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If you’re a meat-eater, a plant-eater or anything in-between welcome to my plantfession; veganism is complicated. There I said it; I don’t care how many vegan influencers say it’s easy, it’s not. If it’s the struggle to give up dairy or having to pay over two quid for your easter egg or drawing your moral boundaries: it’s so darn complex. There’s no handbook and what’s right and wrong seems to constantly be changing especially in the world of fast food. Now, you’re probably super confused at this point; what is she on about, fast food? Well, let me tell you…VEGAN DRAMA ALERT!! With the controversy of Burger King’s plant-based Rebel Whopper resurfacing, social media has blown up with confusion on whether vegans should even be consuming these alternatives from meat-oriented fast food chains. Great, yet another spanner in the ol’moral works. I always thought it was a good thing to support the evolving vegan culture, supply and demand and all that, but maybe I’ve got it all wrong. What if we’re the problem? This sounded so crazy in my head so I hopped onto the internet in search of answers. It wasn’t long before I reached ‘Viva!’ – a British animal rights group that focuses on the promotion of veganism. I’ve always respected their work so I was mortified by Nicholas Hallows’ conclusion that vegans WERE funding the slaughtering of animals by consuming these vegan alternatives and unwittingly helping fast-food chains capitalise on our plant-based lifestyle.
This was a shock to the system so let’s talk about it; this is just an opinion after all. Hallows begins by debunking the concept of supply and demand, claiming we have no idea what brands such as KFC do with our money, that there’s no jar where all our pounds go to be invested back in veganism. This is ultimately true; I don’t need to participate in an undercover investigation to realise KFC primarily invests into the meat industry. KFC kill over 750 million chickens every year and accepts no accountability for the cruel abuse these animals suffer. This is disgraceful and unnecessary but whatever we do, they’re still going to kill those chickens!! At least by supporting a vegan alternative it advertises a new way to enjoy KFC; welcoming a plant-based future where chickens don’t die for our consumption. But the only way this works is if we support it, introduce pessimistic mates to the vegan side of life, write reviews, suggest improvements so these vegan alternatives can be the best they can possibly be. If we simply boycott, what change can we possibly create?
However, Hallows seems to have considered this, suggesting these vegan alternatives do still have an audience just not vegans. Instead he believes these products should be promoted to “flexitarians and the meatless Monday mob”; vegans shouldn’t be seen supporting the meat industry and these alternatives should solely be reserved for those attempting to reduce their meat intake. This is a fair point, flexitarians are the future in my opinion but to say it’s great for those reducing their meat intake to consume these products but not vegans who have already removed meat from their diets seems a little extreme in my eyes. These kinds of principals are a quick way to make veganism elite and for most of us that’s not the aim at all. Ultimately veganism is the end goal with flexitarians and meatless Mondays being stepping stones to a plant-based future but if we make it harder and harder for people to enjoy a vegan lifestyle, what do you think will happen?
These opinions aren’t just mine; Toni Vernelli, International Head of Communications and Marketing at Veganuary, also agrees these vegan alternatives are a step in the right direction for everyone, advising the vegan community to not “let perfection be the enemy of good.” I totally understand how it can seem we’re supporting animal cruelty by consuming these products, but nothing ever changes without change! If VEGANS boycott VEGAN alternatives what does that say?
We need to lead the way to a plant-based future; we’re role models not an elitist cult. I’m not suggesting these opinions can’t be expressed, that would be beyond hypocritical, all I’m asking is that they’re expressed in a more considerate manner. Comments such as “The meat eaters already have everything they want from the chain so why would they want to swap their chicken for Quorn?” comes across as very judgemental; instead of making unevidenced assumptions, we need to show that this IS the way forward and you can’t do that from a distance.
After reading this article, I felt it my duty to reach out to ‘Viva!’ and discuss this with them directly; I was so grateful to be able to speak to Siobhan Dolan. After discussing the article it became clearer that these opinions weren’t a universal front and ‘Viva!’ never wished to promote veganism as elitist. Dolan expressed that, “Viva! want to help everyone on their vegan journey, every step in meat reduction is a step in the right direction” and that they only want to make “veganism as inclusive and fun as possible”. Dolan confirmed Hallows’ article would be reviewed immediately after my concerns of elitism and I’m pleased to say after revisiting the article, edits have been made. Now this is the ‘Viva!’ I know and love, veganism is for everyone and you don’t need to live off organic beetroot to stay true to your values; if you want to continue enjoying fast food as a vegan, you can! It’s your choice and at the end of the day everyone will have different opinions but that’s life.
So, I’ll end how I began. If you’re a meat-eater, a plant-eater or anything in-between welcome to my plantfession; veganism is complicated but it doesn’t have to be. It’s your life and if your life includes Greggs’ Vegan Sausage Rolls, more life to you. If you want to stick to the tofu, more life to you too. Personally, I’m planning on continuing on treating myself to a cheeky Papa John’s Vegan Garden Party every so often because in my opinion supporting veganism within the fast food industry is essential in creating the sustainable, plant based future we so desperately need.