The happiest place on earth?
I was pondering on the recent actions of Disney. In the space of few days they announced a new Vegan Bakery (an extension of the Erin McKennas Babycakes brand) and in a marketing balancing act with some fanfare, a ‘$115 steak’ that will be available at ‘The Boathouse’ and ‘Disney Springs’ restaurants.
While it is reasonable to applaud the inclusiveness of Disney in catering to the different dietary requirements of its many diverse visitors, it does make you think. While veganism continues to mainstream, larger corporations are increasingly likely to frame veganism as a ‘dietary choice’ rather than as a lifestyle based on a philosophy.
On the menus, vegan options are bundled with the macro-neurotic eating requirements. The Bakery that Disney just launched is titled as a ‘Gluten-free and vegan bakery’. Disney is not alone in this; most airlines and hotels also group veganism with allergies and special dietary needs. The net result must be a meal that disappoints people with gluten-allergies as much as me, with what is on offer. Aiming at two totally different audiences with the same product leaves both parties unsatisfied … and probably musing that the cardboard box container looks somewhat more appetizing.
To be fair it must be hard being an airline, hotel or entertainment business in the current consumer market where every second month there is a new diet trend, which eschews an ingredient which is contradicted by the following food-fashion of the next month. It would seem though, that businesses that adapt to this new reality have the prospect of becoming more successful. The concern here is that simplicity is seen as the most sensible economic avenue – to those eating this, there is the dearth of flavour. The error corporations are making is thinking of veganism in dietary, not lifestyle terms.
This increasing commodification of vegan as a dietary requirement is making it easier to eat out, but at the same time it is making why one embraces a plant-based lifestyle more soulless. While it’s great to see a wide range of choices at Disney that are vegetarian and vegan, this is really only half the picture.
But then perhaps Disney does deserve a pass, they have been consistently confused about animals. For decades Disney has anthropomorphized Mice and Ducks as people who incongruously own dogs that aren’t as intelligent. In a world of quasi-speciesism, poor Pluto is forever cast as the faithful family pet.
Perhaps the reality is that from a vegan perspective, Disney can never be ‘the happiest place on earth’ while they are condoning the death of animals to feed people. However, if it is a fantasy land, maybe the fantasy I can buy into is that the bakery is the first bold step to the ethical-colonisation of the food courts of Disneyland. Where all animals are treated humanely.