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Do you care if your vegan food comes in contact with meat?

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There’s a strong debate that exists between vegans; does it matter if during the preparation of your vegan food, it comes in to contact with animal products? The two sides of the spectrum will have opposing knee-jerk reactions. In my experience, half have a resounding and squeamish no to the thought of their french fries sharing oil with chicken wings. For the only half, “traces of” don’t qualify as breaking vegan-edge, and influencing vegan options is more important. There’s validity to both sides, and I invite you to pick one before reading on…in case you change your mind.

Yes, I mind.

The first time this really came up for me, I was ordering take-out from a local omnivore joint. I was happily enjoying their tofu sandwich and fries until one day, a staff member asked if I was vegan. Beaming, I assured her I was, and that this was one of the only vegan friendly options nearby. She shot back with, “well, you know the fries aren’t vegan, right?” My stomach turned as she described in detail how the kitchen doesn’t take any precautions to keep the meat-free options, well, free from the meat. Seemingly innocent potatoes were crediting chicken grease from a shared fryer for their flavour, something no other staff member had considered mentioning. Something I frankly hadn’t considered myself.

If having your foods touched by animal products doesn’t bother you at all, I’m surprised. It takes a certain amount of turning our conscience off to be “okay” with it. It’s one thing not to see meat on our plates, but I’m certain that most vegans would feel conflict at picking up a fry were it soaking in the end trails of steak on a fellow diners plate. I think it’s important to make the connection, even when it’s happening behind closed doors. You’re not contributing to an animals death directly, but you’re eating close to it’s carcass.

Away from the “ick” factor, I’d still argue that telling a waitress that you don’t mind if something comes in to contact with your vegan food would be displaying a sort of passive acceptance we work so hard to combat. Hear me out, agreeing that shared grills, fryer baskets, and knives is no big deal supports the continued use of animal products at these establishments, doesn’t it? When we don’t advocate for vegan practices that don’t exclude animals entirely, should we also not care if the knife being used has just cut through flesh?

No, I don’t mind.

Veganism isn’t an allergy, it’s a choice to not participate in violence. So when someone offers me something like a french fry, which I know to be naturally vegan and cooked in vegetable oil, I don’t worry about whether or not it has been near a meat product. I’m not going to break out in hives, and the vegan police aren’t waiting outside to scream “gotcha!” As long as we don’t ignore plant-based items that are being cooked in say butter or meat based stocks, it’ll be difficult for most people to avoid “contamination” when dining outside of their vegan homes (and in some cases, dining in their homes where non-vegans live, too).

We live in a society where we must pick and choose our battles. If we drive cars, or ride bikes, we’re already using animal products (god damn animal glue in tires). But let’s be honest, eating something that’s come in contact with animal products doesn’t make it any less vegan, because it has not directly contributed to the death of an animal, adn will not create a demand for more animal products. For the other side of the argument to have validity, vegans who do mind when vegan products touch non-vegan products would have to entirely avoid anything labelled “may contain traces of milk, eggs, etc.”

Basically, to remain ‘safe,’ vegans would be purchasing from 100% vegan companies, not companies that have a vegan option, or share a production space with a non-vegan one. This means extra endeavours in our day to day, which is already fraught with challenges and exclusions in our capitalist society. Choosing the vegan options at restaurants that serve meat can be progressive for promoting demand that more options are available, too. Imagine the possibility of a place making the swap to meat and dairy free foods because their clientele proved it profitable. It might be rare, but we’d no sooner get there by boycotting the places that cater to everyone.

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Where’s your opinion on the matter now? For me, this isn’t a one-sided argument that is easily agreed upon. In my own life, I do my very best to support fully vegan endeavours, so contamination isn’t a concern. I’m lucky to have a vegan home, where I can feel comfortable in my daily food preparations. When it does come to eating out and supporting places that have vegan options, I do what I can to ask questions about the process in which food is made. Of course, sometimes, I just go with the salad and cross my fingers that it hasn’t be handled by meaty-hands.

There’s a dance between the give and take of being a vegan consumer. What side of the argument do you practice?

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0 Comments
  • tommymato

    I’m with the ‘I don’t mind’ camp. As the article said, meat isn’t poisonous and I’m not going to revert back into a meat eater just because my chip touched a piece of ham. So long as my consumption doesn’t cause suffering to an animal then I’m ok with it. The chips fried in animal fat would be a no-no though. It’s a matter of degree.

    • AlpineDan

      “The chips fried in animal fat would be a no-no though. It’s a matter of degree.”

      This is how I see it. I do my best under the circumstances, which includes avoiding restaurants unless I’m out of town or have some other need to eat out. I don’t eat out for entertainment, per se, unless the restaurant is vegan. Fried in animal fat (which means the damn thing is almost saturated with it) is much different than surface contamination or “trace amounts.” The degree matters a lot.

  • AlpineDan

    There was a sitcom years ago where two guys were talking about line drawing on some moral question. One of the characters said “Start pulling on that string, and your whole world will unravel.”

    Generally, the more precise we are in line drawing, the more we trip over ourselves in contradiction.

  • AlpineDan

    I should add a clarifying comment to my comment on trace amounts. I generally avoid things that say they may contain trace amounts, by choosing an alternative that doesn’t, but am not absolute about it like I am for more than trace amounts. I would fast or starve before knowingly consuming stuff cooked in animal products. But I won’t fast or starve to avoid trace amounts.

  • Kami

    would I mind if my food came in contact with a rotting human corpse? of course, and this for me is the same. exactly the same. would I minf my fries being fried in the same oil as human feet, yes I would, same as I if they were fried with chicken feet, wings or whatever body part. and yes, you are paying for it, although you are not eating it, if it was fried in it.

    something being “near” another is not the same as being “touched” by it. those are two completely different things.

    and traces in processed foods are usually warnings for allergy prone people when a product is made in the same facility as say a dairy product. it is a safety measure rather than an ingredient mention and usually contains, if at all, molecule amounts of the mentioned ingredient. a bigger piece can get lost in there since its the same facility, which can be potentially very harmful if you have an allergy, so they are under obligation to state a warning.

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