Vegan dinner times have changed a lot. When I first stopped eating meat as a teenager in the 1980s, vegetarians were rarely spoken about and I never heard anything about vegans. A family friend wrote out nut cutlet recipes for me to try and make. In truth, I felt hungry and uninspired a lot of the time.
Nowadays, there are delicious, nutritious and attractive vegan options everywhere I look. There are genuinely tasty alternatives for all kinds of favourites, from lamb kebabs to chicken nuggets, mozzarella to prawns. There’s even vegan squirty cream!
Virtually all high street chains, including Wagamama, Pizza Express, Carluccio’s, Nandos and GBK have vegan menus.
The growing culture is encouraging more people to try a plant-based diet and obviously I’m in favour of that. I’m thrilled about anything that brings us closer to a slaughter-free world.
Still, I’m uncomfortable with the growing trend to create vegan versions of every meat product, especially these new burgers that “bleed”. The Beyond Burger, which was launched in Tesco today, contains beetroot juice to ooze what they describe as a delicious blood-like fluid.
Does that seem weird to anyone else? I went vegan because I’m horrified by animal exploitation, particularly factory farming and animal slaughter. I abhor the industrial genocide of abattoirs whose floors flood with the blood of terrified animals. The videos you can see on YouTube are harrowing. So the idea of adding beetroot to a pea burger so it can look more dead-animally seems perverse to me.
I think the fake blood crosses a line. Meat-themed but plant-based alternatives might mean people eat less meat overall, and that’s good, but we need to also address the bloodthirstiness that props up the meat racket.
Like offering sex dolls to paedophiles, you may see some harm reduction, but the root of the problem still hasn’t been addressed. (I’m not directly comparing the two lifestyles but the cows who are artificially inseminated from the age of 15 months on dairy farms may beg to differ.)
I wonder how many vegans will want to chomp down on beetroot blood. Perhaps some will delight in the visceral experience of an oozing burger that doesn’t harm a cow. But others don’t want to impersonate meat-eaters. We like being vegan. We may even want our plant-based food to taste like plants.
Look at what the Tesco spokesperson said about the Beyond Burger: “The most common reaction from those that have tried it is that they cannot believe it is made from plants.” What does this kind of attitude say about the plant-based diet? That it’s shameful, boring, inadequate – palatable only if it is concealed.
Plenty of people do feel that way about veganism, for sure. And for “flexitarians” who think slaughtering animals is only acceptable on some days of the week, I’m sure the Beyond Burger will be an exciting dinner.
An expensive one, too – at £5.50 for a pack of two, these pea and beetroot things cost nearly twice as much a four beef burgers from Tesco: twice the price for half the burgers. So these are obviously pitched at a certain part of the market, and there’s much more choice for vegans really. The vegetable aisle is nearly all vegan!
The meat racket does not have a monopoly on round things. I’ve visited many farms and never seen an animal in the shape of a burger. So veggie burgers are as valid as beef burgers, not impersonations of them. But when veggie burgers start trying to emulate the blood of meat burgers, that’s a different game – and not one I want to play.
Perhaps I’m being a stick in the mud. These sorts of products can be useful during anyone’s early days on a plant-based path, but soon it becomes important as well as rewarding to move away from imitating meat-eaters and instead stand confident as a vegan. You’re more likely to make a success of anything if you are sincere about it.
So yes, I’d rather the “blood” of beetroots flowed than the blood of cows, but I can’t help feeling that products like Beyond Burger are best for those who like to occasionally holiday in compassion, rather than those putting down plant-based roots.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies