I CONFESS, I was once a meat fanatic. There was a time in my life when I could not understand how people would willingly avoid bacon or steaks.
The fact that a certain group of people eschewed all animal products was, quite simply, unbelievable to me.
No leather boots? No honey? By choice?!
I would often hassle my vegan and vegetarian friends about their dietary choices, and needless to say, we did not remain friends for long.
In a funny twist of fate, this sixth-generation cattle rancher ended up dating a rather hardcore vegan. In an effort to better understand his lifestyle, I adopted a vegetarian lifestyle.
Hummus replaced hamburgers, tofu replaced steak and fakin' bacon replaced meat bacon. To say my diet changed dramatically would be an understatement.
Despite my best effort, a meatless lifestyle did not work for me, and soon, I happily returned to my omnivore diet.
However, my foray into a different belief and diet was an eye-opening experience, and it taught me a great lesson: Being able to make an informed decision about my diet was no one's business but my own, and receiving unsolicited advice about my choice was often hurtful.
Recently, I found myself in a similar position once again, but this time, others told me their opinions about my choice to raise pastured heritage hogs.
A vegan website had directed its followers to my blog, Thebeefjar.com, in an effort to shame me into not butchering my own hogs for my dinner table.
I invited two of my urban friends to raise hogs with me, an "adult 4-H" project, if you will. On my blog, I posted an account of our journey with these pigs, from weaners to finished hogs to slaughter to processing.
By sharing my experience, I provided a transparent window to not only my urban friends but thousands of people who are yearning to learn more about different types of hog production.
Imagine my surprise when I started receiving derogatory comments on my blog regarding the slaughter of my hogs -- everything from being called a sociopath to being compared to a mother killing her children.
The ironic thing was that many of the fanatical commenters acknowledged what a great life my hogs enjoyed. It was rather confusing to be singled out and vilified for providing the best life I could for my hogs while teaching other women animal husbandry skills.
Being a fanatic in your belief only serves to alienate and turn people off from seeing your point of view, which is generally the opposite of your goal.
I realized that the hard way by losing friends and acquaintances when I criticized their dietary choices. I learned that lesson again when others questioned my choice to raise my own food.
Omnivores and vegans will probably never be on the same page when it comes to animals, but it's important that we respect each other's choices to foster communication and understanding.
*Megan Brown is a blogger and sixth-generation rancher who raises Black Angus cattle in northern California. From 4-H as a child to FFA as a teen to receiving her bachelor's degree in agricultural business from California State University-Chico, agriculture has been Brown's lifelong passion. Read more on her website at www.thebeefjar.com, or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.