Farmers vs Vegans

Cow in a field

Farmers seem to have a beef with vegans these days.

While this is nothing new, it seems the rise in plant-based products on supermarket shelves and the rising number of vegans is starting to get on their nerves.

The farming community has become more vocal in its opposition to any mention of the word “vegan” in the last few months, so as reports suggest more and more people are set to enjoy a meat-free Christmas I can only guess that pro-farming pressure groups such as the NFU and Countryside Alliance (a pro-blood sports group in the main) will increase their pressure on the now powerful vegan pound.

A recent article for the i newspaper not only highlighted the growing number of people intending to eat plant-based this Christmas but also pointed out that according to the Vegan Society, the number of vegans has quadrupled in the UK since 2014.

https://inews.co.uk/inews-lifestyle/food-and-drink/christmas-dinner-vegan-food-waitrose-1343981?fbclid=IwAR1b1bybyhIgNfi_ak0UiXrk56JVoSjf8HOMlIki4SsnoDBJ-iqevf1Ecbk

Of course, the seeds of discord were sown in response to both the 2019 and 2018 Vegan Campout events. Already controversial among vegans for the choice of venue, the Countryside Alliance spat out its dummy over a vegan event taking place on land usually reserved for agricultural shows. Maybe somebody should tell them that agriculture includes the growing of plants needed for a vegan diet?

In October, it was Tesco who faced the wrath of angry animal farmers when they dared to make an advert featuring a vegan sausage. This time, Piers Morgan wannabe Janet Street-Porter lambasted the humble plant-based cylinders in a Daily Mail tirade. Most vegans just laughed.

The NFU seems to be in competition with the Countryside Alliance as to who is the most vocal critic of veganism – and it was this Tesco campaign which saw the union throw its hat well and truly in the ring. Plant Based News also reported on the whole soap opera.

https://www.plantbasednews.org/culture/tesco-vegan-sausage-advert-branded-propaganda?fbclid=IwAR0Y7jVkbsHhZYhbNPDvrkWtSrZn580zpMBpaRvn0BY_JofuZY6io3t0WnY

The BBC provoked the red-faced fury of farmers not once, but twice in recent months. Firstly, a Christmas advert featured a turkey wearing an “I love vegans” sweater. They didn’t care that turkeys generally don’t wear sweaters, but how dare anyone promote vegans? Are we becoming too accepted for comfort?

“The NFU, which is concerned about the impact the ad will have on livestock producers, have now accused the BBC of being in breach of its impartiality rules by promoting veganism,” according to a piece in this article: https://www.farminguk.com/news/farmers-criticise-bbc-for-i-love-vegans-christmas-ad_54563.html?fbclid=IwAR3C0q9FU6b33wBf-okcwe4XuL2F7d3pCduEY7a_TMV3tiKeNNwYT4UWUwE

The numerous promotional items on livestock farming on the BBC’s Countryfile isn’t mentioned by the NFU.

Finally, the BBC actually produced a whole programme about the meat industry’s effect on the environment. Meat: A Threat To Our Planet? Was presented by Liz Bonnin and was also made available on the i-Player. It mainly centres around intensive American meat production. It is less concerned with animal welfare and focuses more on the environmental cost of eating meat.

The fact that going vegan is the best way an individual can reduce their carbon footprint seems lost on many of those who have complained. The most common attack seems to be that British livestock production is nowhere near as intensive as the American model. The individual lives of the animals involved seem irrelevant to all involved. This article in Farmers Weekly sums up the farming community’s anger: https://www.fwi.co.uk/news/farming-backlash-to-bbc-anti-meat-programme-continues

The Countryside Alliance has been responding to any anti-hunting story which appears over the last few years. The NFU seems to be taking a leaf out of their book and attacking anything that’s seen as “pro-vegan” recently. The notion of free speech doesn’t seem to register with either organisation.

Of course, this shows that veganism is now seen as a very real threat to the meat and dairy industries. The rise of the environmental movement has seen the industries come in for further criticism as prominent “green” figures ditch meat and dairy.

To be fair, such a backlash was to be expected. But the power of the vegan pound also cannot be underestimated. Supermarkets are filled with vegan products and even traditional meat and dairy companies (Greggs for example) are producing plant-based options.

The ethics of such moves is widely debated in vegan communities, but it does show that the demand is there. Instead of joining the diversification movement, many livestock and dairy producers instead choose to lash out at the competition.

This can be seen as a testament to the growing influence of veganism.

2020’s Veganuary is expected to be the biggest yet, so the growth in veganism shows no sign of abating. I’ll raise a vegan cider to that!

Do people really hate vegans?

Vegan protest

A recent article in The Guardian attempted to explain why people hate vegans.

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/oct/25/why-do-people-hate-vegans?fbclid=IwAR1Y_ZIehJTDu-REZWpqTCnnpOz_MgS2wRim2D2gA7eZOKjU3rUwY2q-cHw

With a provocative headline, the article is rather long, in-depth and, despite being full of history and good points, low on answers.

People dislike trends, there’s always a backlash against them and veganism is definitely a growing trend. People like to fight online and love the number of “likes” when they criticise veganism – Piers Morgan helped Greggs sell millions of vegan sausage rolls through giving them free publicity and sparking a debate. In a world where news sites like to post as many stories as possible during a day, veganism has become a buzz word which is seen as gaining an instant reaction.

News pages know veganism – like fox hunting – is a contentious issue and they like to fuel the fire with negative and provocative headlines – because the more comments, the higher their page “hit” rates – and this, in turn, makes them appealing to advertisers.

People don’t like their conservative world shaken up and veganism challenges the safety of what they have been taught and grown up with. “I like the taste of meat” really has become a convenient reason for not giving up meat.

It also must be said that there are a fair few climate change deniers in the world, and veganism is inextricably linked to battling man-made climate change.

People don’t like being told what to do – with climate and veganism whey ignore the message like a little petulant child with their hands over their ears shouting “I can’t hear you, la-la-la” despite the fact that what they are being told is totally based on facts.

Veganism really does threaten two whole industries – the meat and dairy industries, so, naturally, those involved in those industries are going to react badly to vegans – especially when we openly savagely attack the way they make their livings. Even our very existence through our purchase power is a threat – and our marketing strategies are heavily attacked and countered by their advertising campaigns and PR departments – look at the NFU’s reaction to the latest Tesco advert https://www.livekindly.co/watch-tescos-controversial-new-vegan-sausage-commercial/

I found the reaction both chilling and a beacon of hope – chilling because it shows that those who use aggressive marketing themselves are prepared to try and suppress their competitors – the history of animal product marketing was highlighted in The Game Changers too (my review – https://veganonadesertisland.com/2019/09/22/the-game-changers-vegan-movie-review/ )

I see hope because it shows that the rise and rise of veganism continues and it does pose a threat to those very industry which it is designed to threaten. Let’s be blunt, if we oppose the consumption of animal products then we want to see an end to the industries which profit from said products. Of course, the likes of Tesco who are cashing in on veganism also sell a vast array of animal products – maybe that’s exactly why farmers are fearful – think about it.

Finally, it has to be asked do people really hate vegans?

Behind the safety of a keyboard, I think may commenting on social media threads come across as anti-vegan, in real life, however, my experience is one of gently Mickey taking rather than full-on hostility. Certainly, there’s the backlash from the expected sectors of society, but on the whole, people I’ve worked with are considerate when it comes to going out for meals etc – after all, it has to be said, most people are still not vegan. We still have the freedom to protest in this country too, so vegans highlighting abuse and cruelty where they see it is carrying on this right and tradition – such protest just receive more publicity in the era of social media and as protests are more in people’s faces they have a greater impact – and more of a backlash. I don’t believe it’s anything personal.

Vegans just have to (sausage) roll with it

What’s the new Greggs’ Vegan Sausage Roll like?

That isn’t a rhetorical question, I really want to know – well, sort of, I can’t afford one right now.

I used to love the Holland and Barrett ones – cold and dipped in soup or warm and covered in ketchup – we all have different ways of eating sausage rolls – right?

The Linda McCartney ones are divine hot and the little Tesco own ones are cheap and my choice to stick in my pocket while I’m at work. The best ones, of course, are those made at home – with an array of vegan sausages available, it really isn’t that hard. Here’s an example: https://www.thevegspace.co.uk/recipe-easy-vegan-sausage-rolls/

While in Blackpool last summer, my friends were raving about the vegan-friendly sausage rolls at the Poundbakery – two for a quid apparently. I found a pie shop which had vegan pies instead, but I love the idea of cheap vegan food – I’m a working-class lad on a part-time wage, the falafel and avocado generation might as well inhabit a different planet to me.

But why all the fuss? Seriously. A new vegan product is rolled out as Veganuary launches its most successful campaign ever – so, why all the fuss?

Well, most of us who have been vegan for more than a couple of years have had issues with finding vegan-friendly food either locally, while we’re out, or at an affordable price – and since the advent of social media, vegans have become experts at doing marketing departments’ jobs for them. Although, the Twitter responses of Greggs have helped to propel the pastry product into the national spotlight: https://www.livekindly.co/greggs-shuts-down-piers-morgan-hating-on-vegan-sausage-roll/

greggs tweet

Of course, all publicity is good publicity, so enter stage right, the pantomime villain in the shape of Piers Morgan.  As you will have heard unless you live under a rock on the Planet Omnivore in the outer reaches of the Carnivorous Way system, you will have realised that the elation of Piers to vegan hate figure cause célèbre has not only helped Greggs boost their profits but has also helped to raise the profile of the man we all like to hiss at. Rumours that they share a PR company do seem more and more likely.

So, my friends, this is veganism in the 21st century – social media veganism if you will…. And, while I realise that social media is great for spreading the V-word, it can also dilute the message. For me it isn’t about sausage rolls, pantomime villains and PR stunts, it’s about getting more people to stop eating animals, to get more farmers to stop breeding animals for slaughter and for more people to make the connection between animal rights and what’s on their plate.