How dare you call a vegan burger a vegan burger?

Non-vegans have a strange obsession with what we call vegan food.

Maybe it’s part of the “outrage culture”, maybe it’s because vegans have to be attacked on social media for, well, being vegan really, or is it because the rise and rise of veganism is considered a threat to those who profit from animal products? Equally, those who don’t wish to give up their carnist habit feel uncomfortable at the status quo tree being shaken by the relentless production of new plant-based foods.

In October 2018, news of a vegan fish and chip shop opening in Hackney, London provoked love from vegans and the predictable “you can’t call it fish” comments on social media. (https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/vegan-fish-chips-london-daniel-sutton-a8569006.html)

Predictable because we’ve heard it all before. But, let’s be honest, “fish and chip shops” sell sausages, beef burgers and mushy peas – none of which are made from fish. Vegan fish and chips often use battered banana blossom (https://www.finedininglovers.com/blog/food-drinks/banana-blossom/) as the “fish” – much better for you, the ocean and fish in general. At a time where everybody is shouting loudly “stop using plastic to save fish”, vegans yell back “stop eating fish to save fish”. So maybe, just maybe, we should applaud a vegan fish and chip shop very loudly indeed!

In April, this article caused widespread shock in the vegan world: https://www.newfoodmagazine.com/news/66326/france-meat-labelling/

The French law claims to protect consumers by doing away with misleading labels by banning calling veggie sausages veggie sausages. Personally, I thought sausages, burgers etc were a description of a shape – after all, you get beef, pork and veal sausages and burgers too. Oh, and vegan cheese is no longer vegan cheese and plant milk is no longer milk,

What does all this say to me? It tells me that the meat and dairy industry are worried by the rise in veganism – but trying to (and succeeding here and in Missouri) lawmakers to follow their biased business-influenced thinking is rather sinister.

The French move means food producers and retailers will face a €300,000 fine for attempting to market the likes of vegetarian sausage or vegan burgers. It was spearheaded by Jean-Baptiste Moreau, an MP and a farmer. Tweeting after the vote on April 19, Mr Moreau said: “It is important to fight against false claims: our products must be designated correctly. Terms like cheese or steak will be reserved for products of animal origin.” He’s not biased at all then!

In Missouri, a similar law has also been passed (https://www.marketwatch.com/story/in-missouri-you-can-now-go-to-jail-for-calling-tofu-meat-2018-08-29)  – so the threat is real. But is it a threat? Will this really stop people consuming plant-based products?

I doubt it. Nobody is really confused into thinking that oat milk comes from a cow or that vegan chicken burgers have any chicken in them – it’s a nonsensical distraction from the belief we vegans hold – meat and dairy production is cruel and unnecessary. But society likes to cook up irrelevant diversions to steer people away from the real issues. Social media is particularly good at this – as are politicians!

I like nuggets and meatless balls and some vegan sausages, and in this throwaway society, having vegan processed foods and meals available is essential in meeting consumer demand.

I do remember the days when veganism meant soya or black when it came to coffee and “vegan” cheese was a concept dreamt up somewhere over the rainbow. I love living over the rainbow now – and I do get a secret thrill from laughing at meat eaters “lose it” over stories such as the vegan fish and chip shop opening.

The other point is that we are moving beyond soya. It isn’t so long since newspapers were proclaiming how great jackfruit is as a pulled pork substitute (https://veganonadesertisland.com/2018/08/10/id-rather-jack-the-meat-substitute-thats-actually-a-fruit/) and seitan is getting a really good reputation as a versatile and tasty meat substitute – although gluten isn’t gluten-free – since stating the obvious seems to be the whole reasoning behind my need to write this post.

 

Vegan Star Wars – the animal rights messages in The Last Jedi

Warning: Contains spoilers!

There a couple of strong animal rights messages in Star Wars: The Last Jedi – this is in addition to the new Viva ad being shown before the showing I attended.

Luke Skywalk shoving a beaker into the breasts of a dinosaur-like creature and gulping down its milk had many in the audience gasping. It’s not a huge leap to realise that this is the reality of milk – one species, stealing the breast milk of another species – milk meant for the babies of said other species.

The docile-looking creature in the Last Jedi certainly looked as if she was pregnant – and Rey reacted with distaste – as many people do when presented with the realities of the dairy industry. Animals are, of course, forcibly made pregnant in order to produce milk for us. Luke’s taking of a wild creature’s milk, directly from her mammary glands, produces a revulsion we should all feel at the taking of a mother cow’s milk directly from her udders – after all, that’s what we’re drinking – it’s just that a machine is stealing it from her.

Then we had Chewbacca coming face-to-face with a porg as he is about to tuck into what looks like a roasted porg. The cute little creatures mirror our reactions to the thought of eating dog or cat – when they are no different to cows or pigs – the latter two are certainly as intelligent as domesticated animals.

Chewie is surrounded by dozens of sad-eyes porgs as he can’t bring himself to chow down on his victim – this creature had a family and friends – it lived and is now dead. Chewie is hungry, but their eyes and reaction of the porgs convey a strong message to the audience.

Further on in the film, we have a strong liberation message in a thinly-veiled horse racing metaphor.

The fathers, are bet on in a Vegas-style setting and forced to race. These horse-like creatures are seen thundering around a greyhound stadium style track. But they are liberated by rebel heroes as a distraction – brilliant!

Again, it’s the audience reaction which is important – and their realisation that living animals are forced to race for human entertainment – while being held captive away from their friends and family.

The great plant-based ‘milk’ debate

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The rise and rise of plant-based dairy alternatives seems to be getting the farming community hot under the collar.

I guess it proves those who say “going vegan won’t change anything” wrong.

In June, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that vegan alternatives cannot use words like milk in product descriptions.

The case was brought by the German Competition Authority against TofuTown (sounds like my kind of place).

The EU Court ruled plant-based alternatives cannot be described using the terms ‘milk’, ‘cream’, ‘butter’, ‘cheese’ or ‘yoghurt’, as these are reserved by EU law for animal products. Finally, a reason for supporting Brexit (although there’s plenty of other reasons for being a ‘remoaner’).

Truth is, the dairy industry is panicking about the fact it’s losing sales to healthier, more ethical (not hard) to vegan-friendly alternatives. ( http://vegfestexpress.co.uk/tabs/blog/2017/02/dairy-free-plant-milks-market—the-future ).

In almond milk etc as “milk” on their websites – and to even stop stocking it next to dairy milks – maybe they’re scared dairy buyers will catch a conscience as they browse the shelves?

So, it seems as vegans up the ante in criticising the dairy industry, it is resorting to desperate measures to fight back. Remember, it is also pressure from the dairy industry that has led to the badger culls in the UK – despite the fact there is no evidence at all that badgers spread BOVINE TB ( https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jul/13/badger-cull-expansion-flies-in-face-of-scientific-evidence ). So, quite rightly, activists have drawn parallels with the dairy industry. Quite simply, buying dairy milk leads to dead badgers.

The furore follows last year’s great Gary Facebook debate, when Sainsbury’s launched their own brand of vegan cheese ( https://veganonadesertisland.com/2016/10/02/the-great-gary-review/ )

Sainsbury’s had some free marketing over that one – somebody thought that it was wrong to call the product “cheese”. It seems the desperation goes on and one…

So, why can’t market forces just accept that ethical living is on the rise? Big supermarkets are getting in on the act, major multi-nationals are making money out of veganism and the “middle class” vegan has a huge part to play in the economy? Or, are those of us who are anti-capitalist just too prominent in the vegan movement? Revolution cannot be allowed to happen – remember!

Personally, I think there are too many rich and powerful players in the animal agriculture industry for politicians to allow it to fail – despite the fact we could feed the world many times over if we all went vegan tomorrow. So, while veganism was “allowed” to exist as a niche product line, the fact the number of vegans has exploded beyond even our wildest hopes as kicked the meat and dairy industry (it is one combined industry if we’re honest) into attack mode.

I’ve read posts on Facebook in the past about reserving the words burgers and sausages for meat products – but they’re just shapes! You get different meat varieties of sausages and burgers, so why not meat-free versions?

I have noticed in the numerous stories about veganism on national news sites that non-vegans in society as a whole now feel it necessary to go into attack mode in the dreaded comment sections. Does this come from a sense of guilt or a fear that their cosy lifestyle (of pain and suffering) is under threat?