What’s In a Name?
I watched a man giving away food samples yesterday and was struck by his verbal sleight-of-hand. See if you can spot the trick.
The gentleman in front of Maoz Vegetarian restaurant is offering free falafel to passersby. He approaches me with a tray of food and says, “Falafel! All VEGAN, all homemade, all gluten free, all good for you!” (I’m uncharacteristically not wearing a vegan t-shirt, but he’s the owner and likely remembers having chatted with me once before while in my usual uniform). Seconds later, he approaches the next person and says, “Falafel! All VEGETARIAN, all homemade, all gluten free, all good for you!” He switches it up constantly, like a street corner shell game hustler. His patter is smooth and effortless.
Does the falafel formulation magically shift from vegan to vegetarian and back to vegan again from minute to minute? Obviously not, but his description of it does – the wording in his presentation is deliberate, based on his perception of his ever-changing audience and what he feels will get people to try his product and drive the most business to his store. It’s the sign of a good businessperson.
“Tell Mike it was only business”
This gentleman’s business approach is no different from all large, morally-challenged animal welfare corporations that conflate vegan and vegetarian all day long, playing to their audience in order to separate them from their money and their morals and maximize profits while selling out the animals they purport to be “sparing” from “suffering” through “spreading compassion”. I’m not faulting the Maoz owner for this, as his intention is to sell food (quite a bit of it is 100% plant-based), not to end animal use. My intention is merely to point out the glaring similarity between his sales approach and that of the animal welfare corporate business model.
Thanks to deliberately vague and misleading information disseminated by animal welfare corporations and the mass media, there are those who think vegan and vegetarian are one in the same. I spoke with SFVEG co-founder and President Elena Brodskaya who shared her personal story with me as it relates to these ideas:
“When I first decided to be vegetarian, I also researched what ‘vegan’ meant and kept finding it linked with ‘vegetarian’, especially in literature produced by PeTA and other welfare groups. It seemed that everywhere I looked, I saw ‘vegan/vegetarian’ and ‘vegetarian/vegan’ until I erroneously concluded that ‘vegan’ must simply be an abbreviated form of the word ‘vegetarian’. The literature from the various welfare groups was confusing at best and deceiving at worst. It took longer than I would have liked to finally find some clear information about veganism and, once I realized the ethical implications of remaining vegetarian, I began living vegan immediately. I’ve since come to understand that corporations like PeTA intentionally misinform the public about the true meaning of veganism and its critical importance as the only path toward dismantling speciesism and abolishing animal use. Sadly, they do this to further their own self-interests and prosperity while betraying the animals on whose behalf they pretend to be working.”
Clearly, the gentleman from Maoz knows there is a difference between vegan and vegetarian (although I would be interested to ask him what he believes that difference is and may do so when he’s not so busy), however I would guess that his interests lie in making a profit and not in educating anyone about that difference – that’s the purview, the passion and the purpose of those of us who work tirelessly to educate the public about veganism as we move ever closer to abolishing the property status of non-human animals and truly achieving justice for all.
Unfortunately, outside Maoz, the confusion continues…
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