Published in 2001, Living Among Meat Eaters: The Vegetarian’s Survival Handbook, is purported to be a much-needed text offering real-life advice to vegetarians facing resistance from omnivores. The book revolves around the belief that all meat-eaters are “blocked” vegetarians. Meaning that, essentially, while meat-eaters typically understand on some level that a plant-based diet is superior, they still chose to eat meat. This is, according to author Carol J. Adams, results in cognitive dissonance and an attitude of aggression toward vegetarians.
Living Among Meat Eaters: The Vegetarian’s Survival Handbook is broken into
several clearly defined sections: discussion of why meat-eaters are antagonistic toward vegetarians, how to handle discussion and argument with meat-eaters, how to live with meat-eaters, and easy vegetarian (and now somewhat outdated) recipes to share. The premise of this book is excellent. For vegetarians, living in a meat-obsessed world is difficult. It is stressful to constantly be bombarded with imagery and behavior that contradicts your fundamental belief system. And, yet, this book may leave readers wanting.
Though several particular nuggets of advice are valuable (i.e. “Be at peace with your vegetarianism and help others to see that you are at peace with your diet” and “Always have a backup plan when eating out”), I could not help but feel that these pieces of advice would be more effective in a short form essay, rather than a 324-page book. What made this title readable was not the content of the text, but simply the fact that Adams, famously known for her landmark book The Sexual Politics of Meat, is, quite frankly, a talented writer.
While, fundamentally, there may be some truth to Adams’ thesis, ultimately, the text is not very convincing. Very few facts are presented throughout the text. Adams, instead, relies heavily on collected anecdotes. Sure, every vegetarian has a story of being harassed or insulted by a meat-eater. However, these stories simply aren’t enough to create a convincing explanation of why these stories are so common. Consider this book a long, speculative conversation with a friend, rather than a fact-based analysis of the relationship between meat-eaters and vegetarians.