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By Diane Small
Despite the rise of Tinder and other dating sites making it easier than ever to hook up, going out for dinner is still the default date option – plus, for most people, sharing meals is loads of fun. We all have different food preferences of course, and today, there seems to be a proliferation of allergies and intolerances too, making choosing a restaurant that everyone likes a bit tough at times.
So what happens when you enter a relationship with someone who has not only a completely different diet to yours, but a different view on fundamental issues like definitions of kindness and compassion, health and wellbeing, spirituality and environmentalism?
Depending on what study you read, the proportion of US adults identifying as vegan has grown to incredible heights – some say up to 500% in the USA! Given that Starbucks now has almond and coconut milk and many McDonald’s even have veggie burgers, it’s clear that there are more people eating plant based diets than ever before. But despite this, the vast majority of a vegan’s dating pool are going to be omnivores. So what impact does this have on a relationship?
Can Vegans Date Non Vegans Without Aggro?
Let’s be honest – there are degrees of veganism. Some go plant based for health reasons only, and still wear leather, wool and even fur – so what someone else eats is of little importance to them. Others are ‘veggans’ who will eat eggs and honey if they feel they’ve been responsibly sourced; for this group, compassion and kindness are of prime importance. Others, like actor Joaquin Phoenix, won’t even get into a car if the seats are made of leather. For this group, surely a vegan partner is a must.
Lydia McDonald, a lawyer based in London, has been vegan for two years. For her, the choice is a core value, just like choosing to have children or not. In romantic relationships, she thinks it’s essential to share those key values with a partner: “I struggle to seriously date non-vegans,” she says.
For Cara, an editor, “I find a lot of people who really love their daily meals to contain meat to be quite selfish. They don’t really give a toss about animal welfare or the environment, or they wouldn’t be eating meat. They put themselves and their desires above all else. I don’t want to be around those people.”
But what if you fall in love with someone who doesn’t share your vegan values?
Drawing the Line
Perhaps it’s easier to accept other people’s beliefs and habits at the start of a relationship, when deeper issues are not at stake, but when things get serious, boundaries may have to be set. PhD student and animal lover Cheryl Jones is vegan, married to a meat eater. She has also worked as a vet and believes that this helps to inform her perspective. “I’ve spent time in an abattoir and on farms so have a fairly unique perspective when it comes to the majority of vegans,” she explains.
Cheryl has insisted that her husband reduce his meat consumption, and now he only eats meat when they go out, as Cheryl refuses to have meat in the house. Such adaptations are common in relationships like these; especially if the main cook in the household is a vegan. Cooking separate meals is a hassle, as so so many meat eaters do naturally decrease or convert completely.
Sometimes, the reverse happens, too. “My husband’s from Brazil,” says Tracy, a counsellor. Every time we visit his friends and family, they just cannot understand why I won’t eat meat. Their culture’s so carnivorous, they actually think fish isn’t ‘meat’, so when they make that for me as my ‘special vegan option,’ I sometimes find it easier just to pick at the fish a bit than try to explain in broken Portuguese why vegans don’t eat fish,” she sighs.
One vegan man, Charlie, has a laissez-faire attitude about his partner: “I live with an omnivore, and I find that, with a little understanding it isn’t much of an issue,” he says. “I cooked bacon and eggs this morning. I’m a vegan to reduce the demand for products that I find unethical. If she wants to eat eggs and bacon, that’s her prerogative, but I know it’s going to get bought, cooked and eaten whether I cook it or she does. I try to be realistic. I’m not going to change the world by being vegan, and she’s an intelligent woman – she has all the data and makes her own decisions. It’s certainly not enough of a deal-breaker to mean that I’d give up on an otherwise good relationship.”
When It Really Counts
Not everyone is as easygoing as Charlie: Annie, who doesn’t even consider herself a ‘hardcore vegan’ says: “I cannot have meat or dairy in the house. It just grosses me out. The smell of meat and how it looks literally makes me retch.” When asked if she would date a meat eater, she says: “I would, just for fun. But if the relationship got serious, it would be an issue. I want kids, and those kids are going to be vegan. If the guy wasn’t into that, there’s no way I could have kids with him.”
Kylie Dolmar, a Trade Development manager, agrees: “I try to be tolerant in life with others who don’t follow the same path as me. My family aren’t vegetarian or vegan but I begrudgingly accept their choice. But a partner is different. If you don’t share such important fundamental values then I don’t see how it can last or even begin.” Her partner is now vegan, although adapted slowly over the first six months of Katie being so.
“I was vegetarian for a long number of years and went vegan two years ago. Whilst I respect other people’s ways of life and believe they can eat what they like. I would never ever allow meat to be prepared or cooked in my house. Those are the rules I’ve set out. So if my partner wasn’t vegetarian or vegan they’d have to adapt pretty quickly!’ She became vegan for the same reasons most do: “Eating meat is morally and ethically wrong. I can’t see it any other way. Becoming vegan was a logical next step. If you love animals you don’t eat them or their by-products or allow the industry to survive. To me it’s so simple. I couldn’t be with someone who isn’t vegan. It’s just a minimum requirement.”
Where To Look
So, where can single vegan look for a mate? There are only so many local vegan fairs and festivals each year, and hanging out at the same vegan restaurant could look creepy after awhile! Luckily, there are vegan dating apps like Green Singles and Veggie Connection coming onto the market that help pair couples up – one, simply called Veg, is even known as ‘the cruelty-free Tinder’. Online platforms like Veggie Date and Vegan Passions allow members to meet and chat online…which may lead to a real life encounter.
But if you don’t find love with someone who shares your core beliefs totally – don’t despair. No two people in a relationship can share all the same values exactly – especially since those tend to shift over the decades. As Charlie puts it: ‘There are a million different ways to live a more sustainable and compassionate life. We all draw our own lines and make our own choices. And if you truly love someone, you’ll accept them for who they are, warts and all.”
*Some names in this article have been changed to protect privacy