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Magazine | Op - Ed

On Impossible Whopper: Should Vegans Be Boycotting Or Buying From Fast-Food Giants?

The Burger King Rebel Whopper was just released here in Spain, a few months behind the US release of the Impossible Whopper. It has not yet gained EU approval for release, but nevertheless, it has landed. It immediately sparked debate among the vegan community here: should we, shouldn’t we…..should I, shouldn’t I.

It’s an individual question to ask oneself as a vegan for a number of reasons, but also one we need to ask as a community. As is becoming increasingly more obvious, we are having a huge impact! Vegans now have a bigger market share than ever before and it just.keeps.growing. For the last two years, the amount of people participating in Veganuary has literally doubled and by the 4th of January this year, 350, 000 people had already signed up. Is it because following a plant-based diet is becoming more convenient because of companies like Burger King providing plant-based options, or is it because we can no longer ignore the facts that people like Greta Thunberg, Joaquin Phoenix, and Leonardo Di Caprio are feeding mainstream media? It.does.not.matter. The fact is, it’s happening. Neither the planet nor the animals care why people are choosing to move towards a plant-based diet. And frankly, neither do I.

On top of the stance some vegans take of not eating in non-vegan establishments, more arguments arose when it became apparent that Burger King was not making the Rebel Whopper 100% vegan even though the patty is 100% plant-based. They were very clear that it would be cooked on the same grill as meat products and come with egg mayonnaise as standard. Many of my vegan friends were outraged, while I remained completely nonplussed. Do I want to eat something cooked on the grill used for meat? Nope. I actively try to avoid this, but I also have a realistic understanding and acceptance that if I am going to choose to eat out in non-vegan restaurants (which I absolutely do), I certainly will be eating food that has had contact with meat products. Does that make me any less of a vegan or mean that I am in some way contributing to the meat industry? Also nope.

So Burger King releases a vegan patty and then smothers it in egg mayo. What does this tell us? Well, first off, I don’t believe the Rebel Whopper is aimed at people already following a vegan diet. It’s offering a meat-free option for those who love the taste of meat but want to explore the idea of veganism or reducing their meat consumption while still getting the meal-in-a-bag fast-food experience. And you know what, I’m cool with that. We need that. We need the gap to be significantly bridged between the convenience of eating meat vs. plant-based. We need it to go mainstream and you can’t get more mainstream than Burger King. If it was targeted at people already following a plant-based diet, what change would it bring? We need more vegans, and the best way to get more vegans is through increasing the availability of more convenient plant-based options for non-vegans. Being plant-based for 10 years, there is nothing I find inconvenient about eating plant-based anymore. But throw back to my first weeks and months of being vegan, I didn’t have a clue what I could eat when I ate out. Heck, I was still struggling to know what I could eat at home besides avocado toast and hummus by the gallon. I truly understand that it’s a huge shift that does not feel easy for a really, really long time. Of course, if I were to be making the switch now instead of 10 years ago, it would be a lot easier but I still fully acknowledge that it takes a long time to train our brain, our taste-buds, and our habits to be on board with a significant diet and lifestyle change.

It’s been a long time since I have been to any of the fast-food giants like Burger King, McDonalds, or KFC but it was not for reasons of boycotting them. There was simply nothing I wanted to eat there. It was never something I gravitated towards, even before going vegan. So I was not waiting on the edge of my seat for a vegan option to come on the market, although I fully knew one day it would happen. And now that day has come, and I felt in some way compelled to try Burger Kings Rebel Whopper. Why? I couldn’t really tell you. Perhaps the meal-in-a-bag novelty factor, perhaps just to make sure someone was buying it. Little did I know that the Rebel Whopper was one of Burger Kings most successful launches in brand history. Little old me did not need to worry that no one was buying the burger and I definitely didn’t need to worry that no one would like it. Meat eaters all across the globe (see reviews for the Rebel Whopper UK, Spain, Australia) are raving about it and commenting how close it is in flavor and texture to the meat Whopper. PHEW. Listen carefully and you can probably hear the planet and the animals take a massive sigh of relief.

The moral of the story for me is that boycotting (or not) has to be a personal, well researched and fully informed choice. Boycotting should not be simply following the majority or because of feeling obliged based on the personal moral standpoints of others. Yes, I am vegan/plant-based/herbivore/grass muncher…however it is labelled, it doesn’t matter. The point is, it’s my choice and the reasons for that choice are mine. The same way that my reasons for walking into Burger King and ordering, eating, and (thankfully) enjoying the Rebel Whopper are also mine. Does it mean that I think all vegans should be going to Burger King and ordering the Rebel Whopper? Nope. Does it mean I support the meat industry? Also nope. Do I expect anyone else, vegan or otherwise to think the same way as me? Hard nope. So go out there, try it or don’t try it. But whatever you do, make your diet and lifestyle choices with love and kindness for yourself, for the animals, and for the future of our planet.

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Photo: Burger King

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