Woman-on-Grass__48744-150x150 Vegans and vegetarians in ads are being portrayed very interestingly to say the least– particularly in the newest batch of commercials for fast food. First it was Red Robin with their veggie burger “in case your teenage daughter is going through a phase” campaign, and now it is Subway advertising the “veggie eater:” a young woman with long hair and a beaded headband dressed in attire that is reminiscent of the 1960’s. Now, of course there is nothing wrong with being either a teenager in search of oneself OR a person who is not locked into current fashion dictates. But the attempts by fast food companies (who profit primarily by selling meat based dishes) to homogenize vegans as different are signaling something – my guess would be concern, perhaps even fear.

Whenever a group of people is threatened by another group of people, one of the tactics often used is to portray the other group as different, foreign, other, or, in worst case scenarios- dangerous, terrible, and to be feared. Either way, it is an attempt to set the disliked group apart, to disenfranchise them, declare them as not part of the mainstream. We have seen it too many times before. Whether with fixed traits (such as race or ethnicity, for example), or chosen ideologies (veganism, political leanings, etc.), the group whose very existence or growth is seen as threatening to another group is discredited, mocked, and marginalized -especially if the threatened group is or believes itself to be more entrenched and powerful. In the case of the “vegetarians are confused teenagers or hippies” ads, I don’t know the exact motivation of the advertising agencies that came up with the themes. But certainly, even if not intended (and my guess is that it IS intended), it is an attempt to stigmatize and differentiate vegetarians and vegans from the mainstream of society. It is an attempt to suggest that we are different in a significant way from “regular” people. It’s as if they are saying “Don’t worry about your teenage daughter – once she goes through her veggie-phase she will come around and eat what the rest of us eat and be ‘normal’ again.” Or, “If you are vegetarian or vegan, you come from a time when people rebelled against the establishment, the norm – join us in the present, where everyone eats dead animal flesh.” It is condescending and infuriating, but then again, that’s probably the point – to make us seem like we are different and abnormal.

To me, the reason for attempting to do so is clear. Vegetarians and vegans (as well as other AR activists) are mobilized and outspoken like never before. We are using blogs, social media, film documentaries, and best-selling books to make the point to the public that animal agriculture and meat consumption is damaging to animals, the environment, and human health. High profile vegans, such as Stella McCartney, and no-to- low-meat consumption/health oriented advocates, such as President Bill Clinton, only add to the growing conversation about moving society to a plant-based diet. The writing is on the wall. Meat consumption will have to be replaced with either cloned meat (in-vitro meat), plant based alternatives (such as “mock meats”), or a vegan whole foods diet, or the world as we know it will not survive. Human health is suffering in many places, either due to lack of food (such as in Africa) or an excess of the wrong kind of food (such as in Western countries). The stream of horrific cruelties coming out of the animal agribusiness industry, as well as the crushing environmental effects of a worldwide meat-based diet, are more and more evident to the general public. People are starting to pay attention. And some people, many people, are changing their dietary choices as a result. But the fast food companies, who make most of their money off of death products, are getting nervous. So their strategy, rather to embrace the changing tide, is to attempt to portray vegetarians and vegans as one-dimensional, different, strange – to further push them out of the mainstream where they are clearly starting to take hold and have an influence. Too bad for them though, because soon enough there will be more vegetarians and vegans looking to grab a quick meal somewhere, and they just might not want to eat at an establishment that insults and mocks them. Why would any of us want to eat somewhere that continues to insult us for living our convictions?

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