Am I Still Vegan If....?

Friday, April 13, 2018
Recently I found out that one of my favorite vegan products, Impossible Meat, was tested on animals to submit full transparency to the FDA.  (I will unpack this later in detail, and what it means to me).

Learning this, and grappling with the ramifications and affect on the vegan community as well as the meat-eating community, and expressing my thoughts on an Instagram post of an Impossible Umami Burger, caused a few people to take issue with my comment (My comment was as objective as I could make it. I always try to be as compassionate and moderate on social media as possible about these things, as I know they are sensitive issues).  One individual, whom I have never spoken to or heard of in my life decided that I was somewhere on the spectrum of pure evil and left a series of comments not only calling into questions my "right" to be vegan, but also leaving sarcastic comments about my posts, and implying that I'm only vegan because it's "trendy."  I was honestly genuinely hurt.  I have been meat-free for 2 1/2 years, and have been vegan since December (I'm still a newbie, sure) but it seems ridiculous and counterproductive to treat being vegan and plant-based like an elite club that you have to pledge and be inducted into, and you are only allowed if you fit someone else's strict criteria.

NO one is perfect. No vegan is perfect.  We all do the best we can, and when we make a decision to alter our lifestyle in a way that invites criticism from the general public, it helps no one to being criticizing others within that community.  There is no such thing as "true veganism."  We all adapt the lifestyle to ways that fit our lives.  Of course, if someone eats eggs occasionally they are not vegan, but that doesn't mean that they deserve to be ridiculed and made to feel "less than" because of it. But on that same note, if you kill a bug in your house that doesn't mean you aren't vegan (contrary to a recent conversation I had with someone who isn't vegan or vegetarian...)  The goal of being vegan is to live as compassionately as possible, and do as little harm as possible.  I try to live this way everyday, in the best way I can.  The vegan community should not be elitist and exclusionary, we should all be welcoming, informative, and above all compassionate.

Which brings me to my thoughts on Impossible Meat.  You can read the company's statement here.  Let me start by saying that my first experience with veganism was in high school, when my first boyfriend ever was vegan.  It was difficult (to say the least) to find vegan options that didn't taste like cardboard to cook at my house for him when he came for dinner, and also going out to eat in our small, Central Valley town was a real task.  There was a time when plant-based burgers were gross and bland and plant-based food in general was difficult to come by if you weren't in a metro area.  In 2018, we have  so many meat-free options it's almost overwhelming.  One of the biggest innovations in recent years is the burgers offered in restaurants by Impossible Foods.  Impossible foods uses a unique ingredient called soy leghemoglobin.  If part of that word looks familiar, it's because heme is an iron carrying molecule, and it's what gives meat the "meat" taste.  Impossible Foods found a way to isolate this molecule in plants, which was a huge discovery. This heme is identical to the heme found in your blood.

In an effort to be "fully transparent,"  Impossible Foods submitted additional data tests to the FDA.  These tests included testing the heme on rats.  I, like most vegans, do not condone animal testing and will not use products that are tested on animals (I do make one exception: I wear Chanel No. 5 as a tribute to my grandmother who recently passed. Chanel has no statement on animal testing on their website, but like many high end cosmetic and fragrance brands, they sell in mainland China, which requires animal testing by a 3rd party.  So, though Chanel may not test on animals stateside or in the EU, which actually prohibits animal testing of any kind, they allow their products to be tested by others in mainland China. So, judge me as you see fit). However,  I fully believe that Impossible Foods is making great strides to reduce and hopefully one day eliminate the human consumption of animal products.  A meatless product that tastes like meat? This is revolutionary!  So many people can't tell that they are not eating an animal, and it could be one of the first major steps to introducing the plant-based lifestyle to the general public.  The founder of Impossible Foods expressed his moral dilemma with this animal testing, and in the end I agree with his decision to "advance the greater good." Impossible Foods has also ceased testing their product on animals, as it was a one time certification requirement.

In fact, most medications that you take are tested on animals. Of course, I try to keep my body healthy to avoid illness and medication, but I take hormonal birth control and OTC medication for migraines.  The medication keeping a lot of people alive has been tested on animals.  I would never shame someone for taking a medication that keeps them happy and healthy because it doesn't align with my personal life choices. You would really have to be a special kind of asshole to do that (pardon my French...).

I think my takeaway from this is that no one is perfect, not even vegans. Not even gluten free vegans. Not even gluten free raw vegans.  I always like to live firmly in reality, and while I will never support animal cruelty, or killing/harming of animals for human consumption, I am not perfect.  I have done everything I can to help animals by abstaining from consuming them or their byproducts.  But I support Impossible Foods' decision to complete these tests in order to present the world with a product that could quite possible convert more people to a plant based lifestyle, then I'm here for that.

And let me urge all of you to remember that being vegan is above all, about compassion.  If you disagree with someone or don't think they are the picture of plant-based perfection that you are, please keep that to yourself. If you want to educate someone on their food choices and what it means for animals and the environment, engage thoughtfully and tread lightly because no one wants a stranger interrupting their day by making them feel bad.  Being vegan is about feeling GOOD.  It's about helping, and educating, and informing, not judging and pointing fingers. I frequently voice my opinions about animal rights and welfare, and my post about "Selective Compassion" is probably as aggressive as I'll get. But I do make it a point to remind everyone that I'm not judging by expressing my opinions, and we can still be friends if you eat meat.

I would love to hear others' thoughts on this, do you support Impossible Foods, or have you given it up?

For more information about volunteering to save farmed animals, and for ways to explore ta plant-based lifestyle, visit Mercy for Animals.  They have all kinds of great resources, including the Vegetarian Starter Guide.

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