The South African Department of Agriculture has banned the use of names that refer to meat products in any vegan product alternative containing fake meat ingredients. The names in question include Biltong, Meatballs, Nuggets, BBQ Ribs, Bratwurst, Chorizo, and Chicken Strips. Plant-based food items using any of these names had to be removed from shelves by 22nd June 2022. According to the Department of Land Reform and Rural Development, these names are misleading and they do not meet the requirements of “processed meat”. 

Donovan Will, Country Director at ProVeg South Africa, said to Vegan Food & Living, “this is a huge step backwards in the Government’s fight against climate change. Regulations such as this one are exactly what we don’t need when the world’s scientists are telling us we urgently need to reduce our meat consumption to help brake dangerous global warming. The regulation also disrespects consumers. There is no evidence to show that people are confused by meaty names for plant-based foods. In fact, evidence from Australia, Europe and the US prove they are not confused.” In other jurisdictions, this tactic from the animal agriculture industry has failed. 

The attempt to ban plant-based foods from using the terms “burger” or “sausage”’ in the European Union did not succeed. A similar attempt in Spain also failed. However, EU law already prohibits the use of some carnist terms, including “milk” or “cheese”, for plant-based alternatives to dairy products. The use of asterisks or replacing the “offending” carnist words has been a straightforward solution, so this tactic, even when succeeds in forcing companies to use alternative names, has not slowed down the growth of plant-based alternatives. From a vegan perspective, one could say that it could be theoretically better that names in vegan products are very different to prevent consuming animal products by mistake, but for a lazy flexitarian who consumes them both without caring, perhaps it would be more convenient if the names are the same.

“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.