It looks like a burger. Feels like one, too. When it hits the pan it sizzles and spits and small gobs of fat slide down its side. Then it begins to bleed and my mouth begins to water.
Forget the moon landing 50 years ago. Surely this is our greatest scientific triumph. No more slaughter houses spilling blood and guts and reeking of death. Just a little pea protein, potato starch, a sprinkling of methylcellulose and a dash of beet juice and voila! – a burger that even smells like meat.
The woman at the supermarket had promised I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between her “Beyond Burger” – a plant-based, vegan-style meat substitute – and the real thing.
Oh, but I could. Once it hit my mouth its flavour was like a Barnaby Joyce speech – a hint of nuttiness buried in a mound of bland emptiness. Not even a dash of dead horse – err, sorry, tomato sauce – could disguise its insipidness.
No wonder militant vegans always seem to be angry. They spend their weekdays chaining themselves together at busy intersections and their weekends charging into steakhouses and accusing diners of being accessories to murder. When they finally get home after posting bail, this is what they have to eat?
Of course, this “fake meat” revolution is not aimed at vegans. It’s a clever marketing ploy by big food companies to play on our fears about the modern diet and its impact on our health and the environment.
They’ve picked their moment. Almost one in 10 Australians now call themselves vegetarian. Another four to five per cent claim to be vegans – a diet and philosophy that precludes the use of all animal products.
In case you hadn’t noticed, going ‘V” is the Next Big Thing. Goodbye to those hundreds of millions of imprisoned farting cows and their cruel, profit-driven overlords. Hello to lush fields of soybeans, vats of coconut oil and choirs of hipsters singing “We Are The World”.
Check out your local supermarket. It’s awash in vegan and vegetarian-inspired jargon and products. Social media is like Sunday morning at a packed evangelical church as food bloggers praise the potassium in lentils and the secret benefits of sorghum.
Nothing wrong with that, either. Truth is, my days of bleeding steaks and charcoal snags are over. Like a growing number of Australians belatedly coming to terms with their approaching mortality and rising cholesterol levels, I prefer fish, vegetables and fruit.
Good, nutritious food that lowers our carbon footprint and reduces cruelty to animals? Who isn’t for that? But that is not enough for the new militant vegan movement. It wants to shove its food and opinions down our throats.
— Tom Steinfort (@tomsteinfort) April 7, 2019
Typical of this crusade is an old friend of my daughter who has become another vegan fanatic. She’s been posting gruesome photographs of abattoirs and animal carcasses to her social media followers with comments like: “This is where your food comes from. This is the slaughter you contribute to…”
Hard to work out if she’s still stuck in that same immature phase we all experience in our early teens, or is destined to become that person in every suburb who lives with 37 cats and piles of 1970s newspapers.
At the core of veganism is the concept of “speciesism” – a belief that we humans are wrong to consider ourselves superior to any other form of animal life.
Let’s say the house of the mad neighbour with 37 cats is on fire and there is only enough time to save her – or the cats. By choosing her, you are a blatant “speciesist”, placing human life on a pedestal and assigning it more value.
And so we have the Nonhuman Rights Project, which has been staging a series of unsuccessful court appeals in the US for years seeking legal rights for chimpanzees.
In Australia, you can always be sure in the days after a shark attack that a vigilante group of animal lovers will complain about humans “intruding” on Great White territory.
This morally warped view presents problems for its supporters. It’s all very well to stage raids on detestable puppy farms and caged egg factories with high definition cameras. But when was the last time a crowd of protestors gathered outside a Mortein factory to protest against the indiscriminate, widespread slaughter of mosquitoes?
Over-zealous vegans and animal rights supporters are not really campaigning for equal rights for all animals. In their hearts lies a disdain and, in some cases, a real loathing for humanity.
So I’ll give the meat-free burger another go. It might be bland. It might be tasteless. But it’s far easier to swallow than the immature ranting of the vegan movement.