Washington D.C., Sept 15: The argument about consuming less meat and more plant-based foods has been going on for ages now. But what happens if that argument takes an ugly shape leading to you being bullied for your choice of lifestyle?
A family of five recently opened up about losing friends and being bullied because they are vegan, reported Fox News.
Jacqui, Ryan Robins and their three children Skye (15), Skipp (14), and Cadan (5) are vegan and hog on a range of lip-smacking dishes without meat or dairy.
However, the family from Probus, Cornwall, England, admitted that the transition to a vegan lifestyle has not been an easy one. The family revealed that they have lost friends due to it, and are often met with aggression and bitterness.
Jacqui, who was 8-years-old when she decided to give up meat, shared that other parents hold back from speaking to her when she goes to her children's schools.
"Passion is misunderstood to be aggression or hatred. I have been to parent's evenings and had people turn their backs to me. They would rather do that than engage in a conversation that will make them feel uncomfortable," she said.
Meanwhile, Ryan has been a victim of online trolling for his choice of lifestyle. According to the online trolls, his dietary choices are disrespectful to his late father, who was a "highly-respected" butcher.
Whereas, Skipp confessed that he is targeted at school over his vegan lifestyle, and frequently has meat waved in his face.
However, despite all the ups and downs, the family defends their dietary choices and hopes to put an end to the misconception that vegans are "crazy".
Jacqui, a nutritionist, said that they are just "trying to raise awareness about practices" people should be aware of, noting that many "good and kind people" won't make the same choices if they "knew the reality".
"There seems to be some kind of divide where people meet vegans with aggression and resistance, when you are just trying to raise awareness about practices that people should know about," she said.
"I know there are so many good, kind people making choices that they wouldn't make if they knew the reality," she added.
Jacqui decided to turn vegetarian at the age of 8 after realising that animals were used in the preparation of her shepherd's pie. But two years ago, after watching "horrifying" documentaries and researching about dairy-farming processes, the nutritionist decided to ditch dairy, too.
"I saw a video that went into the reality of the dairy industry. I was horrified and straight away I didn't want anything to do with the dairy products," she said.
"I thought, if I couldn't cope with watching it happen, but I was buying the product, I was inadvertently funding it," she added.
Jacqui's son Skipp soon followed her footsteps, after watching the 2017 documentary 'The Land of Hope and Glory' with his mother, which showcases the UK's farming practices.
"All of the kids have made their own decisions and have recognized why they are vegan. Some parents say 'you're not having that and that', but we wanted the kids to understand why we do it, take on the information and decide for themselves," Jacqui said of her kids' lifestyle choices.
However, for Skye, the dietary transition took a little longer because she was afraid to watch the documentaries featuring the farming practices.
"Once I watched them it was easy. I now want to know where my food has come from and how," Skye said.
The youngest child Cadan was switched to vegan milk alternatives after he suffered a variety of digestive issues from consuming dairy milk.
"Even Cadan understands exactly - he knows that the baby animals suffer and are taken from their mommies and he doesn't believe in that," Jacqui said.
However, for Ryan, the journey to veganism has been very different from his family since his father was a butcher. He grew up surrounded by the farming industry and used to frequently visit slaughterhouses.
"Dad was a highly respected butcher and worked part-time on a farm and neighbours would bring animals around to be skinned and plucked. It wasn't abnormal for me to be around dead animals for much of my life," he said.
"I would help put animals on trailers and get the animals into the slaughterhouses and it was all normal to me. I witnessed chickens being killed on the farm, I worked on the turkey line just before Christmas and I always just thought 'we need animals to be healthy and strong'," Ryan added.
He initially opted for veganism due to health reasons, after his father passed away, and Jacqui's mother was diagnosed with bowel cancer.
"I wanted us and our family to live a life as healthy and as nutritiously as possible so that we could live as long as possible," Ryan noted.
The family said that a very common misconception about vegans is that they are "militant" and "crazy".
However, they claimed that they have no problem with other people's decision to eat meat, but their refusal to understand the processes behind the meat and dairy processes.
Jacqui said that she doesn't want vegans to be called crazy, but she wants to make people aware by explaining them the processes. And the family often practices this through social media but this has taken an ugly shape leading to losing friends and family.
Jacqui noted that it is "corrupt" to sell a product without "transparency".
"A lot of people don't realize, and I think we are manipulated by the industry to think everything is happy and everything is great. I think that it is corrupt to sell a product without transparency," she said.
"So when I started posting about it and raising awareness, I lost a lot of my friendships - because they were telling me to be quiet about it," the nutritionist added.
Jacqui said that she lost many friends because they wanted "to inform people" about the processes.
"If I had just gone vegan and kept quiet about it, my friends would have probably left me alone. But the breaking of friendships was mostly because we wanted to inform people," she said.
Living in Cornwall, the family is faced with increased pressure for being vegan as they are surrounded by agricultural farming. Many of the kids' classmates are from farming families.
However, the parents noted that they are not anti-farmers, but are against the "process and lack of transparency".
"We are not against farmers, they are intelligent people that we need in this world - it's the process we are against and the lack of transparency. If we are moving towards a vegan world we will need farmers and we want to work with them - because we need them," Ryan said.
Jacqui and Ryan stated that veganism is all about replacing meat and dairy options with healthier alternatives. According to the couple, it is as easy as replacing meat with chickpeas, lentils and beans now that vegan alternatives are so readily available.
"The main thing we do is swap meat for beans, lentils, and chickpeas. We eat lots of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. We then replace meat with legumes and swap dairy milk and cheese to plant-based alternatives," the parents said.
They also said that they don't feel like they are missing out on something due to their choice of lifestyle.
"As long as we do that we seem to be thriving. Everywhere we go to eat out we can have pretty much anything. We don't feel like we are missing out," the couple said.
The family's lifestyle choice has also encouraged Jacqui's father John and his wife Sarah to follow suit.
Vegan family opens up about being bullied over choice of lifestyle