The latest GBK ad campaign shows how normal it's become to mock and persecute vegetarians

Over the last few years there’s been a real push by the meat industry to make eating meat cool, hipster (see: pulled pork) and masculine

Charlotte Gill
Tuesday 19 January 2016 12:51
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One of Gourmet Burger Kitchen's adverts on the Tube
One of Gourmet Burger Kitchen's adverts on the Tube

I always preferred Honest Burgers anyway, but now I definitely won’t be setting foot in Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK).

Indeed, GBK has angered me, and many others, after it released a series of adverts mocking vegetarianism. One features a young cow, with the caption “They eat grass so you don’t have to”. Another shows a large burger, and says: “Vegetarians, resistance is futile”. A third accompanies a picture of a GBK receipt with the eye-rollingly boring statement: “You’ll always remember when you stopped being a vegetarian”. In fact, it seems their entire marketing campaign was based around attacking people who don’t eat meat.

As a result, the restaurant has been forced to apologise, claiming that the images were “purely light-hearted”.

But what may seem like a joke is another tedious line for the vegetarian community. And I’m concerned that this campaign is just the tip of the iceberg; that these daft posters reflect society’s poor outlook on meat-shunners.

I gave up meat when I was fourteen and I’ve found people’s intolerance astounding. Particularly as, were I abstaining from that bacon sarnie due to religion, I doubt I would face so much criticism.

One of my worst experiences was when a schoolmate tried some of my Quorn at lunch, didn’t like it and then spat it back out into my plate. I know – Quorn isn’t yummy. But still, it’s unacceptable behaviour.

In fact, most vegetarians will find themselves routinely chastised by carnibores telling them that they’re wrong, “will grow out” of their beliefs or need to “man up” if they’re male – not to mention the constant faux-concern about how you get your protein every time you dare to order tofu on a group outing.

This endless onslaught does more than rub vegetarians up the wrong way – it impinges on their freedom of expression, and dietary autonomy. All in spite of the stereotype that vegetarians are the ones preaching all the time. It’s hypocrisy at best.

GBK isn’t the only brand siding with the meat-eaters. Over the last few years there’s been a real push by the meat industry to make eating meat cool, hipster (see: pulled pork) and masculine. Despite having zilch idea what goes on in an abattoir, or any psychological connection to farming processes, the scenesters are out to the likes of Meat Liquor et al. They especially like meat when it doesn’t bear any aesthetic relation to its origin. These bearded kids playing at being cavemen reassure themselves that their habits reflect natural instinct, and use their pleasure alone to justify the death of millions of animals annually.

Living in this world is hard for vegetarians – many of whom think critically about the complexity of food, the ethics of death and the environment. For this they will always be on the defence, having to justify their choices to fanatic meat-eaters – who, almost always, seem to show an intellectual allergy to even considering vegetarian arguments.

Perhaps that’s why adverts such as GBK’s run – it’s simply another part of the silencing campaign that derides and undermines vegetarians. And part of a culture where people routinely shout over veggies, rather than listen - maybe because listening might require them to take action.

Like I say, I’m all for freedom of expression – and would have been happy for GBK to keep their posters up. I do hope, however, the backlash of fed-up vegetarians will make people question campaigns like this in the future - and why there are such double standards for groups with different beliefs, even if one worships Quorn.

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