Opinion: I asked vegans a simple question. This is the response I got

I thought there was no better place to begin my research than to start some conversations with vegans.
I thought there was no better place to begin my research than to start some conversations with vegans. Photo credit: Getty Images

OPINION: I was recently indulging in my guilty pleasure - an online British tabloid called The Tab - when I spotted an article entitled '29 things you thought were vegan, but are actually not'. 

The food, drinks and everyday products that were included in the article shocked me, and I raised the idea of compiling my own list with a Kiwi spin.

Disclaimer: I am not vegan, but I belong to a few vegan Facebook groups, because of my interest in the plant-based diet, and because I like to cook for and dine with many of my vegan friends. 

I thought there was no better place to begin my research than to start some conversations in three different New Zealand vegan Facebook groups.

My post in three different Facebook groups.
My post in three different Facebook groups. Photo credit: Emma Clark

I am well aware of the stereotypes, memes and jokes that are made about vegans - that they are a cult and look down upon anyone who doesn't live their elitist plant-based lifestyle.

Personally, I have massive respect for vegans - what they are trying to do for the planet and our future is commendable, especially when they face "vegan bashing" on a daily basis.

For these reasons, I assumed I would be able to ask my seemingly innocent question without getting attacked. I was very wrong.

I expected some negative feedback because you can't escape trolls -  but I didn't expect to stir up intense anger.

I thought I had made it clear in my post what I was asking, and for what reason. At first, the comments were extremely helpful, and many gave me things to investigate.

But soon enough, the nasty comments started rolling in. At first, people were suspicious of my actions - wondering how I would portray vegans or if I was going to turn it into an article about how vegans were hypocrites.

I replied to a few of these people, repeating something along these lines: "I would never angle an article in a disrespectful way, I am just using this group as a chance to gather information. Thanks for your interest in the article!"

Within an hour, the suspicion had turned into judgments. People were accusing me of creating drama.

"You've been offered the truth. Now will you skew it, I wonder?" one person wrote. 

Another person questioned my journalistic integrity.

"Is this 'journalist' even vegan? This just seems like low standard lazy journalism... I think it would be fair to the group if this 'journalist' were to actually state what they are trying to achieve in this article," they wrote.

When one person tried to defend my post, another said they were doing it for the animals.

"Some of us are vegan, and aren't interested in tip-toeing around the sensitivities of human beings when it comes to fighting for animals," they wrote.

My author page was linked by a moderator, who recommended the group have a read of my previous work before commenting.

Many wanted me to answer questions that had nothing to do with what I was asking, wondering what "problems I would solve," by writing what I thought would be a fun, helpful piece.

I had to sit back and take a breath. I hadn't written a single thing, apart from my post. How was I already being ripped to pieces?

My posts spiralled out of control without me even engaging in them, and I managed to get kicked out of two of the three groups I had reached out to.

Vegans complain that they are stereotyped for being too preachy and self-righteous, but I had just been bullied by at least 50 people who didn't know me from a piece of tofu, after I turned to them for advice.

If you don't want to be judged for your lifestyle, don't indulge in the stereotypes that surround it.

At the end of the day, we're all just trying to get a job done - whether that be saving the planet, or writing an article.

Emma Clark is a social media producer at Newshub.

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