Since McDonald’s and Burger King released their vegan options, there has been an internal war in the vegan communities about whether or not to support these establishments.
Many have vowed not to support them. But are there benefits in supporting these vegan options? There is a lot to consider not only from a vegan perspective but also from an environmental and human rights perspective.
Arguments Against Eating Vegan Fast-Food Options
Here are just some of the reasons why people do not advocate supporting vegan fast-food options from the likes of McDonald’s and Burger King.
Fast food chains contribute to poor animal welfare, questionable human rights and environmental destruction.
In recent years, all of the major fast-food chains have come under fire for animal welfare issues. While they claim they are doing a lot, it’s still not good enough. The interest of cows has taken priority, but when it comes to chickens, there is much room for improvement.
Fast-food chains use vast amounts of natural resources for food production. Think about it. Burger King sells 2.4 billion hamburgers each year across the globe.
The number of resources needed, including water, land and feed to support that kind of production is staggering. Not to mention the hundreds of thousands of cows slaughtered for their meat.
Fast-food giants have shown support of deforestation of the virgin forest in the Amazon to make way for more cattle ranches and soy products for feed.
Human rights are also a big issue in animal agriculture. Even in veganism, there is not much discussion around human rights violations. An issue equally as important as animal welfare.
Take, for example, the backlash that Wendys faced in 2019. In the USA, they have a Fair Food Program where companies sign up to support farms.
In this case, tomatoes. Companies involved pay a couple of cents more per pound and ultimately manage to pay the workers the standard minimum wage.
They also offer better working conditions and safe working environments, free of physical and sexual abuse. This may sound ridiculous, but harsh working conditions and violence, especially sexual abuse against women is rife on the production line.
Many vegans are calling out these injustices, that supporting fast-food chains, with vegan options or not is unethical. They argue that these companies encourage a lot more than just intensive animal agriculture.
Fast food is part of the obesity crisis.
Being overweight puts stress on your body functions, and obesity adds severe chances of several diseases and cancers. Obesity is diagnosed as a disease. However, doctors nor government policy recognises what leads to obesity.
Poor diet and lifestyle are the main drivers of being overweight and obese. The fast-food industry is at the heart of the obese epidemic.
Toys and creative marketing lure kids to fast-food chains from a young age. Convenience and cheap “food” is what entices parents.
But as many doctors and nutritionists will tell you, fast-food is the fast track to a heart attack. It may be cheap now, but doctors bills for ill-health will hit hard later in life.
Many vegans that are calling a boycott fast food restaurants claim vegan options are not healthier and will result in the same health issues.
They are not just boycotting the meat but also boycotting the lack of nutritional value that these companies offer.
No matter how “ethical” the meat is or how many vegan options are available, the fact is that the food is laden with salt, sugar and saturated fats – all the biggest culprits in the obesity crisis.
Some vegans are also concerned that people naturally assume that all vegan food is healthy and that eating a fast-food vegan diet is by default, a healthy option.
This is, of course, far from the truth. So the argument is that people are going to eat vegan fast food and expect to be healthier.
When they don’t feel better or get sick, veganism will come under scrutiny, not the individuals making bad food choices. Vegans fear the backlash that might result.
There is no guarantee the vegan options are 100% vegan.
The vegan food in fast-food restaurants may not be 100% vegan, depending on your opinion. The product itself is vegan, but they are often cooked on the same grills and in the same fryers as meat.
Cross-contamination is highly probable. For those that eat meat but want to eat less, it is not a problem, but for strict vegans, this may not be considered vegan. A fair point and for some, an absolute deal-breaker.
Vegan Fast Food Options Don’t Decrease The Number of Meat Options or the Demand for Them
In a Guardian article earlier this year, the CEO of the Burger King parent company was found to have told investors that “We’re not seeing guests swap the original Whopper for the Impossible Whopper. We’re seeing that it’s attracting new guests,”.
Many vegans argue that vegan fast food options are simply a way to pacify vegans and animal activists. This is understandable considering the amount of time animal activists spend uncovering fast food chains treatment of animals and giving these corporations bad press.
Could fast food chains be trying to silence vegans and activists with vegan options? Possibly, but for many vegan activists it has not worked.
Arguments For Eating Vegan Fast-Food Options
Here are the arguments as to why vegans should support fast-food chains that offer vegan options.
Non-vegans can have the choice to go for non-meat options.
One of the biggest reasons to advocate and support vegan options is that non-vegans are exposed to vegan options.
A reason why many people are not keen on plant-based food is that they think it’s not tasty and is bland.
Having these vegan options, especially something like a Vegan Whopper, is a big win for some animal activists.
Many people are becoming more aware of the issues surrounding the meat and dairy industry. But for some people, making the leap towards veganism is proving difficult.
Having options at fast food joints allows them to sample vegan foods in a familiar setting. It’s thought this will open the gate to vegan foods for many people that may never have considered trying vegans foods elsewhere.
Increased accessibility for vegans
Many vegans have the shared experience of nights out where they would love something to eat before heading home, but as a vegan, had no options. A packet of french fries maybe?
Adding vegan options allows a lot more options for vegans in their day to day living. Making vegan foods easily accessible is important. As is making the vegan lifestyle easier, taking off some of the social burdens.
Vegans are often left feeling ostracised because of their food choices. Now vegans who want to can join their mates at fast-food restaurants and enjoy a meal together.
Changing the image of veganism
A common argument against veganism is that the lifestyle is middle class privilege or elitist. More low cost vegan options at fast food chains such as McDonalds or Gregg’s helps to remove that idea.
While vegans already know that the idea of veganism being elitist far front he truth, seeing cheap options in fast-food chains does help to bury that stereotype for many.
Vegan fast food is just a natural part of veganism heading into the mainstream. It’s therefore essential that we can prove to the majority of the public, it’s not only convenient but it’s also cheap.
Vegans still support supermarkets and other eateries.
For the vegans that criticise other vegans for supporting fast-food chains, there is quite a solid rebuttal: most vegans still buy at supermarkets that sell meat and dairy and also eat at different restaurants that sell meat.
While the vegan food scene is now trendy and you can find solely vegan food joints and supermarkets in most major cities, finding them in smaller towns is still tricky.
We have to understand all socioeconomic situations and accept that not everyone has access to alternatives and healthy vegan foods like others.
For some towns and areas in countries where veganism is not yet as popular, even finding lentils may be difficult, or a vegan option on a menu. Nevermind a vegan supermarket!
Food is a complicated situation that varies across the globe. Many vegans argue that we must celebrate and support small wins and not push for perfection.
Perfection is hard to achieve and can also stifle progress. We have to support one another with understanding and consideration of socioeconomic and geographical limitations.
Normalises veganism to continue growing.
Imagine what it was like being vegetarian ten years ago – quite weird and probably isolating. What about vegan five years ago? You were most likely deemed a complete nutter!
Fast forward five years, and there has been a total shift. Servers in restaurants understand the needs of vegans, and families are a lot more supportive. There are entire supermarket aisles dedicated for vegans.
The progress has been phenomenal, and adding vegan options to fast-food restaurants seems like the logical next step. But the advantage of fast-food places is the reach to many more people.
Millions, if not billions of people across the world will be exposed to vegan options, killing the idea that veganism is weird and reserved for sandal-wearing hippies.
If vegans moan and groan about McDonald’s, Burger King and KFC offering vegan options, then that could perpetuate veganism as being segregated, weird and cultist.
Adding vegan options will reduce the amount of meat produced.
While many vegans argue that eating at these places still supports the use of meat, it could inevitably lead to less meat being consumed and also less soy in the form of feed for the animals.
Considering all the arguments above for supporting vegan options in fast-food restaurants, more people would opt for vegan options, and over time the demand for meat would decrease considerably.
People do inherently want to make better choices for animals and the environment. But a lot of them do not have access, money, or even the energy to change that much, especially when they have more significant problems such as childcare or healthcare.
For those that have transitioned to veganism, it is not always that easy. One must do a lot of research and read a lot of labels.
Denying the difficulty that the transition poses will not help the movement. We must recognise the problems and aim to solve them rather than deny them.
Offering vegan options in places where they already eat is easier and invariably, over time, have a positive effect in reducing meat production.
Vegans must look at the whole picture and also over a long time to see what is the best and most sustainable option for success in reducing the harm to animals, impact on the environment and human rights violations.
It’s a delicate situation with both sides having substantial arguments. But whether we like it or not, it’s happening. And maybe the best thing to do is support the journey, while still holding these restaurants accountable for their treatment of animals.
You do not necessarily have to go and give your hard-earned cash to the fast-food giants, but you equally don’t have to be nasty or put other vegans down. There is never usually one answer or solution to any injustice.
A positive attitude for little progress is the best thing we can do. Encourage people to make the best choices wherever possible and if that means choosing the vegan happy-meal for their kids or the vegan chicken nuggets at KFC, then so be it.
Vegan fast food is a multifaceted issue with no right or wrong answer. Many vegans debate this very issue daily to no avail. People should make their mind up and do what they feel is right. But there is no stopping us from enjoying vegan options and holding these restaurants accountable for their treatment of animals at the same time.