Should Vegans Support Fast-Food Chains?

Since McDonald’s and Burger King have released their vegan options, there has been an internal war in the vegan communities about whether or not to support these establishments. I myself have stood firmly on the never ever end but after doing some research I can see why there are many opting for the yes. I have looked into the yay and nay side of things. Not only from a vegan perspective but also from an environmental and human rights perspective.

Those who say no…

These are some of the reasons why people do not advocate supporting fast-food vegan range like McDonald’s and Burger King.

They are implicated in animal welfare, human rights and environmental destruction.

Over the years all of the major fast food chains have come under fire for some or other scandal related to animal welfare. While they like to claim they are doing a lot, it’s still not good enough. More progress has been devoted to the welfare of cows. When it comes to chickens, a lot can still be done.

Fast-food chains use a massive amount of natural resources for food production. Think about it, Burger King sells 2.4 billion hamburgers each year across the globe The amount of water, land and feed and grains to support that kind of production is staggering. Never mind how many cowws have to die for everyones beloved burger. Fast food giants have also been linked to deforestation of virgin forest in the Amazon to make way for more cattle ranches and soy production for feed.

When people think of fast food they don’t often think about human rights. In fact, even in veganism, there is not many words for human rights violations. But this is something that must be acknowledged and addressed. Take for example the current backlash that Wendys is facing. 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 environements, free of physical and sexual abuse. This may sound ridiculous, but harsh working condistions and abuse, especially sexual abuse against women is rife in the production line.

A lot of vegans are calling out these injustices, that supporting these fast-food chains, with vegan options or not is unethical. They are implicated in a whole host of other issues that our planet is facing.

Fast food is part of the obesity crisis

Being overweight puts stress on your body functions and obesity adds serious chances of a number of diseases and cancers. While obesity is regarded as a disease when it comes to treatment, it is not a disease when it comes to reaching that point. Poor diet and lifestyle are the main drivers of being overweight and obese. There is a lot of compassion for those suffering being extremely overweight and obese but the fact is, its related to what people eat and our TV dinner culture.

The fast-food industry is at the heart of the obese debate. Kids are lured to fast-food chains from a young age through toys and clever marketing. Parents are offered convenience and cheap “food”. But as many doctors and nutritionists will tell you, fast-food is the fast track to a heart attack.

Many vegans that are calling no support for vegan options are saying that vegan options at fast food joints are not any 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 biggest culprits in the obesity crisis.

Another aspect of the health side is that vegans are concerned that the masses assume that all vegan food is healthy and that eating a fast-food vegan diet is ok. This is of course far from right. So the argument is that people are going to eat vegan fast food and expect to be healthier. When they dont feel better, or get sick, veganism will come under scrutiny, not the individuals making bad food choices. Vegans fear the backlash that might result.

Eating food there will probably not be 100% vegan

Aside ffrom the environmental, social and human rights implications, the basic fact is that the food sold there is probably not 100% vegan. The food products itself may be but they are cooked on the same grills and used in the same fryers. Cross-contamination is highly probable. For those that eat meat but want to eat less, it is obviously not a problem but for strict vegans, it is not as appealing knowing hat your burger or nuggets are drenched in animal fat. A fair point and for some, and an absolute deal-breaker.

Those who say yes…

Here are some 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 a lot more, a whole lot more people will be exposed to vegan food. A big reason why a lot of people are not keen on plan-based food is that they think its not tasty and boring. having these vegann options, especially something a prominent as a whopper is a big win for some animal activists.

A lot of people are becoming aware of the meat and dairy industry and do want to make some changes. But for some people it is not as easy. So having options at fast food joints allows them to make that better choice. This will open the gate to a lot more change.

Increased accessibility for vegans

I dont know about you but there have been many a nights out where I would love something to munch on before heading home and as a vegan, having no options. I am ashamed to admit that in the past, I ordered a plain bun and fries while my mates all had burgers at a fast food chain. they all looked on with faces of pity as I loaded the bun with fries. In that moment I may well have ordred a vegan burger or vegan chicken buggets.

Adding vegan options alows a lot more options for vegans in their day to day living. This is not just easily accessible options but also takes off some of the social burden of being vegan. Another major drawback for a lot of people when considering making the transition. They don’t want to be left out of social situations when it comes to dinner time.

Vegans still support supermarkets and other eateries

For the vegans that criticize other vegans for supporting fast-food chains, there is quite a solid rebuttal: most vegan still buy at supermarkets that sell meat and dairy and also eat at other restaurants that sell meat. While the vegan foood scene is massive and you can find solely vegan food joints and supermarkets in most major cities, finding them in small outlying towns is not the case.

We have to understand all socioeconomic situations and accept that not everyone has access to alternatives and healthy vegan foods like everyone else. 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 complex situation that varies across the globe so many vegans argue that we must celebrate and support small wins and not push for perfection that ultimatey can not be achieved. (Yet.)

Normalises veganism to contunue growing

This is something I think is really great. I became vegetarian about 10 years ago and even then, being veggie was quite weird. When I became vegan about 5 years ago, i was deemed a complete nutter! I routinely got the protein questions and my family were all sure I was going to die. It was such an alien concept that people really could not wrap their heads around.

Fast forward a split second in relation to the history of time and leaps and bounds have been made. Servers in resturaunts are on it and families are a lot more supportive. There are isles dedicated in supermarkets and menus just for us plant-based people.

This is huge progress 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 a lot of 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 are to moan and groan about McDonalds, Burger King and KFC offering vegan options, then that will perpetuate vegaism as segregated, weird and elitist.

Adding vegan burgers will reduce the amount of meat produced

While many vegans argue that eating at these places still supports the use of meat it does inevitably lead to less meat 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 resturaunts, more people would opt for vegan options and over time the demand for meat would decrease.

People do inherently want to make better choices for animals and the environement but a lot of them either do not have the access, money or even the desire to change that much. For those that transitioned to veganism, it is not always that easy. One must do a lot of reserach and read A LOT of labels. Denying the difficulty that the transition poses will not help the movement. We must recognize the problems and aim to solve them rather than deny them.

Offering vegan options in places where they already eat will be easy for them 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, the environement and human rights.

Conclusion

It’s a delicate situation with both sides having really solid arguments. To be honest, I am still on the fence. Its difficult to say either here or there in this situation. But whether we like it or not, its happening. And maybe the best thing to do is support the journey. You do not necessarily have to go and give your hard earned cash to the fast-food giants but you equally dont have to be nasty or put vegans down that do.

A positive attitude for small 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.

If I have left out any argument or have misunderstood any side, please connect with me on our Facebook page. Understanding this issue is complex and quite overwhelming. There is a lot of information (and misinformation) and as I am only human, I may have an error. I don’t aim to be the leading vegan in this field but rather to open the dialogue for people in their own lives. At Dolma, we aim for positive change and action, for the animals as well as the environement and the lives of the people that are involved in food production. Let’s create a community of open, supportive dialogue.