The Bearded Vegans Podcast: Is it okay to buy non-vegan ice cream for a crying child?
Posted May 9, 2018
Paul: What’s up, Beardos? You’re listening to episode 131 of The Bearded Vegans.
Paul: Welcome to the show! I’m Paul.
Andy: And I’m Andy.
Paul: And we are The Bearded Vegans, a podcast featuring a dissection of all things vegan.
Andy: If you’re just tuning in for the first time, you can find all of our previous episodes at thebeardedvegans.com. You can always reach us by emailing email@example.com.
Paul: In today’s episode, we’re going to talk about what we’ve been eating, do a bit of follow up, discuss the news, and then ask the question: Is it okay to purchase non vegan food for others? AKA, is it okay to buy a crying child ice cream?
Andy: [chuckle] Controversial show topic today, Paul!
Paul: Mmhmm. I’m excited to get to it. We’ve got an action-packed show today, Andy.
Andy: We do. We’ve got so much stuff to dig into. So, let’s get this show on the road, start with a little bit of food talk. Paul, you know what? I had a whole lot of mediocre food in this past week.
Paul: Oh, no!
Andy: Yeah. I went to a lot of places, people can see some pics on the instagram if you want, but nothing that I really felt warranted a shout-out. But, I did get to try the Beyond Sausage yet again, now that it’s in stores. I went on a quest to find the Italian varieties, and I went to several stores in Connecticut, and every single one was sold out of every flavor except for the Bratwurst flavor. It was kind of a bummer. I picked up the Bratwurst anyway, and cooked it up with some friends of ours. I have to say, I actually really like it. I think the Bratwurst flavor’s growing on me. But more importantly, I did find the Italian variety and I got to cook it up myself. I have to say, there’s a bit of a snap.
Paul: There’s a bit of a snap?
Andy: There’s a bit of a snap. I could tell that there actually is some sort of casing on it, and actually in the ingredients list, the very last thing is some sort of sodium, whatever, casing. The problem is that it cooks off in a lot of different cooking methods. The snap was present for the first bite or two, but then it was gone and I could see the casing cooking off. But it’s there! They made the effort. I’m a huge fan of these sausages, Paul. I’m really glad they’re out there. In my pre-vegan days I was never someone that just ate a ton of sausages, so I don’t know how often I’ll eat these things, but I have to say, they have brought it yet again. The Beyond Burger set a new standard for that company, and they are following through with these sausages.
Paul: Did you just say they have brat it yet again? [laugh]
Andy: [laugh] Heyo!
Paul: I went to Whole Foods the other day and I saw, the first time I went, they were out of them. I went a couple days later and they had one of the flavors. It wasn’t the Bratwurst. I don’t think it was the Italian one that you’ve raved about. What’s the third flavor?
Andy: There’s a Sweet Italian and a Hot Italian.
Paul: Oh, okay, so it was one of the Italians. But that $9 price tag scared me away, Andy.
Andy: You gotta try it, Paul. The listeners want to know what you think about this!
Paul: [laugh] I know, I know.
Andy: They’ve been waiting. “Should we buy it? We gotta know what Paul thinks about it!”
Paul: “We need to know what he thinks about that snap!”
Andy: I feel like you saw it, and you’re like, “There’s probably too much flavor in this. I can’t purchase it.”
Paul: [laugh] Also possible.
Andy: So Paul, what were you doing this past weekend?
Paul: I was fortunate enough to be at the New England VegFest, where I was behind the Compassion Co booth. And while I didn’t adventure out—it was jam-packed, I didn’t have time to go out and explore that much—I did get some of the classics, my all-time favs, the usuals at these sort of New-England-y vegfests. I got me some Yeah Dawgs, I got me some Sweet Beet, and then something I haven’t had in a long time is Like No Udder, which is a vegan ice cream place in Rhode Island. Since moving to Philadelphia, not very close to Rhode Island, I haven’t made it to Providence in a while, so it was magical, Andy. I think it might be my favorite vegan ice cream place. Sorry Little Baby’s, from last week. [laugh]
Andy: You’re gonna make those little babies cry! [laugh]
Paul: Which we’ll be talking about later in the show anyways.
Andy: Speaking of little babies, and ice cream—first off, I’m jealous, because I miss all those wonderful vendors; it’s been a minute since I’ve had them. Meet any Beardos at this event?
Paul: I did, Andy, I met a bunch! It was nice. I met Matt, who told me that they were one of the first iTunes winners in our iTunes comment mailbag gift giveaway, so that was cool. I met Abby, Michelle, Mark and Katherine, Alice and Matt, and then friend of the show and friend in real life, Amber, who specifically told me she wanted a shout out on the show. So here you go!
Andy: Amber’s the best. Gives a great haircut.
Paul: Yes, Andy and I have both received Amber haircuts in the past. So thank you all for coming by and saying hello! It was nice to meet you all.
Andy: Alright. Very awesome. Love meeting those Beardos. Let’s move along into some follow up. Paul, hit us up with this first bit of sweet follow up.
Paul: So, we talked about this Trip Advisor news story—some of these news articles said it was from 2016, so it’s possible that the last time we talked about this was almost two years ago, or maybe a little over a year ago. But, this article’s coming to us from PhocusWire.com: “TripAdvisor extends animal welfare policy, critics say “falls short””.
Andy: Could I say, Paul, they spell “focus” with a P-H. I feel like they should have called their website Phocus Pocus. [laugh]
Paul: [laugh] Is that all you wanted to say, Andy?
Andy: That’s it. Proceed.
Paul: Reading from the article.
“Campaigners for animal rights have welcomed a shift in strategy at TripAdvisor for selling tickets to animal-based attractions – but say the brand should go further. TripAdvisor says it will no longer sell tickets to specific “experiences where captive wild or endangered animals are forced to perform demeaning tricks or other unnatural behaviors”. It adds that the policy includes attractions that have animals that are “featured as part of a live circus or stage entertainment act in a demeaning manner”.”
[Paul:] So if I may pause for a second, Andy, I feel like this was the bulk of the news story that we originally discussed, which was about TripAdvisor considering not—maybe it was the main discussion of that episode?
Andy: I don’t think so.
Paul: Okay, I take that back—So this was the bulk of the discussion that we had about this last time, which was TripAdvisor saying that they weren’t going to be promoting a lot of these animal-centric features anymore. However, the article continues:
“TripAdvisor has made a number of other changes to the policy, including allowing feeding/touching exercises between animals and guests of an attraction if under supervision of trained officials and if animals “have the freedom to disengage”. Educational experiences will also now be permitted, the company says.”
[Paul:] Just from looking at the article, I saw that the specific types of attractions they’re talking about that they will allow or promote are things such as interacting with spiders (sounds terrible), horseback riding, children’s petting zoos and aquarium touch pools. So definitely overall a disappointing bit of follow up. It seems they’ve dialed back a little bit on what their original plan was, or what we originally thought they were going to do, which was taking out a lot of the animal-centric attractions. Just to finish up this article:
“Head of industry relations, Sally Davey, says: “Tourist activities have a huge impact on wild animals around the world, and while that impact can often be positive, such as helping to fund important conservation efforts, it can be negative too. We hope that, by making it clearer which kinds of experiences we are willing to sell on TripAdvisor and which we are not, we can push suppliers to adopt better animal welfare practices in the experiences they offer.””
[Paul:] So Andy, how do you feel about this?
Andy: This definitely seems disappointing. We were all ready, like, this is good, but it should go further. Now they’re scaling it back even more than where they said they were going to be.
Andy: Did the big animal lobby wield their influence? What’s going on here? I think I questioned how much part does TripAdvisor really play in driving people to certain attractions, but I guess we shouldn’t underestimate any website that’s promoting attraction to use animals. It’s a bummer. I feel like people should put the pressure on TripAdvisor for this one.
Paul: Yeah, I wonder if, in the year or two since they made these changes, they analyzed the traffic to the website and what people were clicking on, stuff like that, and maybe they were like, oh no, this has negatively impacted our business, so we need to bring some of this stuff back. I wonder if it had nothing to do with external forces putting pressure on them, and more so just them being like, I guess this is the thing people want to do, so we’re going to include it in our website again.
Andy: Yeah. Yeah, I’d say that’s entirely possible. Paulsible.
Paul: Paulsible. So, big bummer, but I think that’s all we’ve got to say about that.
Andy: Yeah. Send an email to TripAdvisor, if this bothers you.
Paul: Andy, we’ve got a big piece of follow up coming atcha.
Andy: [chuckle] We sure do. So, Paul, occasionally we’re ahead of the curve on things, and I think this may have been one of them, having this discussion. Listeners may remember way back in August of 2017, Episode 93 entitled: “Impossible Foods tests on animals?” We had a lengthy discussion about the revelation that Impossible Foods is testing on animals. There was certainly a conversation in the animal rights community when that happened, but it feels like now, maybe just because it’s at White Castle, and a lot of vegans are posting about going there and getting the Impossible Burger, but it seems like the arguments popping up online are much more frequent and much more heated than before. It’s essentially regarding the fact that Impossible Foods did animal testing on their hemoglobin, the heme, if you will, the thing that makes their meat taste like meat. So, one, if you want to hear extensive thoughts about this, go back to Episode 93. We’ll put a link to that in the show notes. But some new information’s come out. I did a little more digging and I felt like just because everyone’s talking about it right now, it might be a good time to revisit a small portion of that conversation. The reason I bring it up is because I found this article in ModernFarmer.com, where I get all my news, Paul.
Andy: Marmer? [laugh] MarmerFarmer.com. The title is, “Is the Impossible Burger legal?” So the article says that the FDA is “still evaluating whether to issue official approval of the burger”. I guess, more accurately, the heme, the ingredient in question. So let me read a bit from that article.
“It would be reasonable to ask how the Impossible Burger is allowed to be sold at all, given that the FDA has not given it the thumbs-up. The Impossible Burger is legal under what’s known as a GRAS approval, which stands for “generally recognized as safe,” and means that a panel of experts has deemed the additive in question—in this case, soy leghemoglobin— as safe. … The FDA, for its part, has not declared soy leghemoglobin unsafe; Bloomberg says [Andy: They’re getting a lot of their information from this Bloomberg article] that the FDA has simply stated it requires more evidence before making a decision. And so the Impossible Burger remains in a weird in-between zone: legal, and yet not actually approved.”
[Andy:] I found this really interesting. One, you have to look at the source, of course; this is not a vegan source, so they may have some vested interest in casting the Impossible Burger in a questionable light. But it did have me raising questions, because when we covered this, we were under the impression that they felt they had to do the animal testing in order to be approved by the FDA. In order to get this GRAS certification. It turns out, I don’t think we had an entirely good grasp on the GRAS, Paul.
Andy: Because the FDA does not issue the GRAS notification, that’s not something like you bring your evidence to the FDA and go, here’s our evidence, and they’re like, okay, this is generally recognized as safe. The article says it’s in this weird in between zone, legal but not actually approved, which is actually a zone that a ton of different food additives are in. So I wanted to clear a couple of things up. So the first thing people ask are, what is the FDA? The Food and Drug Administration. What do they do? Lots of people think the FDA is not particularly effective at what they do, but essentially they’re there to ensure the safety of America’s food, cosmetics, drugs, and medical devices. They deem things scientifically, medically, and nutritionally sound. But they don’t approve specific foods. They don’t do pre-market approval of a McDonald’s hamburger, or something like that. But they do approve specific ingredients, additives—that gets a negative connotation, but a food additive is just anything added to a food. Very simple, right? So in regards to this whole GRAS thing, this is from the FDA’s website:
“Certain food ingredients, such as those that are considered generally recognized as safe by scientific experts, do not require pre-market approval as a food additive. The FDA has a voluntary notification process, under which a manufacturer may submit a conclusion that the use of an ingredient is GRAS.”
[Andy:] So a GRAS notification, Paul—it doesn’t mean that the FDA has evaluated a product and determined it as safe. A company can take their information to a panel of experts and present it to them, and the panel can say, yes, this seems like it’s generally regarded as safe, and then that’s all that they really need to do. This is essentially a loophole that was introduced in 1997. The term GRAS goes all the way back to 1958, and it’s a legal term that was invented to give a pass to things like salt, or baking powder, things that are in your pantry, people have been using forever, it’s clear that there’s no need to test these things or to prove that they’re safe, because they’re used all the time.
Andy: In 1997 this loophole was introduced which allows companies to determine for themselves whether something is considered GRAS or not. Apparently since then, fewer and fewer food additives have actually been submitted to the FDA, because why would you go to the FDA, submit yourself to this voluntary process and open yourself up to the possibility that they say, we won’t give this our approval. There’s two things the FDA can do, they can do a “no questions letter”, which is, no questions asked, we looked at your thing, your GRAS statement and accept it. That’s their official stamp of approval. Or they can say, there’s not sufficient data and you need to do some more legwork and show some more numbers before we’ll give you our no questions letter. So, yeah, if a company can just say, our experts say it’s safe and we don’t care about the FDA—because you can sell food on the market that’s not approved by the FDA—it begs the question that if this was a voluntary process, why put themselves through that, why put yourself in front of the FDA for them to not approve the thing, if you can just say that your experts said it was safe. So I’m going to read a little bit from a statement that was made by Pat Brown of Impossible Foods regarding this whole thing. There’s a link in the show notes. It’s a long thing saying, these are our values, this is what we’re committed to, and these are our goals, and talked about the importance of the heme in the creation of this product.
“In 2014, we submitted extensive data, which did not include rat testing, to an academic panel of food safety experts from the University of Nebraska, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and Virginia Commonwealth University. Based on this data, the panel unanimously concluded that our key ingredient is generally recognized as safe, or GRAS. This means that Impossible Foods has been complying with federal food safety regulations since 2014. In addition, we voluntarily decided to take the optional step of providing our data, including the unanimous conclusion of the food safety experts, to the FDA via the FDA’s GRAS notification process. [Andy: That’s the one where they can give you the no questions letter.] The FDA reviewed the data and had some questions. To address them, we conducted additional tests. It is industry standard to perform rat feeding studies to demonstrate that a food ingredient is not toxic and is safe. Most companies that submit a GRAS notification to the FDA include tests that use animals as subjects.”
[Andy:] So, they felt like they needed that additional FDA approval. I guess the question is, do we think that they really needed that? Is that going to hinder the growth of their product somehow? The Good Food Institute (they’re a group that’s working to help promote clean meat and plant-based meats, and plant-based animal products) they have a whole article on this. They discuss why it would be important for Impossible Foods to get this FDA approved no questions letter.
“For example, this letter may be required by major retailers like Walmart or other significant customers like McDonalds, who would almost certainly not sell a product that did not have such a letter, and by governments considering import of a product. Additionally, the lack of such a letter could result in the FDA finding that a company’s products were adulterated because the company had not shown safety to the FDA’s satisfaction. This would cause all of the product to be pulled from shelves and sale prohibited. Some may argue that testing is not required; the alternative is that companies may be unable to sell their products to some major US retailers and internationally, and it could result in the product not being allowed to be sold at all, thwarting the goal of replacing animals in the food system.”
[Andy:] So this last little bit, it’s kind of vague, right? Like, it might be required, it seems likely that it’s required, but it’s not officially a requirement. I did look online on what it takes to be approved by Walmart, and yes, there are some lines that say you may need to comply with FDA standards for certain things. I don’t know. It seems logical to assume that this is something a major retailer would be looking for in order to cover their asses in the events of lawsuits. But also, I feel like I see products there that are like, energy drinks that have the, “these statements have not been evaluated by the FDA”, sold in Walmart.
Paul: Obviously we would need to do more research into it, but I think that that’s something different. I bet that in those energy drinks, for instance, the ingredients are probably FDA, but the statement that they’re making, like, “according to this study, 99% of people lost 20 pounds in 2 days!”, and that’s when it says, “these studies have not been reviewed by the FDA”. I bet you that the ingredients of the product themselves do have the approval.
Andy: Yeah. That’s probably a pretty important distinction. I don’t know. It’s interesting; even articles like this Modern Farmer article, which, that article, from what I read to everyone, it doesn’t make it sound like, oh, this Impossible Foods burger is in this really weird no-man’s land right now. It paints it as a novel thing, but it seems like it’s a standard thing at this point.
Paul: Yeah, if, from what you said, that since the 1997 loophole, more and more products just do the GRAS certification versus going for being fully submitted to the FDA—judging from that, I totally agree with you, Andy, I feel like the Modern Farmer, it’s trying to drum up controversy. It’s a scare tactic, basically. Like, this is some scary product because it hasn’t been FDA approved. But obviously they’re leaving out the fact that most things now go through this loophole rather than going through the full FDA approval.
Andy: Y’know, I’m not entirely sure if we can say “most”, I don’t have numbers in front of me, but it seems like a decent amount, we can say.
Paul: And I guess since you were saying, we talking about this a really long time ago, might as well re-talk about some of our feelings. I’ve had a lot of time to think about this since our Episode 93. Not that I remember exactly what I said in Episode 93, but in general, I’m more upset that the FDA seems to require the animal testing. I’m more upset that that’s the standard practice of food testing in general. I’m more upset with that than I am specifically at Impossible Foods. From what the CEO said, they tried to do without animal testing, and from what we’re speculating, they concluded that they needed to do this additional animal testing in order to have access to something like White Castle. I’m not as upset with Impossible Foods as I’ve seen a lot of other people posting about online.
Andy: Yeah. And I hate to be one of those people who’s like, if you care about this, you should argue about this, but it does feel like a lot of the rage that’s being expressed online is directed at Impossible Foods, but it’s almost like, if we spent the amount of energy that we’ve spent arguing about Impossible Foods’ choice to test on animals, and redirected that towards trying to change the practices of the FDA, that seems like it’d be a more appropriate place to put that energy. I guess it seems like it’d be a lot easier to get a company that’s headed by an ethical vegan to change something, versus changing this entire big system, so maybe it feels like it’s more of an easier goal to reach. But I agree with you, Paul, as time has progressed, I’ve become more and more upset with the FDA’s process than what Impossible Foods did. When it first happened and we were determining that this is not legally mandated, why the hell would they do this, I was really bummed out about Impossible Foods, but still recognized that this is a product that could potentially turn a lot of nonvegans on to vegan alternatives. I think you’re totally right; I’m more disillusioned with the FDA than I am with Impossible Foods.
Paul: Also, I feel like there’s definitely a big distinction between something like this, where it’s like, Impossible Foods did this animal testing presumably once, versus a different situation where a vegan company is choosing to put in some nonvegan aspect continually, whether that’s, this vegan company all of a sudden introduced this nonvegan product that they’re also selling—something like that that’s continually happening. I think there’s a distinction there. Obviously it stinks that it happened, even once, but are we gonna dwell on that one thing that happened in the past?
Andy: I guess, Impossible Foods, they present it as, well we can either introduce this product that has the potential to save a ton of cows, versus, them sacrificing 200 rats, and they say, we weigh out our options: don’t introduce our product, and way more cows die, or do introduce it, and 200 rats die. I guess I have the question, are those the only two choices? Does the world need the Impossible Burger? Is the Impossible Burger so important that it warrants the testing on the rats? Is animal liberation going to rest on the shoulders of this one product? Are they presenting this false importance of the product in order to justify the animal testing?
Paul: Obviously the company themselves are obviously going to introduce their product as being that thing, and I don’t believe that the Impossible Burger alone is going to change the world into a vegan world, but, the fact that it’s in White Castle now, and that it may not have been in White Castle had it not gotten this approval—I think that that’s huge.
Andy: But it hasn’t gotten the approval yet. The FDA hasn’t given their stamp of approval, their no questions letter yet.
Paul: Oh, they haven’t?
Andy: Yeah, that’s what this Modern Farmer article was about.
Paul: Oh, I thought that—
Andy: It’s still pending.
Paul: Hmm. I guess I’m still confused. Is there a difference between GRAS approval and then GRAS notification?
Andy: This is why I spent two hours pulling my hair out last night trying to determine this. [Paul: laugh] Yes, there’s a difference between GRAS approval—your GRAS, you just get a GRAS statement, you bring it in front of a panel of experts, you do some tests, and the panel of experts isn’t associated with the FDA, and they say, yeah, this is GRAS. And you’re good to go. If you want to take it one step further, if you want the FDA to officially approve of the statement and give you the no questions letter, that’s when you bring your GRAS statement and all the research to the FDA. It’s that no questions letter that potentially lets you get into Walmart, McDonalds, do the overseas trading. So you can be selling a product within the US and you’re totally fine, but then you bring it to Walmart, and they’re like, okay do you have FDA approval? And you’re like, no. You could go sell it wherever, but if you want to bring it to certain retailers, they’re going to require this additional safety certification. You pointing out the White Castle thing—I was like, maybe that’s why they haven’t gotten into grocery stores yet. But obviously they’re in a lot of big restaurants. Maybe these restaurants just have different standards than Walmart?
Paul: That doesn’t surprise me. Y’know, a restaurant, unless it’s this giant chain, it’s just a small amount of people making these decisions, versus something like Walmart where I feel like if you’re mass selling these things the possibility of something going wrong becomes much greater. So they’re probably just worried about covering their butts for lawsuits and stuff like that, because if something goes wrong with one of those products, from someone that buys something at Walmart, they can be like, well this has FDA approval, so we’re covered on that. I feel like that’s probably why something like a restaurant isn’t as concerned about that.
Andy: Yeah, that’s entirely possible. It’s not Impossible, Paul. Impaulsible. The Impaulsible Burger. How have they not made that pun yet?
Paul: [laugh] Have they ever said that they’re going to put them in grocery stores?
Andy: I swear I’ve heard that that’s the goal, what they want. If they’re truly trying to save the planet, and they’re trying to save animals, then it seems silly for them to not make it as readily accessible as possible. I’m pretty sure we discussed an article, an interview with Pat Brown several months ago where essentially they were opening this new facility in the Bay Area, and they were going to pump out however many millions of pounds a month, and we were still several years away from being in a grocery store but that’s ultimately the plan.
Paul: Oh, okay. That’s going to be cool, when they have the raw ground “beef” that you can just buy in stores.
Andy: So something that’s interesting that the Good Food Institute statement brings up, is that a lot of common products on the market have gone through this process, and that includes rice protein, and oat protein, and pea protein, which is what the Beyond Burger uses. That’s what your beloved Ripple uses. So is there a meaningful difference, Paul, between the Beyond Burger and the Impossible Burger?
Paul: I don’t think so. We can’t look at things like, oh, just because this happened more recently than the other thing, this happened this year and the other thing happened three years ago—I don’t think that should make us feel differently about those two things. We should stay consistent.
Andy: Yeah. And I feel like some people might say, the Beyond Burger came in and it was just using something that had already been tested and determined as safe, the damage had been done, and whether they used it or not would not affect that testing having happened. So the Impossible Burger coming in—they’re the ones that actively engaged in the testing, and therefore that’s not okay?
Paul: But then do we need to then go back and look at every vegan product we eat, and make sure that that company wasn’t the one that did the testing for those ingredients? Do we need to go to Tofurkey and Field Roast and Silk, do we need to go to all these companies and make sure they weren’t the ones that did the testing? In order to stay consistent?
Andy: Honestly, I would guess that very few of those companies actually did any testing. I don’t have any proof of this, but I would assume that most of those companies are using things that were already determined to be safe.
Paul: You think?
Andy: I think so. With maybe a few small exceptions. But here’s my question: if we’re saying the Beyond Burger is okay, because they’re not the one that did the testing, what if a new company comes in now, and decides they’re going to make a burger using heme. Would vegans be okay with it? Because this new company, the Unpossible Burger comes in, and they’re using the heme, but they didn’t do the testing, someone else did the testing. Is it all then okay? Now there’s this barrier between them?
Paul: I think, for those people that are upset with Impossible Burger, but not Beyond Meat, they would say yes, that’s okay.
Andy: I don’t know. To me it seems like a…a weird line in the sand to draw.
Paul: I completely agree. Like we were saying before, like we both said, I feel like we should be more upset with the fact that this needs to be done, that the FDA requires these sorts of things—we should be upset with that, not necessarily these specific companies who are not forced, but there are incentives for them to do these things because the FDA gives this approval. They’re incentivized to do them.
Andy: Yeah. To bring it back to a question that I was asking you earlier, which was does the world need the Impossible Burger—I’m not entirely sure that it does, but I have seen the great potential that it has to turn nonvegans on to vegan food, which can potentially be an effective foot in the door for a lot of people.
Paul: Especially when you have it in White Castle. I don’t know if I’ve ever had a White Castle burger—I must have had one. I can’t imagine they’re top of the line, beef patties that you’re getting from White Castle.
Andy: It’s garbage burgers, Paul.
Paul: [laugh] So, you know, in comparison to those, when someone then has the Impossible Burger, which is a decent tasting meat replacement, plant meat—I feel like when you have that juxtaposition, it makes it seem even better, and you’re like, wow, this is good! So I think it’s important.
Andy: I’m happier that this product exists than not.
Paul: And I’m wondering if, because White Castle has had this product, assuming that it’s relatively successful, I wonder if that’s’ going to prompt some competition from, either other fast food places, or places like Walmart, and they’re like, okay, now we know this is something people want, and we need a good vegan option as well. I wonder if it’s going to prompt that competition, which would also be great.
Andy: Yeah, potentially.
Andy: So I guess the other few little things I wanted to bring up, because I see these things getting talked about a lot, in these arguments—for one, a lot of people seem to now be under the impression that the Impossible Burger is lab-grown meat, clean meat, because a lot of people have been questioning Impossible Foods if they use the fetal bovine fluid, which was used to grow the cells for clean meat. It makes me so sad when I see people arguing that, because, people are arguing about something that’s, one, totally incorrect, they have no idea what they’re talking about. So let it be said that there is not a single animal based product in the Impossible Burger. When I saw people arguing about that back and forth, and posting screenshots of them asking Impossible Foods about it—it feels like people aren’t doing their research on things before speaking about them.
Paul: Welcome to the internet, Andy.
Andy: [laugh] Right? And I guess the other thing is, I don’t have anything to prove this, but I would be shocked if the Beyond Burger did not use animals in their development in terms of an A-B test, where they’re eating an animal based burger and then a Beyond Burger to compare. I feel like it would be almost impossible to create those burgers without doing those things. I saw someone that used to work at Impossible Foods say that Impossible Foods did that. We know Hampton Creek does that, just in their mayo. So I’d be shocked if Beyond Burger didn’t do that. I see a lot of people that are proposing, I’ll just eat the Beyond Burger instead of the Impossible Burger, but when you get down to it, pretty much every issue that exists with the Impossible Burger, exists in some form with the Beyond Burger as well. I don’t say that to be like, you’re all hypocrites, or you should just shut up and eat all this stuff. Maybe you decide that means you don’t need any of those things, and that’s a totally acceptable practice. What concerns me is when a nonvegan posts about going to White Castle and trying the Impossible Burger, and a bunch of vegans jump down their throats. To me, that is the biggest of bummers.
Paul: Vegans, jumping down people’s throats? We won’t talk about that anymore in the rest of this episode. [chuckle]
Andy: [laugh] Yeah.
Paul: I also chalk up a lot of that stuff to, we are still living in this world that’s so nonvegan that there’s all this collateral damage that happened. This is not to say that people can’t do things, or people don’t do things to prevent that, but it’s the unfortunate truth that this is the way things are, that animals are going to be harmed and killed for the way that our society currently functions. Some of this stuff, that’s what I chalk it up to. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t try to fix this stuff, which is why we’ve both been saying, let’s focus this energy on changing some of the ways the FDA works. That’s why I’m willing to still eat the Impossible Burger and the Beyond Burger despite the fact that, like you pointed out, Andy, there were definitely animals harmed during the process of these products being created.
Andy: Yeah. It’s definitely not ideal, that’s for sure. I did actually take a screenshot—Impossible Foods has really been promoting that fact that it’s at White Castle, and I was just looking through the comments on a facebook post. Someone said, “Had them yesterday. They are way better than a regular White Castle slider. I’m not a vegetarian or vegan, just a food lover!”
Andy: And then the first vegan comment is, “They’re actually not vegan, but glad you decided to keep meat off your plate this time:) Thank you!” Which seems like such a condescending thing, and this person didn’t even say, “I tried the vegan burger”, they just said, “I’m not even a vegan or vegetarian and I really liked them”, and the person’s like, “They’re actually not vegan”—what is the point in commenting that? What does that help anything? As a group of people in general, we’re approaching this conversation in a very wrong way.
Andy: Alright, well let’s leave that there. Believe it or not, 48 minutes in, that was all the follow up. [laugh]
Andy: So, this first bit of news, not a lot to say about it but I thought it was interesting and wanted to bring it up. This could also be follow up, because we talked about it before. A little clean meat update—I found two articles over at Plant Based News. First one is “Clean meat startup makes breakthrough with new 3-d technology”. It talks about this Tel Aviv based, Aleph Farms Ltd, to use 3d printing in the making of their food. I don’t know, the idea of 3d printing food still seems so weird to me, Paul.
Paul: I don’t understand it at all. It seems like something from a sci fi movie, but I’m into it.
Andy: Absolutely. So let me just read from this article.
“According to the company, until now, clean meat has often been limited to simple structures of one or two types of cell tissue, limiting its applications to ground meat. “Aleph Farms’ 3D technology relies on creating a complex tissue composed of the four core meat cell types. They are then able to grow these cells on an intricate proprietary three-dimensional platform,” according to the brand. “Aleph’s clean meat mimics traditional cuts of beef in both structure and texture.””
Paul: Ah, yes, the intricate proprietary three-dimensional platform! [laugh]
Andy: [laugh] This is something we’ve seen the clean meat companies talking about as being tough, because if you’re taking the flesh from an animal, that’s an animal that hasn’t moved around all that much, but they’ve moved around a little bit, and if you’re growing something in a lab that’s flesh that’s never moved and doesn’t have certain qualities to it—it seems like creating a steak has been a problem because it doesn’t have the same texture. I don’t know. It’s pretty interesting, and I’m excited to see where this goes. The other thing I’ll say is that there’s this second article on Plant Based News where they interviewed Josh Tetrick. The headline is, “Just CEO says 2018’s clean meat launch will probably be sold in restaurants first”. It’s just an interview with Tetrick, which is the head of Just Foods, formerly Hampton Creek. He still wouldn’t announce what the actual food was going to be, a chicken, or a beef, or whatever, but did say it’ll probably roll out into restaurants first. So, Paul, I feel like the conversations we’re seeing around the Impossible Burger we’re going to start to see around this Just meat, in maybe just a matter of months. I feel like Just is often overpromising and underdelivering, or never delivering at all. I remain skeptical that they’re going to have anything in a store or restaurant by the end of this year. But we’ve gotta be prepared for these arguments to start all over again.
Paul: I will say, again, capitalism. I’m seeing a new clean meat article every other day, it seems like. I feel like it is culminating, because it’s like, who’s going to get this product distributed first. I think there is some competition between these companies to do that.
Paul: I wouldn’t be surprised if we see it in 2018, just for the mere fact that I feel like all these companies want to be the first person to get this out.
Andy: It’s going to be a real interesting landscape by the end of this year.
Paul: In terms of plant based burgers, for me, it’s like, oh, yeah, if I need to recommend something to someone, I’ll probably recommend the Beyond Burger because they can buy it places. But now that the Impossible Burger’s becoming more widely accessible in restaurants, that’s something that I’ll also be like, if you go to this place, this place, or this place, you can get this burger. Those are the two big burgers that I’ll promote. But I feel like it’s going to be interesting if there’s seven different companies that in a matter of one or two years, have these widely available meat products. It’s almost like, are some of them going to fizzle out, because they’re not as good as the others ones, are they going to be all in the stores at the same time, are we going to become super saturated with clean meat products. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but I feel like there’s not enough room for all of these to have a similar product. Maybe I’m wrong, though.
Andy: I think you’re wrong. I think there could be room for a lot. That’s the thing that does worry me about the Impossible Burger, I don’t want there to just be one brand that people have to turn to to get their super realistic vegan products.
Paul: Yeah, I feel you.
Andy: I love that Beyond Meat is totally crushing it right now, but I’m like, crap, I want eight companies that do that. I don’t want a big conglomerate to be the only one. What if they go under? There’s anything that could happen to a company that could threaten it. If everyone’s just relying on the existence of the Beyond Burger in order for them to be vegan, what if something happens to that company? There’s so many scenarios that don’t bode well if we’re relying on one conglomerate to save us.
Paul: This is true. I guess I can point to all the different types of vegan sausages—yeah, I’ll eat Tofurkey, I’ll eat Field Roast, I’ll try this Beyond Meat. There’s a decent amount of vegan sausages that if one of them went under, I’d be sad, especially if it’s my beloved Tofurkey, but if it went under, it wouldn’t be like, I’ll never have a vegan sausage again. So you’re right.
Andy: Alright, well, speaking of vegan sausage, Paul, we’ve got a story coming to us from MSN: “France bans meat and dairy related words from vegetarian and vegan food packets”, dated April 25, 2018. Essentially this is what the headline says, that there’s this ruling that they can’t use certain words when advertising and promoting certain products. Let me read a little bit from that article.
“The ban was proposed by National Assembly member Jean Baptiste Moreau who said it is “important to combat false claims”. The amendment, approved last week, claimed that using words associated with animal products to describe meat and dairy substitutes was “misleading” French consumers. Terms such as “vegetarian sausage”, “meatless bacon”, “cashew cheese” and “soy milk” are now off-limits. Manufacturers who break the rule could be fined up to €300,000.”
[Andy:] That’s about $359,000, so, nothing to sneeze at.
Paul: God, that sucks!
Andy: Yeah, I mean, are they going to be like, soy beverage? It’s so ridiculous to me, because who is honestly being mislead by these products? I guess one could argue that the Impossible Burger or the Beyond Burger tries to be “misleading” in their phrasing, like, “it’s real meat made from plants”, stuff like that, but I’ve never been confused about whether something is vegan or not, whether something is actually animal flesh. It’s so easy to tell the difference between these two. There’s key words like, “cashew”, “meatless”, and “vegan”. There’s all these things that are so prominently promoted in the names. It’s so ridiculous. What do you make of this?
Paul: Obviously, we’re not in France, so maybe it’s different, but something like soy milk, in the US—everyone knows what soy milk is. It’s in almost every single coffee shop, either soy milk, almond milk, cashew milk, or coconut milk. There’s some non dairy milk that’s in almost every single coffee shop that I’ve experienced, at least. I’m not Andy, I haven’t been everywhere in the United States.
Andy: Hey, I still haven’t been to three states. [chuckle]
Paul: [chuckle] It just doesn’t seem, like you said, like people are going to be making those mistakes and being like, oh no, I drank soy milk, and I thought it came from a cow. I thought soy was the name for a baby cow. Or something like that. I think it’s a bummer. If nothing else, it forces all these mostly vegan and vegetarian companies to now have to repackage all their things, which is an expensive endeavor. It’s hitting them financially in that way, and probably in other ways that I’m not thinking of. They’ve just gotta be more creative, and write chick’n with the apostrophe.
Andy: I think that’s even banned. I bet anything like chicken-esque, or chicken-like, or chikn, or anything, I bet, won’t pass.
Paul: Really? That stinks.
Andy: Yeah. The positive way, of course, to look at this is, these are the death throes of a dying industry and they’re grasping at straws, reusable straws, to maintain market hold when they see they’re going under. That’s the positive way to look at it. It makes me think—[chuckle] nice, Paul just showed me his reusable straw—it makes me think about how people say, why do you have to call it “cheese” and why do you have to call it “bacon”? If you call it vegan bacon, people lose their minds, but then if you call it tempeh bacon, people are like, what’s tempeh? You have to come up with some weird word that people are also going to make fun of. I guess we’re going to see what these people come up with, and then if those words turn off consumers or not.
Paul: That’s true. You have a good point that it’s going to force people to be more creative with how they describe these products that’s still attractive and desirable, especially to nonvegans, if they have no idea what to even expect and have no frame of reference. Will they still buy the products?
Andy: I guess time will tell. Hopefully we’ll do some follow up on that at some point. Alright, Paul, I think it’s time to move in to our controversial main discussion, but before we do that, we need to thank our wonderful new Patreon donors, who joined us in this past week. We’ve got some great names to read right now, Paul. Paul.
Paul: Yes, Andy?
Andy: Who’s this first wonderful person that’s giving us money?
Paul: My favorite soft serve ice cream in Rhode Island and possibly the world, Like No Udder!
Andy: That’s awesome. That’s so cool, that they’re supporting us. Our next supporter is Dr. Jalapeno.
Paul: Is that the Christian name, do you think?
Andy: Hey, it don’t matter, Paul.
Paul: Then last, but not least, Rachel P.
Andy: And Rachel actually was donating at one level, and then increased their pledge to a higher level, so that’s the first person to officially bump up their pledge. That’s really cool.
Paul: The first-a person. [teasing Andy about pronunciation] [laugh]
Andy: [laugh] Now, Paul.
Paul: Yes, Andy?
Andy: Something happened this week. That was that our beloved Rob, over at The Commentist, accidentally posted this episode a day early.
Andy: You know, some people probably don’t even recognize it as a day early because it’s in their feed, but maybe some people were very happy about that. If you want to get that happy feeling all the time, you can support the Patreon page, because at the Mega Beardo level, you can get early access to episodes, at least one day early! Usually, three days early! We usually post episodes on Sunday morning over on the Patreon page. So, if you want to get in on that action, go to thebeardedvegans.com/beardo, and we’ve got bonus episodes, buttons, stickers, all that stuff, and you can help us make more sustainable and accessible podcasts!
Paul: You know, Andy, this last episode recorded in April, it was Episode 130. There was a Friday the 13th in April, and I think all this points to that this episode was cursed. This last episode, so much went wrong with this episode.
Andy: Paul, are you recording to the right microphone right now? [laugh]
Paul: I am recording to the correct microphone. When I was editing that episode, I did something that I have never done before while editing an episode, which is delete a giant chunk of the recording. I did that twice, and I’ve never done it before, and it happened twice. At the end of it all, it took seven or eight hours to edit that episode. It was recorded to the wrong microphone, it was posted a day early, but you know what, we’ve got all that out of our system now. It’s May, and we’re back, baby! Hopefully this episode—not to jinx it, but hopefully this episode goes smoothly.
Andy: Yeah, fingers crossed, Paul, but I have a good feeling about this one. I think this’ll be an interesting discussion, because we haven’t talked about this incident, so I don’t know your feelings on it. I can guess, but I think it’ll lead to some interesting areas. We’re asking the very controversial question, “Is it okay to buy ice cream for a crying child?”
Paul: [laugh] Dear lord.
Andy: [laugh] It seems like a silly question, but I don’t know, this incident is interesting to me on a number of levels. But, Paul, what happened? Why are we asking this question today?
Paul: Essentially, here’s the story, Andy. I’m going to read this original tweet from a vegan that sparked this whole controversy. Should we say vegan in quotes? [Andy: laugh] We’ll discuss that later. Here’s the original tweet that went out: “Pulled up to my driveway to find a little girl crying. She didn’t have money for the ice cream van like her friends did, so I gave her enough money to get herself a nice big ice cream with sauce, sprinkles, and a flake. She was so happy (and soon had ice cream round her mouth).”
Andy: That seems nice.
Paul: That seems inconspicuous enough.
Andy: It’s certainly very conspicuous in terms of being a good samaritan—look at this good deed that I’ve done.
Paul: So, one might think that that’s not that controversial—or maybe it is, and you’re sitting there thinking that’s a controversial thing to tweet out. One individual, whose name I believe is Anthony Dagher, did find this offensive, and sent the original tweeter a direct message, which said, “Hi. I am just sending this to ask if the ice cream van was selling vegan ice cream, which would be surprising. Wanting to help others is of course great, but we should of course be helping them without basically harming and killing non human babies, which buying non vegan ice cream basically does. That means that if the ice cream was the typical kind, which I generally assume is the case, it definitely would have been the best thing to help the girl in some other way. I’m really hoping it was an unexpected case of the ice cream being vegan, in which case that is awesome:)”
Andy: Paul…let’s talk about this message right away. Don’t you feel like if someone was trying to get at this, they should just say, “I thought this was awesome, I was wondering if the ice cream was vegan”. They’re starting from a place where they’re assuming the worst about this situation.
Paul: Did you get that from the fact that they said, “I don’t think this ice cream is vegan” three times?
Andy: Yeah, it’s not likely that this ice cream was vegan—it’s skipping several steps of a conversation, and putting in rebuttals and all this stuff right away.
Paul: It’s also very man-splain-y, too, because I feel like this person is almost saying, “hey, I’m not sure if you knew this or not, but a lot of ice cream trucks don’t sell vegan ice cream, so I think it would be surprising if it was vegan, but it would be great of course—” That’s the tone that I got.
Andy: [laugh] “Well, actually, did you know that dairy ice cream supports the enslavement of non human animals?” It’s like, this person is vegan, they probably understand that.
Paul: I had a big issue with that whole tone that was generated with the initial direct message.
Andy: It’s definitely the type of thing where my eyes would be rolling to the back of my head if I ever got a message like that.
Paul: Yeah. And so essentially, what ended up happening, the original person messaged back being like, dude, I was just giving a little girl some money for ice cream, it’s not a big deal. Anthony Dagher ended up, on his own page, reposting this direct message conversation that they had, with this caption:
“I usually do not do this, but I feel like this is appropriate to post since this person is claiming to be a vegan even though she admitted to buying nonvegan ice cream for someone else, defending what she did when I spoke with her privately, hoping that would make her less likely to be defensive, though I should not have had to worry about that, even though I was respectful, and blocked me rather than admitting I was right, and that she should not have bought the nonvegan ice cream for that child. To my vegan followers, I know at least those of you who she is following, should be able to send her a private message here. Just in case that is not possible, one of my screenshots shows her instagram account. I do not want her to be attacked, I just want her to see that she was wrong, which I hope enough vegans talking with her will accomplish. Please let me know if that happens.”
[Paul:] So, along with the screenshots of the direct messages, he also posted a screenshot of her instagram, which was not really relevant at all, because this was on Twitter. It’s kind of, highly inappropriate, I guess, extremely inappropriate, some might say.
Andy: Yeah, it’d be like, also, here’s their home phone number, in case you want to give them a call, if you get blocked on all their social media. It seems invasive, for sure.
Paul: And the article that we’re pulling from a little bit, which is from munchies.vice.com, where we get all our vegan news, was called “Vegan man doxxes vegan woman for giving dairy ice cream to crying child”. If you’re not familiar with it, doxxing is basically what he did, exposing personal information about someone, usually in the form of their address or their phone number or something. In this case it was him exposing her instagram account, with the direct intent of saying, “hey, contact this person, and if she doesn’t want to be contacted on twitter, then contact her on this other place”. Definitely extremely inappropriate, and messed up.
Andy: I was reading these like, did doxxing really happen? But I guess you’re right, we tend to think of this as researching this person’s home address, but I guess this would be considered doxxing.
Paul: I definitely think it’s not as intense as exposing someone’s phone number, or their home address, but it’s still, here’s all these places that you can contact this person, now, my vegan army, go forth and harass this person—but do it in a nice and constructive way—but really show this person why they’re wrong—but don’t attack them. [sarcastic tone] So that’s the twist of irony, the original ice cream buyer ended up getting a flood of mostly support, according to the article, rather than what Anthony expected, which was people somehow striking this balance that he was trying to put forward of not attacking someone, but really nailing them and sticking it to them and letting them know why they were wrong. In general, people did not do that, which I think is good, and people tended to show more support rather than harassment.
Andy: This incident got a lot of coverage from a lot of different news sources. Some article titles that I found are, “Vegan gets roasted on twitter for criticizing a woman who bought a crying child ice cream”, “Vegan ridiculed online after publicly shaming a woman for buying ice cream for crying child”, and my favorite, “Vegan mansplainer turns woman’s good deed into worst hill to die on”. [laugh]
Andy: I think there are two different things to talk about here. We can talk about the implications of this woman’s good deed, because I think we can talk about what would we do, do we think it’s appropriate, do we think there are situations in which purchasing nonvegan food for someone is appropriate. And then I think we can also talk about Anthony’s way of going about all of this. Which do you want to talk about first?
Paul: Let’s do the first one first. Let’s talk about the implications of the act itself.
Andy: Okay. Paul.
Andy: You’re walking down the street. You see a crying child that clearly wants some ice cream from an ice cream truck that doesn’t have any vegan options. Do you give that child money?
Paul: You know what, Andy? I’m going to say yes. Yes, I would.
Andy: Honestly, you can call me a heartless monster, I don’t think that I would.
Paul: Okay. [pause] We’re done with this podcast. [laugh]
Andy: [laugh] You know I’m a burnt out husk of a man with no emotions.
Paul: Like, is there a difference between something like that—okay, let me ask this question. Would you never give anyone money unless you were sure that it was going to something that is vegan approved, vegan certified?
Andy: See, that’s where it’s tricky, because I readily and willingly will give money to people experiencing homelessness, or presenting whatever story in the street to me. I will and have done that, and will continue to do that in the future. I guess I know full well that it’s unlikely that what they’re going to spend that on is something that’s vegan. Statistically speaking, knowing that we are, y’know, 1-3% of the world, it’s unlikely the person is vegan. And my personal view is, it’s none of my business what they’re going to spend that on, everyone’s got needs, and they’re going to spend it on whatever, and it’s my act of compassion to give them that money. But it feels different when you know—I guess there’s also maybe a level of need, did that childe need that ice cream, necessarily?
Paul: Probably not, but, y’know, you could say, it’s going to impact their emotional wellbeing.
Andy: I don’t know, it’s gross to be like, do you need that iphone. I don’t want to be that guy. I guess to me, I would feel like me giving this money to this child isn’t in accordance with my values, and I wouldn’t do it.
Paul: I will say this, and maybe this makes me a hypocrite, but if someone was crying outside of a meat truck, and they were like, I really want this meat—
Andy: You know, the classic meat truck that goes around playing that creepy song.
Paul: [laugh] Like, in that case, I would feel more uncomfortable about doing that, and I might not do it in that case. Maybe there isn’t a difference, maybe this makes me a hypocrite.
Andy: Yeah, the kid just wants a hot dog, Paul, come on, are you a monster?
Paul: Ah, man. This is a tough one. But, like, I can even think back to when I was a teacher, and there were instances where a kid would be like, “I’m one dollar short from being able to buy lunch”, and I would be like, sure, here’s one dollar to buy lunch, knowing full well that they’re probably not going to buy a vegan lunch. I don’t feel badly about that.
Andy: Yeah, why not?
Paul: I don’t know. That kid needs lunch. Will they survive without that single lunch? Probably. But I would rather them have lunch than not.
Andy: I don’t know. This is honestly a really tricky question. Outside of the response from this guy and what happened, there’s the question of would we then criticize this person for doing it. That’s the second part of this discussion. But would we personally do it? I don’t know. I’m trying to battle through the cognitive dissonance that I’m experiencing, like, I would give money to this person but not to this small crying child. I honestly can’t really see a huge difference, other than I know explicitly what this money is going for.
Paul: You had said this too, I feel like it’s getting into dicey territory when we start being like, well this person needs this, versus this person doesn’t need this, because then it turns into us, having no prior contact with these people, it turns into us judging what this person needs versus doesn’t need, based on our own opinions. I feel like that’s a weird thing to do, and not something that people should probably do.
Paul: I feel like that would be one of the immediate responses from myself, as well as other people, which would be, well, she doesn’t need that ice cream, but…I don’t know.
Andy: I guess we can leave it at that… For me, personally, in that moment, I don’t think I would jump to buying ice cream for that child, and I would feel okay in that decision. And your inclination is that you probably would buy the ice cream for that child.
Paul: Yeah. I think it would be.
Andy: This whole incident is such an unfortunate one, because the public examination that happens essentially puts anyone who doesn’t agree with buying the ice cream as being a heartless monster. Again, separate from the way that Anthony engaged in this situation, which I think is unquestionably shitty and horrible. Outside of that, looking at those headlines, how bad does this make vegans look, if these headlines are like, “vegan gives another vegan a hard time for buying a crying child ice cream”. It doesn’t do anyone any favors for this to be a thing that’s battled over publicly.
Paul: The tone of even just the article titles alone sets it up to be “this is the way you should feel about this thing and there’s no nuances to this”.
Andy: That’s what we’re here to tease out, Paul. Love those nuances.
Paul: We do. Although, this might be, Andy, transitioning to the second part of the discussion, but I know that we love teasing out these nuances, but I almost feel like—obviously we want to stay ethically consistent, but I almost feel like the impact of that action is so small compared to other things that it’s almost not worth making a big deal out of.
Andy: I think that anyone can say that about any one single purchase that anyone makes. That’s the argument of people being like, me buying this one hamburger isn’t going to decide the fate of this industry, and it’s insignificant, and I don’t have any power in this system, so what does it matter?
Paul: But this is a vegan person, doing this, buying a nonvegan product. Maybe I’m wrong, but, similar to what I would do—it’s not like I’m looking for ways to buy nonvegan things for people that want or need them. I’m sure this person wasn’t looking to do this, to enter into this situation, it just stumbled upon them. This is judging on absolutely nothing and I have no base for this, but it seems like this is a rare occurrence for them. I think that’s different from me saying, I’m just buying one hamburger, every single day.
Andy: That’s true, that’s true.
Paul: Then again, time is relative, so buying one hamburger every single day versus buying one ice cream cone in someone’s lifetime—what does it even mean, Andy? What’s the difference.
Andy: [chuckle] Time is a construct. I guess, to finish my thoughts on the way that the media has responded to this, I think it really sucks, because it plays into this idea. People are like, “why do you care? people get so uptight about what someone’s eating” and they reduce the exploitation of animals simply to, “it’s just food, it’s just what people eat, it’s so silly that people get so upset over what someone eats”. It reduces the suffering of billions of animals down to “just food”. So when incidents like these get hugely publicized, it allows people to reduce the suffering of these mother cows that suffer horribly to produce this milk, to “it’s just a nice treat for a child”. It puts us in this impossible situation to defend not purchasing this ice cream for someone, because it’s like, “you’re a horrible monster if you don’t do this, it’s just a crying child, and it’s just a nice treat, and it’s just a nice thing to do, and that’s all there is to it, there’s nothing deeper to it, there’s nothing beyond that basic purchase.” It’s setting us up for failure. For that reason, even though I personally wouldn’t purchase that ice cream, I also personally would never say something to someone that did that. Maybe it if was a super close friend, and we were having a conversation about it, but my time could be spent so much better educating someone on why they should go vegan, versus trying to shame someone that was trying to do something nice for someone. Again, I don’t want to minimize what that act of kindness means for mother cows, but it feels like, pick your battles. Like that article said, this is the worst hill to die on. This is the thing that you’re refusing to admit you’ve done anything wrong about. Yes, ethically I agree that it’s not something I would personally do, but really? This is the thing you’re making a big stink about, and you’re certain you’re so right about, and you’re not willing to back down or understand the nuances, or understand how it makes vegans look when we’re giving someone shit for buying ice cream for a crying child.
Paul: Let me ask you this, Andy: do you think that there’s a difference in how you feel about the situation of this person buying a little girl ice cream, would there be a difference if she did the thing and then did not post about it online, versus doing the thing and posting about it?
Andy: Here’s the thing, Paul, we don’t honestly even know if this actually happened.
Andy: There’s no footage or video, this could have been someone that’s like, I’m just trying to make myself look nice. Although, I guess, if this person was lying, they could have been like, no dude, it was actually a vegan ice cream truck so don’t worry about it. I don’t know. It could just be a nice thing that you’ve done and you don’t need to tell the world all about it. I have mixed feelings about those videos that are like, look at this nice thing I did for people. Oh, I found people experiencing homelessness and I gave them $50 and then I followed them to see what they spent the money on and they just bought pizza for all their friends and a bunch of alcohol, and look what a good person I am because of this. I guess part of me is like, I don’t know if I love the self indulgence of this and the bonus points it gives someone for being such a good human being. At the same time, I’m like, people get famous over ridiculous things, and people get extra good person points for doing all sorts of ridiculous things. Why not give those points out because someone is doing a nice thing? Maybe that will spur other people to do nice things for other people, and is that such a bad thing?
Paul: It’s a double-edged sword for me, because on one hand, I’m like, this is so creepy that this person is just following around and videotaping this other person that has no idea that they’re following them around. That’s a real creepy thing to do. But on the other hand, I feel like a lot of people have such negative biased views about people experiencing homelessness that those sorts of videos do have the ability to change people’s perceptions about those. I think that’s a good thing. So on the one hand, it’s like, I wish there was a way to get people to realize that people who are homeless are also people, without having to creepily follow them around and videotape them. Tangent.
Andy: Yeah. It sucks, Paul. It’s also like, shouldn’t we just be able to say that animals experience pain and you shouldn’t exploit them? But we have to show people the videos. I share your concerns about those types of videos. Obviously not every single one is about someone that’s going through homelessness or something like that. There’s all sorts of small good samaritan acts that people do. Ultimately, posting these things online hopefully encourages other people to do nice things, and if they get some “look how good a person I am” out of it, whatever. Who cares.
Paul: Yeah. But, back to my original sentiment—if this person had just done this deed and not posted about it, and that story fades away and nobody ever knew that it happened, I feel like the impact it had would be much less of a negative impact than what actually happened when it became this huge thing and now people are reinforced in their idea that vegans are hardline and going to critique you on everything and won’t let you do anything. What it’s become is something that has had a negative impact on the vegan perception.
Andy: Honestly, I think I would say, if you do something like this, it maybe is best not to post about it and brag about it online. I’m afraid to post about the Impossible Burger online, because I don’t want to deal with the backlash. Maybe if you do this one thing that’s nice for someone, just let it be this nice thing that you’ve done for someone, and don’t bring it any further than that.
Paul: Obviously this is not quantifiable at all, but maybe the negative impact this has had for the perception of veganism, which may then prompt some people to be more resistant to veganism, and not change or eat less meat, has more of a negative impact for animals than the direct impact that purchasing that one ice cream cone has.
Andy: Yeah. And obviously it’s hard to know how something you do is ever going to get received on the internet, blown up, reposted. I’m sure nobody expected this to become what it did, either parties involved. I feel like there’s a difference between doing something you’re not fully on board with ethically, but it’s a good thing to do for someone, versus turning around and promoting that as a thing that everyone should do. Like here’s a thing that everyone should get their good person points for, doing this thing.
Paul: I agree with that. I think you’re onto something there, because, I mean, this discussion, and the majority of these podcast episodes are about things that we don’t necessarily know exactly how we feel on. Like you just said, maybe don’t promote these things you might not be on board with. Although, for all we know, this person might be of the opinion that there’s nothing wrong with this.
Andy: Yeah, I mean, this person’s responses to this guy were flippantly like, it’s just ice cream, it’s not deeper than that. Who knows, if he had actually respectfully approached with a genuine question, if there had been a different conversation. I know I would not be inclined to give someone a thoughtful response if had gotten that message first.
Paul: Oh, yeah, definitely.
Andy: So I guess we can only speculate there. No reason to move further on that. But yeah, I guess it’s possible that this person is like, every vegan should go out and buy nonvegan ice cream cones for crying children.
Paul: I doubt it, but it’s possible. [laugh]
Andy: We also don’t know if this is someone that’s a health vegan or an ethical vegan—we don’t know. It could mean anything at this point, but let’s assume they’re a standard all for the animals vegan.
Paul: They do have the little V with the circle around it. That usually implies animal ethics.
Andy: Definitely. So, Paul, let me ask you—there’s this incident, and this is so emotionally charged. You have a crying child, and it almost puts you in position to seem like a bad person if you don’t buy them the ice cream, but I’m wondering about other instances where vegans might feel conflicted about whether or not they should purchase nonvegan food for someone else. We may have talked about this a little bit in the episode we did about dating. Things that come to mind are if you’re on a date with someone that’s not vegan, and you decide that you’re going to pick up the tab, or what about if you live with your parents and they’re like, could you pick up some milk on the way home. Or what if the office asks you to pick up catered food, that the office is paying for but you’re the one that’s picking it up and facilitating it. There’s all these different degrees. Maybe we can talk about some of these different incidents.
Paul: Yeah. So, honestly, Andy, when we first did our vegan dating episode, if I recall correctly, we disagreed. I said that there were instances where I would pick up the tab even if there was nonvegan food. I think I’ve since changed my views on that to being, I think I wouldn’t do that anymore.
Andy: Hmm. Interesting.
Paul: Probably, from doing this podcast for a while, there are still many areas where I’m working through, but I’m more concrete on probably not doing that. One of the main reasons is, I feel like if this was a person I was dating that I could see some meaningful relationship forming, if they were not vegan, I would still expect them to respect that this is such an important thing for me—
Andy: Expect respect?
Paul: Expect respect! It’s your new tee shirt, Andy. Trademark.
Paul: –And if they didn’t respect that, I would be like, this is a red flag that this relationship might work out.
Andy: I think that’s a good way to put it, that it’s important for them to understand why you wouldn’t purchase that, and don’t allow them to reduce it to “don’t you like me? don’t you care about me? don’t you care about the established norms of dating, the protocol?” Obviously, I think that’s an antiquated look at the way dating works, but sometimes you just want to buy a meal for someone and it’s a nice thing to do. For me, personally, in that instance, it’s not a situation in which I would feel okay paying for someone else to eat nonvegan food.
Paul: I’ve also definitely been in situations with family or friends that were not vegan, and this almost gives you an excuse—not that you should be establishing these relationships solely to convert people to veganism—but it does almost give an excuse for me, in some of these situations, where I won’t say this out loud, but I’ll be like, let’s go to this vegan place, and I’ll buy you a meal. It almost gives you an excuse to take someone to experience this new type of food that they might not experience otherwise, under the guise of you paying for it.
Andy: Definitely. I’ve even outright said it, sometimes, where we’re going to Starbucks with two friends of mine and we’re working on a project together. I’ll say, I’ll treat as long as what you order is vegan. People generally understand that. I know not everyone has super understanding friends. If people press you, it’s not like I’m trying to force you to be vegan, but I’m not going to pay for something that’s not in accordance with my ethics. I think you can say stuff like that, and people will get it. It’s a chance to have a conversation with people about why.
Paul: Yeah. I think, in terms of one of the other situations you brought up, picking up milk from the store for a family member, I think obviously you could outright refuse to do that, or you could also say, “I’ll pick it up for you, but will you give me the money for the milk?” Would that be something you would be uncomfortable with, Andy?
Andy: A situation where they’re paying you back?
Paul: Yeah, or they give you the money in the first place.
Andy: So it’s not like your personal money is going to it. Y’know, that’s definitely a tricky one. I think I’m at a point in my relationship with my family where I could say, I will not pick up nonvegan stuff. They’re into a lot of the vegan products, now, so it’s not as much of an issue for me. But I feel like I’m in a place where if they asked if I’d pick up butter or eggs or something like that, I would say that I don’t feel comfortable with it.
Paul: But why? If the end result is then they just go and get it, what’s the difference?
Andy: I don’t know. It just feels like I’m facilitating it. But maybe at some point we do need to just not stress over every single tiny little purchase that we make, and treat it as if it’s the end of the world if it does happen.
Paul: Yeah, I was going to say, I feel like sometimes you’ve gotta know when to pick your battles. Especially with family members that know you’re vegan already, I think hitting them over the head with the vegan messaging every single instance it’s possible—you know your family better than I do, but for mine, it would not be the most effective way to promote veganism, if I just brought it up every chance I can get. I think I’m more inclined to let that kind of thing slide. If they were like, Paul, I’m really busy right now, here’s five dollars, can you pick up this stick of butter, I’d be like, sure. I love you, Mom. I’ll go pick up this butter.
Andy: If it’s something that’s easily replaceable—if it’s eggs, like, shit, but if it’s butter, it could be an opportunity to say, can I get you to try out some Earth Balance instead? Again, depending on the family and your relationship, but things like that could be like, I’ll pay for it, I’ll just pick up the Earth Balance, it’s great and I can’t wait for you to try it.
Paul: Mmhmm. And of course, a situation that Andy and I have no experience in is that if we were vegan parents and we had either nonvegan children, or a nonvegan spouse, how to handle that situation, because I feel like these sorts of things would show themselves a lot more than the situation that Andy and myself are in. The situation where it’s like, if we’re not being put in a situation where we would be pressured to buy something nonvegan for something else, we’re not being pressured in that situation very often. Versus a parent, where I feel like a lot more frequently you’d be in a situation where you’re the one paying for the meals, and if your child, or husband/wife/partner is not vegan, what do you do. It’s tough. I have no experience with this.
Andy: Yeah. I mean, I think we can probably leave this conversation off there and put out a call to all the Beardos and say, how do you handle these situations? What are you comfortable with? What are you not comfortable with? Has there ever been a time that you felt like you didn’t have a choice whether or not you could say no to purchasing nonvegan? How did you handle that? How did you feel? What’s your general life philosophy on these things? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Paul: And that’s THEbeardedvegans@gmail.com, Andy, not just beardedvegans. Just wanted to make that clear.
Paul: You know, we’ve talked about this kind of stuff before, and we’ve gotten emails before, a few about people in that similar situation of being a parent. The last thing I want to say is I imagine, too, something that’s difficult about that is the pressure to be the “good parent” versus feeling uncomfortable with purchasing meat stuff. I imagine there is societal pressure when you’re out and about. Imagine, Andy, picture yourself as, instead of just a random passerby of this crying girl wanting ice cream, think about if you were the parent of that crying girl. Then there’s this added layer of having, my child is crying because I won’t give her the money for the ice cream, and everyone’s going to be like, wow, what a terrible parent who is depriving their child of this one dollar ice cream. I feel like that adds a whole other layer to it.
Andy: Definitely a lot of societal pressure there. Sort of hearkens back to Episode 10: Is all birthday cake vegan? That conversation where a parent was like, you know what, at the birthday party, so my child can feel like a regular child and a part of the group, I’ll let them eat the nonvegan cake.
Paul: Episode 10. Haven’t listened to that one in a while! I imagine it does not sound as good as this. [laugh]
Andy: [laugh] It does not, but it features an interview with one of my favorite humans on the planet, Doomie Bey at Redefine Your Mind. I revisit that interview occasionally. I think it’s a really good one.
Paul: Oh, nice. Alright. So, I think that’s where we’re wrapping it up for now, Andy.
Andy: Yeah. Send us an email: THE email@example.com. We really love hearing from you!
Paul: Some people have probably sent emails to firstname.lastname@example.org, and there’s someone out there saying, why do I keep getting people sending me all these in-depth questions? [laugh]
Andy: [laugh] Imagine having that email, but being unaware that the podcast exists.
Paul: So, Andy, got any cool events coming up?
Andy: You know, now that the Cleveland VegFest has passed, I have a pretty quiet May. Going to go down to New Orleans for a wedding, but then June is kicking into high gear. June 2 I’ll be at the Vegandale Food and Drink Festival in Houston, Texas. Same day, Paul’s going to be at the Lancaster VegFest, Lancaster, Pennsylvania. June 9-10 I’ll be at the Ashville Vegan Fest in Ashville, North Carolina. June 9, Paul will be at the Philly VegFest in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. June 16, the TriState VegFest, Edison, New Jersey, and then June 30, the Vegandale Food and Drink Fest in Chicago, Illinois. A ton of events in June. At all of those events, come to the Compassion Company table, my vegan clothing line. You’ll find either me or Paul behind the table. Say, “What’s up, Beardo?” We’ll hook you up with a button and sticker. If you want all the dates, deets, and links for those events, go to compassionco.com and hit the events tab. You’ll find all the info there. We’ve got plenty of events, all the way up through November. You know, Paul, we’re starting to get close to July 14! Our next live podcast at the Atlantic City Vegan Food Festival.
Paul: Yeah! It’s gonna be good.
Andy: We’ll have a fun, special guest on that show, as well. Uh, yeah. That’s it!
Paul: I was feverishly trying to pull up a rap airhorn sound effect to play at the end of you saying all those things, but I couldn’t pull one up in time.
Andy: You can put it in the editing if you want.
[AIRHORN EFFECT PLAYS MULTIPLE TIMES]
Andy: You know, something we actually didn’t talk about—we offered the option of do you buy the crying child ice cream, or do you do nothing, we didn’t talk about the alternatives, like do you run around the corner and find a thing of sorbet, but I actually found something that has immediately made children stop crying, if you just yell the following seven words in their face:
Paul: We are the bearded vegans, signing off.
[OUTRO SONG: SEAN KINGSTON FEAT. WYCLEF JEAN – ICE CREAM GIRL]
Andy: There’s a cop that’s checking me out right now—they haven’t come up to me. I’m in a parking lot behind a department store, but within view of the road. I’m a little distracted. I don’t want to look directly at the cop and seem suspicious. [laugh]
Paul: [laugh] Dark shade sunglasses.
Andy: It means the panel of experts has deemed the ingredient in question, in this case, soy le—[jumbled mess of syllables, then laughter]
Andy: Fewer and fewer companies have actually been adding their … Cop just left.
Paul: Alright. I think I get it now.
Andy: Do you, Paul?
Paul: Did I talk about the Impossible Burger? I think I did. At White Castle?
Andy: You didn’t talk about having it, no.
Paul: Okay. We don’t need to talk about that.
Andy: I’m going to read a bit from this article. The ban …
Paul: The ban [teasing Andy’s pronunciation]
Andy: There’s this loud-ass garbage truck revving their engine next to me. [whispers:] What are you doing?
Andy: I hope they’re not just parking there to eat their lunch. [whispers:] Leave, just leave.