There are a number of common debates within the vegan community that I simply don’t understand.
Case in point: meat alternatives. I don’t see why anyone would have a problem with them. It’s got to be that since I grew up vegetarian, the meat alternative products aren’t filling a void for me. They’re not reminding me of anything or taking the place of anything. They’re purely new and interesting foods. Trying an unfamiliar meat alternative is exactly like trying a new fruit: it’s exciting and fun. There’s nothing “weird” or “fake” about it.
But for many people, vegan alternatives are unreal, fake, or pretend foods.
The other day, I brought some vegan ranch dressing and veggies to a group gathering with nonvegans. Some tried the dressing and formed their opinions about its taste based on its taste. But others refused to even try it, insisting that because it wasn’t made of dairy, it couldn’t possibly be any good. They’d tried some other kind of vegan ranch dressing and that tasted horrible, therefore they concluded that all vegan ranch dressing tastes horrible.
These are not stupid people. If you gave them three different kinds of mushrooms, they would never insist that they all tasted exactly the same. Or even, give them three different kinds of dairy-based ranch dressings and they’d argue over which one tasted the best. But give them something with the label “vegan” on it and wow, they lose their rationality.
And then there are the vegans who have issues. What!? Instead of just eating the foods they prefer, they’ll actually argue against products labeled as meat or dairy alternatives. Some of the reasons they cite are: it’s confusing, it’s supporting the taste justification that meat-eaters use, it’s processed and unhealthy, etc etc etc. To all of which I simply say, “Who cares?”
These vegan foods aren’t going away. The demand for meat alternatives is growing faster than ever. Furthermore, they’re helping people go vegan or part-time vegan. So they’re effectively helping to build a society that acts more compassionately towards animals. So why complain? Aren’t there more important things to worry about?
I think the truly unreal, fake, or pretend foods are the things no one should be eating: animals. Animals are a terrible food source for humans. Animals suffer tremendously in human food production. The Earth suffers as a result as well. The public health suffers, too. Meat and dairy alternatives are better for animals. Meat and dairy alternatives are generally better for the planet. And even if they’re not exactly health foods, they’re virtually always still much healthier than animal products. In my book, that makes the imitations more real than that which they imitate.
- Vegan Fake Meat Products: Defeating or Defending the Point of a Vegetarian Diet?
- Are “Fake” Meats in the True Spirit of Veganism?
- Why Eating Meat-Shaped Vegetarian Food Is Like Having Sex with a Blow-up Doll