Optimism is a tough cause to champion these days. Despite what most people think, the world is actually becoming a better place, year after year, on just about every metric imaginable. The charts of human progress lay bare our ignorance of our own privilege of living in the most peaceful era (yes, you read that right) in history.
Animals are often overlooked in these conversations. People quibble about whether poverty has really declined; whether violence is really at an all-time low or if we should anticipate a black-swan event any day now; and what about the people that are still suffering (as if pointing out that we’ve made progress is equivalent to washing our hands and declaring all problems solved)? But rarely does the plight of farm animals enter the conversation.
If you asked me a couple years ago, I’d probably have said the fact that more animals are sent to slaughter every year makes it quite difficult to say we are living in a more peaceful society (though the statistics on human progress are unassailable).
I think the tides are turning. You’ve already heard about how non-dairy milks are seriously threatening the dairy industry. You’ve heard from omnivores about how the Impossible burger tastes just like real meat. You saw how Beyond Meat’s IPO broke records. Something’s happening, and it looks to be a good change for us — and for animals.
This is brand new stuff. When I went vegan seven years ago, I didn’t dream of this sort of thing.
I suspect that this turn of events has the potential to supercharge the movement. This is because this movement has largely been one of, well, negativity: we want people to stop eating animals. Convincing people to eliminate a behavior from their repertoire is, I think, far more difficult than convincing people to adopt a new behavior. The historical alternatives to meat and dairy products have been admittedly poor. Although the perception of the blandness of vegan foods and the poverty of animal-free options has largely been exaggerated by omnivores looking to justify their consumption habits, it’s just a fact that a lot of vegan alternatives have been lacking.
Before the Beyond burger and the Impossible burger, there really weren’t any vegan burger options that stood out from the rest. There were a plethora of options, but none of them were the clear winners among the vegan crowd — never mind among omnivores.
That’s different now. We have incredible alternatives that even the omnivores are aware of. Non-vegans are beginning to consume vegan products because they taste good.
This means we can, at least in part, now be a more positive movement. Instead of telling people what they can’t or shouldn’t eat, we can point people toward what they should eat.
We have cause to forge ahead with confidence. Let’s do it.
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