Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Alex on Animal Advocacy for All (warning: graphic images)

The incomparable Alex Bury wrote this for a San Francisco Bay Area discussion group regarding the new shredded tofu option at Chipotle:


I have been vegan for almost 20 years. I can't wait to try this new option at Chipotle, and I will not ask where or how the tofu is cooked. I hope a lot of vegans in the Bay Area will do the same!




I understand concerns about potential contamination, but we need to be realistic. 99.9% of vegans grew up eating actual meat. We ate meat in meat restaurants for decades and did not die. (And we often go to grocery stores and buy vegan food that could easily have been prepared in a facility that also processes meat, but since we don't see the cooking happen in front of us, we don't ask.) Anytime we eat in any restaurant we run the risk of food poisoning. The risk of actually getting sick by eating a vegan dish prepared in a non-vegan restaurant is extremely low. [Editor note -- we recently saw an item of a couple who got food poisoning at an entirely vegan restaurant in California.]

More importantly, we need to realize that Chipotle does not, actually, need us. Billion dollar companies don't need a few hundred thousand vegans who may eat their new dish once a year. And we may think we're strong in number here in the Bay Area, but when you travel all over the country, like Vegan Outreach leafleters do, you are reminded that we live in a tiny little bubble of delicious veganism. It's hard to live in the Bay Area and not know at least one vegan, and not see great vegan options every day.

John Oberg leafleting in Iowa's snow.

But try going to Iowa and passing out 5,000 veg leaflets in the freezing cold. Interested students may still not even know what vegan is, and if they ask you for local vegan options, what are you going to say? Hand them a list of the 20 great vegan restaurants in downtown Iowa City? No, you're going to tell them about Chipotle. And you're probably going to eat there as well because you're cold and hungry and on a tight budget.

Students in Omaha, NE consider the animals' plight:
Omaha has three Chipotles.

If, instead of praising it, we complain about their vegan option, Chipotle may decide it's not worth the hassle. OTOH, if they get great sales and positive feedback, and decide to put the new item on menus across the country, millions of people will see that eating vegan maybe isn't so strange/hard/miserable/yucky/bland/whatever.

Also, when we make a puritanical fuss in a restaurant, we are showing the servers and the other customers that being vegan is difficult. Why would any of them want to learn more about what happens to animals in slaughterhouses if they just learned that vegans are so fussy and grumpy they can barely eat out?

One of the most powerful things we can do for animals is to happily join non-vegans in a familiar (to them) non-vegan restaurant. (I highly recommend reading these four short paragraphs.) When we order the vegan option with a big smile, without any fuss or complaints, we're acting as advocates for animals.


I find it doubtful that a pig crammed in a tiny crate -- or hanging in a slaughterhouse -- would want us to complain to Chipotle that their new vegan dish wasn't pure enough. If mainstream America starts eating that dish, millions of pigs could be spared a life of intense suffering. I think she would want us to support the new dish and get all of our meat-eating friends to try it.

-Alex


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