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Operation Pancake
July 5, 2009 1:03 AM   Subscribe

An expose of non-vegan ingredients in pancakes at LA Vegan Thai inspired the QuarryGirl.Com writers to conduct their own extremely thorough investigation of LA vegan restaurants, testing their meals for traces of casein, egg, and shellfish. Over $1000 and a chain of interviews up to Taiwan later, they find that half the restaurants aren't as vegan as they claim, with half registering Positive or High and one registering Overload. Some restaurants vowed to conduct their own tests or requested further assistance; one banned them from the establishment.
posted by divabat (260 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
This individual or individuals seem vague about their process. It would be good if the procedure and specific testing materials are outlined so that the tests can be repeated by others.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:18 AM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


An excellent example of citizen investigation, as noted here. Also, they must be quite dedicated vegans!
posted by cofie at 1:18 AM on July 5, 2009


Interesting, but not that smart. If I were vegan, I'd accept that the world is decidedly non-vegan, and I'd accept that this fact makes it very, very difficult to purely vegan all the time, and I'd settle for being as vegan as I can be. Attacking vegan restaurants for not being vegan enough is not going to help the vegan cause (if there is such a thing) much. It simply tells people who are considering opening a vegan restaurant not to bother, since you'll never satisfy that market segment anyway. Which means this research may well result in even less choice..
posted by DreamerFi at 1:38 AM on July 5, 2009 [17 favorites]


I'm going to file the behavior of the Taiwanese manufacturers under "things I don't understand must not be important," where I also file a lot of my prior bosses' behavior.
posted by 1adam12 at 1:43 AM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Blazecock: Did you read the second link? It's pretty detailed about how they did their testing, and it looks very repeatable.
posted by Jilder at 1:45 AM on July 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


If I were vegan, I'd accept that the world is decidedly non-vegan, and I'd accept that this fact makes it very, very difficult to purely vegan all the time, and I'd settle for being as vegan as I can be.

In my experience, few vegans are willing to settle for being "as vegan as they can be".
posted by Jimbob at 1:47 AM on July 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


Problems with dining out are on of the reasons I am vegetarian rather than vegan. It really is too hard to be sure what you are eating at most places. That said, if a place is self proclaimed as vegan, they really need to be vegan.

I am a bit surprised they didn't just approach the local university or chef school, they probably would have done the tests for free and been a lot more rigorous. See eg the testing of whale meat for illegal catches.
posted by scodger at 2:03 AM on July 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


Blazecock: Did you read the second link? It's pretty detailed about how they did their testing, and it looks very repeatable.

I did read it, and, to my eyes, it seemed pretty vague about the specific tests and procedures used. Anyway, I'm a little skeptical about tests based on cheese being too "stringy". It's almost as is the writers are looking for an excuse to play the vegan victim.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:06 AM on July 5, 2009


Blazecock Pileon: their informant Mr. Wishbone obtained testing kits from labs that test for casein, shellfish, and eggs. They used the same procedures food manufacturing labs use to make sure their equipment is cleaned out of prior ingredients before making another batch of food.

They cleaned their kitchen thoroughly, kept food in ziplock bags and handled them with gloves in ice cases meant for donor organs, and were very meticulous in ensuring that there was no cross-contamination of equipment, food, or testing kits.
posted by divabat at 2:16 AM on July 5, 2009


Attacking vegan restaurants for not being vegan enough is not going to help the vegan cause (if there is such a thing) much.

I am so very tired of this weaselly "cause helping" canard. This kind of team play is group think. If your cause requires people to shut up in order to be "helped" then the cause isn't worthy of the help it is demanding. If you want to censor things then call for them to be censored so you can be seen for what you are rather than wrapping it up in "cause helping" strategic advice.
posted by srboisvert at 2:34 AM on July 5, 2009 [40 favorites]


I'm gonna go nuke me some microwaveable bacon and some frozen pancakes.
posted by GavinR at 2:35 AM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


A great story, reported well, written well, a lot of fun.

A great FPP, thanx for putting it 'on the blue.'
posted by dancestoblue at 2:45 AM on July 5, 2009


cheese being too stringy is perfectly acceptable evidence, and certainly enough to raise suspicions. seriously. having tried numerous kinds of vegan cheese, as well as vegetarian soy cheese, i can say with confidence that it is impossible to have a stringy, meltable substance without casein. you can have soy cheese that's stringy, but it will have the animal product casein in it. if it is vegan, it will melt, but not be stringy.
posted by molecicco at 2:51 AM on July 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


The rhetoric and approach of this investigation reminded me of the discourse within orthodox Jewish communities about the supervision and regulation of kosher factories and restaurants. I can imagine vegans setting up a system of certification where factories or restaurants are assessed by a credentialed expert, the vegan equivalent of a "Mashgiach", who investigates whether the facility adheres to a set of acknowledged standards for bona-fide vegan-ness.

On a related note, it's always interesting to see the different permutations of people's preoccupations with purity. In conservative contexts, this frequently takes the form of concerns about sexual purity, while in progressive circles, it is often manifest in concerns about food and consumption.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 3:01 AM on July 5, 2009 [40 favorites]


foxy_hedgehog: while in progressive circles, it is often manifest in concerns about food and consumption.

Its true, progressives only approve of select strains of tuberculosis.

Get it?! sorry.
posted by captain cosine at 3:29 AM on July 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


Has anyone else here circumcised their neighbor's aborted babies?
posted by item at 3:43 AM on July 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


I am so very tired of this weaselly "cause helping" canard.

srboisvert, you have very valid point. It's not that I'm trying to "shut up" the vegans here - they may very well have done some valuable research here. It's just that I think their efforts would have been more effective in another way. Say, by doing the same for "vegetarian" dishes instead.

But since I'm not vegan myself, my remarks are probably worth about the same as the paper they're written on.
posted by DreamerFi at 3:45 AM on July 5, 2009


This is exactly the kind of scrappy, investigative reporting that makes me great.
posted by America at 3:49 AM on July 5, 2009 [29 favorites]


Attacking vegan restaurants for not being vegan enough is not going to help the vegan cause (if there is such a thing) much. It simply tells people who are considering opening a vegan restaurant not to bother, since you'll never satisfy that market segment anyway.

They're not attacking them for not being "vegan enough," they are exposing them as not being vegan. Again, the Kashrut analogy is somewhat helpful here: something isn't "more" or "less" Kosher, it either it meets kosher standards or it doesn't. Demanding that something advertised as vegan actually be vegan may set a certain standard, but it's not an impossible one.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 3:51 AM on July 5, 2009 [17 favorites]


Interesting, but not that smart. If I were vegan, I'd accept that the world is decidedly non-vegan, and I'd accept that this fact makes it very, very difficult to purely vegan all the time, and I'd settle for being as vegan as I can be.

I understand this and agree with it in the sense that the perfect is the enemy of the good, but they have to advertise the truth: they are vegetarian restaurants or maybe low-meat restaurants, not vegan restaurants. Let people have complete information before they walk in and buy a product.

A lot of people are as disgusted with the idea of eating any kind of meat as you presumably are with eating human meat (and as others are disgusted with eating certain other kinds of meat such as pork). If you're totally against eating people and against the industry that harvests human flesh for consumption by others, you are not going to be OK with going to restaurants that use just a little human flesh in their dishes, or that only use human milk (and butter made from it) taken daily from captive women. You might be OK with (or resigned to) other people eating it, but you certainly wouldn't want restaurants to cheat you into eating it by advertising themselves as 100 percent non-cannibal.
posted by pracowity at 4:10 AM on July 5, 2009 [6 favorites]


Vegan . . . cheese? How does that work?
posted by that girl at 4:19 AM on July 5, 2009


I have a friend who works in the food industry. It's her job (amongst other things) to test food to make sure it's vegetarian enough to be labelled as 'Vegetarian'. That's right, vegetarian enough. Vegetarian products (in the UK at least) are allowed to have a certain percentage of animal protein in them.

I'm a fairly realistic vegetarian, so I'm quite accepting of this. If you are that concerned about what you eat, you need to take complete control of your food, and not leave it to other people. Everyone has different limits on what they will put through their mouths, whether they are vegetarian, vegan, allergic to something, or just plain don't like celery.

Even veganism, which is a lot less vague than vegetarianism, has points of debate - what about honey?
posted by Helga-woo at 4:22 AM on July 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


foxy_hedgehog: yeah, then there is the software purity of Richard M. Stallman (no closed source software anywhere on the computer), American style race-purity where 1/64th black heritage equals 100% black (which then ironically enough leads to the claim that Moses, Cleopatra, and Jesus were all black), lesbian separatist purity that stigmatizes the presence of male infants; the kookyness of purity really knows no end, and just to think it all probably just comes from a healthy instinct not to eat our own poop.
posted by idiopath at 4:27 AM on July 5, 2009 [7 favorites]


Vegan . . . cheese? How does that work?

It's sort of like non-dairy milks. Or non-dairy yogurts (where the same flora that make dairy yogurts are added, with thickeners and special processes to non-dairy soy milk or coconut milk to get something that tastes and feels very like dairy yogurt).

It's possible to with nut milks, soy milk, the same sort of operations you do with animal milks to get analogous substances. For instance, it's possible to coagulate soy milk. You end up with tofu, which is decidedly not cheese, and you use chalk instead of rennet to do the coagulating. But I hear that (and have not confirmed myself yet) homemade almond milk (i.e. ground at home with the solids in the grinding retained) is an ideal starting point for a vegan cheese.

Cheese is particularly hard because animal milks have a protein in them called casein, which is particularly well known for melting and stretching. That's hard to get out of other milks in situ. Usually folks add other sort of transparent additives known for similar behavior.

The missing aspect is the stretchiness. Apparently vegan food chemists have managed meltiness, but the stretchiness you get out of a dairy cheese is still missing.

I say all this as a formally trained chemist and home-trained foodie who lives with a significantly diet-limited person. We've gone out of our way to experiment with low glycemic non-casein-bearing foods for the past few years.
posted by kalessin at 4:43 AM on July 5, 2009 [7 favorites]


You might be OK with (or resigned to) other people eating it, but you certainly wouldn't want restaurants to cheat you into eating it by advertising themselves as 100 percent non-cannibal.

There is no 100% non-cannibal. If you had a detector that could measure human content down to parts per a million, I bet none of the food you eat daily would come out negative, simply because humans are shedding parts of themselves all over the place.

If you measure hard enough, everything contains trace amounts of everything. Nothing is clean.
posted by Pyry at 4:47 AM on July 5, 2009 [13 favorites]


I think you kinda dodged the point of the analogy there, Pyry.
posted by Ritchie at 4:56 AM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


So are vegans allowed human milk then?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:01 AM on July 5, 2009


P.S. I should also note that it's a given that food substitutions can be tricky. Vegan ones quite a bit moreso. It turns out that dairy and eggs are in a lot of recipes because of their ideal and really not easily replaceable properties and behavior in food chemistry that derive from their animal origin. There are a lot of sophisticated substitutes the home vegan cook can use, but they don't quite work right (without a lot of tweaking and experimenting). You usually end up sacrificing proper texture/taste for proper behavior (like how eggs help us make custards) or vice versa.

An example here would be that conventional home-cooked marshmallows require gelatin. Gelatin is animal-derived (whether from fish or land-based animal bones or skins). It has a certain stretchiness and chemical behavior (is sort of melty, and should not be boiled) that makes it ideal for the process of making homemade marshmallows.

The typical vegan substitute, agar agar (seeweed based) does the gelling, bouncy stretchiness, but it must be boiled. The difference in temperatures is enough to make it extremely difficult if not impossible to get the same sort of texture from a vegan marshmallow (mine turned out just unable to get fluffy). It looks from a few minutes of Googling that the final solution comes to using prepackaged vegan gelatin substitutes that look like they're a mixture of agar, carageenan, guar and xanthan gums.

It's possible to get it to work sometimes. There is apparently more than one vegan marshmallow brand out there. I haven't tested to make sure they're free of gelatin (5 or 10 years ago, there was a scandal about a particular brand that marketed itself as vegan and did a lot of brisk business until their gelling agent vendor noted the agent was fish-based), but it seems like it's probably possible, if tricky, to get a vegan marshmallow to work. There's even an "open source" recipe that relies on a vegan gelatin no longer sold by the manufacturer (though I think it's a formulation issue, and not a scandal).
posted by kalessin at 5:05 AM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


So are vegans allowed human milk then?

Depends on the vegan, but usually vegans become vegans later in life. Also, the whole exploitation angle changes immensely when it's your mother feeding it to you out of her own breast.
posted by kalessin at 5:06 AM on July 5, 2009


Does the word "vegan" bother anyone as much as it bothers me? I don't know, I find the word to have a harsh sound... As to the people themselves, to so proudly wear a label... It seems a little like a religion to me. Since there are different forms of being a vegetarian, isn't it enough to just be a vegetarian? Vegan is to Vegetarian as Trekker is to Trekkie, no?
posted by CarlRossi at 5:25 AM on July 5, 2009


These guys are using test kits designed to measure for trace amounts of certain proteins, kits made so that industrial food plants can measure how well they are cleaning equipment when switching production lines from one food to another. This is needed so they can avoid selling food with unexpected allergens that would kill people with extreme allergies.

These tests are absurdly over-sensitive for the task at hand here, (eg telling real cheese from vegan cheese), and false positives will be very common. Even the "overload" reading doesn't tell you very much.
They should have gotten the samples analyzed properly by real scientists, who'd have been able to tell them the actual composition.
posted by w0mbat at 5:29 AM on July 5, 2009 [9 favorites]


I used to live with a vegan person, and I know from walking round a supermarket with him that most processed foods contain ingredients the normal consumer wouldn't really expect to be there. Even when an omnivorous person buys food that they believe not to contain animal products, they're being mistaken because it's often the case that they do. They're not being misled though, as it's just an assumption that they don't contain animal products and nobody has actually made a promise that they don't. My favourite that he told me was that crisp/chips contain egg for no discernable reason at all, and nobody would expect egg to be present unless they read the ingredients. It's something that omnivorous people don't get angry enough about, as many concerns about 'chemicals' and 'additives' are to do with physical and not moral safety. We would be well served by saying that, 'Yes, we eat animal products, but that doesn't mean we want them in everything.'

Of course, this issue is about claims by restaurants to be looking after their customers' moral safety by preparing and selling vegan foods. They're selling not just food, but also the assurance that it doesn't contain animal products. I've know vegan people will accept lower-quality (taste, desirability) or higher-priced food because they trust the people who made it. I applaud this blog for its (very well done) expose of businesses that have tried to exploit that trust. The good news is that if some people saw vegans as a big enough market to be worth exploiting, then there are undoubtedly others who will see them as a big enough market to be worth catering for. I disagree that this doesn't 'help the vegan cause': it very much helps by sweeping away a number of pseudo-vegan restaurants, and making space for something better.
posted by Sova at 5:45 AM on July 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


I'm not even vegan and I thought this was great. It's awesome that they went further than the tests alone and started contacting people involved in the food manufacturing and labeling in Taiwan and China.
posted by Nattie at 5:47 AM on July 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's worth noting that it seems that only one of the restaurants seems to have actually failed; the rest of them bought their vegan products from a vegan supplier in the states, who bought them from a "vegan" supplier abroad.

While it might be unfortunate that the products are not as vegan as they claim, I have a hard time finding fault with the restaurant for this.

Still, a dedicated vegan might want to avoid them anyhow.
posted by vernondalhart at 5:48 AM on July 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm an omnivore with a quite a few vegetarian friends. Much like Sova, they have opened my eyes to a lot of crazy stuff that gets added to our food or are used to make our food. For instance, a certain brand of cheese and onion flavoured crisps (chips for Americans) are not suitable for vegetarians, but smoky bacon flavoured are. It's to do with the ingredients used to create the artificial flavour. For bacon it was actually a soya-based product and therefore vegetarian. I forget what the non-vegetarian ingredient was for the cheese & onion crisps.

I wholeheartedly agree with exposing things like this. Whatever the reason, if you advertise something as 'X' it should stand up to scrutiny. You wouldn't get away with calling something 'nut-free' if it had trace-elements of nuts, purely because of the potentially fatal effect it might have.
posted by slimepuppy at 5:58 AM on July 5, 2009


The outline of the plan made my head hurt.

Purchase anti-contamination equipment including industrial sterilization supplies, lab coats, uncontaminated bags, swabs, razor blades, gloves and floor coverings

OK, this is really oversold. Bleach and baggies from the grocery store would have been sufficient for this purpose. Don't get me started mocking lab coats. You wear a lab coat because you're bosses^5 boss thinks everything would be better if all of the scientists were dressed up as scientists.

Obtain highly restricted industrial food testing "kits" only available to the food manufacturing industry

Highly restricted? Knowing what they were probably doing, because I probably do the exact same thing only I do it with E. coli CHO and NS/0 lysate I kind of have to question the phrase "highly restricted". Not sold to any Bozo that comes down the pike because "Ooooo teh tewworists might be hiding in the bushes!" maybe. But, well, here's someone who will, among other things, happily sell you antibodies against total goat milk proteins. Microtiter plates are available of E-bay for $5 each. Also, why the (sarcasm? scare?) quotes around "kits".

What I'm pretty certain they didn't do (not for <$2000) was quantitation limit, detection limit and specificity testing. I understand that most people go their whole life never cursing the cross-reactivity between donkey anti-rabbit IgG and other species IgG, but that's the lonely road I travel.

Ultimately, I think Pyry is right about the point of the analogy. I once got to spend quality time in a little town in Austria trying to figure out why someone could not get an assay I developed to work. Her technique was solid, but even with the exact reagents and disposable plastic shipped over from our lab, the assay was a noisy mess in her lab and nothing we did made it any better. On the last day of the week, we were sitting there, running our plates, and a guy from the purification area came into the lab to use the pH meter. "What's in that beaker?" I found myself thinking. "And if it's product, what are the odds of us successfully measuring 0.5 ng of product here if you spill it?" I suggested that the lady doing the assay try repeating it in a biohood. When she did, she went from train wreck to better precision than I was achieving.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:04 AM on July 5, 2009 [14 favorites]


I wish I could favorite this comment by "Amanda" from the last link:

I also hope my fellow vegans consider the ramifications of certain behaviors in restaurants (veg or non-veg), particularly if you’re dining with non-vegan friends and family. I guarantee you that while you’re sitting there grilling the waiter about whey and casein, and demanding to see food wrappers, the non-vegans among you will be thinking, “I don’t ever want to be like that.” And the animals lose.

posted by applemeat at 6:15 AM on July 5, 2009 [17 favorites]


the kookyness of purity really knows no end

That's actually not what I meant to say, and I think that's an inaccurate way to characterize these types of restrictions. They are not simply "kooky"; all of these systems have their own internal logic and serve distinct social functions. For example, the Jewish dietary restrictions are very much about the creation and regulation of a social system, one that strictly defines communal boundaries, mandates behavior aligned with a certain system of ethics (e.g. kosher such as slaughtering methods) and maintains the health of the community, real or imagined.

The same goes for other systems of maintaining boundaries and social order, such as the "One-Drop Rule" regarding racial identity in the US. Dismissing them as simply "kooky" doesn't explain why people find or found them so compelling and persuasive in the first place.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 6:21 AM on July 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


>> So are vegans allowed human milk then?

Depends on the vegan, but usually vegans become vegans later in life. Also, the whole exploitation angle changes immensely when it's your mother feeding it to you out of her own breast.


It fucking shouldn't depend on the vegan. That's how you end up with malnourished children from idiot parents. As a reformedr vegan, I dealt with people asking questions like this in the rudest way possible, to try and get a rise out of it. But most vegans are not anti milk as a substance (aside from the hormones, the fat, the disease associated with it, mostly do to its production and the point in our life cycle we consume it). Like vegetarians and their reaction against eating dead flesh, vegans are (usually) reacting against the exploitation of an animal in the production of the product, be it milk, eggs, cheese, fur, feathers, leather, etc. With a human parent, there's no exploitation, and no problem, the same reason I doubt you'll find a vegan who thinks a mother cow shouldn't wean her calf.
posted by CharlesV42 at 6:21 AM on July 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


I've always called it vaguen. There's in implicit chain of trust of trust required for vegan food preparation and humans are inherently untrustworthy creatures. This is one of those situations where a somewhat official working group needs to develop and officialize a hard vegan spec, wrought with explicit rules and allowances, much like rabbinical authorities, but less beardy.

As for human milk, I've always thought consent was the core tenet of veganism and humans are the only creatures that could truly consent to another human, so it would be ok. I would think that you could take that even farther and include consensual consumption of human flesh as being vegan. I'd eat consensual human meat snacks.

I may even get a tattoo on my ass that says "Eat Me".
posted by zerokey at 6:23 AM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oops! That should say:

"...mandates behavior aligned with a certain system of ethics (e.g. kosher slaughtering methods) and maintains the health of the community, real or imagined."
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 6:26 AM on July 5, 2009


One thing that kind of amuses me a little bit (and I feel evil for thinking so) is that the vegans became suspicious after realizing that the food was too good - too fluffy, non-gritty, etc.

Though having allergies, I do think that it's extremely important that restaurants don't lie about these things.
posted by agregoli at 6:30 AM on July 5, 2009


GavinR: I'm gonna go nuke me some microwaveable bacon and some frozen pancakes.

I'm surprised we had to wait until the eleventh comment of a mefi vegitarian thread for one of these predictably stupid zingers. Say what you will about vegans, but perhaps a study should be conducted as to whether meat consumption inhibits creativity.
posted by applemeat at 6:30 AM on July 5, 2009 [18 favorites]


It's not true that no vegetarians in China and Taiwan care about milk and dairy - my local veggie restaurant here in Beijing advertises specifically as egg and dairy free and I swear that at least some of the veg restaurants I visited in Taiwan a good decade or more ago were identifying dishes that way.
posted by Abiezer at 6:50 AM on July 5, 2009


I may have missed it, but did it say somewhere what the shellfish test was actually testing for? I was thinking that if it was testing for chitin, the test may have been picking up the little bits of bugs that are in all food products (as allowed by the USDA). (I also didn't see if the tests were repeated in multiples for each sample)
posted by bolognius maximus at 6:56 AM on July 5, 2009


There is no 100% non-cannibal.

Of course not. And you just breathed some air from one of Caesar's farts. But unintentional, unavoidable contamination is not the point.

The point is that a restaurant calling itself vegan -- attracting customers and taking their money based largely on the claim that their food contains no animal products -- had better be checking all of the ingredients and trying its darnedest to keep animal products out of its food. That's what customers are paying for. If restaurants don't serve what they say they're serving, it's false advertising and they need some big, fat fines. And if stuff is accidentally showing up in their food in sufficient quantities, maybe they also need a visit from the health department.
posted by pracowity at 7:00 AM on July 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'd eat consensual human meat snacks.

Now your making me wonder about the possibility of making vegan friendly gelatin by extracting the collagen from the 30 odd pounds of cat hair I extract from my cat every spring.

It's consensual if by consensual you mean, "Hey, wake up and adore me or I'll bite your ankle again!"
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:04 AM on July 5, 2009


Jesus, some of you people are acting like you've recently fallen to earth in a meteor and/or don't know where Google lives. Also, glad to see that the HURF DURF BACON comments have already appeared. I'm not even vegan, but I can totally imagine how frustrating it must be to have to constantly deal with this shit from people who otherwise seem quite intelligent and open minded.
posted by hermitosis at 7:07 AM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you're totally against eating people and against the industry that harvests human flesh for consumption by others, you are not going to be OK with going to restaurants that use just a little human flesh in their dishes, or that only use human milk (and butter made from it) taken daily from captive women.

this is one of those things you have to be from manhatten to worry about, right?
posted by pyramid termite at 7:11 AM on July 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


In my experience, few vegans are willing to settle for being "as vegan as they can be".

In my experience, few vegans are willing to settle for anyone, anywhere, ever, being as "vegan as they can be".

Anthony Bourdain had this one nailed, when he described vegans as being the "Hezbollah-like sister faction of vegetarians"
posted by deadmessenger at 7:17 AM on July 5, 2009 [15 favorites]


This was a great FPP about people who had done something interesting, certainly much more interesting than wandering into MetaFilter and snarking, and it still got snark. Blah blah shame on them for testing as rigorously as they could manage, blah blah vegans are pests. It's not as though they went to burger joints to complain about cow in the food. Everything divabat linked to suggests these are extremely reasonable folk. Unlike a few people here.
posted by kmennie at 7:20 AM on July 5, 2009 [7 favorites]


I couldn't get through the whole thing because it was too long. After a few tests, I got the point.

I don't think it was quite intended, but I sort of got the feeling that these Operation Pancake people were going into this with the wrong attitude, like they were intentionally being duped. Like someone was in the back of the restaurant, cackling, saying "Ha, ha, we really fooled those vegans." Maybe in a couple of cases, the restaurant didn't actually understand the word, but I think for the most part, these places are doing what they can. Yeah, they should be aware if their foods have animal products in them, but I just don't like the way they went about it.

Me, I'm probably the most slack vegan ever (I mean, I'm not chowing down on steaks or anything though) but I've pretty much accepted that sometimes I may not know quite what I'm eating when I'm out. There are some vegan and vegetarian restaurants here I trust but even with a couple of them, I do wonder (we have a place that serves vegan sandwiches, and I've seen them use soy mayonnaise, but it's possible the meat subs they used weren't vegan).

I guess my point is that yes, I think you can be vegan enough and it's something I try not to make an issue of when I'm out with friends. To me, being vegan is much more of an ideal rather than something you can absolutely practice all the time, unless you're growing and cooking your own food. And that's just not practical for most of us.
posted by darksong at 7:25 AM on July 5, 2009 [6 favorites]


They cleaned their kitchen thoroughly, kept food in ziplock bags and handled them with gloves in ice cases meant for donor organs, and were very meticulous in ensuring that there was no cross-contamination of equipment, food, or testing kits.

I'm picturing a CSI-style testing lab, complete with rock soundtrack and artsy camera shots. And for their next project I'd like them to investigate why the box of raisin bran cereal I opened this morning seems to be sans raisins.

Good for them for doing this. Restaurants should certainly be held accountable for meeting their claims. Jeez, they sometimes don't even take allergy-related concerns seriously enough. I have friends who have to take their Epi pens out and put them on the table to help get the message across that if they are lied to about the contents of their food THEY COULD DIE.

Not that I'm inclined to be too harsh with the restaurants. It must be just as difficult to get 100% vegan food as it is to get clothes made without sweated labour.
posted by orange swan at 7:28 AM on July 5, 2009


What a completely fascinating and provocative post. Thanks, divabat.

Remember: MOST, if not all, of the fake meats you buy come from Taiwan.

*dreads upcoming expose on "cage-free" "organic" eggs*
posted by mediareport at 7:33 AM on July 5, 2009


I'd eat consensual human meat snacks.

I think we've been here recently.

Anyway, what hermitosis and kmennie said. The vegan-bashing and concern-troll "advice" here is pretty much the same shit you see about everyone who tries to live according to some personal value system, such as buying local or reducing their direct and indirect fossil fuel consumption or whatever. It's perfectly okay if you don't share their concerns but why do you get so upset? Doesn't it amount to more meat/gas/shit made elsewhere for you? Shouldn't you be thrilled that they're reducing the demand for something you use rather than being so offended?

I mean if you've been attacked on the street by gangs of vegans for not doing as they do I could see it, but a) I haven't seen a lot of stories about this and b) that's not an indictment of veganism that's an indictment of assholery and maybe you should be upset about assholes instead. Oh. And if you don't like assholes you also might want to avoid hot dogs.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:36 AM on July 5, 2009 [20 favorites]


Not a vegan or a vegetarian, but when I read this, what horrified me was the re-labeling that happens in Taiwan. I don't eat packaged foods much anymore, but when I do I like to know that the label accurately represents what's in the package, down to the last unpronounceable chemical.

As to the stringiness and meltability of cheese vs vegan cheese, their tests in that respect are perfectly reasonable. I've never met a vegan cheese that could do both. I encountered questions about vegan cheese almost daily when I worked in the cheese and wine department at Whole Foods - questions that were usually some variation on "Is this as good as Cheddar or swiss?" We tried all the vegan cheeses, we melted them, we sampled them out with slices of apple, etc. As long as you're not expecting them to actually taste - or more importantly, feel - like cheese, there's nothing wrong with them. But they don't behave the way actual cheese does. Even a classic non-melting cheese, like haloumi, has a particular mouthfeel that vegan cheeses haven't yet attained.
posted by rtha at 7:52 AM on July 5, 2009


As a vegan I think the main issue here has nothing to do with actually being vegan, it has to do with the standards that we expect to be in place with food labels. I am deathly allergic to shellfish and have always trusted that in a vegan restaurant I shouldn't have to worry about swelling up and transported to the hospital. I am glad that the Taiwanese government is working to place more stringent restrictions on these companies.

I will never understand why the mere act of veganism offends so many people. In my experience the percentage of those really annoying in your face vegans are so low that you can't have possibly all had to deal with one. Most vegans are making a personal statement that does not directly involve you, it is a personal battle that they are having with they way they see the world.

I repeat, they are not insulting you by not eating part of the cow you foraged for your dinner.
posted by trishthedish at 7:59 AM on July 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


Since there are different forms of being a vegetarian, isn't it enough to just be a vegetarian? Vegan is to Vegetarian as Trekker is to Trekkie, no?

Well, no.

Vegitarianism is pretty easy, really. Don't eat meat, up your soy intake and grab some nuts to compensate for the drop in your protein consumption, and okay if you're more hardcore start checking labels for a handful of things like gelatin. But I, as a non-vegetarian, have at least a half-dozen totally vegetarian-approved meals every week, just because I happen to like veggies. Whereas I very rarely eat Vegan-friendly food. Granted, I happen to like a little cheese on my pasta, but still, it's hard. I've given a bunch of thought to it as a single guy dating in circles that include a lot of non-meat-eating girls of varying seriousness, and concluded that I could go "girlfriend-vegetarian" pretty damn easily but would be pretty incapable of sustaining a vegan lifestyle for more than a few days without snapping.

Vegetarian:Vegan::Trekkie:Full-time Starfleet Officer cosplayer with a bedroom done up as the Enterprise D's bridge.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:03 AM on July 5, 2009 [13 favorites]


Maybe in a couple of cases, the restaurant didn't actually understand the word, but I think for the most part, these places are doing what they can.

I, too, am a little touchy about vegans putting their self-righteous hats on (and I say this as a vegan myself) but we are talking about restaurants who advertise themselves as exclusively vegan. If you are going to go into business serving a clientele who is known to be particular about these things, I think that business is obligated to hold itself to a higher standard. Don't understand what an ingredient is? Err on the side of caution and don't use the product.

It's happened to me twice (and I don't live in LA) where I've encountered restauranteurs that have displayed this kind of contempt for vegan customers: one was a local cafe that advertised a vegan milkshake. It had a vaguely dairy-y taste to it, though, and when pressed the cafe owner admitted there was dairy ice cream in it. He patronizingly claimed that it was "only a little," and that "you can't make it taste good without it." (Tofutti anyone? Soy Delicious? They even have them at the local grocery store, that's just lazy.)

The other time is a bit more of a gray area, but still: a local restaurant that actively courted the vegetarian/vegan market advertised (along with genuinely vegan meat substitutes) a substitution of vegan soy cheese on their pizzas. Servers and word-of-mouth referrals all parroted the same line: the owner's wife is vegetarian and so they knew all about our concerns, etc. etc. The cheese was suspiciously stringy, though, and when the server got a cheese wrapper from the kitchen it was a brand that contained casein. Admittedly, this is a potentially clueless server, but the response we got was along the lines of "well, there are no really vegan cheeses." (Yes there are!)

So, this is entirely anecdotal, but based on my experience I don't have a hard time believing that some restaurants are deliberately being less than honest with their vegan clientele.

And I point out again that the material difference here is that these restaurants are actively soliciting vegan customers, and ought to know better: this isn't the same as a vegan walking into an omni restaurant and being disingenuously shocked that there are no vegan menu items or that there is a chance of cross-contamination.
posted by AV at 8:09 AM on July 5, 2009 [7 favorites]


I'm having trouble getting past the fact that dedicated vegans will root through restaurant trash bins in order to make sure they're not being served animal products. Having worked in NYC restaurants, I guarantee there is nothing on earth that could make me go within 10 feet of their bins; not even if I suspected I was being served Filet O'Baby sammiches.
posted by elizardbits at 8:10 AM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


. . .most people go their whole life never cursing the cross-reactivity between donkey anti-rabbit IgG . . .

I think you're right.
posted by nola at 8:16 AM on July 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


Even veganism, which is a lot less vague than vegetarianism, has points of debate - what about honey?
posted by Helga-woo at 7:22 AM on July 5


Vegetarian and occasional vegan for 18 years....I know a good number of vegans, have met countless others, and never has honey been a point of debate.

There are few tenets in veganism, it's pretty simple...no animals, no animal products. That means wool, that means honey, and no debate. Not to open a can of beans, but I might as well point out that "vegetarians" who eat fish or chicken are not vegetarian. That is also not up for debate.
posted by nevercalm at 8:17 AM on July 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


Late again. Has anybody posted this yet? (the dueling fliers jpeg)
posted by squalor at 8:18 AM on July 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm having trouble getting past the fact that dedicated vegans will root through restaurant trash bins

Flagged as a derail, but if you read the article you will see that the person who reported this noticed the pancake mix on top of a garbage bin on his way to the restroom. There was no "rooting."

And this was one person, not all vegans.

And for pete's sake, can this not devolve into LOLVEGANS?
posted by AV at 8:22 AM on July 5, 2009


Late again. Has anybody posted this yet? (the dueling fliers jpeg)

Uh... yeah.

"Hey, let's put together a group to chat about this stuff, because we catch a lot of flak and it's helpful to know you're not alone when you're trying to do something that you find personally very ethically important but other people mock."

vs

"HURR HURR they need a SUPPORT GROUP the PANSIES let's MOCK THEM."

Admittedly, it does a great job of convincing me it's in an environment where a way to get some solidarity with other non-meat-eaters would be really fucking important.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:24 AM on July 5, 2009 [10 favorites]




AV, it was just one person, but he did go back later and dig around in the trash:

I got really angry after I left and went into “Pancake Police mode” and returned after-hours for a little dumpster inspection that evening…

But honestly, elizardbits, after he was blatantly lied to about something the restaurant knows is important to customers, I find it easy to sympathize. That said, the actual investigation here involved no dumpster-diving. Just good, smart, solid amateur science and careful reporting. The follow-up article in particular is a great model for how to do this kind of thing.
posted by mediareport at 8:37 AM on July 5, 2009


Fundamentalist vegans. LOL!!
posted by Crotalus at 8:38 AM on July 5, 2009


I think there are some easy answers as to why some omnivores like myself get upset with some vegans.

1) Proselytizing. I don't like it when religious folk do it, and I don't like it when veg/vegan folk do either.

2) Soy. It turns out soy is a trigger for my asthma. I try to avoid it. Folk who eat vegetarian can sometimes be pretty unaware that anyone might have an issue with soy. Also I have political issues with the overuse of soy and the associate agricultural lobby- that stuff is in everything!

3) Idiots who don't pay enough attention to nutrition, particularly the nutrition of their children. (no, not all vegetarians have this issue, but some, particularly some vegans, do).

4) Moral superiority. No, I don't think you're morally superior to me, you have your food flown in from Taiwan etc. Think of the petroleum cost! (I'm being a little sarcastic here, especially since I'm sure a sizeable portion of what I eat is too; more seriously, I'm sure the vast majority of people in developed countries are taking at least some action/inaction that could be construed as morally reprehensible. Nobody deserves a high horse here.)

5) I think meat-eaters actually have more control over how animals are treated. I can choose to buy grass fed beef or chickens who aren't kept in miniscule cages.

6) Vegans who don't realize that their choice is a priveleged choice, which they can make because they are rich enough. For the vast majority of human history, and the majority of the population even today, people have eaten/eat animal products because that's what they can afford. Cattle turn grass which we humans can't eat into meat/milk that we can. (Vegetarians don't have quite as much of a disconnect here, although culturally widespread vegetarianism is rare too).

7) Yeah, I think humans are more important than animals (particularly ones with minimal nervous systems, e.g. shellfish). I have a maximum amount of concern I can wrestle up for the state of the world, and I'm a hell of a lot more concerned about Iran, Pakistan, Honduras, etc.
If you want me to get upset about the food system we'll have to discuss food transport costs, agribusiness, exploitation of human migrant labor, etc. Or we could discuss the food distribution problems that result in a sizeable portion of the *human* population of the world not getting enough food.

So I do get upset at (some) vegans. Of course not all vegans have the problems listed above, and I try not to get irritated with those that don't.


Ah yes, the article in question: yes, I'm impressed that the linked blog actually went to the trouble of testing. I agree wholeheartedly that if a restaurant says they are vegan, they should be actually vegan. And additionally they should care enough to check out their supply chain and ensure the products are appropriate (particularly when translation issues crop up).
posted by nat at 8:41 AM on July 5, 2009 [24 favorites]


I'm not a vegan, but this just seems like a straight-up truth in advertising issue. If you advertise that something is vegan, then it should be vegan. To me, this is about the principle that we should be able to trust the claims that businesses make in their advertising, not about whether I'm sympathetic to the particular claim.

I think that if I were vegan, though, I would be inclined to be a little dubious about inexpensive vegan restaurants. There just aren't that many vegans in the U.S., and I'm not sure there's a big enough market to allow for the economies of scale that make low-cost restaurants possible.
posted by craichead at 8:44 AM on July 5, 2009


Mediareport, I absolutely sympathize. I have various food allergies that would make things very unpleasant (both for me and the restaurant's restroom, tbh) if I was lied to about ingredients. I just think restaurant bins are vile, that's all.

I really enjoyed reading about their amateur science experiments, too. There's been some derision about their methods, but I think it was a great first try for people who appear to have no formal lab experience.
posted by elizardbits at 8:44 AM on July 5, 2009


Very interesting read. Thanks for posting, divabat. This is probably "no duh" territory, but the story is a reminder that sometimes people are more interested in making money than staying faithful to themselves or to a cause.
posted by TheClonusHorror at 8:48 AM on July 5, 2009


1) Proselytizing. I don't like it when religious folk do it, and I don't like it when veg/vegan folk do either.

Another non-vegan, non-veg here, and the thing with this is -- and I have seen this on the blue -- when people simply say "this is right for me" there's still always a posse of good old boys who will jump up and proclaim "Oh you think you're better than me, is that it?!"

For every proselytizing vegan/veg I've met, I've probably met three or four by surprise (meaning, it came up because it had to -- dinner plans and the like), and probably a dozen of the above-mentioned yahoos.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:52 AM on July 5, 2009 [16 favorites]


For the vast majority of human history, and the majority of the population even today, people have eaten/eat animal products because that's what they can afford...culturally widespread vegetarianism is rare too).

Huh? Actually, for the vast majority of human history, plants have made up most of the diet "because that's what they can afford." That's one of the reasons my peasant grandmother told me she never understood my vegetarianism - she ate potatoes because she had to. And don't forget the hunting part of hunting and gathering was usually minimal, according to anthropologists who've looked at diet in traditional h/g societies.
posted by mediareport at 8:53 AM on July 5, 2009 [6 favorites]


he did go back later and dig around in the trash

Oops, you're right. Still, as you point out, it's not as though he just did that out of some militaristic post-meal routine - he saw the non-vegan mix and decided to investigate further.

And while I'm equivocating I may as well point out that it does seem that some of the restaurants which tested positive for non-vegan ingredients may have been relying on a supplier that was not disclosing ingredients properly, and are voluntarily taking steps to correct the problem. That is good, and the kind of business practices I support. Sometimes mistakes happen, people understand that. However, the restaurant that tested "overload" for casein despite specifying that the item was casein-free and then screamed "DON'T COME HERE AGAIN" when the testers tried to bring it to their attention? Not cool. Deserved being exposed.
posted by AV at 8:55 AM on July 5, 2009


I'm a meat-eater, always have been, always will be. I don't agree with some of the moral stances of veganism. But I think what these people did was fantastic, and here's why: If you claim, as a business, to provide a certain niche service, and if you fail (and not just fail, but fail pretty miserably, as is pointed out in those articles -- the "no position of purity" argument is a red herring), then you deserve to get called out for it. If I open a restaurant based on the premise that I'm going to bless the food by standing on one foot for 12 hours a day, and if I don't do that, it doesn't matter how dumb that premise is -- I deserve to lose whatever niche clients I would have brought in with my strategy. (Note: I'm not claiming that such weirdness is equivalent to veganism; just making a point).

Late again. Has anybody posted this yet? (the dueling fliers jpeg)

Dammit. Can us meat-eaters just not be assholes for a little while, in a thread that's actually really interesting?
posted by Frobenius Twist at 8:56 AM on July 5, 2009 [10 favorites]


We're not vegans, or even vegetarians. However, my husband is allergic to casein. So if a restaurant advertises that it's casein-free but isn't, it affects us too. It doesn't have to have anything to do with purity. And as has been said, restaurants and food providers should not be allowed to get away with lying about the food they provide; if you don't care if they lie about animal products, would you care if they were lying about sanitation, or freshness?

If it's truly impossible to run a vegan restaurant, or prohibitively expensive, then owners should just have a vegetarian one.
posted by emjaybee at 8:56 AM on July 5, 2009


But I think part of the problem comes from vegan cuisine that aims to imitate non-vegan cuisine. When I was a vegan, I was baffled by the idea for fake meats and cheeses. They taste inferior and have very little nutritional value...and they imitate foods that vegans are against eating! Vegan cuisine needs to most on from imitation if it wants to be considered as a real cuisine.

There are restaurants that are doing this, drawing on foods that don't need binders, artificial colors, and stabilizers to taste good. Maybe there will be more because of this investigation? It seems strange that so many of the offending restaurants in this investigation are SE Asian-ish, since this cuisine adapt to vegan so well without using imitation ingredients. There are already elements of the native cuisine, like tempeh and coconut milk, that are vegan and their use can simply be expanded to make wonderful and delicious food that doesn't have 1000 different factory-made synthetic ingredients.
posted by melissam at 8:57 AM on July 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


Carrots is murder. Just worm poop for me.
posted by valentinepig at 9:02 AM on July 5, 2009


Dammit. Can us meat-eaters just not be assholes for a little while, in a thread that's actually really interesting?
posted by Frobenius Twist at 11:56 AM on July 5


I've never seen it happen, but I remain hopeful.

I eat foods that are made to resemble meat, and almost every time I think to myself "what do you have to do to a soybean to make it into bacon?" They're great little time savers, but I think that on it's face, it goes against much of what we claim to be for....less processing, more natural, better for the environment, etcetc.
posted by nevercalm at 9:02 AM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Frobenius Twist beat me to the punch - regardless of one's opinions regarding veganism, this is ultimately a story about consumers going the extra mile to ensure they are getting the service/product for which they are paying. What the hell is so wrong with that?

Thanks for the article, divabat!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:02 AM on July 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


If I were vegan, I'd accept that the world is decidedly non-vegan, and I'd accept that this fact makes it very, very difficult to purely vegan all the time, and I'd settle for being as vegan as I can be.

Doesn't "as vegan as I can be" by definition include reading about which vegan restaurants are lying about it and then avoiding them if a real vegan alternative is available?

In any case, from my perspective it's irrelevant:

As a non-vegan, non-vegetarian, whose once-favorite restaurant meal centered around chicken smothered in cheese and bacon, I do also enjoy the occasional animal-free entree. It's hard to enjoy a wide variety of good Indian food without sometimes going vegan "by accident". The point of this introduction is that I can enjoy an all-vegan meal, I can enjoy a tri-species feast of exploitation and slaughter; it's all good.

I still wouldn't want to go to a restaurant that, having advertised itself as vegan, was slipping egg and cheese products into the food. They're either lying about their food, or their suppliers are. Paying someone else for food preparation involves too much trust, and, even aside from the immorality, it's not too outlandish to decide that a violation of that trust is a deal-breaker. What other shortcuts are they taking that haven't been or can't be revealed by a lab test? In what other ways will their or their suppliers' lack of respect for their customers going to manifest itself? There's ~75 million incidences of food poisoning in the US each year; life is too short and the symptoms are too unpleasant to risk eating someplace that has already proven to be making mistakes with your meal.
posted by roystgnr at 9:02 AM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Of course not all vegans have the problems listed above, and I try not to get irritated with those that don't.

posted by nat at 11:41 AM


As a vegan, I sure hope I'm doing everything possible to ensure that omnivores are always completely comfortable and never feel irritated by my personal lifestyle choices. I also apologize if my comment here has upset you in any way. I hate to think of all the suffering my veganism has inadvertently caused. Curse this veganism! Why must I be this way?!!
posted by orme at 9:07 AM on July 5, 2009 [11 favorites]


This is probably "no duh" territory, but the story is a reminder that sometimes people are more interested in making money than staying faithful to themselves or to a cause.
And also that ethical consumption relies on having accurate information about the products you're consuming. Unless you have really good information or are willing and able to do the research yourself, it's really hard to know if you're really making ethical consumer choices.
There are restaurants that are doing this, drawing on foods that don't need binders, artificial colors, and stabilizers to taste good. Maybe there will be more because of this investigation? It seems strange that so many of the offending restaurants in this investigation are SE Asian-ish, since this cuisine adapt to vegan so well without using imitation ingredients.
I could be totally wrong, but I think that the problem is that these restaurants are basically upscale fast food, and that model relies on having a lot of stuff prepared in advance. I think that processed foods are more amenable to being made in advance and then heated up later. It's not that it's difficult to make delicious vegan food. It's that it's difficult to make delicious vegan fast food to be sold in a fast food restaurant.

(I'm lactose intolerant, don't eat a ton of meat, and mostly don't cook with processed ingredients, so I end up eating vegan by default on a fairly regular basis. I'd submit that it's perfectly easy to make yummy vegan food. But you'd be amazed at how much stuff in fast food places has hidden lactose. It's used as a browning agent, I think, which is why I can't eat french fries at most fast food places without getting sick. I think the problem here is probably with the fast food model, rather than with veganism, and with the food additives that get used to cut corners at fast food restaurants. If I were making french fries at home, they'd be vegan.)
posted by craichead at 9:15 AM on July 5, 2009


I'd like to comment on a theme I have seen in some comments, that eating vegan is a binary thing, either you are 100% vegan or you are not. Some people are very strict about their veganism, but not all people are. There are many reasons to be vegan. I avoid meat/eggs/dairy for my health (also salt, sugar, and so on). This means I eat a vegan diet most of the time. That said, there are some situations I know I will be eating things that do not fall into the vegan category. But since I am not vegan for animal rights, to fight big agra, and other such reasons, I do not mind the fact that there is dairy in this particular pasta sauce, or that some egg went into that desert.
posted by LoopyG at 9:23 AM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


That's a good point, LoopyG.
posted by orme at 9:28 AM on July 5, 2009


Anthony Bourdain had this one nailed, when he described vegans as being the "Hezbollah-like sister faction of vegetarians"

Personally, I've never known a vegan who was very prescriptive about other people's food, including mine.

I have met them, though, and seen their flyers, so I know that "vegan fascists" do exist -- just like there are fascistic-seeming folks in just about every movement you could justify calling a movement (and some things that you wouldn't even try to). "Is that a real poncho or a Sears poncho?"

My personal opinion on Veganism is that it's essentially religious in nature. I don't think there are any stronger health-related arguments for it than for Fruitarianism. But I don't get into that with vegans because the discussions are so liable to get into an area that feels religious that friendships get jeopardized. (FWIW, I've found vegans who are frank about the religious roots of their veganism, or at least in touch with them on some level, to be much more tolerable as company, but I suspect that's an artifact of my limited experience and that the truth is more unfocused.)

FWIW, if you have a believe that eating any animal products is going to make you unholy or impure, you should do your best to avoid eating them. I think there's an advantage to religious veganism here, in that if you have a coherent religious belief about vegan consumption, you usually also have some means of mitigating your consumption post-facto -- so you may not get quite as over-wrought about it.
posted by lodurr at 9:28 AM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


I do not mind the fact that there is dairy in this particular pasta sauce, or that some egg went into that desert.

......which means you are not vegan. Because the beliefs are what makes you vegan, not the diet. And it is a binary thing....if you are "mostly" vegan, you are not vegan. You just tend to eat a vegan style diet.
posted by nevercalm at 9:29 AM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


so if the beliefs are what make you a vegan, you can be a vegan and still eat animal products, right?
posted by lodurr at 9:33 AM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


so if the beliefs are what make you a vegan, you can be a vegan and still eat animal products, right?

Duh.

Because the beliefs are what makes you vegan, not along with the diet.

FTFM
posted by nevercalm at 9:38 AM on July 5, 2009


Anthony Bourdain had this one nailed, when he described vegans as being the "Hezbollah-like sister faction of vegetarians"

Well, who am I to doubt the insight of a warthog anus eater who also called Alice Water's advocacy of organic foods very Khmer Rouge, but I can't help thinking his comparisons are possibly a little off base. After all, the violence he's referring to seems somewhat more characteristic of carnivore diets, say, for example, here or here or here. Violent vegans? Maybe he's thinking of this interview of vegan terrorist extraordinaire Isa Chandra Moskowitz :

What recipes from any of your books would be most likely to convert someone to veganism?

The recipe for giving up some power and starting to care about the world. Or maybe the recipes for French toast, tempeh bacon, and scrambled tofu.

Vegans. Crazy people. Honest.
posted by Karmadillo at 9:41 AM on July 5, 2009


just want to be clear that what we're talking about is a belief system, not a diet.

So analogies w/ halal and kosher hold, but need in addition to consider that in the case of veganism the food practices are crucial parts of the sacrament. So maybe Ayurveda is a better comparison. (Not surprising.)
posted by lodurr at 9:42 AM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Not a vegetarian myself, but still the self-congratulation of some meat-eaters when contrasting themselves with vegetarians is pretty pitiful stuff. Really? You hang your self-esteem on buying a styrofoam tray of meat in its own little puddle of pinkish water, or buying a burger that some resentful teenager has enhanced with a bit of his own snot at Carl's Jr? Because if those things make you some kind of badass Jurassic Park apex predator, then buying a pencil makes you a lumberjack.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:45 AM on July 5, 2009 [12 favorites]


My personal opinion on Veganism is that it's essentially religious in nature.

I want to avoid, as much as possible, supporting the exploitation of animals. I don't understand how that is religious.
posted by orme at 9:46 AM on July 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


French toast or scrambled tofu I don't know about, but I could imagine tempeh bacon being pretty good. Does irritate me that vegetarians [not just vegans] insist on calling things by the names of their "real" counterparts. It smacks of marketing. I think at least some vegan foodies should go and invent a totally new cuisine that has its own terms. It would take a while for it to win acceptance, but once it did, you'd be able to adhere with pride and without a sense of deprivation.
posted by lodurr at 9:46 AM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


The recipe for giving up some power and starting to care about the world. Or maybe the recipes for French toast, tempeh bacon, and scrambled tofu.
Yup. She nailed it! My diet is different from hers because I simply don't care about the world.

Having said that, I use her recipes on a pretty regular basis.
posted by craichead at 9:47 AM on July 5, 2009


orme: you've made an ethical/moral decision that exploiting animals is bad. Can you map out how you suport that decision? And how are you about the fact that you, yourself and all your vegan friends together will never make a dent in the exploitation of animals worldwide?

When you've answered those questions, explain to me how your answers have nothing to do with religion.
posted by lodurr at 9:49 AM on July 5, 2009


Please, no one bother taking up lodurr on his questions.
posted by mediareport at 9:54 AM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


George_Spiggott: Not a vegetarian myself, but still the self-congratulation of some meat-eaters when contrasting themselves with vegetarians is pretty pitiful stuff.

This one cuts both ways. I find most doctrinaire vegetarians to be kind of sloppy in their arguments. They don't get that their ethical stance is a choice and that it comes from somewhere, and they don't get that there are consequences even to choices they regard as good. A lot of vegetarians for example buy into the idea of undoing corporate farming, but have given no thought at all to how you'd have to restructure all the societies of teh world to cope with that reality.

Yes, the meat and dairy industries are hideous. Make them go away: What do you replace them with? You have to rebuild the whole system. ("And what happens to the animals" is, IMO, a canard, so I'm not going there myself right now. But it's an interesting canard and can be used to illuminate the kind of thinking that leads to doctrinized, religion-like food practice complexes.)
posted by lodurr at 9:55 AM on July 5, 2009


orme: you've made an ethical/moral decision that exploiting animals is bad. Can you map out how you suport that decision.
Oh come on. You could say the same thing about my belief that human slavery is wrong. All of our ethical systems are based on first principles that can't be rationally proven. You seem to be equating "ethical" with "religious," which seems problematic to me. I think that secular people would want to claim that they can have ethics without having religion.
And how are you about the fact that you, yourself and all your vegan friends together will never make a dent in the exploitation of animals worldwide?
I'm not convinced this is right, either. I don't think that they'll ever achieve all of their goals, but I think the animal rights movement has done a lot to publicize the evils of factory farming and stuff like that. And I do think that we might eventually see change in some practices, although I don't think we'll ever live in a vegan world. At any rate, I'm pretty wary of predicting the future, and I sort of hate the idea that people shouldn't join social movements just because they seem unlikely to affect change. The surest way to make sure that your social movement fails is to drop out of it because you're convinced it will fail.
posted by craichead at 9:55 AM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sorry, mediareport.
posted by craichead at 9:56 AM on July 5, 2009


mediareport: why not? is it just that you think i'm trolling (IMO I'm not, but trolling is in the eye of the beholder, so...), or that you're afraid of the fracas that is liable to result?

If the latter, frankly, I'm with you. I'm not trying to start a fracas and I'll shut up. But your admonition does smack of suppressing the expression of ideas.
posted by lodurr at 9:57 AM on July 5, 2009


The recipe for giving up some power and starting to care about the world.

As an omnivore, this is the sort of talk that turns me off veganism and vegetarianism. It's hard not to get your nose a little out of joint at moral superiority based on sweeping moral statements I disagree with (eating meat/animal products = not caring about the world). I'm not a slow-food eater or a locavore, but those are other non-vegetarian ways of caring about the world and effecting change through your food choices.

Having said that, I appreciate the effort the Operation Pancake folks put into making sure the vegan restaurants are labelling their food correctly. I have a lot of friends and family who are diabetic or pre-diabetic, and the mislabelling or just misleading labelling of sugar in food products and drinks appalls me. It's possible to keep a low-sugar diet while eating out, but for people with allergies that might kill them or other extreme dietary restrictions, it's hard.
posted by immlass at 9:58 AM on July 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


This thread makes me want to puke with all the human shedding and human meat talk. gross gross gross
posted by JenMarie at 9:58 AM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Being ethical/moral does not equal being religious.

–noun
1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.


My decision to not harm other humans as much as possible will never stop people the world over from being harmed. What does your "never make a dent" question have to do with anything?
posted by orme at 10:01 AM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


lodurr, you are trolling. This thread is about, essentially, truth in advertising, concerning a group that is particularly vested in being able to rely on same.

This thread is not about "do you like veganism? Opinions inside!"

You see the difference, right?
posted by AV at 10:05 AM on July 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


  1. Libertariansim
  2. Christianity
  3. Prisons
  4. Sarah Palin
  5. Israel
  6. The police
  7. Vegetarianism
...what are seven things MetaFilter doesn't do well, Alex?
posted by Decimask at 10:07 AM on July 5, 2009 [6 favorites]


Oh come on. You could say the same thing about my belief that human slavery is wrong.

Yes, I could, and would, and often have. The fact that I hold the same belief doesn't change that.

All of our ethical systems are based on first principles that can't be rationally proven.

And your point is...?

Look, all I did was ask you some questions. I didn't say that those questions would prove that veganism was religious in nature. I just wanted you to think about the issue and then tell me, again, that you don't think veganism is religious.

What is 'religion'? Does it require a god? IMO, as a long time student of religion: No, it doesn't. I'm not sure yet what it does require, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't require a god.

Where veganism doesn't look like most religions is that it doesn't have sacraments and rituals. But it does have dogma, and it does have a pretty standard set of beliefs that are, as you say, based on first principles that you can't prove. It does typically include moral judgment of others or their actions ("meat is murder"), even if that judgment is often leavened* with tolerance.

In fact, veganism is often driven by essentially religious beliefs about the nature of life or consciousness, as is its still more-rigorous sibling, fruitarianism: That there is an inherent good in the prevention of pain to other animals; that there's some essence to living things that's not there in "dead" things. As far as I can see, these ideas mostly originated in Hinduism and Hindu-flavored Buddhism, but I've known people who took them in (as people take in any religious idea) by relating them to their own neo-pagan, christian or other traditions.

Now, if after you've given thought to my questions and read what I have to write and you don't think there's anything religious about your veganism, fine, it really doesn't matter to me. I'm just saying what I think.

But I will say that mediareport's pre-emptive strike is pissing me off more and more the longer I sit here. What the hell are you afraid of, really?

--
*If I were trolling, I'd ask "what about yeast?" and complain that the distinction between fungus and animals. Or I'd toss out an excluded-middle gambit and ask why vegans don't just go Breatharian.
posted by lodurr at 10:13 AM on July 5, 2009


The recipe for giving up some power and starting to care about the world.

Argh, there's that self-righteousness hat I was talking about. People show they care about the world in different ways. Some choose to follow a vegan diet. Some choose to avoid sweatshop labour. Some choose to limit their carbon footprint. Etc. Some choose to do many of these things at once - it's not an all-or-nothing deal.

But just because someone doesn't choose to try to make a difference in the same way that someone else does doesn't mean that one person cares about the world and the other doesn't, and I think it's needlessly divisive and inflammatory to make statements with that implication.
posted by AV at 10:17 AM on July 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


Even veganism, which is a lot less vague than vegetarianism, has points of debate - what about honey?

vegans don't eat honey - if they do, they're in one of those unnamed in-between categories like vegetarians who eat shellfish or something. People are free to make whatever individual choices they want, of course, but there isn't really a group name for people who are vegan except for honey. But it isn't a point of contention. Vegetarianism means no animals, and veganism means also no animal products.

Breast milk is not a stolen animal product - it's produced for the baby. Milk from a cow is meant for the calf but taken by humans, which is why vegans have a problem with it. Human milk is meant for humans, so no problem there.

Personally I'm conflicted over the kind of investigation in the FPP, because I agree that the purity component of veganism/vegetarianism isn't practically very effective, and does end up more or less working to alienate people and make the entire thing more of a religious movement than a useful attempt to reduce suffering. At the same time, people have the right to know what they're eating, and it's disappointing that restaurants which market themselves as supporting vegans are secretly misleading them.

In the end, moderate movements like flexitarians, or Michael Pollan's books, are probably going to have greater influence on the wider culture. Those already committed to veganism will appreciate the insider info, but overall it will not reflect well on people who care about animal welfare.
posted by mdn at 10:17 AM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


You see the difference, right?

That you think that's what I'm doing says a lot. I'd suggest you re-read, and put my comments in the context of the larger thread -- in which case, if you were an honest reader, you'd get that you're having some kind of a pushbutton reaction to the use of the term "religion" in connection with your behavior. That's not my problem.

I was, in fact, making a statement about the ethical ramifications of the situation. Deal with it.

I'm the wrong whipping boy on this one, by the way. Beating up on me over this is a lot like attacking George Will because Rush Limbaugh called someone a doucebag.
posted by lodurr at 10:18 AM on July 5, 2009


1. Libertariansim
2. Christianity
3. Prisons
4. Sarah Palin
5. Israel
6. The police
7. Vegetarianism

...what are seven things MetaFilter doesn't do well, Alex?


And the Daily Double . . .

what are race, class, and genderrrrrrrrrrrrr?
posted by liketitanic at 10:25 AM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


For every proselytizing vegan/veg I've met, I've probably met three or four by surprise

Yep, me too Durn. Similarly with Christians, actually. I think it's a nice suprise, and as long as no one tries to force me to eat tofu, I'm more than happy to accomodate anyone's heartfelt dietary request. (If you're doing it because it's the popular thing, well, screw you. Get some real beliefs, or realize at least that there are people who are either actually allergic to things and cannot eat them, or who have honest moral issues. Or both.)

Actually, that brings up something related to the article-- I think it's easy to have respect for someone who takes their food choices seriously enough to go about seeing if they're really following the diet they claim. Go them.

and mediareport- I'm sorry I have a difficult time phrasing this, because you are correct that plant food is often more plentiful. However, ask your grandmother how likely she would have been to eat meat if some was available.

Of course there are some particular regions (such as the Andes) where humans did support themselves on a diet of mostly meat. Presumably such people would be thrilled for the variety (both tastewise and more importantly nutrition wise) that some juicy fruit might have provided, were it present.

(By the way, I'm getting my comment re: Andean meat eating from a course I took as an undegrad; quick googling puts forth this reference as a possible source)
posted by nat at 10:27 AM on July 5, 2009


Where veganism doesn't look like most religions is that it doesn't have sacraments and rituals. But it does have dogma, and it does have a pretty standard set of beliefs that are, as you say, based on first principles that you can't prove. It does typically include moral judgment of others or their actions ("meat is murder"), even if that judgment is often leavened* with tolerance.
Ok, so by your definition everyone who isn't completely amoral has a religion. That's fine, but I'm not sure what you hope to accomplish or prove by telling vegetarians that their belief system is a religion. That doesn't make them any different from anyone else: it just means that they have a slightly different religion from those of us whose ethical systems are based on an aversion to human, rather than animal, exploitation. So what? What does this add to the discussion, other than making me reflect on the fact that you must be a ton of fun at parties?
posted by craichead at 10:38 AM on July 5, 2009


Because the beliefs are what makes you vegan, not the diet. And it is a binary thing....if you are "mostly" vegan, you are not vegan. You just tend to eat a vegan style diet.
posted by nevercalm at 9:29 AM on July 5 [+] [!]


No, I don't think this is true. A vegan is someone who doesn't eat animal products, so it is about the diet. And people can find themselves vegan for a variety of reasons, including health, allergies, preference, and animal rights. I don't see much difference between saying you are "mostly" vegan or you tend to eat a vegan diet. Same thing.
posted by JenMarie at 10:46 AM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


As an omnivore I see no good reason why every post about something related to vegetarianism or veganism has to turn into a debate about said dietary choices. It's a rather like some atheists I know (and I'm an atheist too) who, upon finding out that Terry over there -the guy that we've been hanging out with for the past six months- is a Christian, immediately have to bate and cajole him. Really, unless someone is proselytizing, what's the big deal?
posted by ob at 10:47 AM on July 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'm the wrong whipping boy... Beating up on me...

Oh, you poor dear. Why oh why can't a guy walk in and derail a conversation without people calling him on it?
posted by pracowity at 10:51 AM on July 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


As a vegan, I sure hope I'm doing everything possible to ensure that omnivores are always completely comfortable and never feel irritated by my personal lifestyle choices. I also apologize if my comment here has upset you in any way.

There are only about two things vegans can do that get on my nerves:
  1. Refer to non-vegans or non-vegetarians as "carnivores" despite the blatantly incorrect use of that word.
  2. Insist that humans are naturally vegan or vegetarian, even though that's false.
posted by oaf at 10:53 AM on July 5, 2009


OMG! Waiter! There's a fly in my soup!
posted by sexyrobot at 10:54 AM on July 5, 2009


I think I'm gonna give this veganism-as-religion a try.

I'll be sure to pray for all your souls.

Hail Seitan!
posted by orme at 11:11 AM on July 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


re: squalor's link

Someone posted that flyer at my gym.
On the carnivore side I wrote "Yeah, you guys can wait to join a support group for colon cancer," and on the vegan side I wrote "Non-judgmental vegans? Really?"
posted by brevator at 11:20 AM on July 5, 2009


I'm a vegetarian, and I'd wager that many of my acquaintances have no idea. My friends know because sometimes I eat with them. My friends are smart and perceptive.

I don't hide my vegetarianism; I don't "proselytize for the good of the cause" either. When people find out, and ask why, then I tell them. I figure they want to know because they asked. I suppose I just live the life that is comfortable for me. I sleep well at night.
posted by belvidere at 11:36 AM on July 5, 2009


This sort of "the bess are enslaved" variety of militant veganism always seems a little quixotic to me.
posted by plexi at 11:58 AM on July 5, 2009




nevercalm, it seems strange to me to claim that veganism is an idea that is so strict as to not allow any deviations. I view veganism the same as vegetarianism, low-carb, organic, and other dietary mindsets people choose. A person decides what type of diet is best for them, and chooses to follow it. If at times they choose not to, or are unable, to adhere to that diet in its completeness, that somehow means they are no longer at all associated with that diet? That is a very religious mindset for something like food.

However, if you simply wish that I not call myself vegan, then that is fine, as I do not feel any form of association with those who eat vegan for animal rights issues, or who wish to encourage others to eat vegan.
posted by LoopyG at 12:02 PM on July 5, 2009


Ok vegans, you wanna know why people who eat meat dislike you? You want to know why otherwise smart and progressive people (pro civil rights, pro minorities, pro LGBT, etc) go ballistic whenever veganism is discussed?

Because you're doing the right thing and we are not. Because you've thought about this and decided you don't want animals to die or suffer just so that you can eat food. Your stance is the most ethical one and we can't stand it because we know we should know better, that you're probably right. So we ridicule (see thread), get stupid ("But meat is so yummy", "I just can't live without meat") and get butt hurt even when your veganism doesn't affect us (like in this article). You're doing the right thing, we know it and therefore we get anxious and mad.
Just to really piss people off, I'm going to suggest that future generations will regard meat eating the way we regard slavery.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 12:08 PM on July 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


I will never understand why the mere act of veganism offends so many people.

Because it's any one of: a) mindbogglingly stupid, b) completely flies in the face of everything we know about biology, c) largely the product of effete wealthy westerners who have more money than sense?

Yes, it's good to be concerned about how the industrial farming process treats animals. Yes, eating more veg is good. But I have never ever met a healthy-looking vegan.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:16 PM on July 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


Your stance is the most ethical one and we can't stand it because we know we should know better, that you're probably right.

Fuck no. Humans eat meat. We are omnivores. More importantly, we are animals and many other animals eat animals. There is nothing wrong with this, it is simple biology.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:18 PM on July 5, 2009


foxy hedgehog: my apologies, "kookie" was a poor choice of words, and I actually could count the number of closed-source programs on my computer on one hand, so I was not meaning to be as widely dismissive and trivializing as I may have sounded. Perhaps it would have been better to say that the drive for the abstract category of purity is often the impulse that takes an otherwise moderate or pragmatic element of a worldview into one of those unusual beliefs that outsiders will call "extreme". Of course racism, whether pragmatic or extreme, is reprehensible.
posted by idiopath at 12:21 PM on July 5, 2009


You've never ever met a healthy looking vegan? Well then they must not exist!

Oh wait, were you trying to give an example there of mindboggling stupidity?
posted by orme at 12:22 PM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


My sister-in-law is a vegan. She is of the marathon-running kind of vegan. She's much healthier than most of the people I know, regardless of diet. Her way of proselytizing is effective: she puts together delicious meals (although I'm still not a fan of the vegan cookie things - they just don't taste or feel like cookies). But my partner (the sister) makes a vegan chocolate pie for her sometimes, and if you didn't know it was vegan, you wouldn't know it was vegan. It is delicious.

The only place I have even encountered obnoxious vegans is on the internet. I've never met one in real life.
posted by rtha at 12:22 PM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Anthony Bourdain had this one nailed, when he described vegans as being the "Hezbollah-like sister faction of vegetarians"

The only people I personally know who have maintained their vegan status do so because of their religious beliefs, but not exactly what you might expect in all cases. One family I met in California comes to mind. They were from India and were Sufi, not Hindu. Sufism usually promotes vegetarianism, not necessarily veganism, but they didn't believe in eating any product which came from an animal. And they didn't proselytize about their diet, although Sufis are not shy when it comes to sharing their religion.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:25 PM on July 5, 2009


I'd like to comment on a theme I have seen in some comments, that eating vegan is a binary thing, either you are 100% vegan or you are not. Some people are very strict about their veganism, but not all people are. There are many reasons to be vegan. I avoid meat/eggs/dairy for my health (also salt, sugar, and so on). This means I eat a vegan diet most of the time. That said, there are some situations I know I will be eating things that do not fall into the vegan category. But since I am not vegan for animal rights, to fight big agra, and other such reasons, I do not mind the fact that there is dairy in this particular pasta sauce, or that some egg went into that desert.

This. After 5 years of being vegetarian, 5 years of being pescetarian, then just throwing up my hands and eating like crap for awhile, I have finally settled on something like this as my food philosophy. Loopy can't claim to be vegan, and I couldn't claim to be vegetarian or really even close to it, but I think there are a lot of people out there who want very badly to make responsible food choices but get a little overwhelmed by the competing dogmas of animal rights vs. organic vs. local vs. whatever (not saying Loopy is one of these people, but I am). For me at least, trying to do some/all of these things most of the time and just treating every meal as an opportunity to make the best choices I can has been liberating. I guess some might call it lazy, but I think it's better than not trying at all.

But that's a derail. I agree that if you're marketing your business as a purveyor of vegan food, it should in fact be vegan.
posted by naoko at 12:26 PM on July 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


Loopy can't claim to be vegan

I sort of wish I hadn't said that (especially given the comments that have ensued between Loopy's original comment and mine). Call it what you want, I don't particularly care.
posted by naoko at 12:30 PM on July 5, 2009


Does irritate me that vegetarians [not just vegans] insist on calling things by the names of their "real" counterparts.

You mean like turkey "bacon"?

and mediareport- I'm sorry I have a difficult time phrasing this, because you are correct that plant food is often more plentiful. However, ask your grandmother how likely she would have been to eat meat if some was available.

That is not support for the argument "for the vast majority of history, people have eaten animal products because that's what they can afford" which is what mediareport was responding to (and is itself a flawed argument). My grandmothers were able to eat a lot of meat, having grown up when preservation techniques such as canning and refrigeration made meat easier to keep cheaply, and transportation of meat products meant that they didn't have to raise or hunt the meat themselves. However, mr grandmother's experience has very little to do with the vast majority of human history and it is silly to imply that 20th century (American) eating habits are indicative of the normal diet for all humans at all times.

As far as the Andes goes: the "traditional" indiginous diet is based mostly in tubers and grains:

"The average daily protein intake is 66 grams, nearly 90 percent of which comes from plant sources."
posted by oneirodynia at 12:31 PM on July 5, 2009


Just to really piss people off, I'm going to suggest that future generations will regard meat eating the way we regard slavery.

I doubt it. The belief is mostly moral/religious, and I think we're moving towards practical solutions rather than moralistic solutions over the long stretch. Unless you have a religious belief or are sentimental, there is no reason to see eating animal products as bad, but there are practical reasons why animal protein is not going to work as a staple in the diet in large quantities in a world with 6+ billion people.

We are the only animals which think about our diet, and the only animals which feel guilt over it, but we are no different than any other animals in the sense that we need to eat, and our bodies are designed to work with a large variety of foods and can adapt. If we adopt diets for moral or religious reasons, I don't see that as a compelling reason for other people who don't share the same beliefs, over practical reasons which make sense for everyone regardless of personal beliefs or religion.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:32 PM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


You've never ever met a healthy looking vegan? Well then they must not exist!

Oh wait, were you trying to give an example there of mindboggling stupidity?


Or, y'know, just anecdotal evidence. But hey, your example of a pathetic ad hominem was pretty good!
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:33 PM on July 5, 2009


dirtunumbangelboy. Your comment regarding not meeting a healthy-looking vegan does make you appear more than a bit naive. It suggests either you have not met a very diverse group of people, live somewhere where there are few vegans, have not traveled much, or perhaps all of the above. There are many healthy-looking vegans. Believe it or not vegans can be and ar overweight, frail, athletic, and all kinds of other body shapes/styles.
posted by LoopyG at 12:36 PM on July 5, 2009


you mean previous generations. I've been reading this thread and trying to understand not only it, the concept of veganism but also the system of 'pure vegetarianism' or shakahari diet as practiced by all who came before me, particularly my grandmother. We're north indians of the bania caste and pure vegetarian officially, though members of the community are indeed non veg eaters. Some are eggetarians as they are called in India.

I came across this website which seems to imply that there's a) little difference between following the shakahari diet (except for milk, for that is interesting considered from the "Mother Cow" thus sacred too) and veganism and that b)veganism by its very moral and ethical principles of ahimsa put it firmly in the religious beliefs side of the diet preferences rather than simply a choice like vegetarianism, or due to allergies or other health related reasons.


shakahara: eating plants. Vegetarianism.

Many people wish to avoid using materials of animal origin because we are convinced that the concept of ahimsa makes sense. We not only attempt to avoid causing harm to animals by avoiding the consumption of materials of animal origin, that may be contained in what is offered to us as food, but many of us also attempt to avoid causing harm to animals, unnecessarily, by avoiding materials of animal origin in clothing, shelter, and other things. In the west, a contemporary term for this increasingly popular way of life, is veganism.


With matters such as honey, the vegan diet seems to resemble the Jain diet most closely, being based purely on principles of non violence and no harm to other living beings.

While not following the diet of my forefathers and community myself, I do have some idea of the beliefs or rather the unthinking decisions regarding "pure" and "impure" foods. It strikes me that this very cool FPP which is creating such a hullabaloo is fascinating more for the responses of non particular diet following people than for any other - in countries where different religions have different dietary beliefs, restaurants, cafeterias and other public eating places will go overboard to ensure that they not only advertise the purity and appropriateness of their foods for each religion but a serious backlash would ensue if it were found, like the those in the FPP did, that they were not meeting their promised claims.

You are offending people's beliefs, be they different from your own, and multicultural and multireligious places tend towards far more respect for each community's dietary and/or other beliefs due to their cultural and religion etc

Why not the same for vegans? How different are they from my grandmother (except for milk) who had never eaten an onion or garlic in her life (impure and from the ground) much less an egg? For whom my mother had to keep seperate utensils in the kitchen so that her food would not be sullied by our frying the occasional slice of bacon ;p

I was also thinking that perhaps the negative response to vegans comes from a couple of things a) their having adopted it as a choice later in life primarily due to their home cultures being non veg ones and thus having the fresh belief of the newly converted and b) how difficult it is to be vegetarian, and especially vegan across most of the western world (so you're kinda always on the defensive)

For me its conditioning, so subtle and so embedded that I had no idea that I was even influenced by being the descendent of pure vegetarian hindus (having eaten non veg for most of life plus lived outside india since I was 4) - until one day I decided to finally buy some beef about 2 years ago in San Francisco. I brought it home and tried to cook it the same way I'd cook chicken or pork but I remember being conscious and aware of there being beef in the freezer, my freezer and my kitchen and how red and bloody it was. I cooked it, shrinking all the while, which is weird cos I'll eat a burger without thinking (outside). I then tried to eat it but threw up. I couldn't believe my response because I'd probably eat a beef curry in someone else's house, but I have no explanation for my extreme discomfort and reaction, and a sense of having sullied my kitchen somehow (oh what would my father say if he knew and yes, he's non veg too)

so what's the point of this long blather?

that if veganism is to evolve and survive, it must create its own cuisine as many have pointed out, carefully crafted dishes that use natural ingredients and taste great (just like a wide swathe of indian vegetarian cooking or even chinese vegetarian cooking) and perhaps as many have said, simply accept that its a "religious" belief (moral/ethical) and it does take away the tensions associated with it. Just as there's no uproar if I were to say, no, I'm sorry, I don't eat beef, I'm a Hindu.

Its not to deny the saving the world aspect of it but I do wonder if that only gets in your way? after all the 7 or 800 million indians who may follow the shakahari diet or variations of it haven't managed to quite do that either, I don't know.
posted by infini at 12:36 PM on July 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


Your comment regarding not meeting a healthy-looking vegan does make you appear more than a bit naive. It suggests either you have not met a very diverse group of people, live somewhere where there are few vegans, have not traveled much, or perhaps all of the above.

None of the above, actually, but thanks for playing!
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:37 PM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Really appreciated the post, divabat. Thanks!
posted by quinoa at 12:38 PM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Another non-vegan, non-veg here, and the thing with this is -- and I have seen this on the blue -- when people simply say "this is right for me" there's still always a posse of good old boys who will jump up and proclaim "Oh you think you're better than me, is that it?!"

This also happens in conversations about TV between folks who've opted out and say so and folks who get defensive in reaction, and then sometimes hostile.

It always seems to be about some sort of virtue/vice dynamic.
posted by kalessin at 12:38 PM on July 5, 2009


Why not the same for vegans? How different are they from my grandmother (except for milk) who had never eaten an onion or garlic in her life (impure and from the ground)

No onions or garlic? Now, that is crazy. Those are the two ingredients I use to start about half the food I eat. Take away cheese and I would starve.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:38 PM on July 5, 2009


Yeah, naoko, my basic food philosophy is to try to do the least amount of harm possible to animals, people, and the environment that is possible to do while maintaining my health and sanity. I had an eating disorder for a long time, and food-related prohibitions don't work for me. I'm pretty comfortable with my food choices. There are some people out there who think that I'm a bad person because I occasionally eat meat and other animal products, just as there are some people out there who think I'm going to Hell because I haven't accepted Jesus as my person savior. I find those people kind of annoying, but that's ok. As far as I know, nobody has a fundamental right not to be annoyed.

And none of this has anything to do with the basic shittiness of businesses lying to their customers.
posted by craichead at 12:39 PM on July 5, 2009


nevercalm, it seems strange to me to claim that veganism is an idea that is so strict as to not allow any deviations. I view veganism the same as vegetarianism, low-carb, organic, and other dietary mindsets people choose. A person decides what type of diet is best for them, and chooses to follow it. If at times they choose not to, or are unable, to adhere to that diet in its completeness, that somehow means they are no longer at all associated with that diet? That is a very religious mindset for something like food.

However, if you simply wish that I not call myself vegan, then that is fine, as I do not feel any form of association with those who eat vegan for animal rights issues, or who wish to encourage others to eat vegan.


By definition, a vegetarian doesn't eat meat, poultry or fish. A vegan does not eat or use any animal products. It's not something people tend to slip in and out of...usually you are or you aren't. Generally it's a diet that includes some form of philosophy to back it up. If it doesn't, that's fine too, but I don't know any vegans/vegetarians who do it just to do it. It's not always an easy thing to keep up, it usually requires some sort of inspiration.

I'm an atheist and anti-religionist. If the veg thing were a religion, it would be a lot easier on me, bc I wouldn't have to explain/justify/argue why I've chosen this to each and every person who finds out that I don't eat meat, and to hear about all the great meat-based food they love, and how they could never give it up. I could just say "it's my religion" and be done with it.

As for what you call yourself, it's not up to me...personally, I couldn't care less. But if you eat animal products, even occasionally, and you call yourself a vegan, you might have chosen the wrong label. Am I concerned about that? Not a bit. But it doesn't change the essential fact that vegans don't eat or use animal products, and you may be a "vegan" who does.
posted by nevercalm at 12:41 PM on July 5, 2009


Or, y'know, just anecdotal evidence. But hey, your example of a pathetic ad hominem was pretty good!
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 3:33 PM


Well, if you're gonna just insult my lifestyle as mindbogglingly stupid, I think I can say the same about your comment. Seems fair enough.
posted by orme at 12:44 PM on July 5, 2009


nevercalm, that's a great point you make, that if it were a religion it'd be easier. could "state of mind" work instead do you suppose?

btw, they mix ground beef with ground pork here in finland and it just drives me nuts
posted by infini at 12:48 PM on July 5, 2009


But I have never ever met a healthy-looking vegan.

*yawns*
posted by Beardman at 12:49 PM on July 5, 2009


And yes, despite the mixed list, a lot of those are vegans. Come on, dude.
posted by Beardman at 12:50 PM on July 5, 2009


but we are talking about restaurants who advertise themselves as exclusively vegan. If you are going to go into business serving a clientele who is known to be particular about these things, I think that business is obligated to hold itself to a higher standard.

Seconded. And I'm a devout omnivore, and feels that veganism is closer to religion than diet in many ways. But I like vegetables, incidentally eat vegetarian and low-meat meals most of the time, and think that lazy or ignorant restaurants who seek vegan clientele but serve non-vegan food are being assholes.
posted by desuetude at 12:52 PM on July 5, 2009


A lot of my friends are vegetarians, and I know how to cook for them when they come over. Some of my friends have food allergies that I know to avoid. But recently, at a pot luck party, I was berated by a vegan because my pot of meatless chili had a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce. What pushed me over the top into agreeing with Bourdain (a thing I despise having to do), was that the chick who was yelling at me was wearing a leather jacket, leather boots, had her hair dyed a color that came from a company that I KNOW does animal testing, and she put honey in her tea.

I've been dealing with this person for about 10 years, and she uses "vegan" as a weapon to bully people...so for those who say "you've never met a vegan", I put it to you that I'm willing to ship you this really annoying one, if you'll send me a real one in exchange.
posted by dejah420 at 12:55 PM on July 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


Really appreciated the post, divabat. Thanks!
posted by quinoa


eponysterical
posted by R_Nebblesworth at 12:56 PM on July 5, 2009


By definition, a vegetarian doesn't eat meat, poultry or fish.

Well .... maybe. Although I personally feel that vegetarianism should mean no animal flesh, often it means no animal flesh except fish. The vegetarians I know who adopt this diet usually excuse it by claiming that fish are very primitive and can't really feel pain the way birds and mammals can, although sometimes it's purely for health reasons.

It's always a personal choice, but I will say this. If people spent the money they make on quality ingredients for their food, they would think a lot more about those ingredients. Raising meat is usually expensive, and the cheap factory farm meat is only cheap because the process devalues the life it depends on and the food derived from it. This is the mistake we make fundamentally.

We don't all have to be farmers, but we think farmer's markets are only for self-indulgent yuppies, not for our health and sanity. And I do believe that if we can come to see the value in the way our food is created, all the rest will follow, whether that means vegetarianism or just that people will generally eat well because they are connected to their food. Note that eating well doesn't mean what Rachel Ray is promoting, but what comes out of the ground and from other living creatures. And I know not everyone lives near good farmland, but we have a very efficient food distribution system as it is, it's just that it is geared entirely towards profit and convenience, and the produce, meat and dairy ends up at the far end of the supermarket and is uniform and non-seasonal. We need to start thinking of food again in terms of where it comes from, and when people do that, they naturally eat better. I don't buy bags of Doritos at close to $4 for less than a pound, but some corn chips and salsa made myself from about six ingredients is so, so much better.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:56 PM on July 5, 2009


You know, the thing with the whole "proletysing vegetarian/vegan" thing is that I get asked why I am a vegetarian all the goddamn time. Seriously, if I'm eating with a group of people who I haven't eaten with before, and the issue comes up, someone will ask. Almost always. And it's usually over food. So I wind up trying to do the PG version for people eating their steaks and their chicken wings, not mentioning growth hormones and veal cages and broiler hens who have a hard time standing after a life in a cage the size of an A4 sheet of paper while they're being dragged off to be killed, or the pigs with the intelligence of a border collie being confined to a breeding cell and being reproduced to death. Because I'm trying to eat too, and everyone wants to get through their meal without the images of the dead animals they have gutted and spread before them. I don't want to know about it - I'm eating a fucking garden salad on christmas day, and the turkey is giving me the piteous eye, and some second cousin of my brother-in-law who I have met for the first time that morning, is twiddling some crackling in his fingers and gnawing on that skin while asking my why, exactly, it is again, and I'm transported to all the horror and death that I gave up years and years ago just to appease his curiosity. And if I'm honest, really honest, I get sour mutters about spoiling everyone's dinner.

And then I get to hear about how we proletyse. It's not anybody's fucking business what I put in my body. I don't want to make a big deal out of it. But it happens to me a pretty much at every major meal, and every time I eat with someone new.

Lots of people eat vegan and vegetarian because they think factory farming is cruel and unnecessary. This is why I am a vegetarian. Others have issues with eating the living, or know enough about the trophic pyramid to know that meat takes a lot more energy to produce than vegetable foods. Some think drinking the milk and ova of other species is just weird. Only a few have that smugness of the morally superior. Last time I checked we didn't get together for rallies to force the Murdering Masses to consume or Spiritually Sublime Soy. I've met vegans who'll happily chow down on food with a miniscule amount of milk of egg in it, because someone they love has made it. The loud ones get noticed, an all us legion of quiet ones who just want to enjoy their salad without having to think about the suffering of sausages. We eat as we do it because it's our choice. Nobody's forcing you to do it too.
posted by Jilder at 12:57 PM on July 5, 2009 [27 favorites]


Please go read a basic text on human biology, thanks.
Oh, stuff it. This is bullshit. The AmericanDietetic Association, not exactly an organization known for its radicalism on these issues, says that vegan diets are fine.
It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.
posted by craichead at 12:58 PM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


What pushed me over the top into agreeing with Bourdain

Hypocrites are everywhere. Maybe it's my age, but most of my self-righteous vegan friends have succumbed to practicality by now (particularly those who have children), although the ones who are still vegan aren't like your example at all and really do walk the walk. Age can make a difference.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:59 PM on July 5, 2009


Thank you Jilder, for saying it way better than I could have.
posted by nevercalm at 1:00 PM on July 5, 2009


And then I get to hear about how we proletyse. It's not anybody's fucking business what I put in my body. I don't want to make a big deal out of it. But it happens to me a pretty much at every major meal, and every time I eat with someone new.

Yeah, there's a heck of a lot of self-fulfilling prophecy when it comes to these conversations. And I love my family, but they are really bad about this and will tease anyone who isn't having a big plate of meat at one of our get-togethers, and then turn around and blame those people for being "sensitive." Funny thing about conservative Americans, however, is that you can usually get away with dietary differences by claiming religious beliefs and they won't say another word about it, as long as you're not dealing with really prejudiced people.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:06 PM on July 5, 2009


So now that we've boiled this discussion down to identity politics, I feel I must note that our queer brethren have had this problem for a long time (homosexual vs. bisexual, behavior vs. identity, for instance).

Those of us who are conflict averse seem to have settled down into a tolerance for letting each other self-label and at least giving lip-service to the possibility that everyone's self-identity, no matter how far fetched, is true at least in that person's mind. As with many things, this approach does not do well at precisely and carefully categorizing folks into the appropriate bins for statistical analysis. Unfortunately, the variance of human expression, politics and opinion are at play here, and no one agrees on standard definitions.

The opposite approach, which tends to cause a lot of fights, especially when people of like goals (to categorize everyone accurately) end up meeting and finding out they have unlike lexicons and definitions, is one where a self-appointed group or groups of people go around labeling other people to their satisfaction according to observed behavior. Beyond the semantics fights, we've found that a lot of folks simply detest being labeled by outside interests (i.e. the categorizers) even if in principle they would seem to agree on the label.

As an old transgendered fag hag, Ive found it much easier to just sit on the sidelines and let folks self-label and/or battle it out.

But if the fantastical and long-running flame wars I've observed in queer land are anything to go by, this labeling and identity war (about vegan identity, for instance), has a lot of room to grow and become fantastically offensive to everyone within earshot.
posted by kalessin at 1:06 PM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Incidentally, divabat, this is an excellent FPP about inaccurate information being given to consumers. I thought it was quite interesting, and it's a pity the opportunity to discuss how easy it is for a long food chain to be contaminated has dropped to the level of discourse where everyone is telling everyone else how much their respective diets suck.
posted by Jilder at 1:07 PM on July 5, 2009


I'm going to suggest that future generations will regard meat eating the way we regard slavery.

do you mean we're going to institutionalize it, expand it to include everybody, let corporations run it and make it tolerable with plenty of drugs and mass entertainment?

what a curious idea
posted by pyramid termite at 1:11 PM on July 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


[A few comments removed. dnab et al, take it to another channel or drop it.]
posted by cortex at 1:14 PM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Incidentally, divabat, this is an excellent FPP about inaccurate information being given to consumers. I thought it was quite interesting, and it's a pity the opportunity to discuss how easy it is for a long food chain to be contaminated has dropped to the level of discourse where everyone is telling everyone else how much their respective diets suck.

Well, it seems to me that the major issue is the label could be used as marketing without any understanding of the significance to the consumer. This is actually part of a larger battle, IMO. The "natural" foods market has been exploited to some degree, including in the use of the word "organic," another contentious label. Some companies have been very successful at marketing to this segment by being deceptive, although one nice thing about the obsessiveness over purity is that it allows some people to fight back in effective ways. Ignorance abounds among the so-called enlightened consumers, too, and it's frustrating talking with people whose beliefs are more mystical than logical, even if they eat an organic macrobiotic diet and live off the grid (well, you have to be committed to the ideal if you're at that point), they might be doing it because of their chakras. Groovy, but we have to talk a common language - more information is always welcome, and making sure these guys are selling what they promise is just good, old-fashioned consumer advocacy.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:26 PM on July 5, 2009


I know plenty of vegetarians, I've cooked vegetarian meals, etc, I was basically a vegetarian myself for a while when I lived with a vegetarian. And the vegetarians I know do it for a lot of reasons -- ranging for moral and political reasons to just 'meat is gross'. And none of them have been particularly judgmental about eating meat (in fact I dated a vegetarian who prided herself on making a really good steak). Most of the vegetarians that I know, I wouldn't have even known they were vegetarians unless I was in a situation where I had to cook for them or I'd gone out to a restaurant with them.

The vegans I've known, on the other hand, have never been happy to just be vegan. They need you to know that they are vegan, and that you as a meat eater are a lesser person than them.

If you're going to go eat dinner with a vegetarian, they generally don't impose their diet on you. You can go to a vegetarian place, or you can go to a regular restaurant and there will usually be something on the menu they can eat.

Hang out with a vegan, you're going to have to either go to a vegan place, or you're going to deal with them arguing with the waiter or just not ordering food at all and generally being superior to all the meat eaters at the table.

Eating together is kind of an important thing culturally, and if you declare someone's entire diet as immoral and disgusting (whether you say it out loud or merely imply it), it's difficult to be friends with them.
posted by empath at 1:27 PM on July 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


If milk from a (consenting) human is acceptable, then it seems there is a ready solution to the stringy cheese problem. In fact, there are a couple bags of milk in our freezer that my wife might be willing to sell -- for the right price -- to a vegan cheese factory. Although, my wife is not a vegan, so maybe that milk would be considered a processed animal product.

That begs the question, and this is completely non-snarky, how many degrees of separation from an animal product is acceptable? For example, are plants grown with animal-based fertilizers considered vegan?
posted by gruchall at 1:28 PM on July 5, 2009


Even veganism, which is a lot less vague than vegetarianism, has points of debate - what about honey?
posted by Helga-woo at 7:22 AM on July 5


Do vegans swallow?

(sorry, couldn't resist, great post, great discussion)
posted by weezy at 1:31 PM on July 5, 2009


And none of this has anything to do with the basic shittiness of businesses lying to their customers.

I don't think that's at all proven by the results they got here. First, this may be inadvertant contamination, rather than purposeful adulteration. "Measurable parts per million" is a ludicrously sensitive test for a purpose like this. Second, the restaurants have to buy their ingredients from suppliers; it's just not realistic for run-of-the-mill restaurants to make every ingredient on-site, especially when you're talking about typical vegan food, which is the most highly processed I've ever seen (as it generally tries to look and taste and feel like non-vegan food).

These testing kits might be appropriate when a food manufacturer wants to be sure a product is free of allergens, but it seems completely inappropriate when you want to find out whether a restaurant is "lying to their customers."
posted by palliser at 1:35 PM on July 5, 2009


it's just not realistic for run-of-the-mill restaurants to make every ingredient on-site, especially when you're talking about typical vegan food, which is the most highly processed I've ever seen (as it generally tries to look and taste and feel like non-vegan food).

It doesn't have to be. This only happens when people try to make "fake" food. It would be difficult for me to give up cheese, but that fake cheese is not worth it. But a lot of the restaurants will go with the processed stuff, and what can you do if they think fake crap is better than emphasis on good ingredients? Still, they are making claims about a product.

If they're marketing a vegan product, the restaurant should ensure that the ingredients they're using are truly vegan. Even processed foods are required to disclose their ingredients, and any halfway competent chef or cook should understand what ingredients wouldn't work with a vegan diet. I'm not a professional chef or serious foodie and I can already spot most animal-derived ingredients on a label. Several people have mentioned kosher diets, and I think that bears repeating. Anyone who claims to serve kosher better really be kosher or people will complain, and I don't see why this isn't taken just as seriously. What if someone claimed to be selling diabetic food and they goofed on the sugar?
posted by krinklyfig at 1:49 PM on July 5, 2009


If they're marketing a vegan product, the restaurant should ensure that the ingredients they're using are truly vegan.

Well, it depends what you mean by "ensure." Ordering from a known, respected supplier who says it's vegan, then checking the ingredients on the packages when they arrive, is "ensuring" that the dishes are vegan, at one level. Another level would be to dress all the line cooks in space suits and swab every surface for contaminants every 30 minutes, and to install a big red "woo woo" light that would go off whenever a swab came up positive. In my opinion, the first standard is enough assurance.

Several people have mentioned kosher diets, and I think that bears repeating. Anyone who claims to serve kosher better really be kosher or people will complain, and I don't see why this isn't taken just as seriously.

Actually, there are rules for acceptable inadvertent contamination in kosher laws. (I believe it's 1/60, which is well above the amounts that would have triggered these testing kits.) And those who ensure the kosherness of a restaurant do not do tests for "parts per million" of milk in the meat, or real crab in the california rolls, or whatever. They check the packages in the kitchen, and they trust the manufacturers' kosher certifications.
posted by palliser at 2:06 PM on July 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


Several people have mentioned kosher diets, and I think that bears repeating. Anyone who claims to serve kosher better really be kosher or people will complain, and I don't see why this isn't taken just as seriously.
I think that the difference is that there's a more-established process for certifying that food is kosher. It's not like kosher certification was bestowed on observant Jews like a gift. The Jewish community established practices for certifying that products and restaurants were kosher. If you're a really observant Jew, you don't eat anything that hasn't been certified by someone reputable (either a local rabbi or a kosher-certification agency like the OU or Star K) as kosher. Maybe the vegan community should look into kosher certification processes for inspiration.
posted by craichead at 2:09 PM on July 5, 2009


nevercalm. I disagree that labels have to be used so strictly, and I wonder what entity defines those labels? I assumed they grew "organically" and thus were more fungible.

dirtynumbangelwhatever, you seem to be a troll, I regret having engaged you.
posted by LoopyG at 2:12 PM on July 5, 2009


They check the packages in the kitchen, and they trust the manufacturers' kosher certifications.
Not in my experience. Observant Jews don't just trust what the manufacturer says, which is why a simple "K" isn't enough. Food needs to bear the mark of an independent kosher certifying agency.

I just don't know if there are enough vegans, or at least enough really strict vegans, to support something similar for the vegan community. It's not cheap.
posted by craichead at 2:18 PM on July 5, 2009


Perhaps it would have been better to say that the drive for the abstract category of purity is often the impulse that takes an otherwise moderate or pragmatic element of a worldview into one of those unusual beliefs that outsiders will call "extreme".

Thanks for the clarification -- on this I totally agree.

On the broad-based sociological observations tip -- I've never participated in a thread on veganism before, and despite all I'd read about the predictable devolution and derails I was totally unprepared for how preoccupied people seem to be with telling other people how stupid their lifestyle choices are.

The level of anger and aggression exhibited toward vegans in this thread is bizarre and fascinating.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 2:21 PM on July 5, 2009


I was a vegetarian until the age of 30 (hippy parents). I had to explain, over and over and over and over, why I didn't eat meat. I was glad to eventually find a short answer that in particular made the conservatives shut up - "my daddy raised me that way". Don't call someone preachy when you asked them for their rationale. I eventually started eating meat (it was actually my parents decision plus force of habit that kept me vegetarian, and maintaining a vegetarian diet is extremely inconvenient on manual labor earnings with the kind of stress that manual labor puts on your body).
posted by idiopath at 2:27 PM on July 5, 2009


If you say your food is vegan, make sure it's vegan.
If you say you're vegan, be vegan.
If you don't like veganism, move on to another thread.
If you've had problems with particular vegans in the past, take it up with them.
posted by laminarial at 2:38 PM on July 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


nevercalm. I disagree that labels have to be used so strictly, and I wonder what entity defines those labels? I assumed they grew "organically" and thus were more fungible.

I think that it drives right to the heart of it. Vegans do not eat or use animal products. It's not "mostly" or "usually" or "often," it's "do not use." The thing itself is strict, and radical. The veg-nazi in me (which no one ever sees) might make an argument that if you water it down and make exceptions, it nullifies (or at least weakens) the core tenets of the whole thing, and thus the value of the endeavor. It's what makes veganism such a sacrifice, and a statement.

The year or so I was vegan, I basically couldn't eat out or at people's houses unless I trusted them and knew that they understood what it was I was trying to do without "gotcha-ing" me (which does happen, believe it or not). Shopping was a pain in the ass. Everything included these considerations. Now, think about that, the community of tens of thousands of people all doing this really difficult and inconvenient but totally worth it thing, and then all these other people come in, completely half-ass it, and then claim to be just like you? Does not compute.

I know I've poo-pooed the notion that veganism is quasi-religious, but unfortunately those examples serve very well....a priest isn't mostly celibate. Celiacs don't mostly avoid gluten. Vegans don't mostly avoid animal products.

Yes, it's a choice. Yes, it's hard. Yes, it's radical, and presumes to be purer than diets that contain animal products. But it IS strict and exclusionary by it's very nature.

There is no entity that defines the labels, the belief system itself provides the definition. If you want to avoid animal products every day but Thanksgiving, that's great, and I applaud your efforts and think that they're valuable, a good start. But to my way of thinking (and that of most if not all vegans/vegetarians I know), that one day means "you only eat meat once a year," not that "you're a vegan."

The grey areas are elsewhere....I won't eat anything at McDonald's or Burger King, because I don't want to contribute to their business or model. Some vegetarians do, and couldn't care less. I can go round and round about it, but it doesn't make them any less vegetarian, because they don't eat meat.
posted by nevercalm at 2:42 PM on July 5, 2009


Anyone who claims to serve kosher better really be kosher or people will complain...

And with good reason: the person lying about their food would be leading their customers into unknowing transgression.

This is one sense in which veganism can resemble religion: The vegans I've known seem to feel much the way devout Catholics seem to feel when they think they've sinned.

Another sense in which veganism can resemble religion: When it's treated as a binary phenomenon, and you're either vegan or you're not, with no (admitted) wiggle-room.

FWIW, I'm well aware of the health benefits of a vegetarian diet. I was a functioning "eggetarian" (to borrow a term) for several years in the '80s, because I reckoned I could afford either meat and dairy products or fresh veggies and figured the veggies were more imprtant for my health. I have immense respect for pro-vegetarian arguments from utility or conservation. But if someone is making a moral argument without recognizing that they're making universal assumptions about ethics, that starts to annoy me pretty fast.

The "animal enslavement" argument has always struck me as kind of odd in a way that I didn't have much clarity on before this afternoon. The vegan argument is that you ought not eat anything that is the product of an animal that's taken unwillingly. (This implies that you don't take anything, since animals can't really give consent. I don't think that's controversial or would be argued against by most vegans.) As seen here, no milk, no honey, no hair, etc. The basic assumption is of a shared nature between humans and animals -- some (I daresay most of the ones I've ever talked about this with) believe this is an actual shared essence of some kind. This is not a strange belief; I don't happen to share it, but I don't regard it as strange. I do regard it as religious, or at least mystical, because it's supported entirely by mystical evidence.

What struck me today is that this is counterpart to something I've in the past called "human exceptionalism." By which I mean the idea that there's an essence, present in humans, that's somehow not present in other forms of life. This absolutely pervades human societies. Again, I don't think that's surprising or unusual, but I do get annoyed at some of the places that it shows up without critical analysis -- quantum physics, for one, where you have whole theories that are popularly described (and so I suspect tainted at their core) in terms of actors making decisions, branchings of possibility that require sentient, selecting actors. People get fascinated by those theiroes entirely because they're described in ways that make them seem to be about choice. And there are now (again) apparently whole bodies of physics that are based on the idea that the universe not only gives a crap what we think, but is comprised of it. I think this is a religious view as well.

It struck me today that these are aspects of the same phenomenon. It's mystical thinking at its most species-narcissistic, in the latter case, and its most projective, in the former. I think they're both dangerous because they posit a special relationship between humanity and nature. My personal view for many years has been we're much better off w.r.t. our own future safety if we assume that we have no special relationship with nature, beyond our quite outsize and pragmatic capability to fuck it up. Which is why I have such sympathy for the arguments from resource utilization.
posted by lodurr at 2:48 PM on July 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


Not in my experience. Observant Jews don't just trust what the manufacturer says, which is why a simple "K" isn't enough. Food needs to bear the mark of an independent kosher certifying agency.

I was unclear, sorry; I didn't mean that the kosher certifying process came down to the say-so of the manufacturer. There is oversight of the manufacturer's process by an independent kosher certifying agency. But there isn't any independent lab testing for specific ingredients by kosher restaurateurs; they trust the certification given to the manufacturer. My guess is that if you did this testing, you'd surely find traces of non-kosher ingredients, or milk with the meat, and that acknowledgment of imperfection is what leads to there being some acceptable level of accidental contamination in kosher food.
posted by palliser at 2:56 PM on July 5, 2009


I honestly had no idea that honey was verboten for vegans until now. The idea that insects(!) are worthy of the same treatment as animals and humans is completely absurd to me -- you don't swat flies or kill mosquitos? How many insects are slaughtered in your average grain or vegetable harvest?
posted by empath at 3:01 PM on July 5, 2009


Worker bees of the world, unite!
posted by oaf at 3:08 PM on July 5, 2009


empath, from what I can see your question is more easily answered by people who have an explicit religious foundation for their veganism. I don't know what Jains say (see infini's interesting post up-thread), but the buddhist vegans I've known tell me in essence that you've got to make a decision about where you're going to draw the line and that's where they choose to do it.

Vegans without an explicit religious foundation for their beliefs and practices seem, in my experience, to often get a little flummoxed by that type of question.
posted by lodurr at 3:08 PM on July 5, 2009


Vegans without an explicit religious foundation for their beliefs and practices seem, in my experience, to often get a little flummoxed by that type of question.
You're quite a nugatory thinker about this; I think you're seeing religion everywhere because you're trapped in a very narrow quasi-Christian understanding of possible ethical praxis.
posted by Abiezer at 3:32 PM on July 5, 2009


nevercalm, while I totally agree with your analogy to religion, I completely disagree with the conclusion. I come from a place where most people are practicing christians, and vocal about it. That said, they often times break tenants of their own faith, even on a daily basis. I still would call these people Christians, and I suspect so would you. Requiring veganism to be on the militant level that you are suggesting strikes a funny feeling in me, and I suspect it would also reduce the vegan population to essentially zero.
posted by LoopyG at 3:32 PM on July 5, 2009


Vegans without an explicit religious foundation for their beliefs and practices seem, in my experience, to often get a little flummoxed by that type of question.
I don't know why they should. Every culture in the world has rules about what you can eat, even if it's just a taboo on routine cannibalism. None of those rules are logically defensible. In the end, it always comes down to having to draw a line somewhere. So vegans draw the line at insects and things produced by insects. Why should they be any more required to justify that rationally than I am to justify my aversion to eating dogs and primates?
posted by craichead at 3:33 PM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Requiring veganism to be on the militant level that you are suggesting strikes a funny feeling in me, and I suspect it would also reduce the vegan population to essentially zero.

I suspect you don't know too many vegans. My "militant level" is essentially a baseline for every vegan I know, without exception.

And no offense, but most "christians" I'm acquainted with are anything but....I subscribe to the school of The The...."If the real Jesus Christ were to stand up today he'd be gunned down cold by the CIA." Every vegan I've met makes the average christian look non-practicing. I always thought they are much more faithful to their beliefs mostly because in most cases they chose the life they lead, and because it's far more difficult than "getting saved."
posted by nevercalm at 3:42 PM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


The vegans I've known, on the other hand, have never been happy to just be vegan. They need you to know that they are vegan, and that you as a meat eater are a lesser person than them.
Hang out with a vegan, you're going to have to either go to a vegan place, or you're going to deal with them arguing with the waiter or just not ordering food at all and generally being superior to all the meat eaters at the table.


I'd like to say that I am just happy being a vegan and actually go out of my way to avoid telling people as much as possible. I never argue with servers at restaurants. I may ask them to please leave the cheese off my salad.

I like to think that there are possibly many other vegans like me, who simply don't make themselves known because they want to avoid having to explain it to people.

Unfortunately, these laid back vegans are apparently being represented by the loud mouthed, annoying extremists.

I hope that most people can understand how any group can contain members who are obnoxious assholes, and these are the members that tend to stand out. Please don't judge all vegans based on these jerks. Don't think that vegans are sitting around judging you, either. I don't really care much about your diet, unless you're going to try arguing with me about why being vegan is stupid or something.

I might have started sounding like a jerk myself earlier on, but only because I was feeling rather insulted by some of the comments.
posted by orme at 3:46 PM on July 5, 2009


For those of you wondering why so many people have issues with Vegans....

I mean, seriously. If I was all, "If your not an expert in enzyme immunoassay, move on to another thread." which is just as germane to the topic at hand, the only thing that would separate me from being a troll is, well, nothing really. When you start declaring certain topics to be your ancestral homeland with demands that the rest of us move on, your gonna kinda raise my dander.

Personally, I don't care what you want to eat. I find the whole thing an interesting technical problem and think the authors should have specifically listed things like product catalog numbers, raw data and the like somewhere where they could be reviewed by outsiders. (And if someone involved in this wants some technical advice, send me a mefi-mail.)
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:54 PM on July 5, 2009


I think the animosity aimed at vegans has to do with the fact that debating with one very often becomes a moving-target sort of situation. Some vegans will claim that they eat a diet that does not exploit animals, but others will claim that they eat a diet that does not contain animals. Depending on where the discussion goes, the definition will shift.

Honey, for instance, contains no more insect parts than other plant products. Wool, on the other hand, is clearly an animal product, but is, or can be, given willingly by the sheep. Human breast milk could be a vegan alternative to cow's milk and exploitation-free, but animal in nature.

It becomes clear that veganism is, if not a religion, at least a philosophy, and philosophies ought to be open to examination. If we aim to reduce suffering, are animals really suffering if they live cushy, safe lives free from predators, fed well and groomed, and killed humanely? I realize this is not the way food is done most of the time in America, but why is the argument so wide in scope? "Meat is wrong," seems inaccurate to me, while "Meat, as it's usually done in America, is wrong," seems much more accurate.

In any case, this thread ought to be about the FPP, and not veganism as a whole, and good on them for keeping restaurants honest about what they're advertising.

If I were ever to eat meat again, it'd definitely be red meat. It is annoying as hell for so-called "vegetarians" to eat fish and still claim the title, but fish is downright nasty. It's all slimy and stinky. That, and you can't really slaughter fish humanely. You either need to hook them and traumatize them, or net them and suffocate them. At least cows and pigs can be knocked dead in under a second. And of course, they taste better.
posted by explosion at 3:54 PM on July 5, 2009


Orme, they are trolls. There is no other rational reason for them to be so vexed concerning what other people choose to eat.
posted by belvidere at 4:00 PM on July 5, 2009


so now the vegans are complaining?
posted by brandz at 4:05 PM on July 5, 2009


nevercalm, I can't defend against your view of Christians. You take the position that beliefs are all-in approaches. This is not a position I hold, but there is no higher reason why one position is more correct, they are different ways we interpret the world. I think we are not at a disagreement of reality, but of definitions.

I know many vegans, but very few are of the militant type. This is not a coincidence.
posted by LoopyG at 4:10 PM on July 5, 2009


I think the animosity aimed at vegans has to do with the fact that debating with one very often becomes a moving-target sort of situation. Some vegans will claim that they eat a diet that does not exploit animals, but others will claim that they eat a diet that does not contain animals. Depending on where the discussion goes, the definition will shift.
I haven't noticed that. Vegans are, in my experience, people who don't eat meat or other animal products. The problem with honey is not that it contains animal parts, but that it's something created by animals for their own benefit. Vegans don't think that people are entitled to take the things that animals make for their own purposes and use them for ours.
If we aim to reduce suffering, are animals really suffering if they live cushy, safe lives free from predators, fed well and groomed, and killed humanely? I realize this is not the way food is done most of the time in America, but why is the argument so wide in scope? "Meat is wrong," seems inaccurate to me, while "Meat, as it's usually done in America, is wrong," seems much more accurate.
Ok, see, that is my position, because my aim is to reduce animal suffering. I try to avoid animal products that are created in factory farming conditions. But I think that most vegans do not adhere to the animal-suffering-reduction paradigm. They believe in animal rights, not anti-cruelty. They believe that animals are entitled to life and self-ownership, much like humans are. Humans shouldn't kill animals, and we shouldn't take the things they make without their permission. Since animals can't give permission, we shouldn't take their milk or honey or eggs. We also shouldn't think that we own them. They own themselves.

This isn't the way that I understand the relationships between animals and humans. But I don't understand why it's any less of a valid way of understanding things than any other way.
posted by craichead at 4:17 PM on July 5, 2009


How about some light reading this fine evening? Peter Singer: All animals are equal.

Thanks for the link divabat. I would have liked to see other examples of similar consumer research – there's plenty of people pulling electronics apart, but is there a Maker kit to test food stuffs or other biological thingies? If basement biology is on the rise, and molecular cooking get's coverage in popular press, it will be fun to see what horrors we'll be eating in The Future™.
posted by monocultured at 4:33 PM on July 5, 2009


There are as many types of veg*n as there are of Christian. There are veg*ns and Christians who do it for purely ethical reasons as it gives them a moral code to abide by, either because they desire to minimise the suffering they cause, or because they fear judgement. There are veg*ns who pick and choose, or who are “loose” about their interpretation because they understand the impossibility of abiding fully by their self-imposed code if they also wish to participate in modern society, just as there are Christians who interpret the Bible literally but nevertheless can’t get over the fact that they find lobster extremely delicious (despite Leviticus explaining that “all in the seas or in the rivers that do not have fins and scales, all that move in the water or any living thing which is in the water, they are an abomination to you”), and really despise homos (I forget who said it but the quote is along the lines of “You can be sure God was created in your image when he hates all the same people you do”).

There’s no value in saying “vegans are like this, meat-eaters are like this” because it doesn’t tell us anything about the world and it certainly doesn’t help us understand why vegans and vegetarians do what they do. There are vegans who are upset that their friends and family eat meat, and are happy to explain to them why, but tend not to advertise it; there are militant vegans with no friends except other militant vegans; there are quiet vegans who just want to get on with it and don’t see how it’s anybody’s business what they eat or why they eat it. There are vegans who slip up, just as there are smokers and drinkers who slip up. They fall off the wagon and stay in the gutter a while, maybe even like it, but then they get up and run after the dustcloud. Others just stay there.

Yes, strictly speaking, if you’re a vegan you don't eat honey because it is a by-product of a process that is by definition exploitative. Bees don’t make honey for us, they make it for themselves, just as sheep do not grow wool and cow udders do not grow heavy with milk because they’re just aching for a human to come along and shear them or milk them. They exist for themselves, despite the fact that over thousands of years we have effectively bred cows and sheep to need milking a shearing. And, yes, most vegans, I would imagine, understand that they have put themselves in a quite unenviable position, because bags of peanuts are full of spider parts and when you thresh cotton or whatever it is you do with cotton you’re probably also threshing a few little mammals as well, and how can you truly pretend to care when your t-shirt is soaked with the metaphorical blood of a thousand screaming possums? I guess you can’t, but does that mean that just because the vegan recipe book has its pages held together with glue from the horse recycling factory, you should just go ahead and fry up a bunch of steaks? Of course it doesn’t. It means you continue to do what you can to reduce net suffering by minimising, as much as you can, your contribution to it. Perhaps by your example others will try to do the same. Perhaps they will smatter your little vegan web discussion page with hilarious recipes for bacon-wrapped-bacon. Perhaps they won’t even know what the fuck you’re talking about because vegans, aren’t they that weird cult that Tom Cruise is in? You don’t eat meat? But it’s so delicious! I couldn’t ever do that! I can’t imagine what I do without meat!

People get annoyed by people who aren’t like them. We like the idea of living in a multicultural society where everyone’s beliefs and predilections get equal treatment but in the end vegans are weird, Christians are annoying, people who take their MacBooks into Starbucks are assholes, women-of-a-certain-skin-tone-drive-worse-than-other-women-of-certain-other-skin-tones and why would a dude that fat want to squeeze into leather pants that small?
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:46 PM on July 5, 2009 [12 favorites]


@turgin dahlia, being exposed to The Mahabaratha did a lot to help me relax about people being different. One of the main moral/ethical lessons I got from that epic is essentially that we can't love other people's children as much as we love our own.

I think similarly, our personal weirdness is fine, but others' just isn't, especially if it's squicky in some way.
posted by kalessin at 5:19 PM on July 5, 2009


i don’t trust anything at this place now, except the beer. the food can go fuck itself.

How does it do that?
posted by Xurando at 6:00 PM on July 5, 2009


If basement biology is on the rise, and molecular cooking get's coverage in popular press, it will be fun to see what horrors we'll be eating in The Future™.

Funny you should mention this because I was seriously wondering how hard it would be to make animal free casein earlier this evening.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:17 PM on July 5, 2009


A restaurant that advertises vegan but knowingly uses non-vegan ingredients is a restaurant that should be shut down. False advertising is illegal.

Perhaps one way vegans could be assured of eating vegan food when eating out is to not choose dishes that simulate non-vegan food.

For example, it makes absolutely no sense to choose a dinner that includes a simulacrum of melted cheese: it can not be done in any palatable way, and if the simulacrum does approach palatable, it's a sure sign that it's not vegan. Avoid the whole problem entirely: choose something that is palatable and is not impossible to accomplish using vegan foods.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:19 PM on July 5, 2009


6) Vegans who don't realize that their choice is a priveleged choice, which they can make because they are rich enough.

Rice, beans, corn, etc are cheaper than meat. This is also why so many poor countries are dependent upon these particular food items. And guess what, they're vegan foods.

It's not a "privileged choice." And neither is vegetarianism, for good measure.
posted by cmgonzalez at 7:04 PM on July 5, 2009


How about some light reading this fine evening? Peter Singer: All animals are equal.

Peter Singer also likes GiveWell. Just saying.
posted by oaf at 7:21 PM on July 5, 2009


> the chick who was yelling at me was wearing a leather jacket, leather boots, had her hair dyed a color that came from a company that I KNOW does animal testing, and she put honey in her tea.

Hypocrites are offensive to everyone. Also, in the tradition of AskMe, DTMFA.
posted by Decimask at 7:22 PM on July 5, 2009


cmgonzalez: as I alluded to above, I was a vegetarian for the first 30 years of my life. I found maintaining my vegetarianism to be prohibitively expensive, not because vegetables are more expensive than meat, but because of the economics of food availability. I was working day labor. Eating meat meant I could get more food from the local mission and food bank. Eating meat meant I could get something other than fries and a salad wherever the mouth-breather driving the truck decided we were eating lunch, and I could accept an offer of food if the guy noticed I was broke, didn't have much food with me, and was obviously hungry. Eating meat meant I could affordably get enough protein to build and maintain the kind of muscle it takes work on a shingle delivery truck.
posted by idiopath at 7:31 PM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


How about that human milk cheese?
posted by kldickson at 7:44 PM on July 5, 2009


The idea that insects(!) are worthy of the same treatment as animals and humans is completely absurd to me -- you don't swat flies or kill mosquitos? How many insects are slaughtered in your average grain or vegetable harvest?

Funny comments coming from someone using the name "empath".

Last time I checked, bugs belonged to Animalia along with the rest of us and thus are not in a separate category. They are animals. And there are humane bug traps and various types of natural repellents available for either making yourself or purchase. One does not even have to be vegetarian or vegan to be considerate of them. My staunchly omnivorous boyfriend frequently picks up bugs and shoos them out the door or window instead of killing them.

Those casualties in vegetable harvesting are not intentional and nor are they completely unavoidable. However, certain kinds of techniques in farming, including the introduction of helpful insects and the use of certain pest control (can be natural) can minimize this.
posted by cmgonzalez at 7:46 PM on July 5, 2009


Eating meat meant I could get more food from the local mission and food bank.

I was raised by a single parent on disability. Whenever we utilized the local food bank, they didn't give us meat. We got things like peanut butter, bread, soup, vegetables, rice, and similar.

Eating meat meant I could get something other than fries and a salad wherever the mouth-breather driving the truck decided we were eating lunch,

An issue of convenience, not economics. If you wanted more choices, then you should've either spoken up and asked to go someplace with something you could eat . Vegetarianism didn't limit you. You limited you in this regard. I spent many years as a vegetarian, including all of my teen years. Sometimes I had fries and a salad. Sometimes I asked that we go for pizza instead. Speak up.

and I could accept an offer of food if the guy noticed I was broke, didn't have much food with me, and was obviously hungry.

Once again, this is your decision. You're blaming vegetarianism when it was not limiting you. If you're happier eating meat, great, but on't make not eating meat seem like the source of countless problems when there is various evidence to the contrary.

Also, plenty of vegetarian and vegan athletes (including a few gold medalists) would disagree with you on what it takes to build muscle.
posted by cmgonzalez at 7:56 PM on July 5, 2009


Funny comments coming from someone using the name "empath".

My circle of empathy only extends so far. Bugs are distinctly not in it.
posted by empath at 8:10 PM on July 5, 2009


I did not claim it was not possible to be a healthy vegetarian, I said that it was inconvenient for me. While generally a vegetarian diet is cheaper than a meat eating one, I wanted to give an example of a circumstance where this was not the case. I don't know if you have ever worked day labor, but you don't have a say about when lunch happens, and you don't have a say about where the truck is going, your lucky if you are riding in a part of the truck where it is possible to talk to the person driving. I grew up vegetarian, I know that it is a reasonable and healthy lifestyle choice, all that I am saying is that it is not always cheaper, and it, at the very least, presumes the privilege of deciding what you want to eat, rather than deciding between eating and not eating.
posted by idiopath at 8:10 PM on July 5, 2009


It's not always cheaper, but that depends on what you choose to eat. Again, it comes down to choices made for convenience. You can get a burger for $1 at McDonalds and prepare a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at home to bring with you for about the same price, but it's more convenient to eat out. Therefore it comes down to what's important to a person.

When you were working that day labor job, was there no way to bring your lunch with you? It saves money and would avoid the 'salad and fries or starve' decision.

I used to depend on school lunch at times, and sometimes all that was left that was vegetarian by the time my lunch time came around was a piece of fruit and some vegetables. So I made myself food to bring with me whenever I had a late lunch period.

If you eat out a lot or eat a lot of packaged veggie burgers and the like, of course it won't be cheaper, but the items I mentioned -- rice, beans, corn, peanut butter, even pasta and canned/frozen vegetables, are going to overall be cheaper than an omnivorous diet.

My whole point in picking apart the economic claim originally is that it's a tired and groundless attack on veg*ns (not by you, idiopath, but a few others here) which can be disproven with a few simple facts.
posted by cmgonzalez at 8:40 PM on July 5, 2009


One might note that "expensive" is not necessarily measured in cash dollars. Time is also a cost. Pissing off one's coworkers might be a cost. Cash dollars might be the least important of the costs one is considering in making a decision.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:46 PM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


From reading the first link, did it seem this whole thing started because the pancake tasted too good to be vegan?
posted by Badgermann at 8:56 PM on July 5, 2009


Wow. There is a lot of good discussion here but a lot of crap and trolling. The discussion shouldn't be about veganism/vegetarianism vs. other diets, it is just straight-up false advertising. When it comes to food, restaurants should take care in how they're labeled, advertised and made. If they make spurious claims they should be taken to task.

As for veganism/vegetarianism (and I am a strict vegetarian) we are just as representative of the rest of the population as everyone else. The so-called "proselytizing" that vegans/vegetarians are often accused of is only practiced by a minority. Most of them are quite embarrassed when restaurants make more of an issue of it then duly necessary. We're aware that it is a personal choice not shared by the majority and are (usually) willing to cope with the consequences.

Also, the vegans/vegetarians that are unhealthy due to their diet choices are idiots. Just like meat eaters who are unhealthy. There is no difference and ignorance is to blame in either circumstance.
posted by purephase at 9:04 PM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Funny you should mention this because I was seriously wondering how hard it would be to make animal free casein earlier this evening.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:17 PM on July 5 [+] [!]



Recombinant casein should be easy to make, making it cheap enough for food? Maybe these guys are on the right track:
Expression of the human milk protein β-casein in transgenic potato plants

Are yeasts and bacteria ok for vegans? If so, it would take only a week and $1000 to make a line of e.coli or yeast that expresses casein. I believe casein is only ~200 amino acids long, that'd be ~600 base pairs or $300 from these guys.
posted by 445supermag at 9:20 PM on July 5, 2009


Wow. There is a lot of good discussion here but a lot of crap and trolling.

trolling hurts fish - please, people, think of the minnows!
posted by pyramid termite at 9:30 PM on July 5, 2009


Holy crap. If Mr. Gene is for real, why haven't I figured out what needs to be done to get tomatoes to express THC and CBD?
posted by five fresh fish at 9:41 PM on July 5, 2009


Pissing off one's coworkers might be a cost.

Pissing off one's coworkers? I'm sorry, but we wouldn't be having this conversation if we were referring to people who keep Kosher or to those who require Halal food. If what other people decide to eat pisses someone off, they must have an easy, problem-free life.
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:27 PM on July 5, 2009


And that last statement includes anyone, regardless of chosen diet. And as to the original links in the post, this is a great, useful service to people who need this information, as well as blatant cases of false advertising. I'm glad that people had the balls and determination to speak up and later to take this testing on without worrying that they'd piss anyone off for daring to actually want food advertised as vegan to actually, duh, be vegan.
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:33 PM on July 5, 2009


You are mistaken if you think a rushed workcrew is going to be amenable to dicking around trying to find Halal/Kosher food when trying to grab a bite to eat between jobs.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:46 PM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


The idea that vegans can't eat honey seems particularly ludicrous. You know what involves killing and/or oppressing far larger quantities of insects than beekeeping? Pretty much every form of agriculture.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:32 AM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Lay off the bees, guys. It's the line that many vegans draw, that is at the far end of what they can and cannot eat. Some, like the leather clad hypocrite mentioned upthread, will eat it, because the insects are on the other side of their line. Most I know have them on the do-not-consume side of the line. It's really no different than people who will eat pork, but not puppy. The line has to exist somewhere.

The "animal enslavement" argument has always struck me as kind of odd in a way that I didn't have much clarity on before this afternoon..... some (I daresay most of the ones I've ever talked about this with) believe this is an actual shared essence of some kind. This is not a strange belief; I don't happen to share it, but I don't regard it as strange. I do regard it as religious, or at least mystical, because it's supported entirely by mystical evidence.


Human beings share the same neural structures that recieve and transmit pain as poultry, fish and other livestock. Their bodies release the same sort of hormones when treated poorly, and they are biologically equipped to feel pain as we do. It's not part of any grand mystical woo; it's hard science that comes from a shared ancenstry and lines of descent. A pig in a pen feels pain. I don't want to contribute to that, ergo I do not by pork. It's pretty straightforward, and largely unmystical.

And people nattering on about how great it is to be a farm animal, how they have "cushy, safe lives free from predators, fed well and groomed, and killed humanely" need to actually have a look at where their food is coming from.
posted by Jilder at 1:02 AM on July 6, 2009


The idea that vegans can't eat honey is perfectly logical. It's like milk. Bees make honey to feed fellow bees. Cows make milk to feed fellow cows. To vegans, real ones, neither is okay. They're both animal products. To actually try to argue that honey is vegan is what's ludicrous.
posted by cmgonzalez at 1:17 AM on July 6, 2009


And people nattering on about how great it is to be a farm animal, how they have "cushy, safe lives free from predators, fed well and groomed, and killed humanely" need to actually have a look at where their food is coming from.

I eat these pigs. They look like they have an awesome life. There are some choices besides veganism and factory farming.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:44 AM on July 6, 2009


Hydropsyche, that cite is the farm’s commercial website. You are essentially basing your idea that these pigs have an “awesome” life on the marketing materials chosen by this farm for its customers to see. I really doubt that these pigs have an “awesome” death.
posted by applemeat at 5:33 AM on July 6, 2009


I like this term "humanely" because I find it perfectly hilarious. "Humane" as a synonym for "compassionate" is like "anal rape" as a synonym for "consensual love".
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:35 AM on July 6, 2009


turgid dahlia: Huh? Humane is a synonym for compassion, as far as I am aware. What definition do you know of?
posted by that girl at 5:59 AM on July 6, 2009


Or, you know, compassionate. To make the part of speech the same.
posted by that girl at 6:00 AM on July 6, 2009


I like this term "humanely" because I find it perfectly hilarious. "Humane" as a synonym for "compassionate"

I think it's hilarious because of a line in a Sylvester/Tweety cartoon:
Sylvester Jr.: Oh, father, I do wish you would give up this inhuman hunt.
Sylvester: We're not huntin' inhumans. We're huntin' birds.

Seriously, humane killing (right or wrong) is one of the only good examples of human behaviour. Animals will sometimes torture and play with their prey, they don't have empathy. On the other hand, many horrible behaviors (which the ironicallly impaired might call "inhumane") like war and honor killing, are uniquely human.
posted by 445supermag at 6:07 AM on July 6, 2009


My circle of empathy only extends so far. Bugs are distinctly not in it.

Mine is a little wider. I will swat something that is biting me and I will take action if there's an infestation that threatens the home (termites chewing stuff up, ants getting into the food, etc.). Then it's me vs. them. Otherwise, no swatting, no stomping, no spraying. Lost bugs wandering around the house are left alone or carried outside and released.

I know that it's no loss to the colony to lose one ant and it may not even be much of a loss to the ant itself when you consider how short and mechanical their lives are, but it's a loss to me when I stomp out a life for no good reason. I take no pleasure in recreational killing.
posted by pracowity at 6:32 AM on July 6, 2009


The discussion about humane killings being an oxymoron makes me wonder if a lot of the big deal surrounding death to animals and so on are related to a large part of human society regarding death as taboo and undesirable? If death wasn't so feared, if it was seen as normal and a welcomed stage in life like adolescence and puberty, would there be a big deal about "killing" anyone?

Plants don't grow for our benefit either, so how do we justify the choice to eat fruits and vegetables?
posted by divabat at 6:36 AM on July 6, 2009


I once knew a vegan who wouldn't even sleep with someone who was a meat-eater.
posted by sciurus at 7:01 AM on July 6, 2009


As for what you call yourself, it's not up to me...personally, I couldn't care less. But if you eat animal products, even occasionally, and you call yourself a vegan, you might have chosen the wrong label. Am I concerned about that? Not a bit. But it doesn't change the essential fact that vegans don't eat or use animal products, and you may be a "vegan" who does.

This kind or reasoning is pretty stupid. There are heterosexual people who have experimented with people of their own sex, or who would be open to said experimentation. That doesn't make them gay, nor does it necessarily make them bisexual. If a straight man ends up having sex with another man in prison, this doesn't invalidate his claim to heterosexuality. If a vegan ends up eating an animal product, whether by accident or out of of necessity, he or she is still vegan.
posted by hermitosis at 7:43 AM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Plants don't grow for our benefit either, so how do we justify the choice to eat fruits and vegetables?

That's not really true. For example, the whole reason most fruits exist is so that animals will eat them and scatter the seeds.
posted by hermitosis at 7:43 AM on July 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


The discussion about humane killings being an oxymoron makes me wonder if a lot of the big deal surrounding death to animals and so on are related to a large part of human society regarding death as taboo and undesirable? If death wasn't so feared, if it was seen as normal and a welcomed stage in life like adolescence and puberty, would there be a big deal about "killing" anyone?

Contrast ye olde hunter-gatherer veneration of the kill versus today's factory processing.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:08 AM on July 6, 2009


This kind or reasoning is pretty stupid. There are heterosexual people who have...

This is precisely what I was talking about vis a vis labeling versus identity.
posted by kalessin at 9:16 AM on July 6, 2009


That's not really true. For example, the whole reason most fruits exist is so that animals will eat them and scatter the seeds.

But we don't scatter the seeds. We either throw them into garbage dumps or flush them down the toilet.
posted by empath at 9:18 AM on July 6, 2009


For example, the whole reason most fruits exist is so that animals will eat them and scatter the seeds.

Most fruits exist because animals eat them and scatter the seeds.

Including, apparently, every single strawberry from my garden this summer. Time to put a mesh cage over the patch.
posted by orange swan at 9:26 AM on July 6, 2009


For example, the whole reason most fruits exist is so that animals will eat them and scatter the seeds.

the whole reason domestic animals exist is so that we will eat them and let a few breed
posted by pyramid termite at 9:51 AM on July 6, 2009


That's not really true. For example, the whole reason most fruits exist is so that animals will eat them and scatter the seeds.

I'm saving mine up to poop out in the next bacon-is-awesome post!
posted by orme at 9:55 AM on July 6, 2009


the whole reason domestic animals exist is because we domesticated them
posted by orme at 9:58 AM on July 6, 2009


the whole reason domestic animals exist is because we domesticated them

as we did with much of the fruit and vegetables that are grown in the us

does that make them bad?
posted by pyramid termite at 10:15 AM on July 6, 2009


Speaking of which, are vegans allowed to have pets? That seems like a fairly non-voluntary and unnatural arrangement.
posted by empath at 10:19 AM on July 6, 2009


does that make them bad?

Nope. That is an excellent analogy. I still don't want to eat animals, though.
posted by orme at 10:20 AM on July 6, 2009


Speaking of which, are vegans allowed to have pets? That seems like a fairly non-voluntary and unnatural arrangement.
posted by empath at 1:19 PM


Personally, I wouldn't purchase a pet that has been raised for profit, but I would adopt an animal from a shelter. It is unnatural, but since "pet" animals already exist in too-large numbers, it is beneficial for them to be cared for in a home.

Domesticated animals are raised solely for our consumption. I think the difference between these two arrangements is pretty obvious.
posted by orme at 10:27 AM on July 6, 2009


Going back a bit.

lodur: Look, all I did was ask you some questions. I didn't say that those questions would prove that veganism was religious in nature. I just wanted you to think about the issue and then tell me, again, that you don't think veganism is religious.

What is 'religion'? Does it require a god? IMO, as a long time student of religion: No, it doesn't. I'm not sure yet what it does require, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't require a god.


Which just means pretty much that you've chosen to change your definition of religion such that practically all political or lifestyle choices can be called religious. Which quite possibly could be true in a larger anthropological sense, but it must be considered that your dietary choices are likewise just as religious as well. Veganism just sticks out because it's not the practice of the dominant culture, and we don't consider eating relatively large quantities of meat in a larger historical or cultural perspective.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:08 AM on July 6, 2009


And yes, despite the mixed list, a lot of those are vegans. Come on, dude.

Not if they ate at one of the restaurants on the list...

Well, it depends what you mean by "ensure."

I'd say reacting to the notification that your supplier might have been misleading you, by trying to ban the reporter, rather than following up with the supplier doesn't seem very "ensure"-ist to me.

come from a place where most people are practicing christians, and
vocal about it. That said, they often times break tenants of their own faith, even on a
daily basis. I still would call these people Christians,


But Christianity isn't defined as "perfectly following the OT restrictions", it's defined as "following the teachings of christ", one of which was, conveniently for the sinner, a truism that all people are sinners, and that forgiveness is available for all sinners. Failure is a required part of being a christian, not so for veg-isms of some flavors.
posted by nomisxid at 11:21 AM on July 6, 2009


Hydropsyche, that cite is the farm’s commercial website. You are essentially basing your idea that these pigs have an “awesome” life on the marketing materials chosen by this farm for its customers to see.

I'm guessing you don't have community supported agriculture (CSAs) where you live. I know these farmers personally--I pick up veggies and meat from them every Tuesday afternoon. They know my name and I know theirs. They always have news about how things are going on the farm. Any of us are welcome to visit their farm any time. I have not been (it's about an hour away) but my in-laws have and they tell me that pictures don't do the farm justice. It's a nice place. They went on a farm tour where they saw a bunch of the local farms that sell as CSAs or at farmers' markets and got to see a lot of other small farms run similarly.

I really doubt that these pigs have an “awesome” death.
What animal, human or otherwise, does? Farmers are more merciful than predators, natural disaster, cancer, etc.
posted by hydropsyche at 11:42 AM on July 6, 2009


You are mistaken if you think a rushed workcrew is going to be amenable to dicking around trying to find Halal/Kosher food when trying to grab a bite to eat between jobs.

And you're mistaken if you think that said work crew/employer couldn't be accused of /sued for discrimination and the complainer would win.

That said, just admit that it's because we're talking about vegetarian/veganism here, which is seen by many (even in some of the comments in this very post) as a choice ("unnatural" too!) and the domain of snobby, spoiled, Western white people.

So people start to feel indignant, it riles them up, they start to feel like they need to put these 'spoiled' people in their place. I've never seen the type of hate toward observant Jews or Muslims as I have for vegans. But, you know, they have made a choice too on what they will consume, and it's no more or less respectable than vegetarianism/veganism is. Only even the progressive audience here on MeFi wouldn't start attacking Muslims for their dietary choices. It's like veg*ns and fat people are the only ones left society is allowed to hate openly.

It's not just a choice, it's a lifestyle and has a true moral basis in a lot of people. I don't think it is a religion as some people have claimed in here, but it is as important to many people as religion is to other people.

Sometimes you have to piss a few people off to get them to do the right thing anyhow. But it's also your job to speak up if you want something. Ask to go to another food place. Or even bring your own lunch sometimes. There are other ways to compromise that don't involve compromising one's beliefs.
posted by cmgonzalez at 11:51 AM on July 6, 2009


nomisxid: But Christianity isn't defined as "perfectly following the OT restrictions", it's defined as "following the teachings of christ", one of which was, conveniently for the sinner, a truism that all people are sinners, and that forgiveness is available for all sinners. Failure is a required part of being a christian, not so for veg-isms of some flavors.

I disagree with this statement to some degree. When I was a member of a vegan community, we wrestled with this question on pretty much a daily basis, and the general verdict was that a good faith effort to do the best you can was generally good enough. Because many animal byproducts both ubiquitous in trace amounts and obfuscated, demanding a perfect practice was too much to ask. If you fell off the wagon, you just got right back on and learned to watch out for that ingredient or situation in the future. If you make a habit out of falling off the wagon, perhaps its not a lifestyle for you.

And of course, there are some areas where the byproduct is unavoidable for health/safety reasons. If you need insulin, you need insulin. If you want a sex life, you should use condoms. If you are part of a high-risk population, you should get a flu shot.

Now of course, there certainly is a heck of a lot of general dickery and e-peen waving among vegans which really bugged me around issues like how to act as a guest in someone's home, medical needs, and used leather. Personally, I checked out at a time when I was living on food bank beans and breads on the ethical principle that it's already made, I'm not paying money for it, and it would be sent to the landfill anyway.

cmgonzalez: And you're mistaken if you think that said work crew/employer couldn't be accused of /sued for discrimination and the complainer would win.

Well, the operative phrase is "reasonable accommodation" which could be satisfied by letting a worker bring a sack lunch.

But still, the whole vegetarianism and poverty argument really annoys me. Having spent months living from a food bank, the problem wasn't protein, which I could get at a can a day. The problem centered on vitamins and micro-nutrients that come from fresh vegetables, and those are in extremely short supply in the most impoverished of U.S. neighborhoods. The poorest neighborhoods pay significantly more for less vegetables than neighboring communities with higher socio-economic status. So you have a disturbing trend of increasing obesity correlated with poverty combined for the first time with dietary deficiencies.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:26 PM on July 6, 2009


First, this post is about truth in advertising. That the discussion turned into a dogpile on vegans is hardly surprising.

So far we have seen vegans equated with religious fanatics and terrorists, derided as hypocrites, laughed at for their lexicon, scoffed at for a perceived attachment to purity, teased by meat-preparing omnivores, accused of poor health and nutrition, mocked for their collective weakness, dismissed as pedants, and presented an enumerated list of "why some omnivores get upset with vegans." Vegan responses throughout the thread have been tempered and represent good-faith attempts to answer a host of question-comments covering everything from honey to pet ownership, human biology and traditional indigenous diets.

Thankfully, the MeFi community does seem to be past the protein question! But really, aren't diets personal choices reflecting one's individual liberty and deserving of respect? This is how I, as a vegan, navigate the world—moral philosophies aside, I simply want to eat in my own way free from harassment. Sadly, this is rarely the case—just read this thread.

An unbiased observer would be flummoxed at some of the anecdotal claims put forth about self-righteous, proselytizing vegans. Indeed, none of the vegans who have posted here seem to display any of the tendencies their detractors ascribe them. Viewed on its head, this thread suggests that in fact it is the omnivorous crowd which bears the very traits they so loath in vegans. And people are still nonplussed at vegan touchiness.

Many here believe that the mere fact that they have encountered an asshole vegan is license to condemn the entire community. Replace the word 'vegan' in the previous sentence with 'African-American,' 'stay-at-home mom,' 'UFC competitor' or 'bricklayer' and you can see where this logic leads when carried to its terminus. There is no generic vegan—just as there is no generic omnivore.

Food really seems to get people up in arms. That veganism is perceived as a comment on non-vegan diets likely compounds things. The absolutism of the diet also seems to be a sticking point.

Vegans are nice people. They are really great and wonderful people who are quite open and accepting. Their relationships with omnivores, however, are often tough to manage (see this thread). We are trying, though.
posted by dead_ at 1:59 PM on July 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


I understand the principles of those who eschew animal proteins. I subsisted on mostly vegetable proteins and dairy while in college. I grew up around people who's diet was primarily herbivore, and my mother (who is a chef) taught me how to create amazing and balanced vegetarian choices. I don't question other people's choices about what to eat, or how they interact with the food chain.

What I do question is the validity of tests that measure in the parts per million range when it comes to what one can expect if one does not grow all of one's own food.

The commercial harvesting process of almost all grains and vegetables will, because of the mechanized methodologies used in agribusinesses, end up killing small mammals, reptiles and more bugs than you can imagine. Sure...processing theoretically takes most of the bunny out of your sack of mill ground wheat flour...but I'm willing to bet money that if you were testing for it, using the same tests that were used in the restaurant sting, you could still find bits of bugs, lizards and bunny...animal proteins.

I agree that egregious breaking of promises, such as claiming to be vegan-safe, but then using animal products intentionally, is fraudulent and should be punished, but that's not what happened here (at the restaurant level), with one possible exception.

I also find it pretty sketchy that they are deliberately not releasing info on which tests they used, as well as the deliberate obfuscation of the testing wands themselves. If you're willing to publish information that can put someone out of business, then you should be willing to publish how you got those results so they can be verified.

I also think that these folks probably have no idea what sort of razor thin margins most restaurants operate on...if they insist that restaurants test every batch of food that gets delivered with a parts per million test, then the restaurants will not be able to operate.

My point being that this entire article is redolent with that sort of smug attitude that many people in the thread (rightly or wrongly) ascribe to "declared" vegans. It is as though nothing could possibly be good enough for them; except seed to plate, and they're not willing to move out to the country to make that happen. And I think that the attitude and tone of the article writers is probably what got up the noses of all the people who reacted with the "pffft, lolvegan, amirite?".
posted by dejah420 at 3:35 PM on July 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


And I think that the attitude and tone of the article writers is probably what got up the noses of all the people who reacted with the "pffft, lolvegan, amirite?"

Really? You honestly believe that this one thread would have magically been spared the anti-vegan pile-on of every other vegan thread ever posted here, but for the tone of the article? I find that extremely hard to believe, and I'm not even a vegan myself.
posted by me & my monkey at 3:57 PM on July 6, 2009


There is no generic vegan—just as there is no generic omnivore...

Vegans are nice people. They are really great and wonderful people who are quite open and accepting.


Umm...
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 5:14 PM on July 6, 2009


MetaFilter: There are bunnies in your Weetabix.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:06 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


My enumerated list was intended as education for someone earlier in the thread who said they didn't understand why people got upset about. I think I do, because sometimes I'm one of those people getting upset, so I thought I'd explain it in the most measured way possible.

If you'll notice, I wasn't making fun of vegans here; the list wasn't to say "oh you vegans are bad people" because clearly that's ridiculous. Instead it was an attempt to foster understanding as to why people get upset. It's not because of what a vegan eats, because, well, that's their business; instead, I think it's usually because of at least one of the reasons I listed.

As I've mentioned several times previously, I do think the restaurants who aren't adequately checking their supply chains are in the wrong, and I do think the post itself contained some useful info for those of a vegan persuasion (or other restricted diet). I just don't have a heck of a lot more to say about it.
posted by nat at 9:17 PM on July 6, 2009


But Christianity isn't defined as "perfectly following the OT restrictions", it's defined as "following the teachings of christ", one of which was, conveniently for the sinner, a truism that all people are sinners, and that forgiveness is available for all sinners. Failure is a required part of being a christian, not so for veg-isms of some flavors.

This is mistaken on another level, as well: There are Christians who cause a lot of trouble for the rest of us here in America (including a lot of other Christians) precisely by claiming to 'perfectly follow the OT restrictions.' KJV Baptists, for example.

That they aren't actually doing that is kind of the point: They are (willfully?) self-deluded about what they're actually doing, but they are willing to apply that impossible standard to people who don't live in their own community. In Christina terms (Matthew 7:3-5) this could be termed mote:log confusion. (That's "pot:kettle" in mefispeak.) (To be fair, a lot of KJV-style Christians think that they are part of an elect community which is already saved, and so might approach from the POV that different standards apply to them. That's what the Hebrews believed, after all....)

So this applies to proselytizers in general, not just Vegans or Christians: If you are willing to apply a standard to the rest of the world without being willing to consistently apply it yourself, people are going to get annoyed with you.

Is that what's behind annoyance in this thread? Partly, and that's clear. (I take people at least partly at their word on this: Many have said it's why.) There are also most likely some people reacting out of feelings of guilt, and others who just like to ridicule people. You're going to get a lot of all of those whenever the topic is around something that draws moral condemnation or rationalization, which doctrinaire vegetarianism does.
posted by lodurr at 7:24 AM on July 7, 2009


The idea that vegans can't eat honey seems particularly ludicrous. You know what involves killing and/or oppressing far larger quantities of insects than beekeeping? Pretty much every form of agriculture.

bees make honey for themselves, to eat in the winter. When farmers keep bees, they feed them some sort of cheaper substitute, like corn syrup, and take the honey that they make. Sure, it may seem oversensitive to worry about bees, but the vegan approach to living is not to take what doesn't belong to you. Killing insects that are destroying your crops is different - first of all, with organic farming, there are ways to keep harm to a minimum, but even discounting that, you are protecting the food you've worked to grow.

Regarding vegans always looking unhealthy: there are two kinds of vegans that I come across, the hippie types who do it for animals, and the raw-foodist / uber-healthy types, who do it for their bodies. So there are definitely vegans who are in good shape, who live on sprouts and spirulina and weird shakes and so on...

The arguments over what is or isn't vegan/vegetarian does start to seem pretty pointless... Maybe we need some kind of regulated scale of how veg something is. Like, 1-pure vegan, 2-veg plus honey, 3-veg plus organic milk/eggs, 4-veg plus milk, eggs, 5-doesn't check for rennet, 6-plus shellfish, 7-plus fish, 8-plus birds, reptiles, 9-plus mammals 10-and cannibalism's ok! / anything goes.
posted by mdn at 3:56 PM on July 7, 2009


When farmers keep bees, they feed them some sort of cheaper substitute, like corn syrup, and take the honey that they make.

That's partially correct, beekeepers frequently do need to feed bees, for several reasons. Some crops aren't efficient producers of nectar and the bees can't maintain the hive if they're located in an area with a single poor nectar producing crop. Also, if the hive stays in place, instead of being moved around to pollinate other crops, the bees may starve since once the sole crop has bloomed and started to set fruit, there is no natural nectar or pollen source. But typically bees hired for pollination are moved around to pollinate whatever crop needs it, rather than staying in one place.

Typically bees overproduce honey, allowing the beekeeper to take the overproduction and leave the rest to the bees. Bees kept for honey won't normally be fed corn syrup or sugar because it tends to produce inferior honey.
posted by electroboy at 9:06 PM on July 7, 2009


And you're mistaken if you think that said work crew/employer couldn't be accused of /sued for discrimination and the complainer would win.

You really have no idea what a day laborer is, do you?
posted by electroboy at 9:07 PM on July 7, 2009


When farmers keep bees, they feed them some sort of cheaper substitute, like corn syrup, and take the honey that they make.

This is not the only way to keep bees. It is the means of the mass-produced honey industry, yes, but organic/naturally farmed honey is not difficult to find.
posted by desuetude at 9:11 PM on July 7, 2009


...but organic/naturally farmed honey is not difficult to find.

... and for some reason that I'm not complaining about, it's not all that much more expensive. Tastes better, too. (Really. And if you think about how honey gets made, you would totally expect it to.)
posted by lodurr at 4:14 AM on July 12, 2009


There's some ins and outs to organic honey. Hardly anyone medicates bees year round, but some people (even backyard hobbyists) do use various things to control mites and various diseases in the early part of the season. The big thing that large scale producers do that the small ones don't is pasteurization, which definitely alters the taste a little.
posted by electroboy at 10:52 AM on July 13, 2009


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