Last week I attended The Vegan Society’s Grow Green Conference at The British Library in London. The day was made up of a series of keynote speeches and panel discussions about the need to move to a ‘plant-strong’ farming future. One topic that kept coming up was the rise of meat alternatives, like the Impossible Burger, which claims to taste just like the real deal, and even bleed.
It made me think about comments I’ve heard numerous times that always baffle me, along the lines of “if someone is vegan or vegetarian, why on earth would they want to eat something that tastes and looks like meat?”.
I don’t understand the logic in this. Not liking meat has got to be one of the least likely reasons that an individual is vegan or vegetarian. The most common motivations for choosing a meat-free diet are in the interest of animals or the environment… neither of which have anything to do with taste.
It’s likely that many vegans and vegetarians once loved the taste of meat. In fact, on one of the panels, we heard from an inspiring man called Sivalingham Vasanthakumar, who after years as a livestock farmer, gave away his flock of sheep to an animal sanctuary as he could no longer deal with sending them to slaughter each year. He confessed that he really loved the taste of meat, but could no longer justify eating it. He now grows vegetables and sells vegan Indian street food in Totnes, South Devon. This is the perfect example of someone who loves meat but chooses not to eat it.
Earlier this month, news revealed that veggie burgers and sausages could be rebranded as discs and tubes under new EU food labelling rules. This is quite clearly an attack on the vegan movement and meat substitutes, and demonstrates the power of Europe’s meat lobby.
It’s so frustrating, because it’s totally counterintuitive to everything we should be working towards in terms of reducing meat consumption, and in turn, helping to meet climate agreement targets.
We need to excite people about the prospects of a plant-based diet and make alternatives familiar and accessible; surely any food that helps with this transition is a good thing?