What did the 250,000 USD stem cell burger taste like? Will the blue lupin milk destroy the dairy industry? Can the Veganz supermarket chain push out Tesco one day? And what do all the activists sneaking to barns with a camera to film the cruel treatment of animals have to say about it?
The makers of the German film in competition Good – Better – Vegan? travelled around the world to see the contemporary state of vegan business, culture and counterculture. The film stems from the belief that this mode of plant-only nourishment is no longer a marginal thing and instead begins to show attributes of a mass trend. The change begins to show – in Germany alone there are 1 million vegans, 7 million vegetarians and 40 million people who try to significantly limit their animal product consumption.
It all has its repercussions, for example economic ones. Thanks to broadening the product range by vegetarian and vegan foods, the famous producer of meat products Rügenwalder has recorded a two digit growth. The Veganz supermarket chain is also growing. German farmers plant the sweet lupine – its extract competes with soy milk. In Switzerland they opened the first fully vegan hotel in the world where everything including the furnishings is of vegetable origin; and in Normandy, in the heart of French cheese culture, the owner of vegan Gourmet Café Paris set up the first purely vegan culinary school.
Things are happening in labs and scientific centres too. We meet scientists who have grown the first artificial burger made of stem cells or genetic engineers who are polishing a method to make milk proteins using genetically modified yeast cells. Today we already produce insulin this way, in the future it might even be possible to make human breast milk.
The title Good – Better – Vegan is a little contradiction to what many producers and business people try to achieve with veganism – that it stops being seen as an ethical choice thanks to which vegans are “better” beings than meat-eaters. In contrast, the film outlines veganism as a full-bodied lifestyle that doesn’t mean you have to abstain from any sensual pleasure. Only the taste of vegan cheese is said to be still sort of…
“Good – Better – Vegan” takes place on Tuesday 17th October at 2.30 pm in the “Velká Aula” hall.
Celluloid Fabrik production company, which produced Good – Better – Vegan, won the Award of the Dean of the Faculty of Agrobiology, Food and Natural Resources for 10 Billion: What’s on Your Plate? at LSFF 2015. Do you think that those 10 billion inhabitants of the planet Earth will one day have fully vegan food on their plate?
Choice is the key word – imagine 10 billion having no choice but to be vegan, because eating meat would be akin to dumping nuclear waste in your neighbourhood. Eating meat could be deemed asocial one day. Yet I believe there will always be a small group, be them elitist capitalists or revolutionaries, who will crave for meat and eat it. I think, I will be among them.
Scientists will probably be able to grow artificial meat one day. Will the ethical problems of veganism disappear when in order to get the few original stem cells from a muscle tissue an animal has to die?
No! Although no animal has to die, due to a biopsy to get a few stem cells, the question remains, if you can punish a predator like a human being to follow his/her natural instincts to kill for food and eat it, too. You wouldn’t ask your pet cat to become vegan, would you? Yet as humans, we’ve got the “moral” responsibility to find a balance between what could be acceptable behaviour regarding exploiting natural resources and destroying nature itself!
In the film you get to meet bio-hackers. Can you explain this term? Being in a garage with a group of enthusiasts trying to produce milk using whale DNA placed in a yeast cell, did you feel part of a technological revolution comparable to the foundation of Google or Apple?
Yes! What a beautiful space to feel the making of the future! And at the same time to feel human hubris as well! We – as a species have the gift of thinking and imagination to create a better world and yet we carry the spark of our destruction with us all the same. People, much brighter than myself, observed thousands of years ago that good and evil are flip sides of the same coin.
Good – Better – Vegan is full of food: lupine milk, vegan cheese and salami, haute-cuisine in Paris. Did you try to taste it all and what did it taste like?
I’m a connoisseur and hobby chef – I love food, full stop. So I will taste everything, trying to learn new ways through the culinary universe.