Should we care about E-numbers

This post was originally written in my mind back when Piegate (did anyone ever call it that? They should have) was a thing.

Before I start, I better get in before the vegan police do – sure, if a product contains an ingredient derived from animal products, it is technically by definition, not vegan. But should we really care about that?

What is the point of veganism? Is it to make sure no animal products go down our throats? Or is it to end the systematic oppression of animals? (Hint: it’s the second one). So technical definitions aside, what is the most beneficial action we can take to do this? (Hint: it’s not spend 3 hours every day memorising your E-numbers).

The harsh reality is that people are lazy. People may want to help animals, but they also want to be able to pick up a yummy looking piece of food and eat it. The easier we can make veganism, the more likely people will be to adopt it. And here I get to my point. E-numbers don’t make veganism easy – lets face it, they’re a pain in the arse. No one want’s to remember 1000 different numbers and where they come from, or have to email a company because there’s a 10% chance that one ingredient may be animal derived.

So why do it? No really, why? What do you get out of it? What do the animals get out of it? Not much, tbh. And what is the cost? It makes veganism difficult, and hard to sell. I started this post with reference to the Vegan pie that didn’t end up being vegan; as a great example. When a vegan pie came out it was a big deal, it made veganism a lot easier and more accessible. And then a news article appeared, and we were all fucked. Suddenly veganism went from petrol station easy to damn near impossible. Suddenly vegans couldn’t even eat vegan labeled food. Who would want to become a vegan when you can’t even safely eat food marketed to you? In my opinion, this was terrible press for us.

Did I care that a 0.001% of the pie was made from ground up chicken feathers? Not in the least. We and the chickens both have bigger things to deal with. 90 million chickens die every year in New Zealand alone for meat. What are a few ground up feathers in comparison to that?

In the fight to end animal oppression, our biggest goal is to move away from the idea of animals as food – i.e. don’t eat chickens. Do you really think that if we stop people eating chickens, they’ll still continue to farm them simply to use their feathers as a pastry conditioner? Doubtful.

Most E-numbers that are derived from animals are simply by-products. They are used simply because they are there to use. If the animals aren’t being raised for meat, then no one is going to raise them simply for the by-products. The economics just wouldn’t make sense. If we knock out the foundations, the rest will fall. There is no reason to waste our limited time and resources on such an insignificant part of veganism when there are much more important issues to tackle.

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