‘Archdiocese of Chicago disapproves of plant-based meat during Lent’

From WGN9:

Today is Ash Wednesday,  when Christians get the sign of the cross rubbed on their forehead.

It’s the start of Lent when Catholics are asked to abstain from meat on Fridays. But what about plant-based meats?

Despite plant-based meat containing no animal flesh, the Archdiocese of Chicago expressed disapproval at the thought of eating soy or protein-based meat during Lent.A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Chicago said you risk losing the whole spirit and meaning of abstaining from meat if you go the fake-meat route.

“What’s behind the whole tradition in practice is to go without in order to be in solidarity with those who are hungry, with those who can’t afford meat,” Todd Williamson, director of the Office of Divine Worship at the Archdiocese of Chicago told the Chicago Tribune. “By going without that we are reminded of others. We experience hunger ourselves. So it’s a bit deeper than whether it’s just a meat product.”

In our backwards world, this somehow makes sense to a religion that preaches compassion.

‘‘Ethical Veganism’ Is a Philosophical Belief, British Court Rules’

Elian Porter for the NYTimes:

On Friday, judge Robin Postle at the employment tribunal in Norwich, in eastern England, ruled that ethical veganism qualifies under Britain’s Equality Act as a philosophical belief and that those embracing it are entitled to similar protection as those who hold religious beliefs.

Under the Equality Act, which was passed in 2010, individuals practicing a religion or holding other belief systems are protected from discrimination in the workplace, if those beliefs are compatible with human dignity and don’t conflict with the fundamental rights of others.

A court ruling that a way of eating should be classified in a similar way to religious beliefs makes sense. For many non-secular folks, a diet is one of the few places where we have to adhere to an ideology—like a religion—every day. Adherence and commitment strike a similar chord too.

‘The village that’s been vegan for 50 years’

Abigail Klein Leichman for ISRAEL21c:

Everyone knows that Tel Aviv is the vegan capital of Israel, right? After all, it’s home to scores of vegan restaurants and many of the 5 percent of Israelis who eat a plant-based diet.

Well, here’s a surprise: Long before you could get veggie shawarma in Tel Aviv, a community in the desert town of Dimona pioneered the vegan lifestyle in Israel.

They’re called the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem and they live in a compound called Neve Shalom (Village of Peace). The original 138 members of the community, mostly natives of Chicago, arrived in Israel in 1969.

I found many parts of their veganism fascinating. For them, it stems from specific Bible verses:

They are not Jewish, but they consider the Bible their history and guidebook.

In Genesis 1:29-30, a plant-based diet is prescribed for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden: “And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree on which is the fruit yielding seed; to you it shall be for food. … everything that has the breath of life in it, I give every green herb for food.”


“We eat foods in season and no foods that are seedless. For example, no seedless grapes or watermelon. That goes back to the biblical verse about ‘every herb bearing seed.’ There’s something about the seed that makes it the proper food for our consumption and if you tamper with that it would have a negative effect,” says Ben Yehuda.

And I love this bit showing their dedication:

In the early days, the Hebrew Israelites could not find vegan staples like tofu and soymilk in Israel. So one community member was sent to Japan to learn how to manufacture them.

“When he came back, we invested in a factory producing tofu and that led to an entire range of foods that [we] began to develop from soy and other sources,” says Ben Yehuda.

The company they started has gone on to produce over 200 products, including the cheese for Domino’s vegan pizza in Israel. It shows what a little dedication and time will do.

‘Fort Sill’s dining facility is the first to offer troops a 100 percent plant-based entrée at every meal ‘

The Guns and Rockets Dining Facility at Fort Sill, Okla., is setting a new standard for healthy food options by offering a 100 percent plant-based entrée during every meal.

It’s the only dining facility in the Army providing options for soldiers who don’t eat meat, eggs or dairy, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jeremy Patterson, a food adviser for the 75th Artillery Brigade, told Stars and Stripes via telephone Friday.

This is great.

Let’s hope meals-ready-to-eat (aka MREs) happen next. There are currently 24 MRE options, with 4 that are vegetarian. It’d be nice to see at least 1 option be vegan. Being deployed is hard enough, but imagine not being able to eat well either. If most of the whole world is grouchy when not fed, I’m scared to imagine how that might affect someone who’s main job involves a gun.

‘Shalt thou eat an Impossible Burger? Religious doctrine scrambles to catch up to new food technology.’

Laura Reiley with an incredibly interesting piece for the Washington Post:

This month, Tyson announced it is investing in a company that will launch plant-based shrimp early next year, raising a curious question. Will it be kosher? The short answer is its ingredients — which mimic the verboten crustacean with a proprietary algae blend — could well be both kosher and halal. Once the product launches, the company will seek certification so that Jews who keep kosher and Muslims — certain Muslim groups avoid shellfish — can enjoy a shrimp cocktail, scampi, a po’ boy or ceviche.

And yet. In this era of plenitude and choice and disruptive technology, what is permissible, what is forbidden and what is flouting the letter of religious law? The food system is in flux, the rise of plant-based meats and the promise of cell-cultured meats bending categories such that legislation, ideology and theology are scrambling to keep up.

If God says no pork, how does He feel about a very persuasive forgery? And if only beef from the forequarter is permitted, how will observant Jews parse meat grown in a lab, no bones and no quarters at all? How do you bleed an animal with no blood or slaughter an animal humanely if there’s no slaughter? And if you give up meat for Lent, what constitutes a cheat?

This bit from Rabbi Eli Lando, the chief customer relations officer with OK Kosher, is an interesting question:

“Is it a violation of the spirit of the law? That becomes a realm that you can never end.”


The prohibitions, he said, are about the actual creatures (pigs, shellfish, rabbits and reptiles), not a plant-based facsimile, however uncanny the likeness. Strictly kosher Jews, he notes, are frequently big fans of fake crab made of finely pulverized white fish. Lando sees plant-based meat as a revolution of sorts.

“A person today knows that being kosher does not mean you have to go to the back of the store and look for something like a second-class citizen. Having those products commonly available is achieving a great milestone,” he said.

And I didn’t know this was part of the Muslim tradition of Halal:

The inspection and certification process is similar for halal foods. For plant-based products designed to imitate haram products (pork and other foods forbidden by Islamic law), Roger Othman, director of consumer relations for Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America, said words matter.

“Plant-based bacon bits, for example. The product would qualify to be halal but may be repugnant to halal consumers if the word bacon appeared in the name,” Othman said. “Halal consumers would not know what pork chews like, maybe not even what it smells or looks like. If plant-based, it could qualify to be halal, but the naming should not contain any pork-related words.”

Which ties slightly back into to the recent legal flare-up between many states’ meat-industries and free-speech advocates that would allow plant-based foods to call themselves “meat”, “sausage”, or even a “burger”. It would be interesting to see if certain products might be repackaged or relabeled depending on what stores they end up in — so that they might be allowed into Halal shops or supermarkets in certain states that deem meat-related labeling illegal.

It’d be interesting if many vegan products, once fully mainstream and with widespread use, moved to welcome religious or more niche audiences by changing parts of their products to appeal to those needs. Maybe we’ll see the same product packaged twice: one named to reference a similar flavor or product (i.e. Tofurkey or things labeled “Chik’n”), and then another where the words give the impression of an entirely new category of product (e.g. seitan, tofu, tempeh). Or if Impossible developed another heme product that they didn’t test on rats to try to entice a certain group of strict vegans. All of these things are possible, but I don’t know what it would take to be cost-effective.