The Tesco advertisement for Cumberland style vegan sausages has really hit a nerve. There has been a discernible level of negativity in the media in recent days against veganism.
Janet Street-Porter has led the charge with a typically strident article stating that the Tesco advertisement’s level of vegan propaganda makes her feel nauseous.
The young Chloe tells her father that she does not want to eat animals anymore. Does this make her a child of the future or a militant vegan? The advertisement brings up a lot of the ethical questions about how we as a society respond to veganism.
Derek Sarno, plant-based head of innovation at Tesco (whose very job title was ridiculed by Street-Porter) has said that the creators of the advertisement were encouraged to be brave. The short advertisement is part of Tesco’s Food Love Stories series.
The kind of conversation that went on between father and child is exactly the kind of conversations that are going on up and down the country in families in 2019. It is nonsense to pretend otherwise when the trend to veganism is so obvious.
Is meat-free meat really progress?
Street-Porter asks the valid question of whether “meat-free food that looks exactly like meat” may not necessarily be your definition of progress. Why not give young Chloe “a vegetarian dish from an ancient culture”? Why give her a Cumberland style sausage that isn’t a sausage?
The other aspect of the advertisement that irritates the opinion writer is the notion that shunning meat buys you love.
She does not directly criticise Tesco for trying to get its share of the vegan pound – after all sales are sales. She does, however, point out that if the supermarket giant really did care about the planet, it would have done something drastic about plastic packaging a long time ago.
Brutally slaughtered: contentious?
The advertisement also caused quite a stir on This Morning where Philip Schofield clashed with a guest, vegan restaurant owner Lucy Watson. She expressed strong feelings about the ethics of meat production. A lot of young children don’t actually know what they are eating, she claimed. “I didn’t,” she said until she moved to a farm and “realised the animals were going to be killed. I then put two and two together, not even then being told I was eating animals.”
“Most children do love animals and if they know they were getting brutally slaughtered to eat, I think they’d be quite shocked” she added.
Philip Schofield the host stepped at this point, to the effect that using the word “brutal” was contentious.
She spoke over him: “they have their throats slit”.
“That’s not necessarily the common practice,” he said.
“It is common practice,” she said.
Therein lies the rub. This is the point at which the two sides’ real difference of viewpoint is there for all to see.
A voguish middle-class diet
Spiked-online published a piece during this debate referring to the “cult of veganism”. It is the magazine pointed out something we can all do on a personal level. But it points out that many popular vegan foods eaten by Westerners can as in the case of avocados have a huge carbon footprint.
“Unlike milk, cheese and eggs, staples for the more sensible and sustainable vegetarian diet, which can basically be sourced anywhere where humans live, voguish vegan food – and let’s keep in mind that veganism is mostly a voguish, middle-class diet – is rarely local food”.
Spiked’s criticism is that British vegans should “be eating potatoes, bread, legumes and domestic vegetables” instead of relying on pomegranates and mangos from India, beans from Brazil, blueberries from the US, and goji berries from China.
Vegans make a lot of noise
Janet Street-Porter is irritated by many vegans. She describes them as sensitive souls who “can’t understand why meat-eaters like me find so many of them humourless, self-righteous bores”. She is critical of strong-minded vegans who criticise people who eat limited amounts of meat and cheese. For them, she says it is an all or nothing debate.
Acknowledging that the number of vegans has quadrupled between 2014 to 2018, she comments that the number is still small but you “wouldn’t think that judging by the amount of noise they make.”
Well, that noise is clearly having an impact. What Spiked describes as “whining, complaining and shrieking” and “passive-aggressive showing-off” is getting to people. More and more people are beginning to understand that we just don’t need to have animal products in our food system.