Boca Burgers are to Veganism as Virginia Slims are to Feminism

OK, beyond the fact that both of these products are manufactured by the Altria Group, Inc. (formerly Philip Morris Companies Inc.), both represent attempts to transform social movements into consumer markets. And just like smoking a Virginia Slim isn't going to challenge sexism or patriarchy, eating a Boca Burger isn't going to challenge speciesism or human supremacy. Consumer marketing is not a pathway to liberation, yet many organizations are pushing "veganism" as a niche market. As Urvashi Vaid explains regarding the well-resourced lesbian and gay movements in her book Virtual Equality:

At the moment we are in a movement that is "selling" gayness uncritically, as if the only problem were with the product we sell ... not with a heterosexist system that is sustained by maintaining us as a niche market. The reality is that the discovery of the African-American market, of more black images and people on television, film, and in commercials, has done little to stem the persistence and revival of racism. Further, the use of slogans like [Virginia Slims'] "You've come a long way, baby," to sell cigarettes to women has not precluded the rise of a right-wing movement intent on "restoring" the authority of the man as the head of the family. Our treatment as a market advances our genuine equality only to the extent that a strong political movement exists.

What's interesting is that organizations like PETA encourage vegetarians and other nonhuman animal advocates to consume Boca Burgers from hamburger chains like Johnny Rockets. Sometimes these burger advocates go so far as to claim that if we don't eat Boca Burgers we'll actually be hurting nonhuman animals. However, the manufacturer of Boca Burgers is the major funder anti-vegan organizations like the Center for Consumer Freedom, which actually produces the anti-PETA website "PETA Kills Animals." Yet, PETA claims this consumer strategy is most effective in helping nonhuman animals and reducing the suffering of other animals.

This is exactly why I think labeling consumer products "vegan" is misleading and counterproductive. Veganism isn't something that can be purchased in the supermarket, but how we live our lives. Boca Burgers are more about vegetarians assimilating to non-vegan status quo. When a chain like Johnny Rockets sells something like this it is about being non-vegan friendly, as opposed to so-called "vegan friendly." Instead of challenging the flesh-centered diet, it reaffirms it.

Re: Boca Burgers are to Veganism as Virginia Slims are to

this post is retarded. the more popular and the easier it is to be vegan is a huge advance for animals and the environment. everyone eating a boca burger is NOT eating a cow burger. labeling things as vegan only helps people who are new and learning.

get off your anti capitalist high horse.

Ableist Language and Consumeristic Activism

lia,

I'm extremely offended by the use of the term "retarded" to express disagreement with this post. Ableist language like this has no place in a movement that opposes the exploitation of others.

I also disagree that veganism, justice for other animals, or environmental justice can be advanced through consumerism. While Boca Burgers are making consumerism more popular and easier, that doesn't mean living vegan is any more popular or easier. I think it is important that we understand that there is a difference if we are to create real social change.

Far from advancing justice for other animals or environmental justice, capitalism and consumerism harm both and are inherently unjust. Promoting Boca Burgers assumes that simply changing consumer habits will bring about the vegan ideal, while ignoring the vested interest of a corporation like Altria/Philip Morris/Kraft Foods in continuing the exploitation of humans, other animals and the environment.

For a corporation like Altria/Philip Morris/Kraft Foods, offering a product like the Boca Burger is a great way of "denying the deniers." In fact, I believe the backlash like yours shows that the Boca Burger is an excellent example of how successful this "denying the deniers" can be. While the vast majority of the products manufactured by Altria/Philip Morris/Kraft Foods, including the majority of products in the Boca line, are produced by directly exploiting other animals, by simply labeling a mere two products out of several hundreds "vegan" this exploitive corporation is perceived by many as somehow advancing the "vegan" cause. And this is regardless of the fact that in reality Altria/Philip Morris/Kraft Foods a major source of exploitation and institutionally opposed to the vegan ideal.

I believe in order to be vegan we need to live vegan. And living vegan is completely different from simply consuming products labeled "vegan." That is, we can't be vegan simply by buying "vegan." Living vegan means striving to avoid the exploitation of humans, other animals and the environment. So if we are to make it easier to live vegan lives then we can't expect this to result from passively buying products put on the market with the label "vegan."

Let's be clear that Altria/Philip Morris/Kraft Foods and the Boca Burger are not about making it easier to live vegan. Only a selective number of privileged consumers will ever benefit from the Boca Burger. The many simply does not have the same access that rich/middle-class consumers have. Since access to a just and equitable food system for all is not in the interest of Altria/Philip Morris/Kraft Foods, and the Boca Burger is not going to advance such a food system, it is a mistake to claim that Boca Burgers make it easier (that is, accessible) or more popular (that is, accessible to the widest range of people) to live vegan. Thus, if we are working to promote processed consumer products like the Boca Burger, then we are not really making it vegan living more popular or easier. As such, the Boca Burger works as an obstacle to making veganism accessible to all people while also bolstering the existing exploitation-based system of consumption.

Rather, we need to actively work to model equitable and nonexploitive ways of living. Establishing a community ran, vegan-organic permaculture garden/farm that centers the needs of marginalized communities with restricted access connected to racism, classism, ableism, citizenship status, and so on, in order to provides healthy and affordable (if not free) food to everyone in the local community is an example of how we can advance the vegan ideal of nonexploitation for humans, other animals, and the environment. This is more than we can ever expect from any consumer product, and it's gross exaggeration to claim any consumer product can come close to this.

Re: Boca Burgers are to Veganism as Virginia Slims are to

Society for the most part evolves in baby steps. A number of people who have taken on the label of "vegan" do not give sufficient importance to this. For the majority of people a quick switch to a vegan (or even vegetarian) diet is something that will take time. PETA seems to recognize this and and is encouraging a company that (in spite profit driven motives) is providing people with a means to change their lifestyles.
If we are too quick to condemn a product because it does not live up a vegan cannon, we can end up countering the very ideals we strive for. While this may not stand in the face of the high ideals of some people, I feel that sometimes you must weigh these against the positive results that can be achieved. Unfortunately, with the growth of globalization, corporations may be a necessary vehicle for furthering many causes. Instead of fighting them at every turn, why not let them work for us when our goals follow the same path.

Let's Build the Road By Walking

I see the path ahead as one we build ourselves based on creating a trail of nonexploitation leading in the direction of an oppression-free world. Yes, this is a long, hard journey, but I think it is worth it. I don't expect to reach a oppression-free world over night, but I do believe that we're walking in the right direction when can being to make the road by modeling everyday ways of living the principle of nonexploitation. That's why the motto of this site is "Modeling Practical Ideas for an Oppression-Free World."

Yes, corporations are a vehicle. But corporations are a vehicle that travels a well worn path that is paved with the exploitation of others. That is, corporations like Altria Group, Inc./Philip Morris USA/Kraft Foods exploit workers, consumers, nonhuman animals, the Earth's life-sustaining systems and resources for the benefit of its shareholders. So as a vehicle the road corporations travel goes in a different direction from that of the vegan ideal.

In Kenya, the Green Belt Movement talks about the "wrong bus syndrome." That is, if you get on the wrong bus you'll end up going in the wrong direction. There are a lot of reason why we might get on the wrong bus. For instance, the wrong bus might have a sign on it claiming to take us to our destination. I think consumer products labeled "vegan" are exactly that, they are misleading us into thinking we are on the right bus. Another might be because someone we believe knows the way tells us to get on the wrong bus. I believe this is what PETA and others do when they tell us we have an obligation to support exploitative corporations.

Let's think critically about where we want to go and how to get there, and not just jump on the first flash vehicle that comes along promising us a free ride to Vegantown. Admittedly, walking in the right direction takes more work than hoping on a bus going in the wrong direction. But even if it is slow and rough, I'd rather be actively walking in the right direction rather than passively hitching a ride in the wrong direction.

Re: Boca Burgers are to Veganism as Virginia Slims are to

The only problem is most non-organic smokes (with the exception of American Spirit) have castoreum, a extract from beaver glands added to purfume and smokes for fragrance. Look it up, this is going to screw up alot of people like it did when I found out.

Re: Boca Burgers are to Veganism as Virginia Slims are to ...

YES, YES, YES.

While I think boca burgers are better than hamburgers, they're not good. They aren't in the best interest of animals. They don't take into consideration the multiple types of oppression in the system. They don't fuel sustainability.

Thank you!