It’s tough being a vegan sometimes. Once you’ve opened your mind to the needless suffering of billions of animals at the hands of humans, it’s hard to understand why others haven’t made the same connection. What’s equally frustrating is the way so many people get offended by even the idea of veganism. Yes, we get it, you’re a meat eater, a carnivore, you could never give up meat, we can’t make you etc. etc.
We seem to upset the omnivores not only with the things we choose not to eat, but also the things we do choose to eat. More specifically, how dare we label something cheese when it’s quite clearly not cheese. And what on earth are we thinking creating chicken substitutes. People are genuinely angry about these kinds of things, and I find it baffling.
There seems to be two points of contention for vegan products that imitate meat and dairy. Firstly, why are vegans eating things that look and taste like meat if they don’t want to eat it, and secondly, why are the sneaky vegans labelling things beef, pork, and cheese, when they’re not sourced from animals?
The thing that a lot of meat eaters fail to understand is that there are many vegans who choose to live a vegan lifestyle for purely ethical reasons. They’ve seen the horrors of the animal agriculture industry and have made the decision not to support this system. That doesn’t mean that vegans don’t like the taste of meat. They’ve simply made the decision to put the lives of others above the whims of their tastebuds. There are also plenty of vegans who can’t stand the fake meat products because they remind them too much of animal flesh, and they find that intensely off putting. We’re a surprisingly varied bunch, despite the stereotypes. You can’t accuse vegans who do like faux meats of being somehow hypocritical. They acknowledge they like and maybe even miss meat, but they still choose not to eat it because they don’t want to contribute towards animal cruelty.
Imitation meat and dairy products are also incredibly helpful for people transitioning to veganism. If you’ve lived your whole life eating meat and two veg it takes a certain amount of time and education to get used to a new diet. It can seem a whole lot less daunting if you know you can pop into your local supermarket and buy the vegan equivalent of a chicken schnitzel.
Similarly, vegan products are often named to match the foods people are generally used to seeing. Sure we could start calling vegan cheese “Gary”, like some outraged woman in the UK recently suggested, but I feel that could get a little confusing. We buy vegan cheese because we’re looking for a cheese substitute. Having something labelled as vegan cheese, or soy cheese, therefore makes it a lot easier for us to find what we’re looking for. Again, it’s not that vegans don’t like the taste of cheese, it’s that we know what a cow goes through to produce the dairy version, and so we choose to find cruelty-free alternatives.
So why are some non-vegans so angry about all of this? Are they scared that they might accidentally be duped into buying a vegan product, or worse, that they might like it? God forbid we offer products that don’t involve animal suffering and death.
I’d like to suggest that meat eaters look at their own products before criticising ours. How about you start calling your meat what it actually is? I’m pretty sure most of us are taught that the cow goes moo, not the beef. And what about pigs? Bacon, pork, crackling – it’s all pig. Your meat doesn’t even look like what it’s supposed to be. Everything you buy from the supermarket is trussed up and named in a way so that you don’t have to think about the animal that died to be your dinner.
I think that getting cross about vegan alternatives to meat and dairy is ridiculous and entitled. It’s another expression of defensiveness against the nasty vegans who are maybe making you consider and take responsibility for where your food comes from.