Blog

Why some vegan restaurants start to sell real meat — and how to avoid it

Imagine that you own a vegan restaurant located in a big city. The vegan community is important and your gluten-free concept allows you to stand out.

But now, a few months after your opening, you realize that vegans already have their favourite restaurants, and that your competitors have asked their customers not to set foot in your house.

Worse, you realize that a large portion of your clientele is not vegan and that many people leave the restaurant when they realize that the choice on your menu is too restrictive.

Therefore, to remain profitable, you decide to sell meat and fish, and other animal products. This story seems to make no sense?

Yet this is what recently happened to the Eden Sans Gluten, a former vegan restaurant located near Strasbourg, France. After two years of operation in a 100% vegetable and gluten-free kitchen, the restaurant becomes “vegan-friendly” and serves products of animal origin to its customers. The managers explained their motivations on Facebook:

Although it is too early to know the consequences of this change in strategy on the health of the restaurant, we can note that it has provoked strong reactions on social networks. More than 437 people commented on the post, mostly vegans from the region, to express their dissatisfaction. The post also received comments of support from customers who believe that this “openness” will perhaps give a better image of plant-based food to non-vegans. If this story has the appearance of a bad buzz, it is perhaps less of one than it looks. It is rather a sad story for animals, and we should wonder how it could have happened.

If there are important lessons to be learned, they are the following:

  • Vegan restaurants come with a militant dimension that is not to be neglected. A change in strategic direction can provoke strong reactions, and we must be prepared for it.
  • The activist dimension of vegan restaurants means making sure you have activists ready to support your restaurant before you embark on the adventure and realize that everyone is going to eat at the competitor’s already well established.
  • It is difficult to rely solely on vegan or vegan-friendly customers to remain profitable in some areas. In particular, this region of France is particularly conservative and traditionalist. Maybe the same restaurant would have been an incredible success in Paris, we don’t know. So, before opening, question the relevance of your location.

I will continue to follow this story and keep you informed of the evolution of this restaurant, perhaps we can learn more lessons. It would be interesting to see how leaving a niche market (vegan + gluten-free) affects their financial health.

In the meantime, I invite you to give me your opinion on the lessons I have learned, and to apply them if they seem relevant to your vegan restaurant.

I’m also interested in knowing what you would have done if you had been in their shoes.

jiroe-605382-unsplash

Animals are made to be eaten – backwards reasoning

veganuge animals are made to being eaten

When it comes to eating animals, an argument to justify it often comes up: “They are made to be eaten anyway, so I don’t see any problem eating them“.

The formula seems logical: since these animals were designed to be eaten, then it is in the order of things to eat them. That makes sense, doesn’t it?

The argument is generally based on an implicit moral distinction between “killing an animal” and “killing an animal that has been raised to be eaten”. The first proposal creates discomfort, while the second relieves it. But why such a difference? After all, the second proposal is included in the first: the discomfort of reading it should not be less than that of reading the first.

The fact is that the justification “the animal was raised to be eaten” reduces the discomfort that can arise from the idea of killing it. It is said that it would not have existed anyway if it had not been raised to be eaten.

But by digging into the argument, one realizes that it is circular: its validity rests on itself.

They are raised to be eaten, and we eat them because they are raised to be eaten.

Proposal A ‘they are raised to be eaten’ uses for its justification proposal B ‘we eat them because they are raised to be eaten’, whereas the justification of proposal B requires the truth of proposal A.

This circular reasoning is a petition of principle, that is, it posits as true at the outset a proposition that it is supposed to demonstrate: the fact that animals are made to be eaten.

On this point, it cannot be denied that farmers actually give birth to ‘farm’ animals with the intention of taking them to the slaughterhouse. We must therefore admit that these animals have undergone extensive genetic selection in order to produce ever more meat.

But that does not mean that their fate is necessarily to go to the pan. No fate inevitably leads them there: at a time when it is no longer necessary to eat animals to live, their killing is only the consequence of a perpetually renewed human choice. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for this causal relationship to be rejected in favour of a belief that the sole “raison d’être” of these farm animals is to feed us.

From this point of view, the relationships we maintain with other animals are explained by a pre-established harmony, resulting from the will of a transcendent god or an ordered nature that would have assigned a goal to beings (“I decree that they, they will end up in the pan, because it is my project“).

Thus, the proponents of this finalist conception may marvel at such harmony: “it’s crazy that animals were made of so much meat“; or take offence when it is questioned: “but what use would animals be if we didn’t eat them ?“.

We are right in the middle of reverse (or panglossian) reasoning: a historical contingent mechanism in which man has been an actor is now seen as the result of a preconceived scenario, designed by a force that escapes us. Besides, as I write this, I realize that my fingers were created to type on my keyboard.

Joking aside, the problem is that by evacuating any other possible scenario in favour of the “preconceived” one, we perpetually condemn farm animals to live a fate to which nothing but our morals and our economic system predestines them. Once they are born, another future can be reserved for them. It is up to us: it is a fact and we must get used to it.

Veganism is a sectarian phenomenon – Argumentum ad secta

capture_7

When an individual reveals or shares his anti-speciesist opinions (in favour of equal consideration of the interests of sentient beings), it is not uncommon to be asked whether he belongs to a cult. Moreover, in some cases, they are not even asked: it is said so.

This reaction is often part of a strategy of deliberately misrepresenting the anti-speciesist position. The idea is to create a frightful argument that can easily be refuted and then to attribute it to the opponent. It’s called the straw man sophism.

“It is inconsistent to use the criterion of the species to which an animal belongs to decide how it should be treated and the moral consideration it should be given.

– What a sectarian discourse!”

The statement is generally tinged with bad faith and is characterized by a notable fact: it is accompanied neither by a willingness to explain its position nor to enter into a rational and argued debate.

We will therefore not know what a sect is (what are its precise characteristics?), nor to what extent anti-speciesist discourse is a sectarian phenomenon.

In other words, once the opposing thesis has been pejoratively connoted (“you belong to a sect!”), the trick is done: there is no need to use well-grounded arguments. To have qualified the opposing thesis as sectarian makes it possible to extract oneself from the debate.

As a sub-genre of the argumentum ad odium, the argumentum ad secta can have a name just for itself because it is so common in exchanges on topics as thorny as animal ethics issues.

The main problem that the argumentum ad secta poses is that it implies an absence of a serious and rational analysis of the phenomenon under consideration. Launching his argument as if it were a reflex, the individual who “cries out to the sect” does not seek to know whether the subject in question is indeed part of a potentially dangerous sectarian discourse or not.

Thus, he would risk doing harm (by decredibilizing them) to those who would sincerely point the excesses of certain movements. And there can always be excesses. That is why a constructive movement must remain alert on these issues and be open to reasoned criticism. But if the criticisms are mostly fallacious and based on unfounded assimilations with dangerous movements, then it is not possible to take them into account: the debate is therefore not moving forward and the movement could well be strengthened in belief to be is right.

In our example, once the bad criticism is invalidated, anti-speciesists could be reinforced in the idea that they are right not to place the interests of the human species before those of all others. This result is probably not sought by the one who emits the pseudo-criticism that is the argumentum ad secta, but it could well be the implacable consequence.

Finally, the argumentum ad secta is likely to have a counterproductive effect. To consume with… Argumentation!