Psychology Today: Empathy is What Really Sets Vegetarians Apart (at least Neurologically Speaking)
NPR: Do Vegetarians And Vegans Think They Are Better Than Everyone Else?
(Warning: graphic picture)
Two quick points about the latter story:
By living ethically, those who don't eat animals represent an uncomfortable truth to people who still eat animals. One common defense mechanism is to change the subject. When dealing with a vegetarian, it makes sense for the non-veg person to make the vegetarian the issue and to ignore the plight of the animals. It is hard not to take attacks like this personally, and thus conversations can quickly degrade into insults.
However, we all know angry, arrogant vegans [cough
As we make clear in the prior two links, being angry is entirely justified. But as should also be clear, the furious, judgmental vegan makes it easy for non-veg people to ignore the animals' plight and continue to eat them. Thus, anger (and arrogance, and self-righteousness) hurts animals.
If we care more about the animals than our personal veganism or righteous anger, our singular purpose must be to help others open their hearts and minds to the animals' plight. From the "Countering the Stereotype" portion of A Meaningful Life:
It is not enough to be a vegan, or even a dedicated vegan advocate. We must remember the bottom line – reducing suffering – and actively be the opposite of the vegan stereotype. Just as we need everyone to look beyond the short-term satisfaction of following habits and traditions, we need to move past our sorrow and anger to optimal advocacy. We must learn “how to win friends and influence people,” so that we leave everyone we meet with the impression of a joyful individual leading a fulfilling and meaningful life.