Opinion piece by Matthew Glover, Co-Founder Veganuary
Today’s Telegraph is carrying the headline news: Supermarket scandal: Pork and turkey found in vegan and ‘meat free’ meals.
The report states that traces of pork have been found in Sainsbury’s own brand ‘meat free’ meatballs and traces of turkey have been found in a vegan macaroni ready meal from Tesco’s new “Wicked Kitchen” line.
On the face of it, this might sound shocking to many vegans and vegetarians, but I would argue that we need to be calm and considered here.
Let’s look at the facts:
- 10 products were tested and two showed signs of animal DNA.
- A ‘trace’ means a very small amount of animal DNA was detected in the product. According to the Telegraph article ‘The lab said trace levels are so small that they are unable to give an exact quantification‘
- It is unclear whether the animal DNA found is actually ‘meat’ as the headlines suggest. Further down the article, the Telegraph reports ‘The samples were tested for the presence of whole animal DNA, which is found in meat, skin, eggs, and milk. It also rarely makes its way into other animal products like gelatin and oil’.
- Most vegan products are made in non-vegan factories, so most vegans already accept there is a risk of contamination.
According to the Vegan Society the definition of veganism is as follows:
‘Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.’
For most of us veganism is not about personal purity, but about reducing the suffering of animals and moving society in a more compassionate direction. When we purchase vegan food we are voting for a kinder world, whether there are trace elements of animal DNA in them or not. Purchasing products with trace elements of animal DNA is not contributing to the suffering of animals, and that is the important message here.
And, it appears most vegans are seeing the bigger picture.
Clearly, we all would prefer to see our vegan products entirely free from animal DNA. Indeed, Derek Sarno from Tesco & Wicked Kitchen has released the following statement:
Today’s media reports about VEGAN & MEAT FREE products are concerning. Our own DNA tests have found no traces of animal DNA in the products available in stores today. The quality and integrity that go into our products are taken extremely seriously AND as someone who doesn’t eat animals at all, I understand they should be exactly that, completely free from animals. I urge the Telegraph to share the details of their findings so we can investigate further.
Whilst the allegations are not helpful, we mustn’t let them dissuade us from our mission. In response, we can only work with the retailers that are making meat-free foods more widely available to remain vigilant and at the same time urge and encourage everyone else to continue to support those efforts and to encourage the retailers to do even more. Together we are making real and meaningful progress.
I am now on my way to Tesco to stock up on Wicked Kitchen products and recommend you all to do the same. Let’s show the Telegraph and anyone who attempts to discredit vegan products that we care more about the bigger picture!
If you’re interested in reducing the suffering of animals then please consider trying our 31 Day Vegan Pledge.