An upscale burger chain in England is pulling the plug on a recent advertising campaign after people complained that the ads were offensive to vegetarians. According to the Daily Mirror, the ads for Gourmet Burger Kitchen, which recently appeared in the London underground rail system, included taglines like “Vegetarians, resistance is futile” and “You’ll always remember when you gave up being a vegetarian.” Another ad, emblazoned with the image of cow, quipped: “They eat grass so you don’t have to.”
The backlash on social media was swift and persuasive, prompting the chain to take down the objectionable materials. “Our intentions were light-hearted and not meant to cause any offence, but clearly we have, and for that we apologise,” the company said.
Lighthearted maybe, but pretty dumb nonetheless. The biggest offense? Alienating a chunk of the company’s own customer base: beyond the traditional meat patties, Gourmet Burger Kitchen also sells veggie burgers, meaning that a proposed vegetarian boycott could have real financial consequences for the company.
Equally egregious: not coming up with some fresher jokes. People have been poking fun at vegetarians seemingly forever. (See: Mencia, Carlos.) A lot of that has to do with the longstanding stereotypes of vegetarian projecting moral superiority and being ultra-health-conscious. But that old convention doesn’t quite hold up amid the complexities of today’s dining scene.
As New York chef Amanda Cohen told us in an enlightening interview on vegetarian mythology: “There’s a silent majority of vegetarians out there who don’t care that much about animal rights, who aren’t focused on their health and who could care less about what anyone else eats.”
To hear her tell it, jokes aimed at vegetarians tend to reveal more about the jokester, and not in a particularly flattering way.
Says Cohen: “[B]ashing vegetarians is like guys with receding hairlines who have ponytails: you sort of feel sorry for them. A chef who says they hate vegetarians is a chef who has a tired ‘Mmm…bacon’ t-shirt in their closet.”