The Impossible Burger debate was a test for vegans, and we failed.

Vegans, we have a problem. We’re insulting each other, we’re alienating each other, we’re destroying each other’s businesses and reputations, and we’re playing right into the hands of the animal exploitation industry. To paraphrase a line from one of my favorite television Presidents (Jed Bartlett of The West Wing), we’re eating our young. And if we don’t get our act together soon, this movement we’re all passionately fighting for will never make the impact we crave or the change the animals need.

For those of you who were lucky enough to miss out on 2018’s burger-induced vegan community meltdown, here’s the basic story. Impossible Foods debuted their plant-based burger patty that many consumers consider to be the closest imitation of a cow-based patty. The smell, the texture, the juiciness…it’s so beef-like, many vegans are too creeped out to even try it. According to Impossible Foods, the Impossible Burger uses 1/20 the land, requires 1/4 the water, and produces 1/8 the greenhouse gas emissions compared to its cow-based counterpart. For those of us who like plant-based meats, it was a dream come true, right?

But then came the news that Impossible Foods’ proprietary “heme”, the groundbreaking ingredient that gives the burgers their beefy flavor, was tested on animals. Rats, to be specific. Because this newly developed ingredient hadn’t previously been used in food, Impossible Foods agreed to participate in animal testing in hopes of earning official approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). From what I understand, the testing wasn’t legally mandated, but had the potential to make a big difference in terms of distribution approvals.

Cue the internet outrage. Not one day of outrage, this was months of battles taking place in comments sections across the vegan cyber world. The Chicago Vegans Facebook group damn near collapsed into itself like a dying star. I watched vegan icons be smeared for daring to post a photo of themselves eating the Impossible Burger. I saw people defriend one another for coming to a different conclusion on the issue than they did. I personally lost quite a few followers (some of whom left very unkind farewell messages) after mentioning the burger on my Instagram story.

vegans fighting about impossible burger

Just a sampling of vegans fighting with vegans about the Impossible Burger 

And these are the people who are supposed to be on the SAME TEAM. The people getting sucked into these rage fests didn’t seem to respect or even acknowledge that they all felt as passionately as they did because of a shared love of animals. The pro-burger side was outraged that the anti-burger side couldn’t seem to appreciate the end goal of potentially saving billions of cows with a revolutionary plant-based patty. The anti-burger side was outraged that people who typically boycott products tested on animals were bending their ethics for this one item.

Meanwhile, as vegans spent weeks hurling insults at other vegans (making sure to end every conversation with, “don’t you dare call yourself a vegan!”), cattle transport trucks continued to transport victims to the slaughterhouse. Dairy cows had their newborn babies ripped away. Millions of dogs, cats, rats, and other animals were injected with chemicals and tested on in excruciating ways. The industrial animal exploitation machine didn’t just turn off because we happened to be distracted. In fact, it’s my very strong assumption that our infighting was exactly what cattle farmers dream of.

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My first experience trying and loving the Impossible Burger

Personally, I have eaten and will continue to eat the Impossible Burger. I often lean more towards the “ends justify the means” side of the philosophical spectrum, and for me, this falls into that category. Pat Brown, Impossible Foods’ founder and CEO, has been vegetarian for four decades and vegan (if the vegan police are still letting him call himself that) for 14 years. I’ve read his statement on the issue, and while I still have no idea what I would have done in his situation, I fully understand how he arrived at the difficult conclusion that he needed to allow the testing. Just like I understand how my friends who run other big name plant-based food companies repeatedly paid for and consumed animal products for comparison’s sake while developing their plant-based alternatives. Yes, these vegan entrepreneurs and chefs take bites of real chicken flesh and real chicken eggs in the process of perfecting their vegan counterparts. And no, I won’t tell you who those people or companies are, because I don’t want to send the vegan army after them.

I also understand and empathize with the animal advocates who don’t want to support Impossible Foods. I know their reasoning comes from an opposition to animal cruelty, and I of course share that opposition. I actually welcome people who disagree with me yet want to discuss the issue civilly, in the way that people working towards the same end goal are supposed to do.

Unfortunately, it seems I’m in the minority on this. Vocal vegans seem willing and sometimes even happy to tear one another apart in a never-ending game of “who’s the most vegan?” While I guess this makes our egos feel better, I’m not sure how it helps the animals. My strong fear is that unless we tackle this insidious in-fighting now, we won’t be prepared for the inevitable dilemmas ahead.

I imagine the next battle will be over lab-grown “clean meats”, once they actually come to market. There are numerous companies working on this technology, and as I understand it, some animal cells may still be required to initiate the growth process. Just For All (previously known as Hampton Creek Foods), claims their lab-grown meat can be harvested from feathers that naturally fall off of healthy, happen chickens. Mosa Meats, a pioneer in the industry, has struggled to move past the use of fetal bovine serum. Fetal bovine serum has to be harvested from an unborn calf; obviously, this would require animal slaughter. In any case, the technology as it stands seems to still rely on the use of animals, either dead or alive.

Just For All claims they’ll release their lab-grown “clean meat” by the end of 2018

Leaders in the vegan community are already starting to develop varying opinions on the subject. Most are supportive, but skeptical– which is basically how I’d describe my stance. I often say that any industry that exploits animals for profit will eventually abuse them (hence, why I don’t eat or wear any animal products), but is that true if the industry is run by genuine animal advocates?

If we find ourselves in a situation where “clean” chicken meat can be produced from fallen feathers collected from chickens roaming freely on a sanctuary-like plot of land, I’m totally behind it. However, if we’re forcibly impregnating cows to slaughter and collect serum from their fetuses, I’m not really on board. Earlier I said I tend to fall on the “ends justify the means” side of the spectrum, but it’s never that black and white. If cells from one slaughtered cow were able to feed one billion humans, would I support it? Maybe. If cells from one slaughtered cow were able to feed 100 humans? Probably not.

Ethics are tricky, and these issues are going to become increasingly more complex. In addition to the lab-grown meat controversy, we’re inevitably going to face other debates. McDonalds, a corporation most vegans despise, will undoubtedly eventually release vegan burgers in the United States (they’ve already launched the McVegan burger in Europe). Vegans who purchase it in order to support the distribution of affordable cruelty-free food will certainly be chastised for supporting an evil empire. Vegans who boycott it will be insulted and degraded for failing to understand economics. Friendships will end, fights will go on, and we’ll lose focus all over again.

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McDonalds’ McVegan Burger has already launched in some European countries!

That is, unless we get a grip on ourselves. Unless we remind ourselves during every one of these new ethical dilemmas that regardless of our tactics, we are all on the same side. We’re all fighting this fight because we abhor suffering and needless violence, and we’re trying to create a world without those things. As the vegan community continues to expand, we’ll hear new voices and new perspectives; we should welcome this rather than cast it out.

According to the Top Trends In Prepared Foods Report (2017), the number of self identified vegans in the United States has risen 600% in the past three years! That’s incredible news, but it means our demographics are changing rapidly. This movement is attracting people across all age groups, professions, political parties, ethnicities, education levels, and personality types. Things are only going to get more complicated going forward, and we need to be ready.

If you were hoping to stumble upon a magical solution in this post, I’m sorry to disappoint you. This is simply an invitation for some self-reflection. I don’t have the answers. Instead, I have some questions. Questions I recommend that we all ask before publicly commenting on The Next Great Vegan Battle, whatever it may be:

Ask yourself: Is my comment offering a unique, constructive insight? Am I using insulting or sarcastic language to offend, embarrass, or upset other animal advocates? Would I want someone who just went vegan this week to read this comment? Would I want people who still eat animals to read this? Would my comment please those who are still profiting from animal exploitation? Is this comment pleasing to my ego, and if so, why?

If we remember to ask ourselves these questions before we engage, we have a much better shot at productive, healthy, respectful discussions. We all have egos and strong opinions, and I certainly don’t claim to be immune to any of this drama. I’m sure I’ve played a negative role numerous times over the years, but I’m becoming more and more aware of how harmful that attitude is to animals. It’s only when we work together and resolve our differences respectfully that we actually create meaningful change.

Suffering animals are counting on us. We need to do better.


101 thoughts on “The Impossible Burger debate was a test for vegans, and we failed.

  1. This is so interesting!! I am not vegan or vegetarian but try to be plant-based as much as possible and am a big supporter of animal rights. With that being said, I love the impossible burger AND my meat loving boyfriend loves it which is a pretty big deal!! If it gets more people eating less meat, I think it’s a good thing!!

    1. Thanks so much for reading! I love that both you and your boyfriend like it- that always makes me so happy!

      1. exactly! There’s also no perfect human…..and this same purity test is being applied all over the place from what I can tell and I don’t see how it’s productive. The more we allow others to be different but still engage and hold our own opinions, the more we are all likely to change, whereas the more we try to hold others to some kind of standard, the more they may dig their roots in and refuse to bend.

    2. I feel this is a representation of what is going on in the country. There seems to be a right side or a wrong side. No one listens anymore, no one tries to understand the other side. If one disagrees with your view l, you must anniliate the opposition. The art of conversation is going away, debating a topic turns toxic. We are divided and the division is getting stronger. Everyone goes into thier corner, and nothing gets resolved. For those who are brave enough to try to understand an opposing view, stay strong, stay calm.. open your ears along with your heart. You may begin to understand or see something different. You might be able to meet in the middle and actually compromise… for the greater good. We need more people like the later for us to move forward. Peace and understanding to all.

    3. The issue you didn’t bring up was that impossible didn’t need to test, hey choose to. Under the FDA program G.R.A.S. (general regarded as safe) they could of avoided testing.

      1. She did address that. She addressed literally exactly that, lol. I’m starting to get really fed up with vegans who don’t support Impossible – its clear as a bell that they’re having a very large and positive impact. 14 years vegan here, btw. Apparently, there’s a branch of extremist vegans (who lack perspective, imo) who find it more important to be “perfect” than it is to lessen the demand for beef…

      2. GRAS would not provide enough approval, “No Questions” FDA approval is needed for unlimited distribution and use. Large corporations require this. The only way they were able to get FDA’s “No Questions” was with rat testing, to prove no allergens were present and to prove safety in digestibility.

      3. My thoughts exactly. There are alternative methods available and none of those were discussed either.

    1. Exactly. Many thousands have been sold. The agonizing decision to test on rats was not planned nor done by a myopic viewpoint. The blame falls on the FDA which absolves itself of cruelty by not requiring animal testing but by refusing to acknowledge the validity of new-ingredient testing not done on animals.

      1. The FDA did not mandate the animal testing. Food manufacturers can “self-Affirm” ingredients as safe under the GRAS program. Impossible Burger decided to do the animal testing even though it was never required. This is the point of contention a lot of vegans have about eating it themselves.

        Given the CEO is a biochemical researcher and 250 million dollars in start up money was at stake he probably had some conflicts of interest.

        I support Impossible burger as a meat alternative that competes in in the animal product space, but for vegans it is a much more convoluted issue, especially since there are plenty of other vegan options available.

      2. Dear theveganscientist I’m sorry but you’re absolutely WRONG. GRAS is not enough for unlimited distribution or use. Impossible Burger CEO did not just arbitrarily decide to test on animals. DO SOME RESEARCH rather than just react without the facts or common sense. My apology for being so brusk, but this debate is not helping anyone, especially the animals.

  2. I didn’t know Impossible Burger’s ingredient(s) had been tested on animals. I think I’ve eaten it a grand total of once, and now that I know I won’t eat it again. At least in online spaces, I think people forget that they’re communicating with real human beings and behave cruelly toward each other, which accomplishes nothing positive. Thank you for laying out the different perspectives!

    1. Please carefully read the article again. If you liked the Impossible Burger but won’t eat it because soy heme was tested on rats, I think you’re missing the very important points made in this extremely objective article. I’m also vegan and horrified that the Imp Burger had to be tested on rats to avoid oblivion. I’ve read the letter from Pat Brown, brainchild and CEO of Imp Foods on his agonizing decision to have soy heme tested on rats, which they’ll never have to do again. Peace.

      1. I don’t think she is missing the point, just a different opinion. I’ve eaten the Impossible burger a couple of times knowing the leghemoglobin was unnecessarily tested on rats. (I read the original FDA GRASS petition when it was 1st approved) I’ve tried it enough that I don’t need to anymore.

        For vegans, I believe the best long term strategy is to serve as an “incubator” for products that will take away marketshare away from animal flesh sellers.

        When these plant based competitors grow large enough to support themselves in a larger consumer market, there is no need for a vegan to support them, given the non-vegan market is at least 50X larger.

        This way we increase the efficiency of the plant based pipeline giving the greater market more options, which makes it easier for non-vegans to switch.

        Impossible Burger is growing rapidly in the non-vegan space on its own, I don’t need to support them. If they require a large vegan following to survive, their product probably isn’t good anyway and will only dilute earnings from other vegan companies.

        If they are cutting into the Animal Flesh market, more power to them, but then I don’t need to eat an Impossible Burger for them to compete.

        If I continue to support them despite their size or ethics (just because they make a plant based product) I just take dollars away from smaller vegan companies trying to make it big into the greater non-vegan market. I’d rather be like a micro-venture capitalist in vegan companies.

        My tastebuds aren’t a deciding factor for me, otherwise I would still be eating cheese. I eat like 140 different wholefoods in a given year, don’t really need impossible burger to thrive.

      2. Sevil, the smaller vegan food companies are vital for local markets but larger, national vegan food distribution is essential to get vegan food accessible to everyone. One market s not exclusive of the other. They exist for different reasons. Without mass-distribution, accessibility to competitive, successful vegan foods is impossible.

    2. Massive amounts of food ingredients currently in vegan products were tested on animals. The testing was done once, leading to FDA approval. FDA refused to acknowledge the validity of their original testing, not done on animals. Many thousands have been sold, reducing the number of cows abused then slaughtered. Why would anyone reject such an important food that resulted from 6 years of research, is now widely distributed, and has the potential to help save the world?

    3. Hopefully you will never need medication that was tested on animals. After all, that would be hypocrisy wouldn’t it?

      1. That is a ridiculous and unfair analogy. We do not always have a choice when it comes to medication, but we certainly do when it comes to food. Calling vegans hypocritical for choosing not to eat these burgers is no better than calling vegans hypocritical for choosing to do so. I, personally, will not eat them until they stop with the animal testing. That is my prerogative. If you choose to eat them, then that is your prerogative, but do not tell me my reason for doing so is any less valid than yours.

  3. I loved this article and will share itwith all my friends who find themselves and their sig others, friends, families, etc, somewhere on the spectrum between full vegan and “just starting on the path”. Scaring anyone “off the path” … especially those just beginning to venture into plant-based eating, is detrimental in so many ways. Maybe vegans who find themselves on the warpath for non-perfection vegan eating could consider Rumi’s sage advice when commenting: “Let your words pass through 3 gates (before releasing them): Ask yourself, “Is it true? Is it Necessary? Is it Kind?”
    Thanks for the thoughtful reflection. Will share it broadly.

  4. As a Chicago area resident, I left the Chicago Vegan Facebook group because of the toxic level that, and other conversations reached. It was so troubling to read the horrible comments people were making. That kind of behavior only exacerbates the reputation that many non-vegans have given us- mean, judgmental and closed-minded. Most of us are not, we’re kind, compassionate and hopeful, and not only to animals, but humans too. Thank you for writing this. It needed to be said.

  5. I enjoy the impossible burger, as a vegan of 8 years. At first it was too realistic and the grossed me out but it’s grown on me and several places in my neighborhood actually offer it. We consume and use all kinds of things that are not vegan and things that may be vegan now but the process to get there may not have been. I think perfection is the enemy of the good and purity tests are ridiculous.

    That said – I totally respect those who would not eat this and don’t classify it as vegan. People are going to disagree and that’s cool. I think there’s a place for everyone. My way of promoting veganism is pretty laid back, I don’t judge those who eat meat harshly and my tactics usually involve baking vegan cupcakes to bring to work, sharing good food and often host vegan dinners, etc. And that kind of messaging works for some people to convert or eat less animal products. Some people really respond to graphic images and in your face real info. I think that’s why it’s fine that people have different tactics and it’s great there’s variety in the movement.

  6. Thanks for posting this. Yes, hopefully we can treat each other more respectfully. Let’s continue doing our best to reduce harm to our health, our animals and our environment. Pointing fingers only discourages people, especially non veg people.

  7. Great post. You are right, nothing is black and white…this issue, like many other important issues has a lot of gray areas. Everyone is doing as best they can according to their conscience and no one has the right to condemn them for it. Having a holier than thou attitude about other vegans` choices serves no purpose except
    to bring ridicule to an important movement and choice of life from people who don`t understand us.

    1. They’ve refused to rule iout torturing & killing / testing on more animals in the future, & have even started they will test on / kill again for future products &/or again for the impossible burger. This point is irrelevant though because dismissing the killing they’ve already done & the lives of the 80 rats they killed is abhorrent.

    2. The fail is from “vegans” who’ve sold out the 80 rats unnecessarily & brutally tortured & killed so impossible could attempt to get an unnecessary endorsement from the FDA that they failed to get anyway. Because the impossible burger was tested on animals it’s simply not vegan, just like toothpaste, shampoo or deodorant that’s tested on animals isn’t vegan & even impossible admits this point. This apologist opinion piece is biased against the 80 rats tortured & killed by impossible, & I consider it an embarrassment to the vegan community. What if it had been cuter animals like kittens or puppies that impossible brutally tortured & murdered needlessly & in vain? & what does it say about some people, that they find it easier to dismiss & write off the lives of rats so easily, though they’d likely take issue with impossible if they’d tortured and killed more relatable animals, or if they’d done the same to humans? Yep, there’s indeed a fail here, but it’s not from those of us who are consistent in our objection to the killing, torture & abuse of animals.

      You can read about some of the details of impossible’s unnecessary murder and torture of animals in the info they submitted to the FDA, in their failed attempt for unnecessary GRAS certification:

      1. I’m not vegan nor vegetarian so maybe my opinion doesn’t much count. I don’t like when companies test on animals but better the 80 rats than potentially thousands of humans who would ingest the said burger. The whole point is to make for certain that a product is safe for human consumption. If they were not required to and it just came out and for some reason we all started to become sick with an unknown illness after ingesting the said burger then it would be more of a tragedy than the 80 rats of whom sadly were sacrificed in safety’s sake. I personally would not eat anything that was made by man if it had not been tested first. That said I know vegans and vegetarians alike would say I don’t love animals. And that really is one real reason why I’ve never taken a serious look at becoming vegetarian or vegan. Too much internal backbiting and bickering and drama. I will however definitely incorporate the burger as I do already enjoy eating veggie burgers. Eating less meat for the meat eaters is really what the end goal is isn’t it? Supply and demand because if it tastes like a real burger but it’s healthier well why the heck not?!? I think that’s something most meat eaters could get behind.

      2. I think you’ve really missed the point of the article. The blood is on the hands of the FDA, who refused to acknowledge the original testing making the burger GRAS, generally regarded as safe. Pat Brown, CEO, realized that without animal testing the burger would have vanished into oblivion. They spent years of research and finally created a plant-based vegan – yes vegan – burger that has the potential helping end animal agriculture. Meanwhile vegans are trying to block this burger as vegan, with the potential to prolong animal ag. And that’s not very vegan.

  8. As someone who went from vegan to plant-based (since I was told on vegan groups that I had no right to the label, because I took medicines that were tested on animals, and supported vaccines, which were also animal-tested and derived), I must say that a lot of people don’t seem to have heard of the proverb, “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”. Irrespective of whether we non-animal-product-eaters (since I’m told I can’t call myself “vegan”, because of my medicines) like the Impossible Burger or not, if animal-product-eaters enjoy it, and stop eating animal products in favour of it, then it can only be a good thing, right?

    1. Sounds like you’re vegan to me. Taking important medications that have basically no non-animal alternatives isn’t a reasonable choice you should have to make. I have anti-depressents for clinical major depression and a mood stabilizer for Bipolar II. I NEED those to function. If I can’t function, I can’t support the animal rights movement. Heck, I can’t even leave my house and I don’t think I would have the money to pick and choose how I’d like to meet my dietary needs because I would never be employed.

      And don’t even get me started on Vaccines – we need people ALIVE to advocate for human and animal rights. People dead from a 100% preventable disease is still cruelty to animals – human animals.

    2. You Are Vegan! The definition states avoidance of animal products “as far as is possible and practiceable.” Which is what you do. People don’t realize that so many things we use contain animal products – car tires, cell phones, computers. It’s crazy!! Ending animal agriculture is the first and major step in ending animal abuse.

  9. I was disappointed in this article because, based off of the first couple of paragraphs, I thought it would be more about how vegans should not tear each other down. While that was a major theme of it, the article was used to push your opinion on the matter to the front, and essentially continue the debate with your point of view being right, and the other side not understanding the means to the end.

    As far as my opinion on the testing on rats, I’m not sure if I will ever eat the burger again of not. Probably not, but not because of the issue at hand, but because I prefer other veggie burgers more anyways. The biggest issue with the rat testing is that is wasn’t mandatory according to your article. Sure, it may have made the road easier for them and allowed them to grow faster at a quicker pace, but part of the reason I’m vegan is because I don’t believe we have the right to treat any animal like that. Just because we are humans doesn’t make better than any other species and give us rights to test on them food or products that we are unsure if they are safe.

    It is an ethical issue, and people have wide ranges of ethics. Yours are ok with animal testing in this scenario and mine isn’t. We can both be passionate about our opinions. People may use harsh comments because lives are at stake, lives of animals that can’t defend themselves. That’s the issue, not that people unfollowed you because they disagreed with something you support.

    1. “Harsh comments” don’t save lives. They don’t change minds (unless you count the minds that are repulsed by the commenters’ lack of ability to parse through very complex and tangled ethical issues). They don’t draw people into thinking about veganism. Also, this is a blog. Of course the blogger’s opinion is a focus of the post. She doesn’t claim to be a journalist.

  10. Beautifully put! Unity and understanding would help folks understand why we all became vegan in the first place. Whether inspired by animals or environment, we should stop trying to out vegan each other. All this pious behavior just makes people hate us. Share that vegan love!🌱

  11. Thank you for the article! I have felt this way for years and have pulled away from almost all vegan interaction because of it. One noteworthy conversation was someone telling me I was a slave owner because I leashed my new pound rescue because he tried to run in the street after cars. To keep him alive, I put a leash on him. Bam. I’m a slaver now. I can’t imagine how crazy they seem to the mainstream if they seem insane to me. I don’t eat the impossible burger because it is too much like meat. I like my veggie burgers to be clearly veggie…but I went vegetarian as a kid and vegan some years ago. It’s just too weird for me. I love the impossible burger though, because it might become a viable option for animal eaters and a reasonable way for them to phase out meat.

    1. I’ve had a similar reaction recently. After Anthony Bourdain’s death, so many purported vegans celebrated on social media. I understand their anger at how he spoke about vegetarians and vegans, and about his participation in eating a live octopus. His behavior was vile in this regard, but celebrating someone’s suicide isn’t a good look. I really wish we could live our compassionate values more fully.

  12. Sacrificing lab animals to save cows is Utilitarianism which is a failed ethical philosophy, Peter Singer not withstanding. It is also Speciesism because of course it is the humans who decide who is worthy of being saved and who should be sacrificed for the greater good. Those who want to have their cake and eat it too get no respect from me. (Vegans who secretly want meat)

  13. I think that testing on animals as a vegan is completely insane while we all fight against it. To me is is unjustifiable and defeats all purpose. We are vegans or not. I don’t think the rats should be sacrificed for a greater good. If we embrace that idea, we might as well agree with animal testing because, honestly, what’s the difference.
    I did not know the impossible burger was tested on animals. I will never buy it!

  14. I will not personally eat the Impossible Burger again and was really shocked by my fellow vegans who answered, “yes” when asked if they would continue to eat it. I received lectures on “checking my privilege” “what’s a few thousand rats compared to all the cows we could save,” and so on. I don’t question whether or not it should be on the market – it definitely should. I don’t question that we should remain civil and kind in a world so full of cruelty. I do, however, question the hypocrisy of a vegan eating a product that has caused so much harm when there are plenty of other options available that do not mimic that by which we are supposedly so disgusted. I maintain that eating the Impossible Burger, as a vegan, would make me a hypocrite. I would absolutely encourage nonvegans to try it with the sole purpose of demonstration/doing less harm. There is a definition of vegan and if we violate that, we violate a code of ethics, leaving ourselves open to the “gotcha” mentality of those so opposed to our lifestyle. Yes, that’s a purist view; but when you know better, you do better. Or I’m not a vegan.

    1. “There is a definition of vegan and if we violate that, we violate a code of ethics, leaving ourselves open to the “gotcha” mentality of those so opposed to our lifestyle. Yes, that’s a purist view; but when you know better, you do better. Or I’m not a vegan.”

      Well said and accurate Shannon

    2. You understand that all harvested grains contain some small amount of dead bugs, rodents, and birds, right? You know that the massive, industrial machines used to harvest grains just grab up anything and everything that’s living in that field, right? Including families of mice and voles, grasshoppers, crickets, ants, and ground-nesting birds? And these unfortunate beings are killed in the process? And their pulverized bodies become part of the product? Do you grow your own wheat and oats? Do you ever consume any commercially produced grains? If you do, you’ve already made a similar ethical choice to those *vegans* who choose to eat any Impossible products. You’ve decided that there’s a certain amount of animal death you’re willing to tolerate in order to live in the world. You’ve made the utilitarian tradeoff. There is no perfect vegan (unless you’re Jain, maybe), but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive for a more compassionate life. For me, that means being kind to people who aren’t perfect.

      1. I honestly don’t understand your point of view. There’s two issues presented that are being intermingled into one. One is animal testing and one is how we treat other people who don’t agree with our own opinions. You claim “harsh comments” are bad (with no parameters as to what harsh could constitute as), yet you criticize anyone with a different opinion as yours and praise anyone with the same opinion. It hypocritical.

        Of course there are valid claims to each side. But in the end, every person has to decide what they seem to be ethical, and some people have decided that they don’t think rat testing is no matter what the end purpose it. You can have a different opinion and still respect theirs, especially since they are the ones advocating for rats that no one else will. It wasn’t too long ago that nobody stood up for factory farmed cows and that everyone that did just insulting anybody the ate dairy and meat.

      2. Yep, I do understand that. Unfortunately for your comparison, I have to eat “commercially produced” crops from a standard access perspective. I do not have to eat something like the Impossible Burger. I don’t claim to be perfect, yet I do know the difference between unfortunate necessity and intentional harm.

  15. They should target non-vegan people instead of vegans ! I think most of vegan or vegetarians won’t be attracted by this kind of food that’s it. The target is more the people that like meat.

    1. Almost all vegans are eating and enjoying the Impossible Burger, including the top vegan chefs in America, so you’re simply wrong to say most vegans aren’t interested in it. There are a few fringe holy rollers like you who have insecurity issues and need to feel superior by saying vegans don’t want it; it’s a huge success with vegans.

      1. Lol, Am I feeling superior comparing to you ? Your joke is fun, seriously read yourself again. People I know would’nt eat that, that’s all I say. For sure I don’t know everybody on earth but that’s what I think anyway so calm down you look like you feel superior dude LOL

      2. People who call themselves vegan Edgar but who aren’t really because they’re not avoiding something they easily could. They’re making it more about humans than animals. That’s speciesism. That’s not authentic veganism.

      3. I agree. Vegan for 32 years and back in the 80s being vegan meant not eating animal products period. Animal activism which i participated in back then was just that, animal rights. I love that there is a vegan gf burger that tastes so good and that meat eaters that i know love it too. At the end of the day what is most important is the reduction in factory farmed animals, as more meat eaters realize how tasty something that is vegan can be. It will open their minds to try new foods non animal based as well. Every little bit counts. Everybody draws their line on what they will do for animals in a different spot and sooner or later most people open their minds a little more.

  16. Not interested in the Impossible burger because after 20 years of not eating meat I no longer have a taste for anything that tastes too much like meat or for anything that bleeds, and as a vegan I avoid products that are tested on animals. Not interested in consuming lab-grown meats because it’s still using animals for our purposes, even if it’s only their cells, and vegans are against that. I’m totally content with the multitude of plant-based options that exist. Happy vegan for life!

    1. I agree completely but it seems some people have issues to understand that, and they think we feel superior XD XD

  17. I feel like these types of products are more geared toward nonvegans which is great. The more people who transition the better. But, in my experience, most vegans are vegan for ethical and health reasons (among other reasons). I think this article misses the second point there. Processed foods are not health foods and there is a difference between vegan and plant based.

  18. This article is complete nonsense. Beyond Burger makes a very similar burger that also tastes like the ‘real’ thing, but doesn’t involve animal testing at all. Problem solved. No need for burgers developed through vivisection.

    1. Not quite true. Beyond Burger uses algal oil and although Beyond Meat didn’t perform animal testing on algal oil, some other company did because the FDA pretty much forced them to test on animals (not legally but it is hard to move forward without their approval).

      Many food ingredients, including many that vegans consider “vegan”, were at one time tested on animals, because the pressure from the FDA is so great that one must test on animals or they may not be able to bring their product to market. The solution isn’t to avoid Beyond Burgers or Impossible Burgers, but to push the FDA to stop using the archaic methods of animal testing and forcing companies to test on animals.

      Many companies – say McDonalds or Walmart, would refuse to carry your product if it contains a new ingredient that does not have FDA approval.

      I also find it odd that vegans will eat a vegan meal at a non-vegan restaurant, or purchase vegan products at a non-vegan grocery store, or will eat a Beyond Burger, but then refuse to eat an Impossible Burger. Vegans need Beyond Burger and Impossible Burger to be successful, because the animals need them to be successful.

      We vegans should instead be pushing the FDA to stop forcing companies to perform animal testing.

      We live in a non-vegan would and everything is not going to be truly vegan.

      Here is a brief list of some of the “vegan” items that were tested on animals when they were first introduced:

      Mesquite extract (in liquid smoke)
      Hempseed Oil
      Xantham Gum (used in lots of gluten-free baked goods)
      Vegetable Oil
      Whole and milled flax seeds
      Soybean oil
      Barley fiber
      Pea Protein concentrate
      Algal oil
      Oat protein
      Rice protein
      Corn oil


      1. I agree with every word you’ve said here, and the sentiment behind your statement. Thank you.
        A vegan who lives with vegan dogs who are vaccinated and who take heartworm prevention; who takes daily medication;
        who wasn’t always vegan; who ate vegetarian lasagne because a very kind person who didn’t understand the difference between vegetarian and vegan made it especially for me and I wasn’t about to sneer at her kindness

  19. I love Ratty and Ratty is welcome to dine on my corpse when I return to The Source. This does not mean I am willing to financially support their suffering and exploitation under any circumstance. There are plenty of delicious, ethical options out there. I don’t need my food to be “beef-like” nor do I need to be lazy and settle.

  20. I have been vegetarian since 2000 and vegan since 2009, and have been an active volunteer and donor to a number of major AR groups since 2010. So I have been hearing a lot about The Great Impossible Burger debate this past year!

    I tried the Impossible Burger once, and personally prefer the Beyond Burger – which, as another commenter says, seems to offer similar taste without the animal testing. But I do think the Impossible Burger is helping non-vegans move away from animal products – so its existence on the market is a net positive for animals.

    Irrespective of the pros and cons of the Impossible Burger debate in particular, I LOVE LOVE LOVE your closing “Questions I recommend that we all ask before publicly commenting on The Next Great Vegan Battle, whatever it may be”! You are so right there!

  21. Thanks for writing this. You have an important point for vegans, and an important point for internet commenting in general. Cheers

  22. I disagree with this article. Do you think that rats deserve better than your dog?How about you post a picture kissing a rat to show you are a genuine vegan regardless of you loving eating a burger that is made out of animal slavery, murder and abuse. do not forget that Macchiavelo was manipulative, it kind of permeates this article.

  23. I have not tried this burger because I seem to have no desire whatsoever to eat something that resembles an animal product. I can see how it might be a bridge for ppl who are considering animal-free. I would not condemn anyone who wants to eat it-no matter how it was tested etc. People get so incensed easily-we definitely are living in perilous times here in the States. I think everyone is uneasy. But it is a great time to embrace a plant based diet(IMO)💚🌿

  24. I’m vegan. I eat it. And I’m still vegan. If other vegans don’t want to eat it, that’s their decision. On the other hand, the heme tests are not even in the same category as the on-going slaughter of animals for food. Unless the same vegans who refuse to eat this also refuse to take any medication, use any chemical, or ingest any food ingredient that was initially tested on animals, they are drawing an artificial line in order to create phony purity and a holier-than-thou argument. And, hey, if that douchebaggery doesn’t draw more omnivores to a cruelty-free lifestyle, what will?

  25. We organized a burger challenge here in Sacramento with 34 restaurants involved. There was a big debate about the impossible burger and on our Facebook page, Sacramento area vegans (3700 strong), most sided to give the impossible a shot and it won out. The infighting definitely happened but I believe we grew as a community. We are all vegan and we all have the same goal. Our group has been doing a lot more events outside of just online chatter and it’s bonded us and steeled us. We are making our voices know to the chefs and to our Omni friends. Thank you for your article

  26. The fail is from “vegans” who’ve sold out the 80 rats unnecessarily & brutally tortured & killed so impossible could attempt to get an unnecessary endorsement from the FDA that they failed to get anyway. Because the impossible burger was tested on animals it’s simply not vegan, just like toothpaste, shampoo or deodorant that’s tested on animals isn’t vegan & even impossible admits this point. This apologist opinion piece is biased against the 80 rats tortured & killed by impossible, & I consider it an embarrassment to the vegan community. What if it had been cuter animals like kittens or puppies that impossible brutally tortured & murdered needlessly & in vain? & what does it say about some people, that they find it easier to dismiss & write off the lives of rats so easily, though they’d likely take issue with impossible if they’d tortured and killed more relatable animals, or if they’d done the same to humans? Yep, there’s indeed a fail here, but it’s not from those of us who are consistent in our objection to the killing, torture & abuse of animals.

    You can read about some of the details of impossible’s unnecessary murder and torture of animals in the info they submitted to the FDA, in their failed attempt for unnecessary GRAS certification:

  27. I completely agree. I’m disgusted with these vegan purity contests and their Internet firestorms. The vitriolic comments from the people involved, who are supposed to be on the same side, must delight Big Ag and all the slaughter industry.

  28. “Earlier I said I tend to fall on the “ends justify the means” side of the spectrum, but it’s never that black and white. If cells from one slaughtered cow were able to feed one billion humans, would I support it? Maybe. If cells from one slaughtered cow were able to feed 100 humans? Probably not.”

    Let’s do a little thought experiment:

    “If cells from one aborted fetus were able to feed one billion humans, would I support it? Maybe. If cells from one aborted fetus were able to feed 100 humans? Probably not.”

    You do realize how absurd and wrong this sounds?

    Killing living beings for our own benefit is never okay, no matter how big that benefit. If the conversation were about humans instead of cows, no one would be even arguing this. Your (probably internalized) speciesism is showing. Please think about this.

  29. Thank you for your thoughtful, common-sense article. Despite everything you’ve said, there are still people, vegans, not willing to see the bigger picture. Meanwhile, millions of animals, fowl, and fish continue to be exploited and slaughtered while vegans argue about a food that could, and will, help end all of it.

  30. Vegans are not the target market. Meat eaters are.

    That said, we have no right to use and abuse other the first place. No Impossible Burgers for me.

  31. I’m not a vegan. Or a vegetarian. Or particularly oriented toward either position. I eat meat, and enjoy it, and am untroubled by the ethics of it in general. I am a product of my culture and my environment and trundle through my dietary choices like the other 96 percent of Americans who enjoy a burger or fried chicken or bacon or sushi or what have you.

    I am, however, perfectly willing to switch to a different product and pay a premium for that product if it materially reduces environmental impacts and might lead to better health outcomes, lower production costs, larger food supplies and, yes, reduces animal suffering. But, realistically, I’m only going to switch if the food tastes as good.

    I’ve had the Impossible Burger. It’s good enough to switch.

    Vegans: you’re not the market for this stuff. The other 320 million of us are. And if it isn’t evident by now, the rest of us really don’t care what you think, and don’t have to care. Have a religious argument — because that’s what it is, effectively — about whether this stuff is kosher in your camp. It’s not like other philosophical orders don’t debate such things. How long did people argue about whether Coca-Cola was kosher? How often do mosques argue about what is halal or not? Fish on Friday, or no?


    Get down with your bad selves. Knock yourselves out. We don’t care.

    If your goal is to reduce animal suffering, though, you should do what you can to make things like the Impossible Burger economically competitive.

    1. Your perspective is important for vegans to understand. The massive msinstream cultural shift we (vegans) want will only occur when vegan foods are accessible and affordable. Ethics health and environment are sadly not enough reasons for most people to change. Major cultural shifts that go against the status quo have only appened when the minority few with vision and courage advocated for justice and challenged others’ beliefs with the truth.

  32. I see the argument of doing more good than bad, but I can choose Beyond burger which is similarly “beefy”, cheaper and not tested on animals. Everyone is free to do what is best for them. For me, it is not supporting this company.

    Others have written the Impossible is geared towards converting meat eaters and less concerned about veganism where as Beyond is plantbased and caters to both sides. That’s a fine argument too. In the end, for me I still won’t buy or eat the Impossible burger again.

  33. animal testing is not vegan
    getting people to agree with you if you tell them they can still be vegan while exploiting animals is too easy, but will never be right

  34. I’ve never tried an Impossible burger but I understand the sentiment of this blog. I feel the main issue is intolerance of anything or anyone who isn’t a 100% card carrying vegan. I went vegan and after being bullied and harassed on FB I eventually got turned off the whole ethic and thought ‘vegans go forth and multiply’.

    I have a couple of interesting questions though, if the world went vegan in any period from overnight to one year – what happens to all of the livestock? They either have to be slaughtered and disposed of or fed and supported like pets until the end of their natural lives. Is this ethical when people are starving in the world right now?

    What happens to all of the people who worked in those industries and their families who they can no longer afford to feed? It’s a much more complicated issue than many vegans are willing to acknowledge but if they stopped trying to get one upmanship on each other over who is the most virtuous and stopped attacking members of their own communities, especially newcomers then we might actually be able to have a chance to sit down and discuss how we start to solve the problem.

    Personally, I’ll definitely keep trying to be vegan again to myself because there is no way I am going to be villified by people who pretend to be perfect but don’t understand the first thing about how to achieve their aims.

  35. I whole-heartedly agree with this article. And I also completely understand why many vegans are opposed to the Impossible Burger because of animal (rat) testing. Imp. And they’re right, animal testing is unethical. But there’s more to this story than what ends there.
    The Imp. Burger took years of complex, intensive research to be developed because it uses a unique form of heme from the root of soy plants, that has never been used before. Millions of dollars have been invested in this burger which has already been eaten by nonvegans INSTEAD OF ANIMAL BURGERS.
    This is the first of many conundrums, ethical challenges, that we will be facing as more plant-based meats continue to be developed and widely distributed. According to a video on Bill Gates You Tube page, only 8% of the world’s plant proteins have been used or discovered. This means that many more new food substances are going to be tested for human consumption. As long as the FDA has a say in the success of these foods, it is very likely that initial animal testing may need to be done. While animal testing is not legally necessary, it became essential to the success of the Impossible Burger because of the FDA, not because Imp. Foods CEO thought it would be just a good idea.
    Remember, no one yet lives 100% vegan. It’s impossible. We do our very best, avoid animal use/abuse wherever and whenever possible. Otherwise, we’d have to stop driving cars, and never use a cell phone or computer.

  36. Great article. My question is, what is the nature of the testing on the rats? Are they harmed in any way? Regardless, I do believe it is for the greater good if it means less cow burgers on the market and more plant based burgers!

  37. Such a good article! Dare I suggest that animal lovers broadly join forces and include people who also eat meat, but still have a conscience about animals, generally? The locavores, who eat only food grown or raised locally and on a small scale, should be included in every discussion about animal rights because they are fighting climate change–which is the single worst threat to animals across the planet. See

  38. Really good article 🙂 Sometimes I think veganism has gotten to the stage now where a lot of ‘hardcore’ vegans are actually its worst enemy! It is exploding right now, and so many people want to identify with the label, and so many more are eating vegan on a regular basis and identifying with reducitarianism and flexitarianim… ultimately a great thing for the planet, their health, and a big reduction in animal exploitation. But vegan puritism seems to call for people to either abuse animals wholeheartedly, or not at all, which makes no sense to me. A lot of vegans are completely missing the point of supply and demand, and that actually the 90% and 98% vegans are the majority of plant-based eaters driving market forces towards a future where it will be easier and cheaper to be vegan than to not be, at which point we will reach a tipping point.

    I read a good article by Tobias Leenaert recently (you’d probably love his books and articles), and something really resonated with me, that “being vegan is about being a member of the world’s smallest club”, and sometimes I think that’s just it. Veganism has always been pretty exclusive, a minority subculture that prides itself on going against the grain. So now it is becoming mainstream, it is undergoing a sort of identity crisis, perhaps? Is it about saving animals, or about being pure and righteous even at the cost of the movement’s ultimate goal?

    I’m vegan by the way, almost 4 years. And I used to lean towards the kind of hardcore, extreme, abolitionist approach before I realised how self-destructive, illogical and counter-productive it could be to actually making real change in the world. I still wouldn’t personally buy the Impossible Burger because I personally don’t want to place demand for animal testing, but I would much rather see people eating that than beed burgers.

  39. This is so true and well explained! It is difficult to figure out independently where I stand on issues like this, both in how I act and what I think. I think you’re right, there’s no right answer and this burger’s popularity will save lives in the long run so we should support the idea, even if it’s not perfect and even if I myself don’t like and eat it. But this was a refreshing and reorientation thing to read!

  40. I absolutely loved your article, and I agree with every word of it. We need to look toward the bigger picture here about how this is going to save so many cows by demanding fewer beef burgers, which will in turn help our environment suffer less. We are fighting for so much as vegans, and if we fight against one another, then we lose our strength.

  41. I’m particularly startled by that person who said they would go back to eating beef if they couldn’t eat the Impossible Burger. They may not have been serious, but there do seem to be people who abandon their principles because they feel too much pressure in the community to conform to a ‘party line’.

    But vegans don’t, in fact, have to be part of a community. You don’t have to like the community to believe in the underlying principles that caused its creation.

    All you have to do is steer clear of animal products, to the best of your understanding and ability, in line with your personal judgement.

    The worst thing to do is to flip 180 over a silly argument with another human. It’s not, after all, the innocent cow’s fault that your fellow vegan happens to be a jerk.

  42. Hi there, I just wanted to say that this is one of the most well written and well thought out articles about veganism I’ve read, and I have read several, I promise, despite not being a vegan myself. I keep testing vegan foods to see how they taste and so far there are very few that I enjoy, or even want to “Get used to,” but my plight will continue.

    I was quite saddened about all the infighting. If I ever take the plunge to become vegan I shall probably keep it to myself in order to not upset anyone!

  43. Great article! I think the Impossible Burger is an awesome source for those that are meat-eaters and want to try an option that is not animal-based. However, it 100% is not a vegan product. Anything tested on an animal is not vegan. I am vegan and learned about the testing they did on rats and was bummed I ever tried the Impossible Burger, BUT I am really happy that this option exists now for those that are not vegan as it provides an alternative to beef. I understand some vegans will still eat this product; but in my honest opinion, they are also probably pretty relaxed on other things that or not vegan. I think one thing we can ALL agree on is this product will definitely help save the environment and hopefully lessen the cruelty of other animals.

  44. Thank you for an informative and balanced insight. I’ve been vegetarian for over 30 years, milk free for more than a decade and vegan for over 3 years. Over those years I have seen SOOOOOO much energy being lost with people trying to “out-vegan” each Other. I personally welcome any effort to reduce animal suffering. With people like yourself giving balance, I truly believe that the Vegan movement will continue to gain momentum and we may actually turn this planet around. Thank YOU … Jem xxx

  45. Thank you for this post. Your thoughts and questions were thought provoking and something I feel is needed. Not sure I will try the impossible burger or not. Want to research more about the heme iron in it. But you raised a lot of good points. Much appreciated from a fellow Colorado Vegan

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