Veganism: the real problem with fake meat

Demand for vegan food grew by 987% in 2017 and is now the fastest growing takeaway choice in the UK. Almost half of the UK’s vegan population made the transition in 2018, a clear sign of the movement’s growth. By 2025, it is widely expected that one quarter of the UK population will be vegan.

Meat has long been viewed as bad for your health. The World Health Organization has classified red and processed meats as cancer-causing and NHS advice is to cut down where possible. A 14-member international team of scientists put this view into question recently, finding no conclusive evidence that eating red and processed meat causes cancer, heart disease and Type 2 Diabetes. Unsurprisingly, the vegan community were outraged, an ‘egregious abuse of evidence’ as some put it. However, is it not possible these calculations were plausible and the reaction was just excessively aggressive?

After all, meat eaters are not bad people and it’s worth noting that many vegans only made the transition last year. In fact, a staggering 45% of the UK’s vegan population only stopped eating meat in 2018. The sad consequence of this are vegans who ‘mock’ meat with their own processed alternatives. And if not replicating it, then making it sound meaty, referring to the aubergine ‘steak’ and bean burgers with beetroot spilling out like blood juices of a slaughtered cow. To me, ‘true’ vegans have no desire to eat even fake dead things. 

Only plant-based food will satisfy the ‘true’ vegan, made by those who do not seek to imitate meat, but instead replace it all together.The meat alternative brand Quorn are culprits of this, producing Swedish style meatballs without the meat, fish and chips without the fish, and steak without the… steak. It may be so that the vast majority of buyers of Quorn products have environmental and health concerns, taking less offense with the notion of killing animals to eat.

On the other hand, the animal rights vegan would be best placed to avoid these products altogether. It detracts from the central ambition at the heart of the vegan movement, namely a desire to replace meat and not to replace and replicate it. The task for these vegans is to convince the meat-eating world that plant-based food is in fact tasty, just as much as a fine steak or battered haddock.

Still sceptical? Go try ‘Wild Thyme’ in Norwich City Centre. Expecting to see a sad menu of ‘meatless’ meat, this place proves to be anything but boring. You will find a laid-back emporium of vegan delights, serving creamy pastas, succulent vegetables and moist puddings, nothing killed in the process and nobody pretending otherwise. Wild Thyme sets a strong precedent that will hopefully encourage more vegan restaurants to follow suit, ditching not only meat, but the very look of meat too. 

Vegans choose to go meatless on environmental, nutritional and moral grounds. But how about taste? Veganism is much more than a task of rejecting meat – it is about embracing delicious plant-based food and spreading the love. Bon appetit.

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Sam Gordon Webb

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October 2021
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