You’ll be pleased to know that this week is National Vegetarian Week in Great Britain, an event created by the Vegetarian Society some 20 years ago and currently sponsored by Cauldron Foods to “celebrate fantastic vegetarian cuisine.” Cauldron Foods is one of Britain’s leading faux food manufacturers, which promotes the glories of vegetarian cuisine as an excuse to peddle its line of such products as Tofu Barbecue Kebabs, Mediterranean-style Mushroom Burgers and Lincolnshire Sausages made from “hydrated TVP” (textured soy protein, potato starch and wheat gluten).
Cauldron’s involvement raises the question of why the sponsor of a go-veggie campaign is working so hard to market non-meat versions of traditional red meat specialties—only made from soybeans imported from Brazil, rather than food products sourced from the UK’s own domestic livestock producers and dairy farmers. Aren’t vegetarians supposed to be oh-so enlightened about eco-issues like food miles and carbon footprints and the importance of embracing local cuisine to protect Mother Nature?
The official line bandied about in the media coverage—such as it is: National Vegetarian Week across the pond appears to rank right up there with the publicity accorded here for National Safe Boating Week or National Library Week (which includes National Bookmobile Day as part of National School Library Month)—is that the event exists as “an annual awareness-raising campaign promoting inspirational vegetarian food and the benefits of a meat-free lifestyle.”
More to the point, the backstory behind these contemporary veggie “events” exposes an interesting new trend: You can now become a veggie just for a day (or a week, in this case). As the Vegetarian Society proclaims, “Every meal helps. If you don’t feel you can go veggie all at once, feel good about what you are doing to reduce the amount of meat and fish that you eat.”
You read that right. According to the leaders of Britain’s largest anti-meat advocacy group, “going veggie” might mean simply skipping meat for a single meal.
That’s just a whole plateful of wrong. All of the hardcore vegetarians and vegans I’ve sparred with over the years wear their status as veggies and vegans like a badge of courage. The idea that somebody could embrace the “v-word” just by piling on the potatoes and passing up the meatloaf tonight only is, in a word, preposterous.