Aye, that’s the sub
Say what you will about small victories, but over time they build up. And you never know which one is going to push you over the tipping point. Whichever drag king threw the first brick at Stonewall we don’t imagine they knew were kicking off an international liberation movement. So, a hat-tip and a raised glass to the news this week from the land they call down under, as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) delivered their submission to the laughable Senate inquiry on labelling of meat substitutes. The consumer group declared that describing plant-based vegan substitutes as beef, mince or meat is unlikely to confuse hungry punters. That may sound like a no-brainer but the road to here has been far from smooth.
For starters, it sounds like something of a U-turn from the ACCC deputy chair Mick Keogh who wrote in 2018: “the use of the term ‘meat’ to describe chemically reconstituted artificial protein is not only misleading but is also an attempt to appropriate the value that consumers attribute to products referred to as meat – and are prepared to pay for – to create a market for these new products.” But then Keogh was executive director of the Australian Farm Institute at the time and was kind of expected to say That Kind of Shit as part of his role.
The meat lobby took further blows to the guts when a separate government food body Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) pitched in with their submission stating that a section of the Australian Food Standards Code requiring products labelled as meat to require animal meat does not apply to explicitly vegan products as a 2016 amendment states the inclusion of animal corpses in meat-labelled products is necessary “unless the context makes clear that this is not the intention”. Context! Saving lives since someone decided it mattered.
Having a butcher’s
Launched by Katie Hopkins clone gone wrong Senator Susan McDonald, the enquiry was initially announced at an event run by her Parliamentary Friends of Red Meat advocacy group. McDonald is a butcher by trade and inclination who smiles every time she thinks of the skinned bodies of a sheep’s dead children. No one can ever accuse her of being an apologist for the slaughter or a soulless shill in it for the ducats – she does it because she enjoys it. Ruthlessly committed to being her absolute worst self, McDonald is also strongly pro-coal. It would be wrong to characterise her as a one-trick pony. She is determined to expedite the apocalypse on as many fronts as possible. Takes all sorts, I suppose.
I know what you’re thinking. “Surely Australia’s political class have their hands full dealing with rising Covid cases, aborigine deaths in custody, or their ongoing bushfire crisis, one of the ‘worst wildlife disasters in modern history‘. They can’t possibly have time for such crass opportunism.” Silly vogon! Your missing omega-3s, B12 deficiency and dangerously high soy levels have addled your brain. Of course Australian senators can find time to run interference on the huge gains made by plant-based meat in recent years. Why even have elections if you’re not going to use them as a jumpoff to accelerate global warming, heart disease and cattle slaughter?
As seen with the clown college that was the European Parliament vote on the labelling of veggie burgers, the meat industry is shameless in its attempts to hold onto as many of its ill-gotten gains as possible. The argument that consumers are confused by vegan meat and dairy instinctively feels like a dicey one although that doesn’t mean there’s nothing in it. Nobody went broke underestimating the general public after all. People think drinking piss is therapeutic. People believe in astrology. People pay money to see James Corden. If you’re backing “people” to do the right thing, make sure you’ve got insurance.
Fortunately, we have rational enquiry to help settle the issue. The House of Lords EU Energy and Environment hub-Committee discovered “no evidence” that even dimwitted people find veggie burgers misleading. The sub-committee put the proportion of people unintentionally buying a vegetarian product at under 4%. The argument from confusion falls at the first fence killing both horse and jockey.
The second prong of McDonald’s argument concerns intellectual property and there we are on a stickier wicket. Patents and trademarks in food & drink have a tortured history and diving down this rabbit hole will get complicated. To cite the EU case again, the cucknivore lobby were able to secure a ban on the descriptors ‘vegan cheese’, ‘yogurt-style’ and ‘cheese alternative’.
Still, the ACCC ruling is a welcome boost for Australian vegans who have to contend with having the worst public vegans on the planet. Bad enough that they have that cracker psychopath Freelee The Banana Girl stinking out their plant-based spaces, they also have to contend with her ex-borefriend road rage gonk Durian Rider, fake blood nause Tash Peterson and dead-eyed jailbird Joey Carbstrong showing up as far afield as Wales with his needy bullshit.
The nation of Alphonse Gangitano, Barry Humphries and Kostya Tszyu deserves better and we can hope that the verdict of the ACCC carries enough weight to settle the nonissue of vegan food labelling for good. You could be forgiven for wondering if it’s all worth it. Meat sizzling on the barbie is as much part of Australian life as beating the poms at cricket, murdering backpackers and erasing indigenous culture. A few soy boy salad munchers aren’t going to change that. Surely carnism on the island continent is in an unassailable position?
Perhaps. On the other hand, a quick poll reveals Australia as the second-best nation for veganism on the planet, rapidly gaining ground on the aforementioned poms. And judging from the responses from the bloodstained cucknivore lobby, they consider it a significant loss. They are already slinging out
clearly made-up anecdotal tales of panic-stricken customers returning plant-based meat they assumed was a corpse. There’s a strong feeling among butchers that once the ground is gained by vegans, it will not be gainsaid. They may have a point.
So let’s give a pound and a bear hug to our Australian plant-based cousins. Let’s not forget it was Australian philosopher Peter Singer who did more than any single thinker to put the idea of animal liberation into popular consciousness. They may talk funny, badmouth our queen and mock our lagers but when all’s said and done they come correct. Let it never be said that these convicts lack conviction.