Ethical Veganism is Winning

I didn’t intend to harp on and on about how the future is vegan and everyone’s just getting it all of a sudden, but here we are. As the days go by, I observe more and more reasons to be optimistic about the future of farmed animals.

As Burger King became the latest fast food joint to offer one of the two veggie burger sensations (the Beyond and Impossible, of course) nationwide, some of the usual flare-ups occurred on social media.

I can’t be the only one that has noticed a strange alliance between health vegans, purity vegans, and staunch anti-vegans, all rushing to comment on posts about veggie burgers at fast food restaurants. Lately, their comments — typically replies to posts lauding the arrival of these vegan alternatives — have focused on the fact that they’re cooked on the same grill as the non-vegan burgers.

Invariably phrased as a denunciation, even as an it’s-not-really-vegan “gotcha,” the goal is, rather transparently, to reduce people’s willingness to purchase them. They don’t consider that most vegans are far more concerned with suffering than with some incidental cross-contamination.

There’s nothing wrong with being concerned with cross-contamination, and even outright refusing to consume something that may contain remnants of meat and animal products is understandable. But it’s odd to pronounce your personal preference to the world when it takes less energy to just keep it to yourself. This is a tendency I don’t understand about health vegans and purity vegans — it seems that they are keen on elevating personal eating preferences to a moral status. The implication is that they struggle to see an ethical difference between eating vegan junk food and eating animal products. To them, eating “clean” means eating vegan, and eating vegan means eating leafy greens, fruits, and not much else. They “detox,” they juice, they go raw, and anything else is impure.

But the anti-vegans are more pernicious with their “it’s cooked with the meat” bit. Ostensibly, it shouldn’t make any difference to them; they’re eating meat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and their display of contempt for vegan options means they’re profoundly unlikely to even give it a try. So what’s the point? They, too, would rather vegans not eat junk food.

This all makes sense if we realize that these people — anti-vegans, purity vegans, and health vegans — all want veganism to be about health. It makes it incredibly easy to dismiss, all you have to do is point out that it’s “contaminated,” or that it’s not healthy (unhealthy grub at a fast food restaurant? How appalling!). You don’t have to grapple with the ethics.

If veganism is primarily about health, you can dismiss it by pointing out how unhealthy  — processed is a favorite boogeyman — some of the food is. It’s when non-vegans realize that vegan food is just as diverse in terms of healthfulness and taste that they are in danger of coming over to the dark side. They have to consider the other reasons people go vegan — the more compelling reasons, in my view.

I said this was an optimistic post. In response to the detractors railing against vegan fast food’s contamination, or smugly “debunking” veggie burgers as unhealthy, I’ve seen countless people point out that it’s not about health, it’s about ethics. Perhaps it’s just an artifact of the people I follow on social media, but I think not: the people who bring the focus back to ethics far outnumber those who think they’ve debunked veganism. It’s delightful.

People are finally getting that vegan fast food — and veganism in general — isn’t about health or purity. It’s about ethics.

Ethical veganism is winning, and it feels good. Celebrate with a vegan Whopper.


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