There's an interesting debate raging in this thread between the veg*ns and the meat-eaters. I find it interesting, because on the one hand, there are veg*ns claiming that veg*ns don't prosletyze, despite the presence of people doing just that upthread. On the other hand, what the veg*ns are talking about is a very real phenomenon: meat-eaters who are angry at you for not eating meat.

Most vegetarians and vegans do not, in fact, prosletyze. While I do explain, when asked, my decision to only eat humanely raised meat, I've never finished up with " . . . and that's why you should too, you cruel, thoughtless bastard." Nonetheless, many people react as if I'd tacked on this last phrase, and spit. What the hell is wrong with me? Don't I understand that meat tastes good? That certified humane meat is expensive? That animals would do the same, and worse, to each other . . . etc. Yes, yes, thank you Dr. Insight, I have in fact heard each and every one of these devastating arguments at least a hundred times.

Those who, like me, have made ethical choices about our diets that we haven't asked anyone else to emulate, find the aggressiveness of these encounters puzzling; most of us have come to the conclusion that it is a psychological defense mechanism employed by people who think that we're right, but don't want to make the modest hedonic sacrifice necessary to comply with this ethical position. So you're not only not persuading us to change our ways; you're reinforcing our belief in the correctness of our choice.

To be sure, in some cases I'm just undoubtedly standing in for the annoying minority of vegetarians who have rudely and repeatedly pressed their case. Not that this is any more enjoyable for me. Please, if you would, go find the crushing boor who lectured you on your diet and prosecute your case with him. I'm perfectly willing to discuss why I do what I do, if you're interested, but while I'm happy to have converts, I'm not interested in recruiting them at the point of a verbal sword.

Meanwhile, vegetarians who feel that they must lecture the Great Unwashed: how many people have you converted? Count them up, right now. The answer would be "none", wouldn't it? Yes, that's right, the people you're hectoring are about as likely to come into the fold through your lectures as you are to be reborn in Christ through the efforts of that guy shouting about the Whore of Babylon on the 42nd Street subway steps. Just as he makes Christianity less attractive through his histrionics, you are, by convincing potential converts that vegetarians are a bunch of humorless jerks who spend most of their time lecturing hapless diners, probably driving people away. Plus, you're not only annoying them; you're annoying me by proxy. Please stop.

If you want people to become vegetarians, show them that it's not so bad to be a vegetarian. Feed them good vegetarian food. Have fun vegetarian parties. Live to be 100. It really is possible to lead a rich, satisfying meat-free life. But you wouldn't know it from the free-lance preachers in the hemp shoes.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.