In a recently published article, “How Tofurky and Fake Bacon Actually Glorify Meat-Eating,” nationally syndicated columnist David Sirota, a vegetarian, imagines how he’ll reply to his son when his son is old enough to look in the vegetarian “meats” section of the grocery store and asks, “Why all the fake meats?” According to Sirota, “the vegetarian aisle… subliminally glorifies meat-eating.” He believes that “the message is downright subversive. It teaches [people] that as tasty as vegetarian food may be, it can never compete with the ‘real thing.’” And he fears that the message will be enough to “ultimately win out, thus adding another carnivore [his son, despite his best efforts] to a destructively meat-centric society.”
Sirota claims to be at a loss as to how to respond to his son’s potential queries and fears that showing him the “supermarket’s raw produce section” will lose out to the lure of good tasting food that his son would actually enjoy eating. Since Sirota can’t figure out how to answer the question, “Why all the fake meats?” we recommend he tell him what we’ve been saying to our 15 year old vegan-since-birth daughter and 11 year old vegan-since-birth son:
For the last thirty years, the U.S. government has tried to get people to eat healthier and has failed. It has tried to get people to forsake fast food for home cooked meals and it has failed. It has tried to get them to limit the size of their meals and it has failed. It has drilled into each and every American—sometimes rightly (eat more vegetables), sometimes wrongly (milk is the perfect food)—the importance of making good food choices and it has failed. By 2030, half the U.S. population will be obese. Not overweight. Not fat. Not really fat. Obese. So if people won’t change, and the data proves that they won’t, the food has to.
Aside from the health implications, the number of animals killed for food is staggering, literally billions every year. Not only are they slaughtered, losing the most important thing they have—their very lives—but they are subjected to the most heinous neglect and abuse on their way to the guillotine. If people won’t give up their hamburgers despite this immense animal suffering, and the data proves that they won’t, what the hamburger is made from has to.
Aside from the health implications and the implications for billions of animals, our reliance on animal food is changing the climate. By some studies, everything that goes into meat production results in more greenhouse gas emissions than all other sources—more than all the planes, trains, and automobiles combined. We are on the edge of climate Armageddon. Why? Because people are eating at the top of the so-called “food chain.” So if we can mimic those foods and make them with plants from the bottom, that is good for people, good for animals, and good for the planet.
It may seem strange to you that we are imitating that which we claim to abhor. But regardless of what we might consider the ideal, Americans do not want to eat vegetables, whole grains, or any of the other “health” foods some vegans continually and detrimentally equate with veganism. Every measure we could possibly use—what Americans are eating, where they are eating, even how they are cooking (opening jars and microwaving contents)—reveals that Americans aren’t interested in eating better or healthier. And offering the average American a bell pepper instead of a veggie burger is a recipe for failure. And when their health is at stake, when lives are at stake, when the fate of the planet is at stake, failure is not an option.
The reason most commonly given for why people attempt a vegetarian or vegan diet is out of concern for animals. Yet when two out of three of those who attempt veganism fall off the wagon, they do so because they miss the foods they used to eat. They see being vegan as a hassle. If we want those who are interested in eating more humanely to actually succeed, it is incumbent upon us as vegans to promote great tasting vegan alternatives to the foods they are already eating. And that means faux meats, non-dairy cheeses, and egg alternatives.
Tofurky and Fakin’ Bacon and Boca Burgers and veggie dogs and all those foods some vegans dismiss as glorifying meat-eating are the animals’ saving grace. They are every bit as vegan as vegetables, and they are also quick, easy, convenient, and delicious. Maybe someday that will change. Maybe. But such products are literally the shortest distance between where we are now—billions of animals slaughtered every year—to where we, as vegans, want the world to be. If animals have to wait for Americans to develop a taste for health food before they embrace a more humane diet, they may have to wait forever.
So every time the vegan meats counter gets bigger, it means the butcher’s aisle is getting smaller. So, let’s celebrate! Let’s celebrate the ever-increasing tasty alternatives for people to eat instead of animals! In fact, let’s go out and get a burger, fries, and soda at Veggie Grill. What do you say?