What PR genius came up with the catchy, dismissive moniker “fake meat”? The term, along with the euphemistic “protein plants” for slaughterhouses, shows just how threatened meat producers have become by the legions now embracing plant-based meat….and the prospect of cultured meat coming up the rear.
There are many euphemisms for killing animals that seek to occlude the struggle and fight to the last breath that animals, who value their lives and don’t want to die, will muster. The euphemisms include “harvesting,” “culling,” “taking” (hunters) and “sacrificing” (researchers). But now, hiding the blood and violence behind meat is a financial emergency for meat producers as grocery store aisles fill with plant-based meat offerings and restaurant franchises add plant-based items. Never has it been easier to be a mainstream vegan, no longer needing to seek out specialized stores or restaurants. As many as 35 percent of young people now plan to go meat-free.
An old saying held that “if slaughterhouses had windows, everyone would be a vegetarian” but today slaughterhouses do have “windows”—in the form of Internet images that are available for everyone to see on their computer or phone… and sometimes impossible to ignore. Moreover, testimony from those who work or have worked at slaughterhouses is also readily available; I personally have reported it for years.
Last year, a slaughterhouse worker said on the BBC of the calves it was his job to kill, “They sniffed us, like puppies, because they were young and curious…Some of the boys and I stroked them, and they suckled our fingers.”
Increasingly, meat producers need to censor such messaging to keep selling “product.”
I recently saw a two-column comparison of ingredients in plant-based meat to “real” meat, with the latter presented as purer and more healthy. Nowhere in the real meat column was there a mention of slaughter—as if “death” and its preceding bloody struggle were a moot point.
Moreover, in the meat column there was no mention of the antibiotics, hormones, growth drugs like ractopamine, other animal drugs, heavy metals, vaccines, feed additives, aerosolized antivirals and preservatives like ammonia, carbon monoxide and chlorine “baths” that do not appear on the label. Few in the U.S. realize that other countries boycott its meat because of many of these unlabeled ingredients. Riots and trade wars have ensued.
It is obvious why meat producers are fighting the plant-based meat movement with inaccurate and fear-producing terms like “fake meat.” Not only is “fake” an emotional word, it is not even accurate when referring to cultured meat. Both plant-based and cultured meat remove the environmental degradation of animal grazing and the severe water-polluting, fish-killing effects of concentrated animal feeding operations, sometimes called CAFOs.
We have not heard the term “fake milk” as frequently as fake meat, but the dairy industry is also under siege. The many plant-based milks made from soy, rice, oat, coconut, pea, almond, cashew, hemp, flax, hazelnut and quinoa offer healthful nutrition without the animal deaths and environmental degradation of dairy operations.
Sadly, many people who drink milk or eat cheese do not realize they are supporting the cruel veal industry in which newborn calves are removed from their mothers who videos show plaintively chasing after the trucks taking their offspring away. Those who live near dairy operations say the wailing of the bereft mothers can go on non-stop.
Nor do many realize that when dairy cows’ milk years are over, they become fast food hamburgers, not escaping the fate of meat cattle. Some say dairy cows, because of losing their newborns, years of forced, induced milk production and final slaughter for their efforts are the most abused beings in the animal agriculture system.
I recently sparred with a meat producer who was throwing around the term “fake meat” to sell his products. Are the screams and blood of the animals you slaughter also fake I asked him? I am still waiting for his answer.
Martha Rosenberg is a freelance journalist and the author of the highly acclaimed “Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health,” published by Prometheus Books. Check her Facebook page.