“Why call a vegetable patty a steak?” Anyone who has adopted a vegan diet has been asked this question more than once. And rightly so, many vegan brands label their products with qualifiers that evoke meat products such as “steak”, “sausage” or even “cutlet”. Enough to anger the meat industry and certain politicians. In the United States, in Louisiana, the Tofurky brand has just won a major legal victory in this area. This vegan company, like the others in the industry, will be able to designate its products as it sees fit. Light on a trial that will likely be a milestone.
For Louisiana, the “steak” or “galette” debate was settled. In 2020, the US state passed a law banning the use of meat terms by vegan brands. And this, even if their packaging says “vegetable” or “vegan” next to the mention “steak”. Brands that failed to comply with this ban then faced fines of up to $500 in fines per day.
A law considered “unconstitutional”
It was too much for the Tofurky brand, which specializes in plant-based alternatives to meat. Turtle Island Foods — the owner of the brand — filed a lawsuit against state regulators in October 2020 to repeal this law, which it deemed unconstitutional. Louisiana court just ruled in his favor, as reported vegetarian†
“Louisiana court has seen through this deceptive law, protecting the first amendment rights of companies like Tofurky and people from Louisiana to access the healthier, more sustainable foods they want”said Jaime Athos, CEO of Tofurky. As a reminder, the First Amendment to the US Constitution specifically guarantees freedom of expression.
An important precedent against the “censorship” of vegan products
According to vegetarian, Tofurky was represented by two non-profit organizations: the Animal Legal Defense Fund and the Good Food Institute (GFI). Their legal action was intended to demonstrate that using terms such as “vegan burger” or “vegan sausage” did not confuse consumers and that a ban would confuse them rather. These arguments have been used in response to those of the meat industry, which argue to the contrary.
Thanks to Tofurky’s legal victory, vegan brands can now use whatever terms they use on their packaging in Louisiana. Above all, it sets an important precedent and could encourage other brands to oppose these bans, categorized as “censorship” in other states.
This semantic battle over vegan food is played out in many countries around the world. In France, a recent report by the NGO Greenpeace pointed to the influence of meat lobbies in court decisions in this regard. For more information, read our article on this topic by clicking here.