Is Veganism Being Watered Down By Companies Jumping On The Bandwagon?

Eating bugs isn't vegan...so why are brands trying to sell the idea of entomophagy as a type of veganism?
Woman eating an egg
Eggs are not vegan, and 'vegganism' isn't ethical (Photo: Adobe. Do not use without permission)

This week, I was sent an enthusiastic email from someone encouraging me, as a vegan, to give the 'Entovegan lifestyle' a go.

It was, they promised me, the most sustainable option out there and one that all eco-conscious vegans should consider switching to.

Intrigued, I took a look to see if there was some blindly obvious adaptation to my lifestyle I could and should make.

What is an 'Entovegan'?

Turns out that 'Entovegan' means being plant-based while eating insects. Entomophagy is the practice of eating insects - their eggs, larvae, pupae and adults.

Josh is the founder of Entovegan and he says that his company was born out of 'a personal exploration of a plant-based lifestyle, giving up meat, but adding insects and insect-based protein and products, and as I've set out on this journey I've found there are already many people around the world who practice some form of the entovegan (or entotarian) lifestyle'.

"I've eaten relatively healthy my whole life, and very healthy as an adult. But one 'diet' I'd never tried was going full-on vegan. When I did (in May 2017), the positive changes that I saw in my body and mental focus were so incredible, that I decided to stick with it and stay a vegan…with a twist.

"The last couple years I've become fond of eating insects while living in SE Asia, and I truly believe that entomphagy is the future of food. So I started researching the 'why' behind veganism and the strict 'no animals or animal products' guidelines, and realized that philosophically, there's actually no rational basis for vegans to NOT eat insects."

Gosh. I wondered if I was missing something here.

Does 'veganism' have the power to mean all things to all people?

Surely veganism, at its very least, is the principle that we shouldn't consume any animal products. Surely...bugs are animals? I can't imagine any vegan actively wanting to eat a cricket - let alone a sack of insect bugs.

Josh seemed to have totally missed the point, to say the least.

But he's not the only one to use the term 'vegan' to describe something totally different to what many of us believe it means.

'Veggans' are 'vegans' who eat eggs.

Back in 2012, Ellen DeGeneres said that while she's an 'ethical vegan', she eats the eggs of her neighbour's backyard hen.

Nutritionist Rick Hay is also veggan for health reasons, with some ethics thrown in.

He told the Telegraph: "I like the philosophy and health benefits of veganism, but I like to add extra protein into my diet, so I choose organic, free-range eggs."

That's presumably not taking into account the fact that female chicks have their beaks trimmed so they don't peck at each other and tend to be slaughtered by 18 months...while male chicks are masterated almost as soon as they're born.

Chickne
Animal products are not vegan

Of course, everyone has their own idea of veganism

Some of us will go out of our way to swat mosquitoes (anyone who has lived in a malaria-ridden country will have zero sympathy for the blighters!), while others will try their hardest not to inflict harm on anything sentient.

But mosquitoes and midges are another world from bugs...and defending yourself against being bitten and potentially being made ill isn't the same as actively cultivating insects to eat them.

Would Josh have called his principal 'entoveganism' if veganism wasn't becoming so profitable and trendy? It seems doubtful. Would these 'veggans' really have bastardised the word had 'vegan' not become so loaded, so ubiquitous? Aren't they just eco-conscious eaters or, um, vegetarians?

Veganism is a profitable tag

Around 3.5 million of us are vegan in the UK now - and that number is ever-growing. There are big green bucks to be made in the plant-based industry these days, and it makes sense that brands want a slice of that ethical pie.

The UK market for meat-free foods was worth £572m in 2017, according to market researchers Mintel - up from £539m just two years before. That figure is predicted to rise to £658m by 2021.

But that's leaving the term veganism open to being watered down.

Ditching dairy seems to be pretty standard these days, with more and more people becoming wary of the use of antibiotics and hormones in the production of milk. Lots of folk are actively asking for almond, coconut or oat milk in their lattes.

But, they still eat meat or fish. I, myself, know people who'll describe themselves as “mainly vegan...just eating meat a few times a week”.

While that's obviously great that people are consuming fewer animal products in general, it does kind of suggest that the term 'vegan' is losing its meaning.

Should it be an umbrella term for reductionism?

Is it something that can and should mean something to everyone who chooses to use it?

I bet most hardened vegans would say emphatically, no.

It's not just a lifestyle, it's a philosophy. You can't go around saying you're “kinda utilitarian”, for example.  You're either utilitarian (i.e you believe that anything is permissible if it's for the greater good), or you're not. It's absolute - you're either for or against.

The fact that veganism is protected as a human right under Article 9 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights indicates that it's more than just a diet or lifestyle.

And that's not say it's wrong to be flexitarian...but flexitarian is what you are. Rather than being a game of semantics, it's about protecting something that many of us fundamentally believe in; it's not just a marketing tool.

The fact that brands are so desperate to use the V-label actually is a sign of progress. Veganism is now so mainstream and has attracted so much interest that the only way new things can stay afloat is to tap into it.

But it's a shame if that means we have to compromise over its meaning.

Everyone has their individual boundary. For some of us, a McDonald's burger could never really be vegan because although the patty might be made from veg (and whatever dubious non-animal substances they chuck in), it's still made by one of the least animal animal friendly companies out there. For others, veganism solely refers to the ingredients used.

But one thing most of us will agree on is that the consumption of anything that was a living animal or came out of a living animal, isn't vegan. Cockroach milk, for example, may be 'sustainable' but it's not vegan. Organic eggs aren't vegan. Living off roadkill isn't vegan.

Do us all a favor and find another word.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are prepared in the author's capacity and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Plant Based News itself. 

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PBN Contributor:

Miranda Larbi is a national health, fitness and lifestyle journalist who believes that veganism isn’t only a animal rights concern, but also a health, feminist and racial equality issue. She turned vegan for good after training for a marathon on a plant-based diet and partaking in a vegan bodybuilder challenge.

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