Greggs’ sausage roll. Gordon Ramsay’s new menu. Bill’s new menu. Tesco’s bleeding burger. TGI’s bleeding burger. Aldi’s unbleeding but still protein-full burger. Sainsbury’s faux prawns. M&S’s faux prawns. McDonald’s pesto Happy Meal.
The high-street food kings have all embraced veganism for Veganuary – and everyone hates it. Not vegans, obviously – they’re finally being seen and catered to. But everyone else. The internet is awash with cries of “bloody vegans taking over” and the undiluted disgust of children like Piers Morgan who spat out Greggs’ sausage roll live on TV because it “stank”. While he was having a tantrum and faux-vomiting into a bucket, his co-host, Susanna Reid, quietly tried it and proclaimed it “delicious”.
On Twitter, most #vegan #veganism #plantbased news is met with the succinct “fuck off, all vegans” and any high-street chain’s attempt to cater to this growing conscientious audience is immediately being viewed as a personal betrayal. “I’m disappointed that Greggs have taken the vegan shilling,” wrote one Twitter user, while Ramsay’s news about “giving veganuary a go this year” was met with genuine shock and dismay: “Why would you do that??” asked one. Another echoed – “Why would you do that.” – with the quiet acceptance of someone too saddened to even use question marks.
It is clear that all of the recent vegan updates to menus and supermarket shelves is a contentious topic over here in Britain and non-vegans are slowly having their hearts broken by “PC-ravaged clowns” coming up with the likes of vegan sausages (HOW DARE THEY?). But these meat-, dairy-, fish- and egg-eaters all just need to take a deep breath and calm down, because no one is forcing them to start eating meat-free sausage instead of meaty sausage. No one is taking away their normal Happy Meals and forcing them to eat vegan ones. No one cares if they buy real prawns or fake prawns. No one.
I am not a vegan myself. I don’t really have a food label. I grew up in a vegetarian household, so most of my diet is meat-free, but I eat all seafood and sometimes I eat chicken. Really, I just eat whatever I feel like and though I do care about the environment and animals, my diet choices are personal. I doubt I will ever become vegan – I’m not giving up Stilton, real milk teas or eggs royale – but I am excited by the fact that there <are> so many vegans out there and that the high street is catering towards them. Because, as any food-lover knows, this just means more choice.
There are not fewer options that are only vegan. Greggs still does its normal sausage rolls. You can still get a normal Happy Meal. The only thing that’s changed is that now there are more options. More. Not fewer
It means that menus are getting bigger! That chefs are becoming more innovative! That you can get pesto at Maccie Ds! That supermarket chains are coming up with more healthy options that still taste good!
This is good news. It is not bad news. There are not fewer options that are only vegan. Greggs does still do its normal sausage rolls. You can still get a normal Happy Meal. The only thing that’s changed is that now there are more options. More. Not fewer.
I don’t know about anybody else, but I am already consuming the benefits. The other day, I found noodles made from peas in M&S’s new plant-based range. I was intrigued so I bought them and ate them. They were delicious <and> it turned out they were good for me – the Holy Grail of food. On Monday, I tried out the new vegan menu at Bill’s restaurant. I went for all three courses because I was scared I’d leave hungry. But after my mock-duck salad, mushroom burger and chocolate fondant dessert, I was so full I had to undo my trousers (the sign of a good meal). Plus, the whole menu was cheaper than their meat/fish alternatives. More good news: vegan food can be filling and cheaper.
I’m still not going to go vegan – or opt for a pretend prawn – but no one is trying to make me do this. As far as I can see, all Veganuary means is that there are loads more delicious food options on sale and some of them are cheaper and healthier than the stuff I normally eat. So, if an increased rise in #veganism is going to keep putting pressure on chefs and chains to up their game and keep on delivering more exciting food (pea noodles, though!!), then I’m officially pro-veganism. Not so much because I love animals, but because I just love food. All of it.