Earth to Belle: What I Wish I Knew (Before Going Vegan)

Belle Zhao

A few weeks ago, I got in a small argument with a teacher at school. Now, usually when I disagree with her I don’t speak up because a) it’s too early in the morning and b) speaking up about what you believe in takes a lot of courage (something I don’t always have). I also don’t participate in class discussions because I’m just the TA (aka Teacher’s Assistant), so I’m usually busy grading papers and such. But on this particular day, I felt brave. So after class, I gave her a piece of advice.

But first, let me backtrack.This teacher isn’t your typical storybook Ms. Honey. She has a habit of talking down to her students and thinks very little of them. She’ll often ask her students what they did over the weekend or if they’ve heard what new executive order Trump is signing, and when no one responds, she exclaims, “God! You losers are so uncultured! If only you guys were as aware as me, maybe humanity could stand a chance!” And to be honest, I don’t know why people don’t respond. Maybe they’re scared of her, or maybe they really didn’t do anything over the weekend or don’t listen to the news. Maybe they really are losers. But that really isn’t for me to decide, nor do I think it’s okay for a teacher to be so condescending.

Along with her false sense of superiority, this teacher also likes to talk a lot about herself. She often tells us about her lifestyle habits, how she loves Kobe beef, and what new Broadway show her gay sugar daddy is bringing her to. However, on this particularly cloudy morning, because it pertained to her lecture, this teacher brought up the environment as a topic of discussion, only to be disappointed with the apathetic response she received in return. In response, she then began asking questions about water conservation, getting more agitated each time there was no reply from the class, only to finish off with, “Ugh! You people don’t care. What kind of a world do you want your children to grow up in?”

And that’s what got me: The fact that she is making herself up to be some green goddess.
As something of an environmentalist myself, I could see that my teacher had some holes in her logic, so when the school bell rang, I went over to her as the students shuffled out the door. And this is what I said:

Me: “Ms._______, you know, by passing up just one hamburger, you can save the same amount of water you would if you didn’t shower for three months.”

Her: “Say’s who? Where’d you get this from?”

Me: “I did my research. I write a column and I write a lot about these things. If you want to read about it, it’s called Earth to-”

Her: (interrupting me) “Your research is probably skewed. You know how easy it is to manipulate statistics? There’s this book you should read. A burger wouldn’t take up that much water.”

This caught me off guard. How could she just write me off like this when I know for a fact how much water it takes to raise a cow for beef? There are entire documentaries and research projects about this issue, which stress the benefits of limiting one’s meat intake (beef especially).


But what can I say? I can’t argue with someone who just immediately denies anything they don’t agree with.

Sounds a bit trumpy to me.

Regardless, I couldn’t stay long enough to have a real discussion, because I had to rush to my next class, so I ended up venting about my dispute with my teacher on a vegan Facebook group I’m a member of.

Amazingly, I got a lot of supportive responses very quickly. You can read them below; they helped me feel a lot better.

Being an environmentalist means standing up for the inconvenient truth, which takes a lot of courage. But no matter what topic you are discussing, when dealing with people who hold different opinions than you, it’s important to listen more than you speak. It’s just as important to back down as it is to step up. And if the other person is unwilling to listen, maybe that moment just isn’t the best time for them to understand your perspective.

When preparing to be openly vegan, you must also prepare yourself to deal with criticism and negativity. People will call you crazy for swimming against the current, but all it does is make you stronger. Listen to what the others say, but hold your chin up high and stand firm in what you believe in. Still, it is important you have patience with others, because otherwise you can’t expect anyone to be patient with you. Lead by example, and not by force.