When Benjamin Franklin declared, “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes,” he didn’t have the opportunity to observe vegans’ flame throwing reactions to a plant-based food company selling their business to a company that also sells animal products. Surely, Franklin would have added it to his list of certainties.
Field Roast recently announced it’s selling its company to Maple Leaf Foods which also sells animal products. The announcement caused some people to unleash a torrent of vitriol against Field Roast on social media. If you fell in that camp, hopefully you know how I feel about you so you’ll be open to some constructive feedback. Here are a few points to consider:
1) The big food companies have shelf space, connections, and marketing dollars. They don’t buy vegan companies for $150 million and then destroy them or add meat to the products. The Maple Leaf CEO stated he has no plans to change Field Roast. He stated he wants to grow the business, reach more people, and become a leader in sustainable protein. That’s news worth celebrating. If Maple Leaf succeeds, prices will drop, sales will increase, they will penetrate non-traditional markets, and the results may cause them to produce more plant-based products. Food giants like Maple Leaf and Tyson aren’t going out of business. We can embrace their entrance into the plant-based food market or maintain the status quo.
2) Nobody buys everything from a vegan company. If you buy Field Roast from Whole Foods, Whole Foods earns a profit and it isn’t a vegan company. Apple, Shell, Toyota, T-Mobile, and Wells Fargo aren’t vegan companies. We often give our money to people who use it to buy animals to eat despite how we may rationalize it. Also, many of the food products we buy have vegan ingredients that were sourced from non-vegan companies. Most companies people believe are vegan-owned like So Delicious and Gardein are owned by parent companies that aren’t vegan. If you follow every dollar you spend, you’ll find that it’s impossible to only put your money in the hands of vegan companies.
3) It’s not about us. Think less about what works for you and focus on what will reach the most people in order to save the most animals. The Field Roast social media thread, like the Beyond Meat, Daiya, and many other threads before it, were filled with first person declarations: “I will never… Forget about my…I am boycotting…” But it isn’t about you if your goal is to help animals. You’re already sold. If there was no Field Roast or anything comparable, you would eat fruits, veggies, beans, nuts, and grains before you would ever eat an animal. We know you have other options. Consider focusing on the 99% of people who eat animals and how we may best reach them. The masses are much more likely to buy Ben & Jerry’s dairy-free ice cream and Tyson Foods’ plant-based chicken because they know the brand. We have to realize that our ideal and what the reality of the market dictates may not always be congruous.
4) The owners of vegan food companies don’t owe us anything. We’re not their shareholders or their boss. In most cases, they didn’t create the product for us. They created it for the billions of people who eat animals. Those people couldn’t care less who makes their food. If they did, Tyson Foods wouldn’t be breaking sales records.
5) Let’s be kind to animals and people. I know many of the people who own the major vegan food companies. Some of them are close friends. These are really good and hardworking ethical vegans who have dedicated years, taken huge risks, invested life savings, and worked tirelessly to succeed. They care deeply about the causes that inspire people to be vegan. It’s sad to see people demonize them so quickly when they decide to move on to other ventures. They deserve our gratitude for successfully introducing millions of people to delicious plant-based alternatives.
6) The people who own Field Roast received a $120 million offer for the company. What a success story! They earned it. Props to them. I’m excited to learn about their next endeavor to benefit animals. Maybe they’ll start a new vegan company or farm sanctuary, or provide seed funding to plant-based and clean meat companies. We should give them the benefit of the doubt.
I appreciate the passion but the backlash doesn’t help farm animals. This is not about us; it’s about them. And it’s about reaching people who don’t think like us or eat like us. I cringe at the thought of anyone seeing the hatred on the Field Roast thread who may be interested in a plant-based lifestyle. The optics don’t reflect well on us. We’re at our best as a movement when we pump the brakes on the knee-jerk reactions and think critically about our positions. Lashing out is easy; taking time to understand, ask questions, listen, and calculate potential benefits takes humility, compromise, and discipline. This article may help you maximize your impact as an animal advocate.
Thank you for listening and caring. Even though I disagree with your condemnation of Field Roast and believe it’s counterproductive, I know your heart is in the right place and I appreciate your advocacy.