It’s never been easier to be vegan, but as we enter a world where vegan food has become mainstream, we need to realize that veganism is actually a “Utopian Ideal” that vegans are constantly struggling towards. 2019 has been dubbed the “Year of the Vegan” and is expected to skyrocket in the next 5 years. Because of that exponential growth, we’ve entered a new era of veganism, where things aren’t black and white. Where vegans have started to self-implode over the grey area of what is and isn’t vegan.
Traditionally, in the past, vegans supported non-vegan companies because they wanted to show that there is a demand for those products. That has been the strategy for the past few decades, mostly because those were the only options. In this new era of veganism, we’ve been inundated with new vegan companies and products and now vegan food is everywhere. This shift has changed the way vegans perceive non-vegan companies.
The future of vegan food will be from non-vegan companies
Veganism is becoming more mainstream and with that comes many conundrums. Being vegan used to be easier, where if there weren’t any animal products in the food, it was dubbed vegan, no matter what company created the product. Now, there’s a growing concern over the companies themselves and how vegan-friendly they are. Gardein is owned by Tyson (one of the largest chicken producers in the US), Tyson is a major investor in Beyond Meat, Daiya sold out to a pharmaceutical company, JUST and Impossible Foods tested on animals. At this point, if you’re not growing your own vegetables, is anything really vegan?
Take a household name like Amy’s, which has been a favorite for vegans in the past. Can’t one argue that buying a vegan product like a frozen burrito or mac and cheese from Amy’s does more harm than buying an Impossible Burger? Amy’s has killed and continues to kill more animals than Impossible through the production of animal-based products.
Vegans are doing more harm than good by criticizing these companies who are making veganism mainstream- which is what we’ve been fighting for, for decades. By boycotting companies like Impossible Foods, vegans are actually harming animals, rather than helping them.
Food technology and innovation is our friend, not the enemy
The world is shifting to a more vegan focus, but it’s not going to happen overnight and it’s not going to happen in the way that we may like. Companies like JUST and Impossible Foods have created new innovative products that the world has never seen before. The creation of a vegan scrambled egg is revolutionary for vegan food. No longer can meat eaters say “I could never give up eggs” because a great vegan version now exists. Popular Science named the JUST egg one of the Top Innovations of 2018, but they had to perform tests on animals to receive FDA approval for using mung bean protein isolate.
That leads us to the controversy surrounding the Impossible Burger, which started the uproar across the vegan community for creating a new plant-based ingredient, soy leghemoglobin or heme, which imitates beef burgers taste and texture. Both of these ingredients were tested on animals in order to receive FDA approval to be sold in major grocery stores, like Walmart, and on the international market. The FDA has never approved of an ingredient to be mass marketed to consumers and sold on the international market without animal testing results. The outrage should be directed at the FDA requiring outdated animal testing methods, not at the companies who are following the law and making vegan products more mainstream.
If vegans refuse to consider a product vegan if the ingredients have been tested on animals, that means we cannot move forward with food technology and innovation. It means that the ingredients we have right now are good enough to make the world go vegan and that cannot be FURTHER from the truth. The world has not gone vegan and we need to continue to innovate and make vegan products better for meat eaters to replace animal-based foods with plant-based foods. The success of these companies means that billions of animals every year would be saved from slaughter.
This includes advocating for “clean meat” or lab-grown meat. If people can still eat animal protein, without having to kill an animal, why aren’t vegans supporting that? Not saying that as vegans we would eat it, but for everyone else who would- it’s something we need to support. PETA has invested a significant amount of money into the creation of lab-grown meat, but guess what? Those products will end up being tested on animals before being sold to consumers, in order to follow FDA regulations.
How many animals can you save with an “all or nothing” approach
If the goal is to support companies who are doing the least amount of damage, causing the least amount of harm, then companies like Impossible Foods and JUST are more vegan than companies that have been household names for decades, like Boca, or Amy’s, who actively sell animal-based products.
A huge victory for animals came just days ago when Burger King announced they will be testing Impossible Burgers at their locations in St. Louis, which will hopefully lead to a nationwide roll-out. Simply exposing non-vegans to an equally delicious version of the Burger King Whopper that doesn’t contain animal ingredients, is a huge victory! Last year, White Castle also started to offer the Impossible Burger at all of their locations and far exceeded sales expectations. Additionally, the Beyond Burger has been successfully launched at all Carl’s Jr. locations and will start rolling out this month at Del Taco’s around the country. You cannot deny the importance of plant-based meat being offered at some of the largest fast-food chains in the country.
Why aren’t we celebrating this success? Instead, we’ve become “vegan nazi’s” who troll facebook groups waiting to call people out for eating a product that “isn’t vegan,” even though the ingredients in the food don’t contain animal products. Vegans fighting with vegans and people trying to revoke others “vegan card” is completely ineffective. No one is perfect.
“We need to worry less about being right, and more about being effective”. ~ Dr. Melanie Joy.
We need to look at the bigger picture and change our strategy about how to continue to replace traditional meat made out of dead animals, with meat made out of plants. The world is finally realizing you CAN eat delicious food without killing animals, which is what vegans have been fighting for this whole time.