Companies that make plant-based food are being harassed on a regular basis – I’ll go through a few examples, below. The harassment varies from legal action, usually over the use of certain words and images, to (allegedly) less legal means. I guess you know a movement is big when many others try hard to crush it.
This highlights how (Surprise!) there are still powerful forces that want to keep the status quo. And by status quo, I mean the path to a catastrophic global ecosystem collapse. Climate change, water scarcity, and deforestation are three of the main threats that can be mitigated by switching to plant-based diets. This has been shown over and over again in numerous scientific studies and life cycle assessments (LCAs) – check out posts on Quorn, tofu, Beyond Meat for some data.
Harassment of vegan companies – #1, JUST vegan egg substitute
JUST is a brand of plant-based egg substitutes made by Eat Just, Inc. (formerly Hampton Creek). I’ve tried it in the plant-based sandwich sold at Peet’s coffee and I recently bought some JUST sous vide bites that I’ll review over on Ethical Bargains. The company worked hard for years to identify plant proteins that could substitute for eggs, eventually settling on mung beans, and the product is good – so good that the egg industry folk went to war on them.
Here’s a summary of three sticky situations that Eat Just have been through:
- In 2014, the American Egg Board launched a wide campaign against Hampton Creek – this was discovered through emails released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. Hampton Creek CEO Josh Tetrickv commented that, “They’re doing stuff that most folks would constitute as illegal.”
They asked another consultant to call Whole Foods, to try to persuade the supermarket to drop Just Mayo. There was even a joke about putting a gangster-style hit on Hampton Creek’s CEO, which was a bit of a shock for Tetrick when he eventually saw the emails. – NPR
The American Egg Board is technically part of the government. It’s funded by the egg industry, but it’s run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. – NPR
After an investigation, the CEO of the American Egg Board resigned.
- Around the same time, Unilever, which owns two mayonnaise brands, filed a lawsuit against Hampton Creek claiming that its product, “Just Mayo” is misleading because it contains no eggs. This backfired for Unilever after a Change.org petition asking Unilever to stop bullying sustainable food companies received over 100,000 signatures.
- In 2017, Target stores stopped selling Hampton Creek products after receiving an anonymous letter alleging contamination with Salmonella and Listeria at the company’s manufacturing facility. However, nobody actually reported getting sick and an FDA investigation found no contamination.
Harassment of vegan companies – #2, Miyoko’s Creamery
I recently wrote a review of Miyoko’s vegan butter (Perfect score of 5/5 Green Stars!) and came across a legal battle between Miyoko’s Creamery and the state of California.
In 2019, Miyoko’s Creamery was told by the California Department of Food and Agriculture that it couldn’t use terms like butter on packaging. As Miyoko says in the video below, it’s interesting that they got that letter from the State of California – interesting, indeed, that the top-selling vegan butter should be targeted by a state authority.
Miyoko’s Creamery was not the only recipient of this kind of letter – other plant-based companies were told to refrain from using terms like cheese on their packaging and most of them just complied.
Miyoko was willing to fight back, however, and celebrated a victory in summer, 2021:
Hope you took the time to watch the video – it’s important. Even if you just watch it for her dog’s Scooby-Doo-like reaction near the end, when Miyoko says, “We can’t continue to eat the way we’ve been eating.”
Harassment of vegan companies – #3, Meatless Farm
Last week, the UK-based company, Meatless farm, was ordered to remove ads claiming that plant-based diets could improve mental and physical health.
The claims against Meatless Farm came from the UK Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB). The Board, which is focused on marketing for the meat and dairy industries, apparently filed the injunction to ensure a “level playing field” in advertising.
It’s interesting that a plant-based brand is ordered to desist on a claim that is largely true when the dairy and meat industries have been touting the benefits of animal products for decades. I’ll refer you to some relevant posts on the topic:
- Proteinaholic – This book deals with the rise in meat consumption despite the overwhelming data on the health risks. I came across a case of meat industry propaganda in a respected (but increasingly criticized) scientific journal while researching that post.
- Low-carb, animal-based diets have been shown in all relevant studies to reduce the human lifespan.
- Why are legumes banned by the Paleo Diet? This post examines and refutes every claim in The Paleo Diet that legumes are unhealthy and that meat is healthier. These claims are often launched against beans and other legumes, usually by advocates of the meat and dairy industry. None of them hold water.
- Another post on the Paleo Diet: Science, health and sustainability, takes a broader look at one of the most successful pro-meat campaigns, this century.
It may seem strange that so many people fall for these tactics, but the assault starts at a young age. I grew up being bombarded with ads telling me that animal products are good for me. It took an education in science and an interest in in nutrition research developments to teach me otherwise.
Many of us don’t have the luxury of time to examine these claims. Others are willing to embrace vague notions and strange theories that support habits that they don’t want to kick.
Harassment of plant-based industries is not new or unusual
I’ve covered just the three examples that came to mind – unfortunately they were not isolated incidents. There have also been campaigns against whole classes of plant-based foods, such as soy, that attempt to cast doubt over their safety or integrity. Again, take a look at the claims made in the Paleo Diet that meat is healthier than legumes – so much misinformation, but you can bet that many readers take them as fact. Bear all of this in mind when choosing your food. Powerful meat industry groups are bullying smaller companies that represent one of our best ways to mitigate climate change, drought and further deforestation. Where does your support lie?
6 thoughts on “Vegan companies are being harassed – support them!”
Something that bothers me is that most producers of natural/organic products package their goods in non-biodegradable materials. They are contributing to the ecological disasters taking place right before our eyes.
Harassment for business advantage is never acceptable–and certainly makes one wonder about theveracity of anyone who would do it.
Didn’t know this but am not surprised – discouraged, sad, peeved – but not surprised. Isn’t it interesting that, as you’ve pointed out, for decades the meat and dairy industries told us to eat their products to stay healthy. Why, Canada’s own food guide extolled meat and milk when I was growing up. The guide is much improved – don’t see milk on it and it recommends plant based protein over meat. A win. I suppose we just have to hold our ground. Thank you again for doing the leg work on all of this. Brilliant. 🙂
Thank you Frances! At least most of the stories above ended in victories (or at least perseverance).
Glad the Canadian guide is improved. Have been trying out the Canadian vegan meat from the Very Good Butchers Lately – recommended!
Well done on highlighting this. Amazing the lengths some companies will go to in order to stay relevant, instead of changing with the times which would serve them better.
Yep – those that won’t change will perish (we hope!).
Happy holidays, Elaine!