A questions I often hear is “why do vegans want things that look or taste like meat?”.
I am talking specifically of vegan versions of sausages, burgers, kebabs, ham slices, roasts etc. There are also vegan fish products, fish fingers, fish cakes or fillets but many non-vegans haven’t heard of those, so I don’t hear THAT question:-)
Well, of course the answer to this will vary from person to person, so it isn’t right to generalise – however from my 30 plus years as vegan/veggie, I have learnt a few things along on the way that might help answer this.
- Not all vegans DO want meaty things: Firstly, the assumption that because some vegans enjoy a specific taste or texture, doesn’t mean ALL vegans do. Like everyone else, we have our preferences.
- Can it help new vegans? Some new vegans find it helpful to eat foods that are familiar in taste and texture, so they don’t feel as if they are ‘missing out’.
- What about veteran vegans? Some people who have been vegan for years and years, just simply enjoy the taste or texture of these type of foods, but don’t want to eat an animal. This is where I sit – there are many things I enjoy eating which I enjoy because they have a rich flavour or chewy texture NOT because they remind me of meat itself.
- Not all vegans like vegetables. Breaking news ….. just because someone doesn’t want to eat animals, doesn’t mean they only want to munch on lettuce leaves and carrots, this can be quite a surprise to some meat eaters 😉
- Not all vegans are uber healthy. Whilst many vegans enjoy the healthy benefits of vegan food, there are many of us who enjoy chips, cakes, fry-ups, pies and other less healthy options. And there are many ‘junk food’ vegan options which are similar to meat or fish products like a cheese burgers, v-fish and chips, pizza, hot dogs etc.
- Variety of food. Using meat alternatives is a great way to have more food choices. There is a staggering choice for vegans when cooking at home, but by not using animal products, relatively vegan choices are more limited. Therefore to NOT use products which are vegan, would limit choices further….
- Not so different / fitting in. These days many restaurants have really improved their vegan choices, but all too often the vegan option will be VERY different to the meat options, particularly at large catered events such as christmas parties. For example, so many times I have seen vegan lasagne or curry as the option when meat eaters are offered roast dinner and trimmings. If only these places realised that offering a vegan roast is easy too! In that environment, I personally dislike having a meal that is so obviously different to my dining companions – as it effectively puts a sign over my head “vegan here” which usually prompts a whole set of (the same) questions about what I eat and why… and whilst I am happy to discuss this, there are occasions when I just want to enjoy my meal and not get into the debate, especially if the person asking is confrontational!
- Does eating these things mean a vegan really wants meat? Absolutely not, and when people assume this, I think they are projecting their own thoughts onto that vegan. If the vegan REALLY wanted to meat MORE than the mock meat, then they would most likely be eating the meat!
- Can meaty be TOO meaty. For many vegans that I know who eat mock meats, they enjoy them as long as they aren’t TOO realistic. The idea of a vegan burger which bleeds or tastes JUST like meat (apparently) would be off putting to many vegans. I have had a few vegan products which were so similar to meat or fish, that I just couldn’t enjoy the meals!
- Will vegans who eat these things go back to meat? From my research, it seems very few vegans go back to eating meat, there are more people who are vegetarian for a time and then revert back to meat. I believe that vegans who enjoy that rich/meaty taste and texture, and fulfil that with vegan alternatives are far LESS likely to go back to meat, as they get what they need from the alternatives.
So in conclusion does it matter if vegans eat mock meats? No, every vegan food choice is just great. Whether someone chooses raw vegan, junk food, mock meats, lentils or lettuce, is something to celebrate… because no animals were harmed in the process! And ultimately THAT is what being vegan is all about.
I should say that when meat eaters genuinely seek to understand WHY many vegans like these meat alternatives, I am very happy to explain and help… otherwise, just let me get on with enjoying my burger and chips 😉