Industries that have previously been dominated by animal products now offer vegan alternatives that are incredibly similar- if not almost identical- to the real deal. Faux snakeskin, faux fur, fur leather and faux meat have come on leaps and bounds in the past decade, to point where arguing that you eat meat because you “love the taste”, or wear fur to keep you warm are no longer feasible arguments. Although this boom in the faux market place demonstrates that the masses are getting on board with the vegan lifestyle it does beg a few questions. Why do animal products still sell so well, and does having “imitations” just make the “real deal” more acceptable and/or luxurious?

Vegan alternatives prove that you can enjoy all the food you used to enjoy just as much as before.The food industry has burgeoned with meat substitutes, and the market is projected to exceed $6.3 billion by 2023. Whilst cities still have the monopoly on new restaurants, food markets, whole food stores and launches, the impact of social media means that anyone can get in on the action and the accessibility of these products and services goes far beyond just a niche group of hippies.

Deliciously Ella and Niomi Smart are both influencers with over a million followers each. Both refer to themselves as plant based rather than vegan, and encourage people to live a vegan lifestyle for the bounty of health benefits, as well as the impact that being vegan has on the environment. Both have cookbooks that offer little “meat substitutes”,  instead offering a more nutritious and well balanced lifestyle around natural ingredients.

However there is certainly a growing demand for faux meats, that has far outgrown the simple (but very effective) Quorn alternatives. This offering can provide a familiar nod to what recent vegetarians and vegans have opted out of eating, you don’t have to change your diet, or meal plans, just an ingredient. For those whose good intentions would be ruined by the craving for some junk food (ice cream, cheese on chips, or a burger) places such as Temple of Seitan in Hackney offer the junk food experience without the guilt.

Faux meat can make the transition to becoming meat-free easier for those cooking at home:  People already know how to cook it. With the ever growing trend of “Meat Free Monday” a faux meat substitute would easily sneak onto the plates of families looking to be meat reducers, in a very accessible and easy manner. Are your family going to be that devastated when they realise that they’ve had quorn spaghetti Bolognese instead?

As @compassionisthefashion states “Most of us are vegan because we love animals, not because we didn’t like how they tasted (as awful as that sounds) so faux creations are a wonderful for people to go vegan, but still enjoy the food they were used to eating and enjoying. ♥️

  • ramblesmomThey are fantastic. We have friends who run a restaurant and they have added about 25% more vegan options because they LOVE the variety, and are so impressed with what can be created that’s cruelty free. I order food from a vegan butcher and they love all of it. Great “imitations” remind people the flavour of food is the key – and that doesn’t have to come from animals. I also love telling people my shoes (usually yours) are vegan. I get a lot of “that’s not suede? Wow.”

Plant milks are noted to be one of the most popular alternatives popping up on the market, with sales globally rising 25%. As a nation of tea drinkers and cereal eaters, milk is such a habit that often people won’t question that there is a better version; not only ethically but also taste wise. The colossal variety of milk alternatives available (oat, almond, soy, hemp, hazelnut, coconut, rice, cashew…) means that even the most determined carnivore might be doing themselves a disservice by settling! Vegan cheeses have also gone from boy to man and have matured beyond measure, and vegan “soul food” is a growing market of the offering treats so delicious no vegan could ever be accused of not living the high life.

The flip side, as always, is the health implications. A vegan lifestyle is proven to be better for your health, and this information could buoy people to not bother finding the nutrients they need. Vegans still have to actively seek out fruit and veg and not live on burgers and crisps. Could a movement that has the power to really change peoples relationship with eating better be thwarted by the amount of junk food being sold as healthy living?

Food isn’t the only faux minefield; behold The Textile Industry.  As new materials become increasingly realistic it’s hard to determine what is real and what is faux, especially when looking at a magazine, catwalk or Instagram post. Controversial, as many people disagree with promoting even the style of fur. The very fact that the look of fur is fashionable, desirable and opulent contributes to it’s desirability, and if nobody can tell the difference, nobody is going to risk shaming you for something you can easily deny.

As long as those who make the choice to wear real fur feel “protected” in their choices, it is impossible to know whether fur is seen as a taboo. Without such good alternatives, people would be more likely to consider the impact of wearing fur in public as the shock factor would be so much higher.

As long as faux fur is seen as not simply a comment on ethical consumption but also about money, the association with real fur and luxury fashion remains unbreakable. The fact that it’s increasingly hard to distinguish between the two – faux fur and real fur – could mean that the two are promoted equally.

However luxury vegan brands, for example faux fur brands such as Shrimps, are creating a luxury market using fake fur. Although faux fur is notoriously bad for the environment, luxury faux fur could be the way forward. 

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The faux fur trade is also not entirely transparent. Whilst there would be mass disgust and outrage at a meat alternative containing traces of meat there have been real life instances of faux fur either being or containing fur. For example, in 2017 Misguided came under fire when they sold a pair of shoes containing cat fur, and this could just be the tip of the iceberg. Fashion brands such as TK Maxx Amazon, Boohoo and Groupon have also been exposed as selling products that are sold as fake but are actually rabbit or mink. This lack of  awareness could be leading to a total ban on faux fur products. This London Fashion Week was the first to be “fur free”, but had only asked around the main designers to see what their intentions were; not enforced a ban. 

  • ella_v_pons Good point. If I’m wearing vegan leather no one knows, all they see is a nice leather bag etc
  • thewannabeactivist I think they’re good for people just getting into the lifestyle, they can eat what they’re used to while eating vegan. Eating a whole foods plant based diet is great but sometimes you just want what you used to have.
  • [email protected] same thing goes for materials, once we realise the real thing is ACTUAL skin, etc, it’s awful. The fact faux versions exists means you can stay fashionable, whilst being compassionate; compassion is, after all, the fashion 😜 xoxo.
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