she advises vegans make serious dietary compromises.

Another book she used was Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbookby Isa Moskowitz.

Specifically to please her kids, and to ensure they got good nutrition, she consulted Plant-Powered Families: Over 100 Kid-Tested Whole-Foods Vegan Recipes, by Dreena Burton.

But even though vegan foods are tastier and more healthful than non-vegan foods, those cookbooks didn’t solve the marriage’s underlying problems, one of which was that her husband didn’t share her religious view that it’s ethically wrong to harm non-human animals.

The other  problem was deeper and more revealing: the husband wasn’t sensitive to the pain he caused his wife by refusing to even consider going vegan.

The way she saw it, he cared more about satisfying his desire to consume meat, dairy, fish, and eggs than he did about his wife’s conscience and feelings.

This wasn’t the only way he showed indifference to her feelings– he smoked cigarettes.

She’d pleaded with him to give up cigarettes for the sake of his health, the children, and the financial cost of smoking.

But as with his flesh-eating, he didn’t care about the harms he was doing.

He said he liked smoking, it was “too hard” to quit, and he was going to keep on doing it whether she liked it or not.

The couple went to marriage counseling.

The counselor asked the husband to consider the win-win aspects of creating a vegan family, and of giving up cigarettes.

The family’s health would improve.

Their food costs would decrease.

The wife (who did all the cooking) would spend less time cooking.

And most importantly, adopting veganism would show the wife that her husband loved her enough to give up a bad habit in order to avoid harming innocent animals.

I wish there was a happy ending to this story.

The wife spent two years accommodating her husband’s non-vegan diet.

Fortunately, her children became vegan.

Immediately, their health improved. They learned to love vegan foods, and lost all their craving for the regular junk foods, fast foods, and flesh foods that most people eat.

But her husband became more and more intransigent.

Eventually, the woman realized he didn’t love her enough, or in the right way.

“It hurts to say this, but he loved his steaks, fried chicken, and barbecue more than he loved me and the kids,” she told me.

They’re now separated, heading towards divorce.

If you’re in an intimate relationship with a non-vegan, it doesn’t have to end or end badly, but it might.

Being a Vegan Samurai involves sacrifice, and hard choices.

If you’re a vegan intimately involved with a non-vegan, you have to question your own ethics.

If your spouse or lover was involved in dealing heroin, in child molestation, in Wall Street fraud and abuse, or other moral wrongs, would you continue being in love with that person?

Would you feel comfortable giving them the benefits of your body, love, partnership, and care?

Only you can decide if the person you’re intimately involved with is worth staying involved with if they’re a customer of the worldwide system that exploits, tortures, and kills billions of innocent animals every year.

There are many analogies I could use to summarize the situation often described as a “vegan mixed marriage.”

In the Christian Bible, a New Testament teaching advises followers of Christ not to be joined in marriage with an “unbeliever.”

During the American Civil War, families were fractured, brother fought in battle against brother, because some family members believed it was acceptable to own humans as slaves, but others opposed slavery.

When segregation and racist lynchings were still a part of the American experience in the 1960s, families and marriages split up when a family member or spouse refused to reject racism.

When Americans oppose immoral wars, such as the Vietnam War or the illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, marriages and other partnerships were torn asunder when a person of conscience refused to be joined intimately with someone who lacked conscience.

Being a vegan is not just a dietary choice… it’s a moral, social, and spiritual issue.

The problems of a mixed marriage involving vegan and non-vegan aren’t just about a crowded refrigerator, logistical problems at meal-time, or a vegan having to see and smell dead animals being consumed at the dinner table.

It’s about right and wrong, empathy, and what people are willing to do to create peace with their own conscience and with those around them.

If you’re a vegan man or woman, sharing your body, sexuality, money, life, heart and mind with someone who eats animal foods, someone voluntarily complicit in the system of genocide and ecocide that torments and kills billions of sentient animals per year, you really have to consider your level of devotion to vegan principles, and to defending innocent animals against the human onslaught.

I personally have turned down explicit offers of sex and romance from attractive women, solely because those women consumed animal foods and wouldn’t consider becoming vegan.

I won’t intimately share my body, mind, or heart with someone who is so cold-hearted.

I hope your devotion to conscience, ethics, and innocent animals, will outweigh your devotion to a human who harms innocent animals.

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Living Vegan in the Death Culture

I went to a non-vegan restaurant with friends and was reminded how challenging it is to live vegan in a society founded on animal abuse and the psychological mechanisms that facilitate it.

The three people I had dinner with are all “good” people… a married couple who both had eminently statured careers in academia, and an engineer.

They’re interesting, personable, friendly people whom I respect and care about.

The restaurant was classy, full of diners. The interior had attractive aesthetics.

But I felt uncomfortable because my companions are non-vegans who ordered meals containing cut-up animal parts.

I haven’t seen non-vegan food for a while. It made me sick to see other animals’ breasts and other body parts on a plate.

I studied the menu trying to find vegan options. Out of approximately 25 main entrees or side orders, only two appeared to be vegan.

I asked the waitress if there were any animal products in the items and she said there were not.

My companions questioned me about being vegan. Why  had I done it? What about protein deficiency? Did I miss non-vegan food?

I recommended they read VeganSamurai.org for a full explanation of why I went vegan, but that the short answer is, veganism is the only dietary system that’s good for personal health, environmental health, and animal health.

And that’s when my companions’ cognitive dissonance, deliberate unknowing, and moral evasion became very apparent.

They agreed that veganism is the morally defensible dietary paradigm.

But they cavalierly talked continuing to eat meat, fish, eggs, and dairy even though the animal food industry, and animal foods themselves, are harmful to animals, Nature, and people.

Not only that, one of my companions is severely overweight because of his dietary choices, and suffers greatly because of it.

In an ironic moment, he talked about his addiction to foods that were killing him… as he ate foods that were killing him.

It was if I’d been sitting in a restaurant with companions who casually admitted they were shareholders in or employees of a company that committed genocide or other horrors.

It reminded me of a conversation I had with a self-described “pacifist and anti-war activist” who worked for a military contractor making weapons of war.

I recalled the book and videos by Dr. Melanie Joy who explains that carnism–the belief system that supports the eating of animals– creates moral deadening, denial, and self-delusion.

When my beet salad and veggie burger main course arrived, I looked at them carefully to see if there were any animal components.

I couldn’t see or taste any, but to my dismay, at the end of the meal when I was asking if there were vegan desserts, the waitress told me my salad had had cheese in it.

This explained the queasy, heavy feeling I’d started to experience as soon as I ate the salad.

And I mused to myself that if there was a Church of the Vegan Samurai, I’d have to go to confession and tell the priest, “I need forgiveness, for I’ve eaten foods produced by harming cows,” and seek absolution.

But as of  yet, there is no Church of the Vegan Samurai.

I was left to feel guilt about my inadvertent “cheese sin,” and the incongruous experience of communing with nice people I care about… except they’re willing participants in the violent, dominant culture of speciesism and carnism.

To put it bluntly, my friends support the animal-killing system that to me represents the greatest moral failing of our species.

All of us who truly care about animals realize that living vegan in a death culture means we’re often forced to compromise, camouflage, and “be quiet” when we’re with people who participate in carnism.

We love our family, lovers, friends. We want to “get along” with people.

We don’t want to dislike people for the deliberate, needless sins they commit against innocent animals and the environment.

We grieve for the obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other maladies they create for themselves because they eat animal foods and processed foods.

Vegans are the dismayed witnesses to the core immorality that animal-eating represents.

Other than the animal victims themselves, vegans are the only people who viscerally recognize we live in a world dominated by carnistic people and systems that create massive harms and suffering.

This is yet another reason I created the Vegan Samurai concept.

A samurai is a warrior who works hard to stay strong and resolute no matter what battles are looming.

A Vegan Samurai is often alone in a cruel world, surrounded by carnistic people who participate in the genocide against animals.

All you have are your vegan ethics, honor, principles, and strength as antidote to the heartbreak of being part of the only species that enslaves billions of innocent animals, destroys its own health, and trashes the earth.