The meat lobby wants to slap a ban on certain labels on vegan products like ‘veggie burger’ and ‘veggie sausage’ as well as products described as “cheese-like” and “yoghurt-style” for plant-based alternatives to dairy products. The EU should thwart the meat industry trying to ban certain labels on veggie products

The meat lobby may be powerful, but is it entitled to cultural ownership of the burger? The European Parliament is to vote on whether to ban terms such terms in order to protect and appease the meat lobby.

The meat industry complains of “cultural hijacking” by vegetarian/vegan products leading to consumer confusion and proposes that “names currently used for meat products shall be reserved exclusively for products containing meat (including) steak, sausage, escalope and burger”. This includes chicken and there’s already a ban on plant-based products being labelled “milk”. One suggestion is for plant-based sausages and burgers to be called “tubes” and “discs”. As in: “I must remember to pick up some Linda McCartney tubes later.” Yummy!

This shows how rattled the meat industry is by the popularity of vegetarian/vegan food. It fails to understand that people eschew meat products for complex reasons (animal welfare, environment, health) and are unlikely to suffer from “consumer confusion”. Sure, I’m a lifelong vegetarian and have an axe to grind, but still, I’ve never accidentally bought meat. In 2019, the House of Lords select committee heard that fewer than 4% of people had mistakenly purchased a vegetarian product.

Meat producers point out that not all meat alternatives are healthy and can be high in salt, sugar and additives. Fair point – I’m all for rigorous regulations for all foodstuffs. Nor is this about vegetarians/vegans existentially hankering after food that resembles meat. All that wondering over how, even though we don’t eat meat, fish or chicken, we are still conditioned to need it represented (faked) on the plate.

In truth, those vegetarians/vegans who eat meat substitutes (and not all do) aren’t yearning for the real thing. It’s just easier sometimes to replicate classic meals with meat substitutes, to cobble together “burger and chips”, “sausage and mash” or “Thai chicken curry”. Indeed, if you take nothing else away from this column, please understand that some vegetarians/vegans are bad cooks, and lazy with it, just like many meat-eaters. Thank you for your patience and understanding.

This is why it’s bizarre to watch the meat industry making what amounts to a conceptual power grab. Sausages, burgers, steaks, escalopes and the like are essentially food shapes and food shorthand, all of which has been around for so long it is the property of anyone who eats, not just people who opt to eat meat.

Put like this, why would anyone bother arguing about what goes into a sausage shape or a burger shape? Would anyone care to copyright the teabag (slap a ban on impertinent fruit infusions?). Whatever decision is made, dictating that certain food shapes or dishes are only made with animal flesh seems like cultural hijacking. The meat industry can keep its meat, but burgers belong to everyone.

Original source: https://www.theguardian.com

 

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