Socialist Worker

Big food business sells veganism to mask its crimes

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2637

Groves of shining, sterile almond trees in California

Groves of shining, sterile almond trees in California


From October, when Christmas apparently begins, capitalists spend a fortune creating a bubble of unreality—worries can wait, cheese and Baileys have no calories.

And in order to have a good time at Christmas the debts that were encouraging the worries in the first place must be increased to buy more stuff.

Then in January, something similar happens. We are encouraged to examine our waistline, our conscience and resolve. New Year, new start, new me.

Most importantly it’s a new opportunity for sales. So the celebrity chefs who were showing how to cook feasts begin selling books advocating famine.

The latest big thing is Veganuary. It’s a marketing campaign loved by big food companies who’ve made all the crap that’s made people ill to begin with. Now they want to sell more of the same crap—but plant-based.

It’s a perfect circle of profit—sell the problem then sell the supposed solution.

Identify

An individual’s choice to become vegetarian or vegan for whatever reason is entirely reasonable. And more than 3.5 million people in Britain identify as vegan.

So Tesco has an “executive chef and director of plant-based innovation”. Food chains have vegan-friendly offerings. McDonald’s serves McVegan burgers.

A new line of vegan meals from Marks & Spencer—Plant Kitchen—say “suitable for vegans”. But the small print warns they are “not suitable for milk or egg allergy sufferers”.

So they still don’t know or care what’s in your food regardless of whether you eat meat or not. The market researcher Mintel found that sales of meat-free foods soared to an estimated

£740 million last year, up 22 percent since 2013.

They did this research in order to sell their consultancy work on tapping into the vegan market.

Items that never contained animal products—nuts, pulses and synthetic duvets—have been rebranded as vegan to capitalise.

That much-discussed Greggs vegan sausage roll costs 5p more than what passes as a meat one. That is as symbolic of the snake oil rip off as Piers Morgan is an insult to a decent gammon.

Like sticking “natural” on a label, vegan can be a cover for all sorts of unpleasantness.

Soy extract in pastry that’s probably made with palm oil isn’t going to save you or the planet. But it is worth noting that Piers Morgan and Greggs share a public relations company.

Cows aren’t responsible for climate change, capitalism is.

The environmental impact of the meat industry is disastrous. The conditions of capitalist industrial farming are awful for the animals, the planet and the food that is produced.

But imported lentils, quinoa and chickpeas create a significant carbon footprint. The price of quinoa has risen so much in Peru and Bolivia that locals can’t afford to eat the grain that has sustained them, instead turning to junk food.

The meteoric rise in the consumption of almonds both as nuts and in almond milk has contributed to droughts in California.

Some 80 percent of the world’s almonds come from California.

That isn’t a justification of the growing of fancy grass to feed to cows in California, which also is destructive in water use.

Pollinate

But some 31 billion bees are transported to Californian almond farms yearly to pollinate almond crops.

There are multiple downsides to this. The bees become dependent on one plant source—which leaves them open to parasites.

The almond farms use large amounts of pesticides to make sure nothing but almond trees grow in the soil.

In 2015 they used a bit too much and killed a quarter of the bee population of the US.

The food business is the problem. We should be wary of every attempt—such as the preposterous meat tax—to make us look away from its crimes.

That much-discussed Greggs vegan sausage roll costs 5p more than what passes as a meat one. That is as symbolic of the snake oil rip off as Piers Morgan is an insult to a decent gammon.


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