From The “Bias Makes You Stupid” Files, “Vegans” Section…

In a memorable “Seinfeld” episode, George secretly adds lobster meat to eggs he cooks for a group breakfast at a vacation cottage gathering. His goal: to get his revenge on a female Jewish guest who embarrassed him, and whose faith forbids her from eating shellfish. Luckily for George, she wasn’t allergic to shellfish.

Now we are learning about a real life episode in which a woman’s new roommate, a vegan, decided to do “something nice” and switched the woman’s typical breakfast food with vegan alternatives. The roomie, Erin, presented pancakes, bacon strips, and hash browns for her new friend, who unbeknownst to her had  severe food allergies. The woman asked Erin what was in the food, and was told “it was regular bacon. Not that it was fake bacon or that it had soy.”

After the woman took a few bites, Erin  revealed the switch, smiling. “At this point, she does a ‘Ta-da,’ and smugly told us ‘I bet it tastes exactly like meat,'” Erin’s victim wrote. She is highly allergic to soy, and began going into anaphylactic shock. An ambulance had to rush her to the hospital, where she remained for two days.

The woman filed a complaint with the police. Food tampering is a felony.  Erin had to plead guilty, receiving community service instead of jail time. The woman with the allergy also sued Erin for damages and won that case as well after Erin refused to pay the hospital bill.

Apparently the woman Erin poisoned is feeling pangs of remorse, writing on Reddit,

“I know she is the asshole for lying about food. I wanna know whether I am the asshole for everything I did after. Because bottom line is, I basically screwed a person’s life because they put wrong ingredients on breakfast that they made only ‘to do something nice.'”

I’m not making this an ethics quiz because the answer to that question is clear. Tampering with anyone’s food and lying about the ingredients is dangerous and a betrayal of trust. Erin deserved everything that happened to her, and arguably more.

The fact that she was only trying to do “something nice” is relevant only to how serious a crime she committed. Erin’s an idiot, and presumptuous to boot. Lying to someone about what they are eating isn’t “nice” by definition. (See: “Titus Andronicus.”)

There’s a rationalization relevant here; in fact, there are a lot of them on the list that cover this stupid, irresponsible roommate’s “nice” deception or her belief that she shouldn’t be held accountable for its unintended consequences.

  • 10. The Unethical Tree in the Forest, or “What they don’t know won’t hurt them.”
  • 13. The Saint’s Excuse: “It’s for a good cause”1
  • 3A The Road To Hell, or “I meant well” (“I didn’t mean any harm!”)
  • 19. The Perfection Diversion:“Nobody’s Perfect!” or “Everybody makes mistakes!”
  • 19A The Insidious Confession, or “It wasn’t the best choice.”
  • 29. The Altruistic Switcheroo: “It’s for his own good”
  • 38. The Miscreant’s Mulligan or “Give him/her/them/me a break!”
  • 55. The Scooby Doo Deflection, or “I should have gotten away with it!”
  • 58. The Golden Rule Mutation, or “I’m all right with it!”
  • 61. The Paranoid’s Blindness, or “It’s not me, it’s you.”
  • 63. Yoo’s Rationalization or “It isn’t what it is”
  • 64. Irrelevant Civility or “But I was nice about it!”
  • 64A. Bluto’s Mistake or “I said I was sorry!”

She was so certain that her lifestyle as a vegan was the right lifestyle for everyone that she felt entitled to impose it on someone else.

What’s the best word to describe someone like that?


19 thoughts on “From The “Bias Makes You Stupid” Files, “Vegans” Section…

  1. Nazi. Seriously? I just wouldn’t ding her for intentionally poisoning her roommate, since it was not her intent to do that. Still, that was pretty bad. Look, I am all for occasionally eating a meatless meal, as a practicing Catholic I sometimes must, but it’s just plain wrong (and annoying, and obnoxious) to tell someone else what is and isn’t ok to eat.

    Just for the record, the whole fish thing in Catholicism is dumb in my opinion, but, I didn’t make the rules. It’s bloody silly that I could go to the Oceanaire seafood room, the 11th most expensive restaurant in New Jersey, on a Friday during Lent or on Good Friday, order up their most expensive fish dish, and be perfectly all right, but if I eat a cheap burger, I’ve done wrong.

  2. Erin is an elitist. She looks at her meat-eating roommate and sees an idiot. Erin is so certain of her superior vegan morals, she thinks she’ll be enlightening her roommate by feeding her facon, telling her it’s actually pork. Erin’s meat-eating roommate’s palate is unsophisticated and won’t know the difference and who will be grateful for having their horizon & world view shifted into something that will make her a better person.
    Erin is also lucky that her roommate didn’t die and isn’t facing prison instead of community service. Lastly, Erin won’t learn anything from this experience.

  3. Just another nascent totalitarian that thinks she is justified in tricking someone if the desired outcome is achieved. If the poisoned friend had ended up not poisoned and liking the food, her so-called friend would have considered it a victory for the right side of history. The ends justify the means with people like this. It’s a mark of how corrupted her thinking is that she refused to pay for a hospitalization she caused. Like all extremists, she doesn’t think she did anything wrong.

  4. I think if she intended to “do something nice” she would’ve made food her roommate liked and preferred and usually had. This wasn’t that. This was more of a “see what I like, you should too?!” Tactic. I’ll sneak it in for you and you’ll see how good my way is. That’s how I view this. I’m a bit less sympathetic, but hey, maybe I’m overly cynical and she was trying to “be nice”.
    “I’m on the right side of history.” Is the argument vegetarians seem to use. The rest of us are simply not as cultured, if only we would try it!!

  5. “Elitist” and “totalitarian” are pretty good words. “Nazi”…? Strong, but I get the context for sure. I’m going to add “ignorant” as well. Until someone has spent time around a person with serious food allergies, it’s incredibly difficult to understand how something like soy or shellfish or peanuts can kill a person. We struggle to grasp the truth that something as simple as food can be deadly. I was one of those people…once. “Ignorant” described me…and maybe Erin as well.

    Then I married a woman with severe food allergies and it didn’t take long for me to be introduced to an entirely new reality. The new normal is reading every…EVERY…ingredient of every…EVERY…food product we purchase in every…EVERY…store, health market or no. Shopping (which I don’t like in the first place) takes two or three times longer for us than most people. It’s foregoing nearly every restaurant in existence simply because the cooks don’t always know where there food originates, nor what it’s been exposed to. It’s knowing that a cook might touch an allergen accidentally, not realize it’s happened, then touch my wife’s food. It is (almost 100% of the time) requiring a host that invites us to dinner to provide us with the labels of everything they use in the dinner we are served. Usually it involves skipping the dinner altogether or my wife just taking her own food and eating it rather than trusting her well-being – and potentially her life – to the care of the food decisions of others.

    A couple of months back, we decided to break our moratorium on eating out and visited a restaurant that had very well-defined allergy menus, separate cooking gear for allergy issues, and a squeaky-clean history in serving my wife. Fifteen minutes after leaving the restaurant – while we were in the car – my wife’s voice starting changing – the first sign of a reaction. I put the heel to the steel and got home as quickly as possible. After twenty minutes of relaxing and trying to ride it out – and with a full reaction firing up – I stuck her with the epi pen and called 9-1-1. Medics arrived six minutes later and began working. While in the ambulance her throat completely closed and they shot her again with a very high dose of adrenaline that opened her back up. She spent the night and the next morning in the ER before stabilizing. Had we waited another ten minutes to act, the outcome would likely have been very different. My wife might not be alive.

    The victim in this story did what she was supposed to… and what my wife must constantly do – ask what is in the food. An honest answer is expected and is vital. Erin’s lie about it being “regular bacon” was more than just subterfuge. It showed great ignorance, a complete lack of critical thinking, and a disregard for others. If a person asks what’s in the food they’re eating, there’s usually a important reason for it. To lie about it risks a horrific outcome.

  6. Jack, I attempted to post a comment a couple of times, but I think it may have gone to spam. If you are able to retrieve it, I would appreciate it very much. If it’s not possible, no biggie. Thanks!!

  7. Seems like an incredibly foolish risk to take just to try to make a point. It’s also incredibly arrogant to think it’s ok to mess with someone’s lifestyle because you think yours is so much better. Wow!!

  8. A lot of people on the reddit post where this is sourced have stated that there is no “vegetarian bacon” that looks or tastes at all like the real thing, so the victim should’ve noticed right off she was being bamboozled. Also, she asked about the bacon, She also admits that she didn’t say anything about her allergies until after the “surprise” was revealed.

    Lying about what you are serving is still bad, no question. But could someone really be charged with food tampering when they didn’t have any prior knowledge of the defendant’s allergies?

    • “Also, she asked about the bacon” was meant to be followed with “but she didn’t ask about the ingredients in any of the other items”.

    • I think so. At the linked story, it says that according to the Department of Justice, to be convicted of food tampering, it must be done “with reckless disregard for the risk that another person will be placed in danger of death or bodily injury.” Given the common presence of food allergies, I’d call this scenario “reckless disregard.”

    • I wondered about this, too. No doubt, not disclosing what was in the food in order to get the friend to eat it is the big problem here, but I would imagine that people with severe food allergies should make sure the allergy is made known to anyone who tries to get them to eat something.

  9. I’ve got a backlog of posts to catch up on, but I may as well start here.

    I’m wondering if this “new roommate” Erin even bothered to have a conversation about veganism with her new roommate, at which point the concept of substituting soy for meat should have come up, at which point Erin’s roommate would have mentioned her soy allergies.

    On the other hand, I would have expected someone with severe food allergies to be a bit more thorough in vetting food spontaneously provided to her. “Does it have soy? I’m allergic to soy.” (Just in case humans put soy sauce on bacon? I don’t know.) I suppose since she hadn’t had breakfast yet it’s understandable she wasn’t thinking clearly.

    Regardless, I’m seeing general negligence all around. That usually happens when people think they’re being tricky and clever, which is why I don’t try to be tricky and clever until I’ve run safety tests and planned for contingencies.

    That said, this episode reminds of that old Folger’s coffee crystal ad campaign.

    Erin: “I’ve replaced my roommates bacon breakfast with vegan soy substitutes! Let’s see if she notices.”
    Roommate: (goes into anaphylactic shock)
    Me: I think she noticed.

    • “On the other hand, I would have expected someone with severe food allergies to be a bit more thorough in vetting food spontaneously provided to her.”

      Soy is such a common ingredient in so many (often, unexpected) foods that the only rational response to being offered food by someone who isn’t fully aware of the condition is “thanks, but I have severe food allergies that could potentially kill me”. In fact, the pancakes and hash browns probably contained soy. And who’s to say the bacon (even it was real bacon) wasn’t cooked in soy oil?

      In this case, the person with the allergy was spectacularly careless and is 100% to blame.

      To answer the woman’s question: yes, she is an asshole.

      (see: this is not “echo chamber”)

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