I love my brother. But my brother loves to kill animals. Fish, to be exact. An avid fisherman since he was a kid, my brother now captains deep-sea fishing vessels and takes groups out on the ocean. I’ve often caught myself rolling my eyes at these diametric aspects of our lives. I spend my days trying to help animals; he spends his trying to hurt them.
That’s why I was so astonished when I recently visited his new home. He was giving me a tour and, when we came to the kitchen, I instinctively opened his fridge and freezer expecting to find a graveyard of dead animals. Instead, it was packed with meat alternatives—everything from Gardein to Morningstar to Field Roast. I did a double take. What in the world?!
Of course, I immediately started questioning him. Did he have a new vegan girlfriend I didn’t know about? No. This was actually what he ate at home. This was his stash.
He told me that even though he was not vegetarian or vegan, he actually preferred to eat meat substitutes at home for a number of reasons:
- They’re easier to prepare and taste better to him than frozen meat. He said microwaveable frozen meat products usually tasted “nasty."
- They’re comparatively inexpensive.
- They’re healthier.
- There’s no risk of contamination with pathogens like salmonella or E. coli.
I asked him how often he ate plant-based meats at home. He said at least a few times a week, sometimes more. He told me how he particularly loved vegan breakfast sausages; when he has them in the house, he eats them every day. Some of his other favorites include Gardein’s chicken tenders and meatballs, Field Roast’s Italian sausages, and anything by Morningstar.
Since he’s a professional fisherman, I asked him whether he’d ever tried the fishless fillets by Gardein. He said he loved them and put them in his lunch salads. He joked, “It’s a shame I can’t catch them out in the water.” Maybe not the best joke to tell your vegan brother.
While leaving animals and animal products off our plates completely is the best thing we can do to help stop animal cruelty, the growing number of people cutting back on their meat consumption is having a positive effect. For example, I recently learned that more than 90 percent of the clientele at Veggie Grill, a successful and popular vegan restaurant chain on the West Coast and in Chicago, is not even vegetarian. Additionally, the dairy industry has seen a massive decline in milk consumption because people (non-vegans included) are widely choosing more plant-based alternatives.
As an animal rights activist, my mission is to teach people that animals are not things, that animals value their lives just like you and I, that to kill them just because we like the way they taste is wrong. And I stand firm in that truth. But I also concede that the recent explosion of delicious plant-based alternatives to meat, dairy, and eggs owes a lot of its success to people like my brother.
So, while we fight for the day when society finally wakes up and stops killing animals for food, we should also be happy for every cruelty-free choice people make. Never stop giving them hell, but also give them Gardein.