It’s one thing to opt out of eating animal products at home and in our personal lives, but what about adhering to our values in the trickier, grayer areas of our lives, such as in the workplace? What if you work for a software company and you’re put on a project to build a website for a fishing company? What if you work in a restaurant and have to serve meat? What if you work in a job that requires you to cook meat? These are real scenarios for many people, and the answer isn’t to “stop being vegan” because things are complicated. Take a listen to my thoughts in today’s episode of Food for Thought.
There is a prevailing myth in our culture, played out in our language and in marketing, that meat is masculine and plant foods are for wimps. Meat is a metaphor for strength, virility, and manliness, while vegetarianism/veganism is feminine, effeminate, and even emasculating. “Real Men Eat Meat” and “Tofu is Gay Meat” are just two examples of advertisements that perpetuate this myth and secure it in our consciousness. Studies show it’s working. Join me for a meaty episode that will shake you out of your vegetative state. If you don’t want to be a fruit, learn how you can be a beefcake.
You’ve probably heard by now that France banned the use of meat-like terms in packaging for vegetarian food. Yes, that’s right. “Food producers in France,” as reported by the Independent, “will be forced to think of new ways to describe some of their vegetarian and vegan foods when they are banned from using terms such as ‘vegetarian sausages and ‘vegan bacon.’ French MPs have voted to outlaw use of such vocabulary, claiming they mislead shoppers.
Firms will no longer be able to use ‘burger,’ ‘steak’, ‘sausage’ or ‘fillet’ to describe foods that have no meat in them, such as ‘ham’ slices or ‘chicken’ pies that are made of soya or wheat. The ban on such vocabulary will also apply to dairy alternatives.”
I recently shared my response to the Economist magazine’s article about “The Vegetarian Butcher,” Jaap Korteweg, a ninth-generation farmer who wants “to become the biggest butcher in the world without ever slaughtering an animal.” As a result, some Dutch politicians called for a ban on meat names for products that contained no animal protein, and “the country’s food authority asked The Vegetarian Butcher to rename misleading products...because it might confuse consumers.
Dutch media termed the episode ‘Schnitzelgate’ after a similar situation in Germany, whose minister for agriculture said that ‘meaty names’ such as ‘schnitzel’ and ‘wurst’ should only be legal for animal-based products.”
And of course we’re familiar with such shenanigans in the United States as the dairy lobby uses the Dairy Pride Act to try and outlaw the use of such words as “milk,” “ice cream,” “butter,” and “yogurt” from products made from non-dairy sources. I’d like to see them tell a lactating woman she has to refer to her “breast beverage” because the dairy industry “owns” the word milk or that peanut butter companies have to devise a new name for this favorite food.
The movement toward banning “meat,” “milk,” and other descriptors from plant-based versions simply demonstrates how threatened companies and governments are by the success of these products. Instead of hopping on the cruelty-free bandwagon, they’re attempting to hinder their growth in the marketplace. (It won’t work.)
Meanings evolve, words change, context matters, and consumers aren’t stupid. They know a veggie version from an animal-based one and in fact, they’re choosing the former over the latter precisely because it’s animal-free. No one who orders a veggie burger, drinks almond milk, or eats cashew cheese is being duped. But associations with the names of familiar animal-based meats and milks help create their gustatory expectations.
More than that, the etymology of these words reveal that they have less to do with the animals than we think: schnitzel comes from a Proto-Germanic root meaning “to cut, slice”; wurst comes from a Proto-Germanic root meaning “to mix up”; sausage comes from the Latin word for “salted”; in English, the original meaning of word meat was “food in general” — and we still use that meaning today in sweetmeat, coconut meat, and the meat of a nut.
The word underwent the same evolution in French. The word viande (“meat”) also originally meant food in general — not simply the flesh of animals for consumption. That word became narrowed over time, but its root vivere remains, meaning “to live.” In its current usage referring to a dismembered body part of a dead animal, however, viande certainly represents anything but life.
Language is not simply a means of communication. It represents and reinforces the attitudes of our culture; it informs and gives social credit to our thoughts, rhetoric, and actions; and it masks, justifies, or dulls our ethical red flags. In fact, I would argue that the words the meat, dairy, and egg industries currently rely on to market and sell their products are really the ones that dupe consumers. The euphemisms they use to hock their wares disguise the violence inherent in bringing animals into this world only to kill them. Even the very use of the words pork, bacon, poultry, beef, burger, and steak conceals the presence of the once-living animals.
Perhaps instead of banning such qualifiers as “veggie,” “vegetarian,” and “vegan,” they should add “pig,” “piglet,” “sow,” “cow,” “calf,” “steer,” “bird,” or even “animal” as qualifiers on their own products. “Cashew milk” could then compete fairly with “calf’s milk,” and “veggie burger” would be on the same playing field as “cow burger.”
If they’re really so worried about “duping” or “confusing consumers,” they would stop referring to their production practices in euphemistic terms. The egg and chicken industries would stop referring to the burning or cutting off of the tips of birds’ beaks without anaesthesia as “beak conditioning.” They would stop referring to the amputation of the tips of birds’ toes without anaesthesia as “toe clipping” or “toe conditioning.” The dairy industry would stop calling the cutting off of cows’ tails without anesthesia “tail trimming.” The pork industry would stop referring to the pens they confine pregnant pigs in as “maternity pens” or “individual gestation accommodations.” And instead of referring to their practice of killing piglets by slamming their heads against floors or walls, as “blunt force trauma,” they would call it what it is.
The animal exploitation industries and the politicians who rely on the deep pockets of the animal agriculture industry know that words matter, which is precisely why they work so hard to conceal the reality of their practices and products from the public.
The attempt to control the words used by plant-based companies — words that are already part of the public’s vernacular — is a desperate and short-sighted ploy to save a dying paradigm. Animal-based meat, dairy, and egg companies are fighting a losing battle and missing a golden opportunity to give customers what they want: animal-free versions that provide the fat, salt, flavor, familiarity, and texture without the cruelty.
Instead of trying to change words, they could be part of changing the future.
Colleen Patrick-Goudreau is an author, speaker, podcaster, and host of Animalogy, a podcast about the animal-related words and expressions we use every day
I’ve had so many eye-opening moments since starting this Zero Waste journey — one of them having to do with food waste. It’s why I’ve devoted three podcast episodes to this topic, when I thought I’d just be doing a simple episode on how to compost.
Certainly it’s been revelatory to learn about the rampant (and preventable) food loss and food waste that takes place in the harvesting, production, processing, and transportation arms of the food sector — the animal livestock industry being the number one culprit. But it’s been the food waste that takes place in the consumer sector — in our own homes — that has left a deep impression on me.
As I explain in Food Waste Part 2: Food is Not Garbage, Americans throw away up to 40% of perfectly safe, perfectly edible food — all of which winds up in a landfill, sitting in a dump, creating methane and other greenhouse gases.
The lightbulb that went off for me is simply this: food doesn’t belong in the garbage. I know that may sound ridiculously obvious, but I think because it’s so ridiculous obviously that it doesn’t even penetrate our skulls. We can’t see the forest for the trees.
When I started on this journey and began making changes in my life and in our home, one of the dilemmas I was faced with was what kind of garbage bags would I be able to find that fit our existing cans (below) and that are biodegradable. I started researching and googling and stressing until I realized…we don’t need ANY garbage bags at all — because there’s nothing stinking up our garbage!
The only reason we line our garbage bins with plastic bags is because of all the wet food we throw away that becomes stinky and smelly. Once we put those stinky garbage bags into our outdoor garbage cans, hungry, opportunistic critters (or “pests” as many people consider them) find these food-filled cans and create the human / animal conflicts that lead to their demise. The raccoons, skunks, opossums, crows, foxes, even bears who topple our garbage cans and make a mess are simply being resourceful enough to want to eat the food we considered waste and discarded.
Animals are the ultimate zero-wasters!
But, no food breaking down in our garbage…no smell. No smell…no “pests.” No “pests”…no conflicts or fear of disease-transmission. No conflicts…harmony. (And if you’re worried that urban and suburban wildlife would starve if we stopped throwing food away, my recommendation would be to focus on creating a wildlife-friendly habitat.)
Same goes for dumps.
The only reason dumps smell putrid is because of all the food we throw away that becomes stinky and smelly. If organic matter weren’t putrefying (especially because it can’t properly break down without the oxygen and soil and microbes it needs to do so), dumps wouldn’t smell. They also wouldn’t create greenhouse gases or attract “pests” that also create conflicts and a certain bad reputation and sometimes death for them. (Listen to the podcast for more about the negative effects of food in dumps.)
So instead of buying biodegradable garbage bags (which, by the way, can’t biodegrade without the right conditions, and there are no right conditions in a dump), we simply put our garbage and recycling into their respective receptacles — sans plastic bags.
Despite the goal being zero waste, we do still create waste in our home, mostly from products we still had and are using up before starting this journey and packaging from online orders (for the garbage) and aluminum cans from the cats’ food and the beer bottles David occasionally buys (for the recycling). All of the garbage items are dry, so there’s no issue there, and as for the recyclable items, we simply rinse out the cat cans and beer bottles before putting them in the garbage bin. The rest is any mail I can’t compost (yes, I’ll be discussing the challenge of reducing unwanted mail!) No need for a liner.
On garbage days, we bring take the receptacles directly to the city cans in our garage, dump in the contents, and rinse out our cans before returning them to the kitchen. Easy. Peasy.
As for what we do with food scraps, you’ll want to listen to the Food Waste Part 2 podcast episode for the gazillion ideas I provide for reducing food waste in the first place — and composting is the final (not first) suggestion. That’s right…the other massive revelation that guides my actions every day: ZERO WASTE ISN’T ABOUT WASTE DIVERSION. IT’S ABOUT WASTE PREVENTION.
Yes, I compost all the food scraps that remain (more to come on that topic), but I’m now focused more on eliminating food scraps in the first place, including when I eat out or at other people’s homes. (And for years we used compostable bags to line our compost pail on our countertop to make it “more convenient” for us to bring it down to the city’s green bin in our garage, but we stopped buying those, too, because it’s only a little less convenient to bring the actual pail down to the green bin, dump it, and bring it back to the kitchen. Big. Friggin. Deal.)
I’m reluctant to even recommend biodegradable garbage bags, because of all the reasons I gave above, but I realize there are municipalities around the world who don’t offer green bins for homeowners or apartment dwellers and many people don’t have compost bins (or know what to do with them if they did), however, please do me a favor and first:
- Listen to Food Waste: Part One and Food Waste: Part Two to get a broader understanding of the issue.
- Implement the suggestions in Part Two to start reducing food waste in the first place.
- Purchase biodegradable garbage bags instead of plastic while you’re eliminating food waste as much as you can.
- Share what you’re doing below to inspire others!
Thanks for reading! Lots more to come!
For the animals,
Despite the fact that animal agriculture is wreaking havoc in every way imaginable, meat consumption is on the rise. Of course, people can stop eating animal flesh and fluids and choose instead vegetables and plant-based meats and milks, but meat consumption is outpacing the rate at which people are becoming vegetarian and vegan. What if people could have their meat and eat it, too, and not cause the harm inherent in traditional agriculture? Join me today for a discussion about clean meat, the subject and title of Paul Shapiro’s new book, which I’ve dubbed “the best history of the future you’ll ever read.”
(And of course, until cellular agriculture lives up to the hype and hope, there’s always this thing called vegan.)
If you’re vegan and you’ve ever been asked, “what do you eat?”
If you’re not vegan, and you’ve ever asked, “what do vegans eat?”
There is a very simple answer.
[Tweet “Food. It’s What Vegans Eat.”]
The animal-based meat, dairy, and egg companies are not committed to killing and hurting animals as much as they’re committed to making money. If the meat, dairy, & egg industries could make as much money NOT killing and hurting animals, they’ll do it. Buying into the success of vegan companies enables them to do that. Isn’t that what we want?
The plant-based foods market recently topped $3.1 billion in sales and is slated to reach over $5 billion in just a couple years. As a result, the animal-based meat, dairy, egg, and other large corporations see vegan companies and the plant-based products they make as competitors they should fear, emulate, learn from, collaborate with, invest in, or even purchase. They recognize they need to “buy into” the success, growth, and future of the plant-based market. Some, however, see it as vegan companies “selling out,” choosing profit over principles and betraying their loyal vegan customer base. On today’s episode, we explore the many perspectives of such business decisions and speculate about who the biggest winners are in the end.
The TRUE carnivores of the world provide SO much benefit to our ecosystems, but they’re misunderstood, maligned, and systematically killed, mostly because of the HUMANS who pose as carnivores. Animal agriculture doesn’t only affect the billions of its direct victims, it also destroys the lives and habitats of millions of individual wild animals. Today’s guest on Food for Thought has devoted her life to changing attitudes and policies about the most maligned members of our communities. Camilla Fox is the founder of Project Coyote, a national nonprofit of scientists, educators, ranchers and citizen leaders who work together to change laws and policies to protect native carnivores from abuse and mismanagement, advocating coexistence instead of killing.Co-Existing with Carnivores: A Conversation with Project Coyote's Camilla Fox. "Animal agriculture kills millions of wild animals as well as billions of domesticated animals." Click To Tweet
May we come to view coyotes, wolves, mountain lions and other misunderstood predators who are native to the United States with understanding, respect and appreciation — rather than with fear, ignorance, and brutality. Listen to learn how YOU can help!
WARNING: Radical ideas fill this episode — the most popular of Food for Thought episodes — centering around the suggestion that we try to have compassion for people with whom we disagree or who participate in behavior we find abhorrent. That’s the thing about compassion: it’s gotta be equal opportunity or it’s just inauthentic. It’s easy to be compassionate towards like-minded people; the challenge is choosing to have compassion towards those with whom we disagree. Check out this episode for tips and suggestions on communicating with compassion – but only if you want to create change in the world.
For those who have never met them, turkeys are magnificent animals, full of spunk and spark, each with individual personalities and concerns. I was amazed the first time I visited rescued turkeys at a sanctuary for farmed animals, birds who had been abused, whose beak tips had been cut off and whose toes had been mutilated, but who still displayed immense affection for humans. A special turkey lady climbed into my lap and cooed as she fell asleep in my arms, while I stroked her soft chest and beautiful feathers. The next year, a special turkey named Lydia became very famous for hugging anyone who squatted down and held out his or her arms. Extraordinary animals they are.
If we claim to be a compassionate society—a compassionate species—don’t we have a duty to foster solutions that do not harm others? The great humanitarian Albert Schweitzer certainly thought so when he wrote, “The thinking [person] must oppose all cruel customs no matter how deeply rooted in tradition and surrounded by a halo. When we have a choice, we must avoid bringing torment and injury into the life of another.”
Try a turkey-free Thanksgiving this year. It will be a Happy Turkey Day for Turkeys indeed. Take advantage of all of the audio and video resources below for lots of reasons and ideas for celebrating this holiday without turkeys. Oodles of recipes, of course, can be found in my cookbooks.