When I came out of my restorative yoga class on Friday night, all loosey-goosey and having successfully quieted the especially loud inner voice talking-talking-talking to me all day, I was ready to unwind for the night and weekend ahead. Then I checked my phone. (Note to self: Always, always a bad idea to engage with technology after restorative.) There were three consecutive alerts from the New York Times about various developing and escalating crises here in the US and around the world. All I could think was “Why can’t anyone do something to make this stop?” It’s certainly not an easy question to answer, or one that many people haven’t taken up with gusto, but it’s also very true that the path from frustration and motivation to results is usually a long and windy one.
The task of “doing something” to help promote veganism, however, has made a huge leap forward just recently with the birth of the Vegan Mafia. That’s right, think Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, and the gang suiting up to halt the stream of animal products in the food, drug, and materials industries. Taking inspiration from the “PayPal mafia” of the tech world, this group of wealthy investors is putting their stock behind start-ups whose mission is to introduce revolutionary vegan products into the market. Its members also have diverse backgrounds, from automobile tycoon Kyle Vogt, founder of ZICO coconut water Mark Rampolla, and even a woman (!), Lisa Feria of Stray Dog Capital. All the members are vegan themselves, but in the interest of appealing to a wider demographic (and thereby expanding the adoption of animal-free living, even if not for an entire lifestyle), they’re backing innovators even if they’re not personally vegan but still “view the current system as unsustainable,” according to member Jody Rasch in an interview with CNBC.
The start-up angle of the investors’ tactics isn’t without its flaws (but hey, they do call themselves the mafia, right?). Some balk that, similar to the company founders themselves, the products they support are mere alternatives meant to be “better tasking and cheaper,” according to Vogt, rather than naturally vegan ingredients; it’s not eliminating meat, but giving it a new costume. Likewise, there’s been pushback on some projects being nutritionally and financially unsound, like investments in a soy product meant to make burgers faux bleed (ahem, where’s the cruelty-free in that bite?).
In the grand scheme of the fight for sustainability, however, the Mafia has come at just the right time. Biotech’s risk-taking, creative approach to business is just what veganism needs to get a boost in this competitive marketplace. And no matter how many ups and downs these start-ups go through, each is a step forward and learning experience of what we can do together to eradicate animal cruelty from our daily lives. Now let’s rejoice in this anti-mafia mafia and all put our money—not our meat—where our mouth is!
Check out some of the Mafia’s emerging pet projects:
Geltor (vegan gelatin, not just applicable for foods!)
Beyond Meat (a prominent vegan burger brand now stocked in chains like Whole Foods, Wegmans, and Safeway)
Veggie Grill (west coast vegan fast-casual chain)
Have you tried any of the businesses supported by Kyle Vogt and the Vegan Mafia?
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Photo: Pixabay.com, Impossible Foods via Instagram