plant based dinner on a plate

(Why) Would the Media Want Plant-Based Meats to Fail?

By Karen Davis, PhD, President of United Poultry Concerns

Definition of SABOTAGE: stop person, plan, or process from being successful.

It is my impression that mainstream media organizations may actively be sabotaging the effort to replace slaughter-based food products with plant-based, animal-free alternatives. But first: The good news is that, despite the gruesome display of animal carnage at every major food outlet, most now carry an impressive array of plant-based burgers, nuggets, cheeses, milks, and more, all free of animal ingredients.

You would think that any civilized person with a choice between food from a slaughterhouse versus foods made from plants would choose the plant-based versions. You’d think anyone with enough information to make an informed choice would embrace the opportunity to wash their hands of animal misery and be thankful to quit paying people to hurt and kill animals in one of the most dangerous, dehumanizing occupations on earth.

You would think, but as yet, you’d be wrong. A recent, glaring example of how the mainstream media seems bent on preventing society’s transition to plant-based food is an Opinion that was published on May 12th and again on May 15th by the Editorial Board of The Washington Post: “Fake meat failed. There’s a better way.

In case you are wondering about this Board, we are told:

About the Editorial Board

Editorials represent the views of The Post as an institution, as determined through debate among members of the Editorial Board, based in the Opinions section and separate from the newsroom.

You might wonder, as I do, why the Editorial Board of The Washington Post would pounce on plant-based meat replacements like brutes on a butterfly.

The gist of their case against “fake meat”

They say: The taste, texture and smell of “fake meat” are terrible, and if the amount of salt and fat is reduced to make it “healthier,” it tastes even worse. “Fake meat” is too expensive – for example, “fake” chicken products cost more than “real” chicken. (They neglect to mention that they are referring to standardized, mass-produced, factory-farmed chickens as opposed to the expensively-priced mass-produced, “pasture-raised,” “free-range” brands.) Given a choice, the Board goes on to imply, the average consumer prefers cholesterol and the risk of intestinal food-poisoning over the list of “chemical” ingredients on plant-based packaging. Moreover, consumers don’t like being “shamed” into eating more responsibly, even in response to information about the huge contribution of animal agriculture to the climate crisis. See “Does Animal Agriculture Cause Climate Change and Pandemics?

Then too, the Board fusses that focusing on climate change fuels “culture wars” and consumer backlash in conservative communities hostile to plant-based options in their restaurants. Finally, says the Board, “fake meat” doesn’t suit American culture because the U.S. “has been a carnivorous nation” since Colonial times. (Finally, rails the Southern politician, abolition doesn’t suit American culture because the U.S. has been a slaveholding nation since Colonial times.)

The Board gives the obligatory nod to “balance” by conceding that “fake meat” could be better for the environment and reduce the use of antibiotics, but immediately shifts to “studies” showing that the average consumer is not impressed even by celebrity endorsement of what the Board calls “products impersonating animals.” Better to eat vegetables that taste like vegetables than to eat vegetables “pretending to be ground beef,” they say. However, the thrust of this Opinion is not a paean to “honest” vegetables; it’s a plug for the production and consumption of animals however disappeared the originals are into nuggets, hot dogs, beef, bacon, and whatnot.

Regarding the health issues, see the “Plant-Based Meat Fact Sheet,” by Michael Greger, M.D., updated February 7, 2023.

What does the Post’s Editorial Board recommend besides “genuine-article” vegetables?

They say: Those who care about climate change should “invest in ways to make real meat production more efficient and ethical.” If the Board members gave a thought to the coupling of “efficient” and “ethical” with respect to animal farming, they would know that these goals are mutually exclusive. The more “efficient” animal production is, the less ethical it can be. Treating hens and cows as “egg machines” and “milk machines,” breeding the modern “meat-type” chicken, turkey and Pekin duck to function as “steroidally-enhanced growth machines” – these ARE the efficiencies that produce the abundance of cheap animal products so dear to the Post’s “cost-conscious shoppers.”

Engineering animals to become pieces

Light years from “ethical” anything, we are entering the New Age of Agribusiness, the age of gene-edited animals who bear muscles specifically designed for consumption and who are genetically engineered to withstand “harsh” environments, all for the cost-conscious carnivore. Oh yes, the Board also pitches an idea for the environment: like, um, “reducing cows’ methane emissions or mastering lab-grown meat” (?).

So why would the Post’s Editorial Board use its bully pulpit to try to get people to reject plant-based alternatives to animal products? I will speculate: the Post gets a lot of money from animal agribusiness through advertising and perhaps less conspicuous sources as well. Another reason is the notable lack of empathy for the animals they consume, and perhaps also a sublimated craving for sacrificial lambs and the human domination of Nature. One thing is certain: No one who truly cares about animals as beings with feelings is working to undermine slaughter-free food. As for the animal-free products of Gardein, Beyond Meat, Morning Star Farms, Tofurky, Boca, and others: they cook, taste, broil, bake and fry, just fine. Don’t let confirmation bias and snarky opinionators spoil your appetite.

Learn more. See “UN Experts Encourage Meat, Eggs, and Dairy to Access 'Crucial' Nutrients: The nutritional power of plant-based diets were notably disregarded in a new report,” May 11, 2023.