By Daria Zeoli, Guest Contributor
Did you hear about Beyoncé’s new vegan meal delivery service? I won’t link it here; I think you’ll understand why pretty quickly.
The over-rated superstar (opinions are like assholes, and I am one, okay?) is teaming up with her trainer, exercise physiologist Marco Borges, with a new venture. The company sells protein bars and powders and will deliver plant-based meals to your door. They have a manifesto page, with a bunch of one-liners about what they believe. Here’s one gem that speaks for itself:
We believe that vegan doesn’t mean suffering through the sad modern compromise of a processed soy burger.
By the time I had stumbled across this insulting use of the word “suffering” I had already discovered something else about this new business venture that’s appalling. In the “why plant-based” section:
There are many reasons to go meat-free – whether it’s to help the environment, improve your health, or other reasons.
The “Plant Based 101” page is actually pretty good regarding what it covers: health and environment. But if you are going to market your meal delivery service as “vegan” – and make no mistake, that was a carefully thought out marketing decision – you damned well better mention animals. “Vegan” is used throughout the website, so it’s not as if I’m implying the word in their marketing. This is why it’s important that we define the words “vegan” and “veganism” – this is why it’s important that Donald Watson’s definitions don’t get rewritten for the sake of the mainstream. There is always a double-edged sword when celebrities “go vegan” or eat vegan or mention that they once ate a vegan cupcake. Celebrities have power in this society. It’s one of the reasons why some vegans were fine with it when Beyoncé & Jay Z “went vegan” for 22 days a couple years ago – because it brought attention to the lifestyle.
Let’s be clear: Beyoncé did not stop eating animals for 22 days because she cared about them– she was photographed wearing a fur coat to a vegan restaurant. So it should come as no surprise that she’s gone into business with a “vegan” meal delivery service that omits animals from its “why plant-based” list.
Yet I still felt outraged browsing the website last week. How dare they use the word “suffering” in their manifesto when they can’t even include animals as a reason to eat vegan; when they can’t even stop to consider the animals? They use it in a tongue-in-cheek, “oh look at our first world problems, the soy burgers bestowed upon us are gross” kind of way, and listen, we’ve all waxed nostalgic on the olden days of non-melty vegan cheeses, but you don’t get to use the word “suffering” and ignore the ones that truly do.
Billions of animals are exploited every year in this country and around the world. Food animals get the most attention, when they get any attention at all. The stories, the videos, the photographs of these animals are heart-wrenching. I find it infuriating that they aren’t even deemed worth acknowledging by people who are profiting off of them. I expect it from those in animal agriculture, from circuses and furriers and the like. But when one uses “vegan” to make money and doesn’t even consider them worth mentioning as to “why”?
Am I a hypocrite? This question has been rattling around my head for a few days now. I purchase items from plenty of companies that are not vegan, but offer vegan products. See, those companies don’t call themselves vegan, though. Silk does not say “we’re a vegan milk company.” My local pancake house has a vegan menu, but they don’t pretend to be a vegan restaurant; they’re just catering to a clientele.
I feel that Borges and his partner are a different story. There’s is a blatant intent to capitalize on what vegan means in the mainstream. If someone knew nothing about veganism except that it’s something Beyoncé tried once and something she’s now selling, they would think that vegan stops at your health and environmental impact. Are we going to pretend that the animals have no stake in this? Big ag doesn’t want you to see what goes on behind the walls of CAFOs and slaughterhouses, but are we now also to pretend that there’s no one behind those walls? We know that Beyoncé knows that there are people in the world who align their values with the vegan philosophy: they are the same people that called her out during her 22-day “vegan” diet. This is not a case of ignorance, and that’s what doesn’t sit well with me.
If we don’t bother clarifying what vegan is and what living vegan means, companies like this one will continue to pop up and muddy the waters. Animals are commodities right now, and if we are ever to change the world for them, we cannot let them be erased from our philosophy. If they aren’t even worth mentioning, then what in the world are we standing up for?