Holiday Bullying around Food Choices Ends in Depression for Many Vegans and Vegetarians

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Author Tamira Thayne with her cat, Tuna

For many of us who choose not to eat animals, the holidays can turn into a special kind of hades, one beyond the normal ‘time spent with your crazy family’ insanity.

We often feel forced to choose between two less than stellar options: eat with our families, where odds are good we will be made fun of or put down for our beliefs—all while being forced to dine with a dead carcass smack dab in the middle of the table—or go it alone at the ‘happiest time of the year.’

Not great options.

When I first became a vegetarian fourteen years ago, I attended a seminar at one of the animal conferences about this very subject, and I remember clearly the speaker encouraging us not to hold ourselves separate from our families at the holidays. He reasoned that we could be an example for them and educate just by being ourselves, showing them we weren’t ‘crazy animal people’ and hopefully then they too will make more humane choices.

The advice made sense to me, even though it didn’t sound like fun. I really struggled with having to sit at the table with a turkey carcass and pretend like it didn’t affect me.

But I did it, and I pushed my personal feelings aside year after year. I’m here to report that I have not ‘won over’ a single family member, and remain the sole vegetarian/vegan in my family. (I eat about 85% vegan and 15% vegetarian meals.) I am married to a man who eats meat, and both of my children eat meat. Every member of my extended family on all sides eats meat.

I am truly alone in my choice.

And me putting my pain to the side and eating with them for years has not changed a single mind.

This year was particularly brutal for me, though, and may have forced me to reconsider following this gentleman’s advice, for my own emotional well-being.

If you too had a tough holiday season, I feel for you, and share your suffering.

If I end up unhappy and crying and/or seething with anger at a holiday ‘celebration’, is that really to anyone’s benefit? Is it to your benefit to end up the same way by forcing yourself to interact with people who don’t understand or support you?

I checked in with a few other vegans I know for their thoughts.

tearswerehumancoverloAuthor Heather Leughmyer told me her vegan family unit chose to eat only in the company of other vegans on Thanksgiving, and therefore there was no pain, no turmoil.

One of my Facebook friends drew her own line in the sand the other day with the following one-sentence post: “If you ate ham for Christmas, please unfriend me now.”

Her stand engendered the usual outpouring of “you’ll never win people over with this attitude” kind of responses; and maybe from a logical standpoint I can agree with them.

But our feelings are not always logical.

And maybe there comes a time when you have to take care of YOU, and YOU can no longer stomach the pain of hanging around those who believe animals are here for humans to use and abuse.

Subjecting yourself to bullying at the hands of loved-ones at the holidays—in some perhaps misguided effort to seem ‘normal’—isn’t healthy, and often leads to depression and feelings of isolation.

No one deserves to suffer for the simple act of making a humane choice with their eating habits.

At a time when bullying is at an all-time high in America, family members who tend to be bombastic by nature are feeling more empowered, and are apt to make easy targets of vegetarian and vegan family members.

I experienced this targeting while dining with extended family this year. The two women in the family went out of their way to make me special vegan food, which I didn’t expect but greatly appreciated. I was deeply touched by their kindness.

But the husband, who had coincidentally voted for Trump, went out of his way to put me down. First he told my son a ‘joke’ about vegetarians, supposedly behind my back, but making sure that I heard him. I felt belittled and shamed, and managed not to cry only by pushing my feelings down. And having another drink.

Then he told me if I didn’t want to be the only vegetarian at the table I should start eating meat again.

By this time I’d had enough. We had words, and then the whole family finished their dinners in awkward silence.

I won’t go back.

If forcing yourself to be with family only results in you feeling more pain, I would like to take this opportunity to encourage you to make yourself more important next year. Take Heather’s advice, find a new family of vegans to spend the holidays with, or go it alone.

Sometimes being alone isn’t lonely. It’s peaceful, healing, and calm.

I think that’s what I’ll be doing next year.

—Tamira Ci Thayne

Tamira is the founder of Who Chains You Books, and the author of Foster Doggie Insanity and Capitol in Chains. She is an animal activist and ordained minister, best-known as the pioneer of the anti-tethering movement in America. Tamira founded and ran Dogs Deserve Better, a nonprofit advocating for chained dogs, from 2002-2015.

If Your Tears Were Human: A Collection of Poetry for Animals in Agriculture

tearswerehumancoverloWho Chains You Books announces our October new release: If Your Tears Were Human—A Collection of Poetry for Animals in Agriculture by Heather Leughmyer.

If Your Tears Were Human: A Collection of Poetry for Animals in Agriculture is an intensely moving and powerful collection of 25 verses written by Heather Leughmyer and paired with striking photographic images from Vanessa Sarges.

Each year, billions of land animals are raised and killed for their meat, eggs, and milk. To the agricultural industry, they are commodities, dollar signs. But to a growing number of people from all walks of life, these precious souls have purpose beyond our palates. They are unique individuals who experience pleasure and pain. They are companions, they are teachers, and they bring beauty and diversity to the planet we all share.

The poems included in this book were inspired by animals, people and events the author encountered in her activism for animals. Although she has been deeply disturbed by the magnitude of human cruelty toward these innocent beings, she has been just as deeply touched by the people who have bravely protested these injustices and who work relentlessly to make this world a kinder place. These are her heroes; the rebels, the bunny-huggers, those with the largest hearts and the softest souls. These poems honor them and the animals they serve.

The book is available from Amazon and 3rd party booksellers, on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited for those members, and from our CreateSpace site at the below links.

Buy on Amazon | Buy on Kindle | Buy from Createspace and $1 Will be Donated to Unchained Melodies Dog Rescue

About the Author:

me

Heather Leughmyer graduated from Indiana-Purdue University with a B.A. in English Writing and Linguistics. She is a dedicated vegan, animal rights activist and animal rescuer. Writing has been a passion of hers for as long as she has advocated for animals. By telling their stories and illustrating their pain she hopes to touch a few hearts and change a few minds with her words. She lives in Columbia City, Indiana, with her husband, daughter and several animal companions.

About the Photographer:

img_2741-2Vanessa Sarges wanted to make more of a contribution to Animal Rights, and felt that there was no better way to do so than to document their lives through her photography.

She began bearing witness with Toronto Pig Save and capturing the souls who were being transported to slaughter and the brave activists bearing witness with her. Although taking those photos is both sad and infuriating, many people have contacted Vanessa to say that her photos were the turning point of their lives and that they were transitioning to a vegan lifestyle as a result.

Vanessa and Heather have been friends for many years and Vanessa has taken great inspiration from their friendship and from Heather’s profound poetry. Vanessa was honoured to be asked to contribute to If Your Tears were Human.

The book is available from Amazon and 3rd party booksellers, on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited for those members, and from our CreateSpace site at the below links.

Buy on Amazon | Buy on Kindle | Buy from Createspace and $1 Will be Donated to Unchained Melodies Dog Rescue