Would you be tempted to eat a ‘disc’ or a ‘tube’?
Earlier this month, the EU Parliament’s agriculture committee approved a ban on naming meat-free foods after their meat-based counterparts.
If the proposals are voted into effect by the full EU Parliament in May, both vegan and veggie burgers could be renamed ‘discs’, with sausages re-titled ‘tubes’, as well as similar names for other plant-based products.
Some politicians and vegans believe the ban to be stab at veganism initiated by the meat industry, although those in support of the ban say that it is only to prevent customers from being misled.
French socialist MEP Éric Andrieu, who was responsible for managing the legislation, explains: “The meat lobby is not involved in this. It has generated a considerable debate among the political groups and a large majority wanted to clarify things. Particularly in the light of history, the history we share, you can have a steak or burger, you can’t call it something else.”
Andrieu continues: “We felt that steak should be kept for real steak with meat, and come up with a new moniker for all these new products. There is a lot to be done in this front, a lot of creativity will be needed. People need to know what they are eating. So people who want to eat less meat know what they are eating – people know what is on their plate.”
Following the news, The Vegan Society wrote a formal letter to EU officials, signed by its CEO and prepared by a legal expert legally, to legally challenge the proposals. The group is basing their complaint on the grounds of breaching the fundamental human rights of vegans, set out by the Union. The EU has 21 days to reply to the letter, after which the matter will be intensified by The Vegan Society.
According to The Vegan Society, if the ban comes to fruition, the new measures will impact vegan individuals, as well as authorities serving vegan food, like health providers, education establishments, government departments, prisons and police forces.
The letter states that the proposed measures go against the EU consumers’ right to be adequately informed, concerning how goods can be used, and also denies the vegan community the benefits offered by EU law on clear labelling
George Gill, CEO at The Vegan Society, says: “As consumers are increasingly moving away from eating animals, the demand for vegan products is growing. There’s no denying that meat, dairy, and egg industries are feeling threatened by this and desperately trying to restrict the marketing of vegan products.”
Gill adds: “These proposals have little to do with consumer protection and instead are motivated by economic concerns of the meat industry. We are calling on EU officials to reject these irrational measures for vegan meat alternatives to be banned from using the qualified conventional terms everyone has been using for decades.”
Dr. Jeanette Rowley, vegan rights advocate at The Vegan Society, also speaks on the matter: “This proposed measure is not aligned with EU policy on respect for diversity. Public authorities are obliged to provide plant-based food to vegans in their care as veganism is a protected philosophical belief under the Equality Act 2010. It is not in the public interest and, if implemented, would have a disproportional impact across society by affecting the normal daily functioning of all public and private entities that provide food.
Rowley continues: “This EU measure threatens to cause widespread administrative chaos, confusion and time wasting trying to understand how to plan a meal that includes a veggie disc or a veggie tube. The widespread impact of this unreasonable and costly proposal should not be underestimated.”
She bases her argument on European food labelling laws, which clearly state that ‘food information should … enable consumers to identify and make appropriate use of food’, and she argues that the application of meaty-based names actually tells the consumer how the products can be cooked and used. Rowley continues by saying that alternative vocabulary put forward, such as ‘vegetable disc’, does not constitute clear food labelling under EU consumer law. She claims that these terms do not allow correct interpretation, nor do they make it easy to distinguish the food item in question.