Burger King’s new vegetable burger will help people reduce their meat consumption, helping the planet and potentially improving their diet, says Stephen Jardine.
Veganuary was going well. I managed six days without meat products before someone very kindly offered me a toasted bacon sandwich. Since I was hungry, like bacon and don’t like being rude, I ate it and it was delicious.
Afterwards I felt a pang of disappointment at not having even reached even a week as a vegan but I’ve no plans to eat meat this weekend and let’s see what next week brings.
Consumption may be falling but there is no doubt, in developed western countries, we still eat way too much meat. Heavy consumption is bad for us and bad for the planet so growing awareness about other ways of eating can only be a good thing.
READ MORE: What is a vegan diet?
In an ideal world, we would all be flexitarians, eating meat occasionally but otherwise relying on plant-based foods to sustain ourselves.
On that basis, here comes a bombshell, well done Burger King. Next week they launch the UK’s first plant based burger called the Rebel Whopper. Replacing the meat with soy, it is aimed firmly at the flexitarian market.
With 11 million customers a day worldwide, you might think the decision to offer an alternative to meat would be welcomed by vegans... but you’d be wrong. Since the new burger is cooked on the same grill as meat, it has been branded as ‘unsuitable’ for vegetarians and vegans.
The Vegan Society said the Rebel Whopper was a “missed opportunity” but the real anger came from the virtue-signalling online narcissists.
On social media, one of them blasted: “How can Burger King be so unbelievably stupid? They’ve a new veggie burger which they are cooking on same grill as the dead, ground-up-into-tiny-pieces cow burger, so it gets covered in cow fat”. That was just the start. Then the self-serving vegan lifestyle bloggers joined the chorus spouting indignation to their tiny band of easily influenced followers. In the real world, it was business as usual.
The fact is, that the vast majority of people in this country eat meat. Even the most optimistic assessments put the number of vegans in the UK at 600,000 or just 1.6 per cent of the population.
Surely any vegan who really cares about the environment and animal suffering will welcome something that nudges the mass of the population in their direction?
If food production and consumption is to alter to reflect population growth and global warming we need to look at the big game changers. Non vegans choosing the Rebel Whopper, liking the taste and ordering it again does more for the planet than any number of backstreet vegan cafes serving alfalfa sprouts to lifestyle bloggers who post their lunch on Instagram.
And for those who get the vapours from the idea of their food being cooked on the same grill as meat, perhaps you need to eat somewhere else? After all, those meat juices dripping from a previous customer’s burger might just end up on the table, then on your sleeve, then on your hand and who knows what calamity might happen after that?
Vegans have always battled the stereotype of being pallid, humourless, judgemental hypocrites. If their diet choice is to be less about them and more about the rest of us, they need to embrace progress as much as offence.