Vegans skip the Super Bowl

Well that’s 1:41 I can’t get back.

PETA produced a Super Bowl ad to promote veganism, except the ad didn’t run during the Super Bowl.  Perhaps PETA couldn’t afford the ad time.  Or perhaps someone realized it would be counter productive.  The basic story line is some guy who allegedly created marketing campaigns for meat goes to confession at a church and asks the priest for forgiveness for his meat-promoting activities.  Because apparently meat is sinful.  Sustainability and humane livestock management are fake.  The priest decides Mr. Meat Marketer is beyond redemption and slams the little confessional window shut.  It’s all done in dark gloomy colors and dolorous tones.  A guaranteed method for converting carnivores to start eating highly processed soy burgers. Not.

Sanctimonious badgering about food choices is a turn off.  You especially aren’t going to persuade any dedicated meat eaters to make the drastic switch to a vegan diet with this kind of ad.  So what’s the purpose?  Self-congratulation on a national stage?  Sanctimonious badgering about religious or political beliefs is similarly unsuccessful.  Why did anyone think this was a good idea?

Meanwhile meat was the focus of a recent puff piece by food writer Mark Bittman in GQ, in which he outlines how to be a “smarter happier meat eater.”  Quite the opposite of PETA’s message.  The article was full of PR for those purveyors of ethical meat products condemned by PETA.  I won’t bore anyone with those details.  The Big Picture message was one I can agree with: if you eat meat, buy quality meat.  That means raised and slaughtered according to ethical and sustainable practices.  And yes PETA, that is possible.

It’s also expensive.  But in a way that’s a good thing if it means you eat meat less often and probably in smaller portions.  If you’re eating less meat, you are by default eating more plant-sourced foods.  It’s sort of a back door way of adopting a more Mediterranean style diet.  Here’s an example: for some people, a 1 lb rib eye steak is just right for 1 person, maybe two.  Yes it is a ridiculously large serving size, but it’s not unusual.  What if you split that steak among 4 people?  Everyone gets a small portion and the rest of the meal is made up of plant foods such as potatoes, salad, a legume dish, a cooked grain or sautéed vegetables.  Here’s another option: let’s say that 1 lb steak is for 2 people, because you like to really indulge when you eat steak.  But you only serve meat like that once a month, or once every 6 months.  It’s enjoyable but only rarely, no pun intended.  So that’s another way to have your meat and eat it too, so to speak.  Less often.  The rest of your meals are more plant-centric.   It’s a more positive way to address the meat eating dilemma.  Instead of sneering at meat eaters, present a solution so people can enjoy quality meat in a more sensible way.

In retrospect, PETA was wise not to run that kind of ad during the Super Bowl, which after all is watched by people who are mostly dedicated meat eaters.  Vegans make up 1% or less of the population.  They are typically quite committed to their dietary cause, and don’t need additional validation from an ad, especially one that makes them look gloomy, judgmental and smug.  You aren’t going to win any friends that way.  Maybe if they try again next year, they can figure out a more positive and humorous message.

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