Turning the (Dinner) Tables
Let’s face it, we vegans are a tiny, tiny minority in our society. (Our percentages are practically negative numbers!) As a result, we face a lot of inconvenience, and even some downright abuse, in our daily lives. Sometimes it seems like no matter what we’re looking for—a meal we can eat at an unfamiliar restaurant, a nice car without leather upholstery, a potential mate on an online dating site—life can be a hassle.
But what if the proverbial (dinner) tables were turned? What if we were in the supermajority, and it was omnivores who had to fight “tooth and nail” to satisfy their daily cravings for flesh and animal secretions? What would life be like under that scenario—for us? for them? It might be fun to speculate!
Of course, merely switching roles isn’t enough to truly turn the tables. Since meat-eaters can theoretically eat everything vegans do (…although in practice we know they often miss out on lots of the best stuff!), they wouldn’t have the same problems we do, even if they were a small minority. To really put them in our position, we’d have to imagine a world in which they would not be able to eat, for health or ethical reasons, at least some of the ingredients we’d put in virtually every meal. Say, for example, that non-vegans are a super-tiny minority and that they are unable to eat, for whatever reason, anything with soy, grains, tomatoes or green vegetables in it. Ah, now the tables are truly turned!
Imagine walking into your neighborhood grocery store and finding that half the floor space is devoted to gorgeous organic produce. A huge “dairy” case offers shelf after shelf of exotic vegan “cheeses,” yoghurts and milks. (Imagine that the words “dairy” and “cheese” themselves mean vegan products unless they’re prefaced with adjectives like “cows’ milk.”) The frozen food aisle not only offers dozens of different kinds of ice“cream,” but frozen pizzas with toppings like “caramelized onions, sun-dried tomatoes, and kale.” Is your mouth watering?
You walk to a back corner of the store and see a small case with a tiny selection of meats, “cows’ milk dairy” products, and prepared foods with the label “suitable for omnivores” on them. The prices are outrageous. A woman is there pondering the slim choices. Jeez, you think to yourself, I’m glad I’m not an omnivore. What misfits!
As long as we’re speculating, think about what restaurants would be like in our new world. Well, probably just about every one of them would continue to have a burger, but in a mostly vegan society all those burgers could be unique. And beyond that, the choices offered up would be endless! And wouldn’t it be fun for us vegans to be able to choose from just about anything on the menu? I say “just about” anything, because most restaurants would probably have a token omnivore selection buried at the end of the menu. It would be named something like “Genghis Khan’s Delight” (think of the “Buddhist’s Delight” you see all the time in Chinese restaurants), and it would be the most boring thing on the menu.
In a world where the (dinner) tables are turned imagine what would happen if your daughter brought home an omnivore for dinner. “Gee, I’m sorry, but I can’t eat that,” he would say meekly to everything offered. “Maybe just a piece of fruit???”
What a loser!, you would think, as you give him the evil eye. I don’t want my daughter ending up with a guy who doesn’t appreciate a good stalk of broccoli—a guy who rips chickens apart with his teeth, and lusts after liquids from the back end of a cow. And suppose he tries to convert her to his perverse way of thinking? What would our grandchildren be like? Yikes!
What would your life be like if the (dinner) tables were turned? What would your meat-eating friends think about being put in the same position we vegans are in now? Let us know what you think. It’s fun to speculate, isn’t it?!
Author: Mark W. Reinhardt
Mark Warren Reinhardt is an attorney and author who has been writing and lecturing on veganism and animal rights issues for longer than anyone can remember. His book, “The Perfectly Contented Meat-Eater’s Guide to Vegetarianism” was published by Continuum in 1998. Mark has previously served on the boards of the Vegetarian Society of Colorado, Rocky Mountain Animal Defense, and Divine Feline, as well as a number of other nonprofit and for-profit organizations. Mark holds degrees in engineering and law from Duke, Harvard, and the University of Chicago. He lives in Denver with his cat Elgie.