What if the real push towards a vegan world did not come from vegans?

Last Saturday, I attended a talk by the Dutch entrepreneur-farmer Jaap Korteweg, who founded the Vegetarian Butcher (Vegetarische Slager) in the Netherlands. What started as a small but very well branded shop, is now a major vegetarian/vegan product line with hundreds of distribution points in the Netherlands, and – soon – a proper factory. Products by the Vegetarian Butcher have won numerous awards, and the story has received media attention the world over.

After that, I listened to Mark Post, the pioneer of cultured (in vitro) meat, also from the Netherlands. Post is the researcher who three years ago presented the first lab grown meat burger to the media in London – which was one of the biggest stories about meat and its problems in the history of this movement.

Now. Neither Korteweg nor Post are vegan. The same goes for their investors. The instigator and initial funder of Mark Post’s research, the recently deceased Willem Van Eelen, was not even a vegetarian. And neither is, as far as I know, Google’s Sergey Brinn, who gave a 700.000$ donation to Mark Post.

Some of the biggest propagators of the vegan revolution, people with a lot of impact – or future potential impact – are not vegans, nor do they all believe in animal rights. It’s good to realize this for several reasons.

For one thing, it can keep us, vegans, modest. We may be thinking that when the world will finally change for the better for animals, it will be because of our hard work and our ethics. That’s only partially true.

Also, it may help us to see the relativity of some of our own differences in opinion, our ideologies, our philosophizing and theorizing about what, in the larger scheme of things, are often details.

Most of all – and this should be obvious but obviously it’s not – it should make us realize that we should welcome everyone to be part of this movement, vegan or not.

Vegans alone won’t win this battle. It is far too big for that.