"Plant based meat" making fragile vegans feel better

We haven’t checked in for a while on the rise of the “plant-based meat” craze that’s currently sweeping the nation. The science news on this phenomenon doesn’t seem to have changed much in recent months, but the trend has definitely bled over into social and cultural debates. One of the most recent developments in that area is covered in a CNBC article from this weekend. As it turns out, the people perhaps benefitting the most from these new laboratory experiment offerings are vegans, but not entirely for the reasons you might imagine. Rather than looking at the meatless burgers as a better tasting dinner option than a bowl of twigs and leaves, the burgers offer some of them a chance to not feel so weird in front of their more normal, omnivore friends.

Teagan George, a 22-year-old data analyst based in Pasadena, California, has been a vegan for more than three years. Living near Los Angeles, she has plenty of options when it comes to choosing vegan restaurants. But when it comes to eating out with friends who eat animal products, it can be tricky.

“You don’t always have the option in restaurants,” George said. “If I’m with non-vegans, I don’t want to make a fuss and fulfill that negative stereotype.”

Fulfill “that negative stereotype?” The reality is that most stereotypes develop for a reason. And being a vegan is a choice. Insisting that restaurants offer a full range of vegan options when polling consistently shows that only 3% of Americans describe themselves as vegans or spending the night complaining about it is annoying. Restaurants lose money if they stock up on products that virtually nobody is going to order.

But hey… if having the Impossible Burger is an option that makes your dinner with your friends more pleasant, good for you. Enjoy the feast, assuming the genetically modified horror show producing the “blood” in those burger patties doesn’t wind up being carcinogenic. But while we’re on the subject of being more comfortable as a vegan when out in polite company, this gives us the chance to entertain that age-old question. Why do people hate vegans? The Guardian took a shot at answering that question just last week.

In the 21st century the terminology may have changed but the sentiment remains much the same. The 2015 study conducted by MacInnis and Hodson found that only drug addicts were viewed more negatively among respondents. It concluded: “Unlike other forms of bias (eg, racism, sexism), negativity toward vegetarians and vegans is not widely considered a societal problem; rather, [it] is commonplace and largely accepted.”

In 2011, sociologists Matthew Cole and Karen Morgan observed a phenomenon they called “vegaphobia”, demonstrating that the British media consistently portrayed vegans in a negative light. In the days after her story broke, Selene Nelson, the freelancer at the centre of the Waitrose magazine row, was called “humourless”, “combative” and “militant”.

The linked article provides a deep history of vegan – omnivore relations and the amount of prejudice the former allegedly face at the greasy hands of the latter. But is it actually discrimination? You don’t get a choice as to what color your skin is after you’re born. (Apologies to Rachel Dolezal.) And you don’t get to pick your gender. (Don’t even get me started on that one again.) So if people are discriminating against you based on those traits, you’re facing discrimination.

But no human was born a vegan. The first thing you consume after coming into the world is milk from your mother’s breast, or at least it should be. You have teeth that are designed to eat both meat and plants. If you’re a vegan, it’s because you chose to be. Personally I have no problem with what other adults choose to eat. If you’re a vegan, that just means there’s more steak and bacon for me. But yes, I get annoyed when somebody goes out to dinner in our group and spend the whole night complaining about the lack of vegan options on the menu. And if you’re raising your dogs or cats as vegans you should be arrested.