I always get a little shot of anxiety before clicking on an article or social post announcing a new offering. It seems the first few comments are usually an argument – mostly among people who already belong to the vegan community. How does it look?
Headline: FAST FOOD COMPANY TO OFFER VEGAN ITEM ACROSS US!
- Oh, wow! I can’t wait to get my hands on this vegan item! I live in Nowhere, USA, and I would like to treat myself every once in a while!
- Don’t be a jerk! This fast-food company sells meat, so you shouldn’t eat there!
- Don’t you shop at a grocery store? Do they not sell meat??
- This vegan item was tested on animals years ago and is not vegan!
- Isn’t it still a better option for people who would normally pick a non-vegan burger? They no longer test!
- This burger has GMO/SOY/FAT and that makes it awful for your health.
- Vegans are not all following a whole-food plant-based diet, veganism is an ethical decision, not always about health!
Do you see where this is going?
Disclaimer: I’m not a nutrition expert and am a few months away from my mere 8-year veganniversary.
What I do know: the arguments I see in the comments don’t feel like the real-life conversations I’m having with friends and family. We’re excited about the booming meat substitute industry and the trends that follow. Vegans and non-vegans alike seem to be interested in the changing landscape, and regardless of whether or not they’d eat an Impossible Burger or Beyond Sausage we all have to admit – it’s never been easier to find a vegan option when dining out.
That doesn’t mean vegans are welcomed with open arms in every dining establishment, but here’s what it does mean:
Veganism is no longer a fringe lifestyle.
As I write this, people all over the US and the world are being offered new options and seeing advertisements that challenge cultural norms. Maybe they are intrigued, and they opt for a plant-based burger instead of their usual burger. Maybe they see that this is a satisfying option that is sometimes a bit healthier and a cruelty-free and sustainable way of eating.
While that’s a great hope, the reality is that at the very least, everyone is seeing terms like vegan, plant-based, cruelty free, and name brands associated with those important values more regularly. By no longer hiding on a menu in a vegan cafe in a major city, these options are exposing millions of people to the idea of veganism and how easy it can be.
Vegan options are more accessible.
Keeping up with life in modern society can be tough for people, especially for folks looking to make big transitions. Convenience is an especially important part of life in a fast-paced world, and while it may not be optimal, meat substitutes and vegan options at fast food and other restaurants can help people while they’re moving into their new vegan lifestyle. In places where there are food deserts having a vegan option in a fast food establishment allows people who may not have access to otherwise healthful vegan options can at the very least exercise their values. For more on food deserts and veganism, check out this Selva Beat article.
Culinary pros are more open to changing demands.
While it doesn’t happen in every restaurant, vegan and plant-based options are popping up in unexpected places more frequently. Consider mock meats an olive branch offered by chefs, saying, “You are welcome here.” They help vegans go out and socialize with friends over a meal, without either going hungry or accidentally ingesting something that goes against their values. And best of all, vegans can go out with their non-vegan pals and show them how easy a compassionate life can be – that we’re not giving up anything when we live the kind life.
So, now what?
While discourse is important, I hope that we’ll lighten up on each other. We can be more inviting to people who are exploring their options and looking for advice and help as they make important changes in their lifestyle. Most of us weren’t born into a vegan household, and we had to make choices and learn things that were difficult. No one is perfect, and we all make mistakes. But when someone comments that they cannot wait to dig into the next meat substitute – I hope that you’ll be considerate. It makes us all look welcoming and ready to help!
I firmly believe that changing hearts and minds can begin simply by living our values and showing how easy it can be to do so. If you asked me 8 years ago, I would have thought it beyond impossible to walk into a fast-food chain and order a vegan item. The future is vegan, friends, and building our community through thoughtfulness and compassion will only strengthen the bonds of our values.