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Has Big Business Hijacked Veganism – And Sold It Back To Us?

Some vegans are concerned about what they see as a 'misappropriation' of true veganism, which is generally a lot stricter than a plant-based diet and means shunning all animal derived products (leather, wool, and honey).

SARA SPARY: ‘We are in the grip of a vegan revolution: a transformation of veganism from niche lifestyle choice for those who care about animal welfare and the environment, to a mainstream movement represented through more than 80m posts on Instagram; a rainbow stream of juicy “burgers” and bowls bursting with colour. And business is reaping the benefit of our compulsion to share our food habit online… The Vegan Society says there were 600,000 vegans in the UK in 2018 – four times as many as in 2014. And when even Greggs, famous for its cheap sausage rolls and steak bakes, gets in on the act – its vegan sausage roll was reportedly its fastest-selling launch in six years – it’s clear that both retailers and consumers think the future might be (at least partly) meat-free…

And there is a lot of marketing – some of it for products that have always been vegan, but are now more explicit about being plant-based foods… Adding a new label can of course be a good thing, as it helps us to identify what we’re looking for. But others have reservations about what brands hope to say about their products by using a vegan label… The question of whether people reducing their intake of meat and dairy produce will prove a short-lived trend or is evidence of a significant change in attitudes toward health, environment and animal welfare is as yet unclear. And there is some tension around the idea of veganism as just another lifestyle choice to opt in and out of…

Some vegans are less accepting of the belated interest of brands and mainstream consumers. They are concerned about what they see as a “misappropriation” of true veganism – which is generally a lot stricter than a plant-based diet and means shunning all animal derived products, including leather, wool, and honey – and find it cynical that major brands are now ploughing so much money into creating sometimes highly-processed vegan foods… The issue is complicated because the food, fashion and wellness industries have picked up the term “vegan” and run with it – arguably changing its meaning in the process.

“It’s one of those things that’s now become a fashionable ideology,” argues Karen Hughes, shopping in M&S. “People aren’t doing it for the ethical or animal welfare reasons – and I think most companies are just trying to cash in.” She points to her surroundings: “If you look at what’s next to this aisle, it’s meat on both sides. So who thought about that? Not a vegan”… Some long-standing vegans are worried about the way in which marketers use the label ‘vegan’ to imply a product or brand has all kinds of appealing qualities beyond being plant-based. There is a suspicion that by stocking vegan lines, brands are seeking a halo effect that somehow makes them seem more ethical’. SOURCE…

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