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Arby’s Wants Attention, Will Mock Vegetarians to Get It

By |July 8th, 2015|

Today in Incredibly Stupid Things Companies Do, Arby’s published an open letter addressed directly to (American) vegetarians. While (American) vegans were not mentioned specifically, I think it’s safe to assume that Arby’s directed the open letter to anyone (in America) who doesn’t eat meat. Arby’s, a once-popular fast food restaurant whose slogan is ‘We Have the Meats,’ wants (American) vegetarians to know that they respect you and your life decisions… but they are also going to mock you.

Here’s the open letter in its entirety (so that I don’t have to link to it, thus driving more traffic to Arby’s):

An Open Letter From Arby’s to Vegetarians Across America:

We respect you. We respect your life decisions. With that in mind, we want it to be abundantly clear that this letter is not meant to sway or convert you. We’re sharing this to offer our support.

Nearly a year ago, we embarked on a journey to tell America about our meats. By now, you’ve likely heard the Arby’s tagline: We Have The Meats®.  It’s tough to hear, but it is what it is. We have many meats. And we have quality meats.

It is understandable that you disapprove of our meat-bravado. Your voices have been heard. Letters, emails, voicemails, Tweets and Facebook comments – we hear you. We love our meats, but realize they’re not for everyone.

Then on Sunday, June 28, we launched a meat innovation that has likely tempted you: Brown Sugar Bacon. It’s our pepper bacon, glazed in-restaurant with brown sugar and then cooked to perfection. It may be hard to resist…even for you. Hardcore vegetarians likely won’t budge, but for those of you who are on the fringe or new to the game, avoidance can’t be easy.

We, at Arby’s, have created this temptation. So, we’d like to help.

We’re giving you a number to call: 1-855-MEAT-HLP. This is a Vegetarian Support Hotline. When your nose betrays you and alerts the rest of your senses to find and devour this sweet meat, please call 1-855-MEAT-HLP. You will receive the support you need to resist this gateway meat and get tips on how to avoid temptation. Delicious. Sizzling. Temptation.

Be strong. We’re here for you.

Sincerely,

Arby’s

I have not visited the website or called the 1-800 number, but Daniela Galarza at Eater did. Here’s what happens if you call that number:

…you’ll be greeted by a soft-spoken female: “Hello, you have reached the Vegetarian Support Hotline…” You are given two options: Option 1 is for vegetarians who can’t stop thinking about the bacon; Option 2 is for vegetarians who have already given in and eaten the bacon. Callers are either instructed to “take a deep breath… and go with the salad” or are told “you’re secret is safe with us.”

This is 100% a marketing ploy to get everyone talking about, and linking websites to, Arby’s. And it’s working. Already there are more than a few responses from vegan bloggers. I read several that started out the same way: “I don’t respect you,” continuing on using words like flesh and corpses*- which, I don’t know, seemed like it played right into what Arby’s was looking for- the stereotypical angry vegan/vegetarian responses à la PETA-esque style ranting on social media.

* I’ve never felt completely comfortable using ‘corpses’ to describe meat. I understand that it’s technically correct, and that some advocates want to paint a vivid picture of the atrocities that are done to animals as a result of our desire to eat them. But for me, using such an emotionless word to describe a once beautiful, sentient animal feels a little like I’m reducing that life to an analogy to further the vegan agenda. I’d rather focus on the animal and paint the picture of the individual who died, not what happened after they did.

A spokesperson for Arby’s has confirmed that the sarcastic, didactic tone of the open letter and hotline was “completely intentional.” Basically they’re admitting that they are resorting to school yard tactics to get attention. Is it any different than an errant Twitter message from someone who cares about the feelings of plants or can’t live without cheese or any of the other reasons from Defensive Omnivore Bingo?

vegan-bingo

I can easily imagine the marketing meeting at Arby’s when designing this ad campaign…

Arby’s: “We need something big to promote our bacon-bacon-bacon-baconator with bacon sandwich. What are your thoughts?”

Ad Agency: “We thought you could get people talking by mocking vegetarians with bacon. Everyone thinks that’s funny and the vegetarians will rage all over social media. It’s a win-win!”

Listen, I’m all for telling it like it is via unapologetic vegan activism, please don’t misunderstand me. I’m also not saying that vegan advocates shouldn’t respond to Arby’s little PR stunt, we should- absolutely, without a doubt. I’m a firm believer that the more people know about the lives of animals, the more that they will see these animals as individuals and not food. Shouldn’t we start out with respect and a willingness to have a discussion? Even in the face of school yard antics? Especially in the face of school yard antics?

Who’s going to listen if the first words are how we don’t respect them? Non-vegans? Not likely.

Some might say that Arby’s doesn’t really deserve respect given the industry that they are in. Some might even say that vegans have a right to respond to Arby’s in the same manner in which they were spoken to. How we treat others is certainly up to each of us to decide, but let me ask you this:

Isn’t veganism about compassion? Opening hearts and minds?

Shouldn’t we educate people and pull the curtain back on animal agribusiness and those companies who profit from the lives of animals?

And,

If we are asking people to respect animals, including ourselves and veganism in general, shouldn’t we also show people how to do that by responding to marketing ploys in an educational, savvy way? I’m not saying that vegans shouldn’t have sass and passion. What I am saying is that animals suffer every time we can’t get our message across. And we can’t get our message across if the people who need to hear it the most are turned off at the first sentence.

Before I go, I also want to tell you that you don’t need to get bacon from a pig. No indeed. Get the full 411 on all things vegan bacon (recipes! shopping guide!) by checking out the Amazingly Thorough Totally Rockin’ Vegan Bacon Guide.

So, what do you think? Tell me in the comments.

Photo: Kevin Galens

About the Author:

Founder & Creator of Your Daily Vegan. Twitter: @YourDailyVegan

18 Comments

  1. Have you ever even seen fresh meat? Gray? 😂 May 25, 2018 at 4:17 am - Reply

    😂

  2. Tyler December 25, 2016 at 11:54 pm - Reply

    How is this different than people advocating why others should be vegan?

    One piece of publicity saying eat meat, to how many that say not to?

    Being vegan doesn’t mean you have to be a baby. It just means you don’t eat or use animal products.

    If you want people to follow you, dont be so defensive. People follow the the strong and complaining about this makes your movement look weak.

  3. Shanna October 4, 2015 at 7:29 am - Reply

    “By now, you’ve likely heard the Arby’s tagline: We Have The Meats®.”
    Sorry Arby’s but nope, I never heard that tagline before, its the first time now.

    “…meat innovation that has likely tempted you: Brown Sugar Bacon”
    Sorry Arby’s but I hate any food that has sugar (tomato sauce, soups, beans, and bacon would be in the list too) even if I was still a carnivorous I wouldn’t want bacon with sugar, good luck thou!

    OBS – I understand you are doing everything you can to call attention before going bankrupt, that’s a good try, I actually haven’t seen your name anywhere for a while, good to know you still exist and good luck with your sugary meat, yack I pass it anyway but nice try! And nope, I don’t crave any greasy dripping white bread crap sandwich, even back the days I was carnivorous I couldn’t stand your food – to be honest, sometimes I do crave a delicious whole wheat bagel with cream cheese, but that’s about it, nice try thou and again the best luck!

  4. […] Hey vegans! Check out the hashtag #wemadearbysbetter on Instagram. It turns out a lot of vegans are really pissed at Arby’s. [Tip: do not go to Arby’s site. This is a marketing scam, and going to their site will give […]

  5. Robert July 27, 2015 at 3:21 am - Reply

    Funny, I’ve never been tempted to eat a dead corpse, that must first be dyed so the real gray color of the dead flesh doesn’t show through, or douce it with chemicals to mask the true odor of the rotting flesh. Call me crazy. I also don’t get my kicks from knowing this once vibrant, living, soulful creature, was first tortured before it was so cruelly murdered for those, who I consider criminally culpable for this sadistic crime.
    Arby’s “meats” are treated with carbon monoxide to keep the dead flesh deceptively “fresh.” CO is odorless, colorless, poisonous gas that is almost impossible to taste, or smell. I guess Arby’s forgot to mention this in their advertisments. Opps. It is in fact called in the meat industry, (MAP), or “modified atmosphere packaging.” This restricts the natural growth of bacteria so you won’t vomit before you leave the store. If you eat the CO in their foods, it can cause fatigue, headaches, and mental confusion. May be that is why “meat eaters” always have that far away doppy look in their eyes? Carbon monoxide also keeps the dead flesh, or “sandwichs,” from forming the natural stench, and slime too early, or in other words, so you won’t look at an Arby’s meal and throw up at the sight, and not buy their products. Let’s not forget the hormones that carry cancer producing chemicals in the “meat.” Like the synthetic hormomes, zerano, trenbolone acetate, and melengestrol, all yummy additions to Arby’s new Brown Sugar Pepper Bacon! What about those who love to develop asthma like symtoms? The asthma like drug, ractopamine is used in the meat industry, especially in the poor little pigs. Aren’t they pushing new bacon products? If you already have heart disease this is a sure winner for you to eat. Not really. There are also violative levels of metal, anti-parasite vaccines, and other various medicines there as well. Almost forgot the arsenic laced feed they give to the chickens. Just a pinch of good ole arsenic in the chicken sandwishes. Not through yet. There are also the preservatives nitrite, and nitrate to keep the dead flesh “fresh” longer, so you can buy it, because it tastes soooooo good! It only causes colorectal cancer, but that’s worth it for an Arby’s sandwish! Right? Almost forgot that good old tasty staph bacteria, MRSA, or (methicillin-resistant S. aureus). Sadly, their tempting brown sugar bacon also includes four other kinds of resistant bacteria. But what is that between friends? Maybe Arby’s new tagline should be; “We Have The Shit”
    I think that Mad Cow Disease has finally rotted the brains of their advertiser’s. Do you think?

  6. Sheri L July 10, 2015 at 12:22 pm - Reply

    People should respect one another above all else share love and feel love for everyone. This type of disrespect is no different than racial hate. Targeting one group of people in this manner can be considered a hate crime.
    “In both crime and law, hate crime (also known as bias-motivated crime) is a usually violent, prejudice motivated crime that occurs when a perpetrator targets a victim because of his or her perceived membership in a certain social group. Examples of such groups include but are not limited to: ethnicity, gender identity, disability, language, nationality, physical appearance, religion, or sexual orientation.[1][2][3] Non-criminal actions that are motivated by these reasons are often called “bias incidents”.

    “Hate crime” generally refers to criminal acts that are seen to have been motivated by bias against one or more of the types above, or of their derivatives. Incidents may involve physical assault, damage to property, bullying, harassment, verbal abuse or insults, or offensive graffiti or letters (hate mail).[4]

    A hate crime law is a law intended to deter bias-motivated violence. Hate crime laws are distinct from laws against hate speech in that hate crime laws enhance the penalties associated with conduct that is already criminal under other laws, while hate speech laws criminalize a category of speech.”

    • Tara De Wolfe July 11, 2015 at 11:47 am - Reply

      um, you think this is a hate crime? that’s like the most offensive thing i’ve ever heard…

  7. Tommy F July 9, 2015 at 6:08 pm - Reply

    Reminds me of a desperate drug pusher tactic, going to an AA meeting to try and sell narcotics to quivering junkies. Pathetic.
    Namaste

  8. eponasflame July 9, 2015 at 5:42 pm - Reply

    i don’t think its disrespectful to respond with words like corpses and evidence of the atrocities associated with bacon…people live in a consumer fugue state of denial….I say we use this attention to show what is really behind their “meal”.

  9. marlarose July 9, 2015 at 11:31 am - Reply

    Hi, KD! If you are referring to the open letter I wrote and posted on VeganStreet.com, it started with “I don’t respect you” because the whole letter was meant to mirror the language of their original open letter. We can disagree about strategy and tactics but I am simply explaining why that choice was made.

    • KD Traegner July 9, 2015 at 2:23 pm - Reply

      Hi Marla Rose! First, let me satisfy my inner fan-girl and say that I am a fan and I’m thrilled to see you on YDV! That said, I wasn’t singling out the post on Vegan Street but I know it starts out similarly. You weren’t alone. I saw more than several of the same through Facebook & Twitter. I’ve been sent or tagged in tweet pictures showing pigs with “Fuck you Arby’s” on them. I’ve read Reddit threads filled with people who have written scathing emails/tweets/Facebook messages to Arby’s as a response to their prank.

      I get that the tone used was to mirror Arby’s sarcasm and I love a sassy and witty response as much as the next vegan, don’t get me wrong. But to me, responding to an obvious marketing ploy meant to rile up the ranks so to speak seems like we’re just giving Arby’s what they wanted all along- free press.

      There is a place for anger in the vegan movement- I’m a big advocate of using the anger we experience in a positive way. But in this instance, what did we really expect from a failing fast food company who profits off of the lives of animals?

      Thank you for taking the time to share your voice with the YDV community. I appreciate the work you do on behalf of animals and hope to engage with you more :)

      • marlarose July 10, 2015 at 8:26 am - Reply

        Thanks so much for your kind words and your thoughts, KD! I appreciate what you are doing very much.

        In terms of “the Arby’s thing” really, what it is about is not giving them attention but capitalizing on an opportunity to hijack the conversation as much as we can and divert it to our message. It really is anyone’s guess as to what captivates and engages people. I really think that it is going to take all kinds of engagement — funny, sarcastic, informative, confrontational, helpful, etc. — to get through to the public, though I usually fall on the side of trying to be helpful. Hell, I wrote a whole essay a couple of weeks ago on the value of being nice. :D But as you said, using anger in a positive way can be productive as well. Just to clarify, though, this wasn’t about engaging Arby’s but to speak to those who might be listening due to the sh*tstorm around their campaign. Some will be offended, some will think it’s silly, some will be indifferent but some will hear. I think that is the best we can always hope for in the end.

        Anyway, KD, thanks again so much for all that you do and for helping to build a more compassionate and just world. Much respect!

    • eponasflame July 9, 2015 at 5:43 pm - Reply

      good for you…we need national attention…use this attention on arby’s ad to educate

  10. Matt Ruscigno RD MPH July 9, 2015 at 9:57 am - Reply

    I think we shouldn’t respond at all, it puts us right into their plan- advertising through outrage. Vegans are a predictable bunch and Arby’s knew our collective outrage would help them get attention. Look at how many vegans are now posting about them all over social media. Totally fell for it, imho.

    • KD Traegner July 9, 2015 at 2:26 pm - Reply

      Thank you for this -> “advertising through outrage” because it describes perfectly what I mean. I think a response was warranted, but wish it was more educational in nature. But yeah, we did totally fall for it. Though, I refuse to link to them or using their Twitter handle so as not to send more traffic their way.

  11. Michael July 8, 2015 at 8:14 pm - Reply

    Wonderful article……Michael

    • KD Traegner July 9, 2015 at 9:28 am - Reply

      Thanks for the feedback Michael, I appreciate hearing from you!

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