Maybe you saw the homophobic tweet posted to the Beyond Meat Twitter account sometime over the last 48 hours. I found it very upsetting and have reproduced it below for the sake of this post. (Above used with permission of Twitter user)
I found it shocking, upsetting and a complete curveball to see something so blatantly homophobic posted on a social media account of one of the biggest (the biggest?) new vegan companies on the planet. The response from Beyond Meat was suitably swift and full of emotion. The company worked quickly and decisively to rectify the situation best they could, reaching out to every single person who expressed concern with a response similar to the one they sent me.
Unlike many company apologies due to social media scandals, I personally take the Beyond Meat response and apology to be sincere and heartfelt. If they are guilty of anything, I believe it is outsourcing or not keeping a tight enough hold on their social media.
They are responsible for the above situation. There is no getting around that, but it does appear to me they are attempting to take responsibility for a situation that upset countless people and could have caused irreparable damage to their brand.
Even though this homophobic tweet took me by surprise, I have noticed a pattern in the Beyond Meat Twitter timeline that highlighted that maybe their best person wasn’t on the job. If you are working with or on behalf of a vegan company, you need to know your stuff.
Obviously not as damaging as the homophobic tweet, but in my opinion still embarrassing, was the Twitter exchange with celebrated activist and writer Carol J. Adams. Adams, who is a longstanding legend to many in the vegan community and beyond, was congratulated by the Beyond Meat Twitter account on what it perceived to be her recent decision to switch to a vegan diet and was rewarded with a voucher for a free product.
Adams clearly took the mistake in good-humoured stride and thanked the company for their generosity. I include this exchange here to show how easy it is for a company to lose credibility within its core customers by employing people to be a public voice who are not in touch with its core ethics or audience. Hopefully this latest Twitter storm will have shown Beyond Meat how crucial it is to employ trustworthy, aware, compassionate and progressive people to be their voice of social media.
SO, that’s the end of that chapter. Let’s move on.
I was offended by the Beyond Meat tweet so I publicly reached out to them about the content of the tweet. They responded in a way that made me feel heard and understood. This transparent process is how it should be. Beyond Meat took responsibility for the situation and didn’t once try to diminish the severity of the situation.
They didn’t play the ‘but we are vegan so we are nice’ card for a moment. But others did.
Following on from my initial tweet about the homophobic message, I received a number of responses telling me it was no big deal or how wonderful Beyond Meat are to animals. Take for instance this message sent to me from one of the founders of vegan restaurant chain Veggie Grill.
(Please note: this message seems to have more parts but they have been deleted by the sender) Veggie Grill want to give a character reference for the founder of Beyond Meat. Good for them. I understand. But telling me Ethan is a friend to animals as a response to my concern of a homophobic tweet makes me feel belittled and offended.
UPDATE Veggie Grill c0-founder Kevin Boylan contacted me to say the following quote was meant to be sent to me with his original message and without both parts of his statement, he feels he has been taken out of context: “I know the CEO and founder of Beyond Meat, Ethan Brown, and he is a good man. He immediately fired the employee who was responsible for that ridiculously moronic and offensive tweet.” END UPDATE
My reaction to a homophobic tweet has nothing to do with how compassionate to animals Ethan of Beyond Meat is or is not. If he was not in charge of a groundbreaking vegan company, would the tweet from his company be suddenly more offensive? I think Ethan is doing a fine job of tackling this issue and such apologetic messages from his supporters appear to be using his veganism as a way to negate the impact of the original offensive tweet. I think he would be best left to fight his own battles.
Veganism does not stand alone. There are many issues and social problems that intersect. When someone calls out a vegan for being sexist, homophobic or racist it is extremely unhelpful to use veganism as a get out of jail free card or a way to lessen the blow.
As a shining example of this, I leave you with a message sent to me by somebody running the PETA UK Twitter account. I raised a concern publicly that I found a lot of their campaigns to be sexist and damaging to society. The response I got was a classic example of trying to shut a concerned person down by playing the compassionate vegan card, except this time they also told me I was not helping animals by targeting their sexism.
Vegan companies can and should take responsibility for non-inclusive language and actions, no matter how many animals they have saved.
This may sound stupid but what does the offending tweet even mean?
Homosexual no more.
Peta is dead to me since they came up with the highly offensive Got Autism? Campaign again a couple of weeks ago. I was one of only two vegan activists (among a myriad of non-vegans) who complained to them via several tweets & posted proof of a) how wrong their claim was and b) how it offends Autistics. Their responses were devastating, they completely ignored every argument and just kept repeating their claim over and over, it was like talking to a very badly programmed robot. This kind of arrogance is even beyond ‘playing the good vegan card’ – although I know what you mean. The worst thing is that they’re supported by many vegans who also don’t look beyond veganism. During my discussion with them I got heckled by a vegan tweeter who couldn’t care less about the fact that a) peta works with pseudo-scientific claims and b) offends people intentionally or at least grossly negligent. I was supported by many in the Autistic and scientific community but I’m afraid to say: the fellow vegans were more than indifferent. I don’t know how ignorant one can be but to think that offensive behaviour creates sympathy for our cause is beyond stupid.
PETA has been dead to a LOT Of vegans for a very long time.
I could care less about whether or not they consider their naked ads sexy or shocking, and I really have no opinion about that (I am not shocked or offended by playing up sexploitation among obviously consenting adults).
PETA kills thousands of animals every year, supports and PROMOTES the killing of millions of animals every year. And when people who used to be their supporters balk at that, they have the audacity to pull the “compassionate vegan” card as though any convenience killing done by a compassionate vegan is A-OK.
Screw them. Screw their domestic abuse promoting ads. Screw their crazy autism ads. Screw all of their killing.
They could have presented a message of compassion to animals used for food, clothing and entertainment and maintained their support base. They could have presented a message that does not stand on the heads of others in order to make their point and maintained their support base.
But Ingrid’s way is (apparently) to justify killing, justify any bad behavior on her part and hide behind the vegan label to attempt to deflect criticism.
A really important and well-timed post. As an intersectional and ethical vegan, I don’t believe we can create a world free from violence and oppression by using violent and/or oppressive tactics towards others.
This blog post offends me.
If you had a problem with the tweet, a private email to the company would have sufficed. But that wouldn’t have brought in the blog clicks, would it?
I agree that vegan companies shouldn’t hide behind the vegan card, but also vegans like you shouldn’t spend so much time looking for controversy and dragging them through the mud.
I didn’t spend much time at all looking for this controversy. Actually, no time. It was in my timeline as I open my computer.
So I shouldn’t write blog posts such as this because it could be construed as looking for clicks? I don’t accept that as an alternative.
I am a vegan activist, as well as an activist for the queer community. I look to raise awareness of issues (good and not so good) that affect my community, outcomes for animals and many other social justice issues. How I choose to voice my take on these issues is my business and I will no time soon be taking advice from anonymous comments left on my blog.
Blog posts like this aren’t activism. It is attention-seeking tabloid writing.
I hope one day your vegan activism extends wider than keeping an insular community updated about the latest hot dog gossip.
We all do what we can in our own way. I present what I feel is an informative mix of news, reviews, personal opinion, event information, links to activist events and more in the form of a somewhat popular blog. I also run massive not for profit events that support the London vegan community. I run a support network for LGBT vegan Londoners. What is important here is my take on my actions. I view all of the above as an extension of my activism.
So what SHOULD this person spend their time doing? Is there some small list of acceptable behaviors vegans should engage in that you would find less offensive?
If you had a problem with the blog post, a private email to the writer would have sufficed. But that wouldn’t have satisfied your need to project your opinion on the writer with this comment, would it?
🙁 Good for you to voice your feelings… Sometimes people type a lot faster than they can think! And sometimes people think stuff that should never, ever be typed! Simply choosing to eat a plant-based diet doesn’t make us good people. Being a ‘good person’ does that!
I find that social media needs to be handled with a lot of care… I once questioned somebody who I hugely respect via FB (not offensive, just questioning) and really regretted it afterwards for ‘doing it in public’. Totally amicable, but it taught me a lot about how to act on social media and that there is ‘real person’ on the other side of our monitors.
Absolutely agreed, being progressive in one area can in no way be used as justification for being backwards in others… I remember one campaign, I think by PETA (Though I find a lot of PETA’S campaigns ridiculous and ineffective at best, if not annoying/offensive) on Facebook with some caption like “70% of teenage girls cry when they see this” with regards to factory farming, thereby targeting females in particular rather than a potential global audience, and with regards to the nature of their statement, furthering the stereotype that veganism is “for girls,” who are of course all massive crybabies… I seem to remember they changed it later to “teenagers” so I can’t have been the only person irked by it.
I’m shocked that you were told not to speak out because it wash’t “helping the animals” – as though to be a “true vegan” you have to put animal activism above everything else. Which wouldn’t work in any case. I realise this company doesn’t have “homophobic policies” or anything ridiculous like that, but lets just say it did, I wouldn’t buy from them no matter how animal-friendly they were. Case in point: Hitler was supposedly vegetarian and pro-animal rights. I think these folk saying such things to you should consider whether this would have justified his other policies…
I agree with everything you said, as soon as I looked at the Beyond Meat timeline I could tell that someone new was in charge of their twitter, and didn’t hold the company themselves responsible for being offensive. I think companies are trying to be more edgy/entertaining on social media because they’ve seen how some companies get attention for it (like Taco Bell), so that’s what they ask for when hiring a social media ‘expert’.
But I still can’t believe that anyone would think that tweeting that was a good idea. No matter your own personal ignorance, anyone who actually gets paid to run social media should know better than to say anything racist/homophobic on behalf of a brand. Also, BROTEIN?!
As far as bringing these issues to light ‘not helping animals’, people need to knock that off. Being vegan doesn’t mean you’re automatically a good person or a brand that deserves blind support. Peta is a great example who can go fuck themselves.
I think that Beyond Meat handled the situation well, didn’t try to sweep anything under the rug or pass blame, and I think that’s why it’s good that you wrote this. More brands could follow their example in dealing with such a blonder.
Very well said! I should get you to write my blog posts, Katie. xx
Haha, I just have a lot of feelings about the general issue of companies blundering on social media and not caring because it happens SO MUCH.
I can’t agree more. Doing right in one area doesn’t excuse failing in another. We can’t insulate ourselves and only care about a single issue.
In the words of Martin Luther King ‘Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.’ I find myself saying this more and more these days, so many people just don’t get it. PETA certainly don’t. Hate (and sometimes of course, just plain old misunderstanding) is NOT single issue. Good for you for standing up for this. That Beyond Meat tweet was beyond offensive. Also, screw companies that try and shame people for calling them out on this BS.
People telling others that their activism isn’t effective- particularly when they’re not vegan, is laughable. These are the same people who think you should never say a negative word about a vegan restaurant; you should just be happy they exist. I don’t want to live in a world that short-sighted.
Absolutely SPOT ON. What a wonderful post!
Thank you! xx
Keep on doing what you’re doing, be yourself, and if there are people that disagree, then you are doing something right! 🙂
Giving people/organizations a pass on racism, homophobia, sexism et al because they are vegan or AR is unacceptable. Calling them out is not gossip or attention seeking. Thank you for your post and for standing up to single issue vegans.
Thank you for updating and for all you do!