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SWM seeks SWF for long walks on the beach, and leafy greens

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Eric and Diana Brent met on a vegetarian dating Web site. They now regularly enjoy vegetarian meals together, like this dish at Blossoming Lotus in Kauai. (courtesy: Eric Brent) (Courtesy Eric Brent)

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***Please note small file size: 1278 pixels by 856 pixels*** Eric Brent, a vegan, and his wife Diana, a vegetarian, met through a vegetarian dating site three years ago. Here they are at a vegetarian festival in San Francisco. (courtesy of Eric Brent) (Courtesy Eric Brent)

SF Veg Fest2006.JPG

***Please note small file size: 1278 pixels by 856 pixels*** Eric Brent, a vegan, and his wife Diana, a vegetarian, met through a vegetarian dating site three years ago. Here they are at a vegetarian festival in San Francisco. (courtesy of Eric Brent) (Courtesy Eric Brent)

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***Please note small file size: 1200 pixels by 900 pixels*** Jason Doucette, creator of veganporn.com, an informational Web site for vegans (not actually pornography), and his girlfriend, Angela, met while volunteering at a vegetarian association in Toronto. They have been together for five years. (courtesy of Jason Doucette) (Courtesy Jason Doucette)

It’s not easy being green. Just ask Eric Brent.

A strict vegetarian, Brent, 40, founder of the vegetarian Web site happycow.net, said he “did a lot of online dating” trying to find the perfect mate. And for him, that perfect mate had to be a vegetarian.

“I feel like I reached a point where the idea of finding a perfect soul mate might happen to someone with good luck,” he said. “Finding someone with a common base was what I was looking for.”

Then he found Diana Hsieh (now Brent). Not only was she a vegetarian, but she loved to travel and was an animal rights advocate. Within a year, they were married.

“It’s such a blessing,” said Diana Brent, 30, who now works on happycow.net with her husband in Los Angeles. “I can’t imagine living in a household with a person who’s cooking meat.”

The vegetarian population is quite small, about 1 to 5 percent of the population. Finding love among these strict vegetarian singles, the so-called "ecosexuals," can be difficult.

“If you have compassion for animals and your soul mate is eating one, you’re going to diverge,” said Chris Beckley, head of the Vegetarian Society of Colorado in Denver. As a result, Beckley says, the vegetarian population is full of “available, nice single people who are single for a long time."

And if a vegetarian is a vegan--someone who doesn’t eat or use any animal products, like eggs, milk or wool--that dating pool can get even smaller. It is estimated that about 5 percent of vegetarians are vegan.

Lovelorn vegetarians have inspired several Web sites like veggiedate.org, veganpassions.com and vegetarianpassions.com. As with match.com and other dating sites, members create profiles of their personal characteristics, likes and dislikes. They then search through the profiles that match their own, looking for that special someone.

Because being vegetarian narrows the playing field, some are forced to date nonvegetarians.

“If you’re a vegetarian for health, it might not be a big deal,” said veggiedate.org creator Steve Urow, making the distinction between vegetarians who don’t eat meat because they believe it is good for their health, compared with vegetarians who don’t eat meat for ethical reasons.

Some vegans have a much different view.

“It would be comparable to a strong civil rights advocate dating an old-fashioned racist; just wouldn’t work,” said Paul R. Amato, a sociologist at Pennsylvania State University who co-authored the book "The New Vegetarians: Promoting Health and Protecting Life."

“There’s the meat kisses,” said Jason Doucette, of Toronto, who created the Web site veganporn.com, a forum for vegans that has nothing to do with pornography. “Not the greatest thing to think about if you’re a vegetarian, what was in that mouth 20 minutes ago.”

And while there are some success stories of vegetarians who dated nonvegetarians and converted them, those are rare cases.

“I wouldn’t want someone to convert for me,” said C.J. Eliasson, 33, of Boulder, Colo., who started the Vegan Chamber of Commerce, an online directory of vegan businesses. “I want them to do it for themselves.”

While some vegetarians can’t imagine dating an animal eater, some strict vegans won’t even date vegetarians. That makes dating a more daunting task than it is for the rest of the population.

“I did date a vegetarian briefly,” said Doucette, a vegan. “She’d order something, and I couldn’t eat off her plate. That didn’t last too long, but I think there were deeper issues.”

Others stand their ground.

“I’m considered extremely picky because I won’t date anyone but a vegan,” Eliasson said. “It does make it difficult.”

For vegans, avoiding animal products is a lifestyle change, not just a diet issue. Many vegans are active in the animal rights and environmental movements. Because the issues are so important to them, many want those issues to be important to the people they date as well.

“I think when you’re dating someone, there’s a couple of factors you can’t compromise on,” Urow said. “I think the vegan lifestyle is a big enough thing for some people to not compromise on.”

Veganpassions.com and vegetarianpassions.com will connect vegetarians with nonvegetarians, but at veggiedate.org, all members must be vegetarian to some degree. The site lists different levels of vegetarianism: "almost vegetarian," "vegetarian "and “veggie/veganish.”

Sarah Eades, 49, a registered nurse in Bloomington, Ind., is “semi-vegetarian" because she had to add meat back to her diet for health reasons. She signed up for veggiedate.org because she feels comfortable with the vegetarian lifestyle. She has been corresponding with a man named Bob for the past two months. Bob’s profile, she said, seemed open to those who weren't strictly vegetarian.

“His wording didn’t indicate that he was 'Nazi-like' about being vegetarian,” she said.

But dating is difficult for vegetarians and nonvegetarians alike.

“Dating in general is hard,” Beckley said. “In a good marriage or relationship, you have common interests and different interests. There are enough common interests to keep you together.”

“It’s a matter of how you approach it,” said Doucette, who met his girlfriend of five years while volunteering at a vegetarian association.

“Then again, you can always make vegans,” he said, referring to meat eaters and vegetarians who convert to stricter diets. “If it goes well, you can make a bunch of little vegans.”

E-mail: hjc2114@columbia.edu