Plant-Based Food as Activism, by Stacey J. Anderson, PhD, MVLCE

posted May 21, 2024

Let’s just lay it on the table, shall we? Whatever we in the vegan community think about plant-based meat analogues, animal agriculture is intrinsically destructive:

  • Photo Credit: Freepik

    It is a major driver of climate change.

  • It relies on a hierarchical mindset that is inherently oppressive and injurious, particularly to females (both human and animal).
  • It is about extracting in the short term at the expense of the survival of not only humans but also the planet and the ecosystem we rely upon.

We simply do not have the real estate on the planet required for a meat-centered global population. The global population can be well-sustained on plant-based foods.

Photo Credit: Freepik

Not only can we sustain ourselves, but we are free to experiment with the most exquisite tastes on the planet: spices, herbs, culinary plants—the very stuff that established lucrative historical global trade routes.

One totally legitimate form of vegan activism is to give people food so awesome that they can only say, “More please!” Tell them ahead of time, or not, that the menu is vegan. I find benefit to both approaches:

A. Say the food is vegan and let them see for themselves how exquisite it is, or

B. Just give them exquisite food, and tell them later that no animals were harmed in the creation of that fabulous spread.

Either way, the result is happy folks saying, “Wow!

Photo Credit: Dr. Stacey Anderson

I recently had some major work done on my house by a Brazilian work crew. I put out a coffee bar in the morning: French roast coffee, vegan sugar, Oatly milk—and the workers gulped it down! I taught myself how to make Brazilian pastries and candies for these hard-working folks, and they gobbled them up like it’s nobody’s business. I’m sure the leftovers are making it home to their families, who also get to indulge in tasty vegan treats.

I created a vegan recipe for a traditional Brazilian stew, Moqueca de Camarão, that usually features seafood. Mushrooms are infinitely more varied and, of course, cruelty-free, so I made it as Moqueca de Cogumelo (Brazilian Mushroom Stew) with wild foraged mushrooms for this meat-eating crew on their lunch break and it stopped the show!

Moqueca de Cogumelo. Photo Credit: Dr. Stacey Anderson

One doesn’t need to be a vegan to know what good, wholesome, ambrosial food is when it passes one’s lips. And I didn’t need to give them defrosted plant-based meat products. I’ve also provided Bolo de Cenoura (Brazilian carrot cake) with Brigadeiro (chocolate ganache frosting), and Pe de Moleque (Brazilian peanut brittle)—all vegan.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen tables of food emptied so fast.

Maybe vegan meats would have been a hit too. Vegan meat analogues definitely have their place. I do know from this experience that overtly plant-based foods made these guys happy for two weeks.

This is vegan activism.

Photo Credit: Dr. Stacey Anderson

I relay this anecdote to say that meat is what is delicious at the time—and in this house, mushrooms are meat. Cashews become cream. Almonds become cheese. And traditional foods are all the more sumptuous for being luscious, nourishing, and wickedly good without the cruelty that goes along with tradition. I watched a worker take a photo of the Oatly container I put out with the coffee. It’s obviously not cow milk—it’s better. And I bet his family back at home tries Oatly soon.

Vegan meats are fine by me. Nonetheless, my favorites are plants proudly in a dish without trying to be meats at all, but rather are in-your-face yummy plants. Gone are the days of being apologetic about plant-centric dishes. Enter foods that entice, titillate, entrance, delight, gratify, captivate, satiate, and indulge… all while being sans cruelty. Enter the world of vegan delights.

This is why I call myself an ethical hedonist. This form of food-as-activism helps others see veganism not as having to become ascetic or deny one’s desires, but rather as an indulgently delicious, creative, kind way to be.


Photo Credit: Dr. Stacey Anderson

Dr. Stacey J. Anderson is a recovering academic, a voice actor, and a certified Master Vegan Life Coach and Educator (MVLCE) from the Main Street Vegan Academy. She is known as The Vegan with the Voice, specializing in voiceover projects for progressive causes of social justice, environmental sustainability, veganism, animal welfare, and science literacy. In her work as a vegan educator, she teaches new vegans and pre-vegans how to fall in love with the entrancingly luscious, environmentally sustainable, compassionate, and health-giving world of vegan cuisine.  Stacey lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and their lovably incorrigible rescue cat. Find her at StaceyAnderson.com.

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