A 2001 schism splintered the vegan community into two camps: absolutists who tout veganism as an all-or-nothing moral imperative, and pragmatists who quietly advocate for incremental change. The vegan movement’s brain finally outgrew its heart, and in less than two decades the pragmatic vein of the movement has morphed into one of the biggest disruptors of the American food system.
(...) Fast-forward 16 years and that small group of pragmatists have built the movement they imagined. Friedrich leads The Good Food Institute, a lobbying shop in DC that represents the interests of meat-alternative food products; Shapiro helped mastermind a cage-free ballot initiative in Massachusetts that will reshape how food animals are produced across the country; Prescott has made inroads into major investment banks; Meier leads undercover investigation efforts to expose the poor living conditions of many farm animals; and Tetrick, who as a college student would travel from West Virginia to DC to hang out with the pragmatists, was a founder of Hampton Creek, the well-known eggless condiments company.
(...) Voters who empathize with farm animals were much more likely to buy into Shapiro’s measure. That’s where Erica Meier and Compassion Over Killing comes in: By leading undercover investigation of factory farms, Meier’s team gathers the opposition research needed to make a compelling case to the public. And if sales data show consumers care about animal welfare, Matthew Prescott can use—and has used—it to convince investment banks to pressure companies, such as McDonald’s, to change their practices.
Meanwhile, companies such as Perfect Day (cow-free milk), Beyond Meat (plant-based meat), and Hampton Creek (eggless condiments) are developing meat and dairy products marketed as better for the environment and the animals. And to ease those new products into the marketplace, people such as Bruce Friedrich work to shape federal regulations that dictate how those new products can be marketed.
Despite the broad reach and proven efficacy of the vegan pragmatism, not everyone in the larger vegan movement is impressed.