Europe’s vegan debate intensifies – What side are you on?
October 22 2020 12:43 AM
Ghanim al-Sulaiti
Ghanim al-Sulaiti

By Ghanim al-Sulaiti

There’s a huge vegan debate dominating the news agenda this week, and this week the European Parliament will hold a significant vote to attempt to end this controversial topic.

The battle over whether vegan ‘burgers’ and ‘sausages’ should be replaced by vegan ‘discs’ and ‘fingers’ is intensifying, and a final EU ruling known as a “food labelling amendment” will be decided.

There are two sides to this debate: the meat industries claim that the use of meat related terms and names, such as ‘burgers’ confuse consumers.

On the other hand, the vegan industry recognises that right now, the total number of vegans, vegetarians, and all related categories, is close to 14 percent of the world population. The transition from vegetarians to vegans has been so profound that last year (2019), was declared by The Economist ‘The Year of the Vegan’. A climate crisis looming, and veganism is on the rise. People should be promoting vegetarian and vegan products rather than making life more difficult for their manufacturers who decide to use words and terms that (I believe) most people are more than comfortable with using.

A vegan burger is a vegan burger.

A cheeseburger in a fast-food takeout venue is unlikely to be a vegan burger unless it specifically specifies vegan cheeseburger.

The number of vegans in the US grew by 600 percent from 4 million in 2014 to 20 million in 2018. Between 2011 and 2016, Italy had the fastest-growing vegan population with a growth of 94.4 percent. According to Google Trends, the UK was the country most interested in ‘veganism’ in 2019, followed by Australia, and New Zealand.

Yet still, a major vote will go ahead on whether to limit the use of words such as ‘steak’, ‘sausage’, ‘escalope’ and ‘burger’ on labels to products containing meat.

If the bill passes with the proposed amendments, it would not come into force immediately. Rather, its implementation would have to be negotiated with the EU's 27 member countries.

The pandemic has hit meat processors and also provided a tailwind for sales of plant-based products, which have jumped 73 percent in Europe over the past five years, according to Euromonitor, the consumer data group.

Jasmijn de Boo, Vice President of ProVeg International, sai,: “To suggest that consumers are confused by the contents of a veggie burger is clearly nonsense. Just as we all know full well that there is no butter in peanut butter and no cream in coconut cream, consumers know exactly what they’re getting when they purchase veggie burgers or veggie sausages. Over 250,000 people have signed our petition to say they agree with us. We just hope that common sense prevails”

I’ve been monitoring the developments in this case for quite some time, and after research and conversations with those in the industry I personally believe that there is no evidence to suggest that consumers are confused or misled by the current labelling of vegetarian and vegan products.

Let’s remember that plant-based meat alternatives have been on the market for at least a century.

As one of the directors of a top vegan food distributor said, “It is only now that these products have made their way into mainstream supermarkets and are expanding their sales footprints across the EU that stakeholders from traditional animal-based industries are calling for a legal ban.”

The official definition of a burger as per the Cambridge dictionary is as follows: meat or other food made into a round, fairly flat shape, fried and usually eaten between two halves of a bread roll.

What side of the debate are you on? Are you ‘confused’ (as the meat industry claims you are) when you’re shopping in a supermarket and have a choice between meat burgers and vegan burgers? Or perhaps you think this whole case is quite ridiculous as ultimately, we are all very aware of the food choices, we make every single day, and this is nothing new. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this.

Last updated: October 22 2020 02:05 AM


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