Joanna Lumley has been vegetarian for 45 years, but for the first time on Wednesday night she tried the revolutionary new vegan burger which is said to “sizzle” and “bleed” like real meat.
The British actress and model, who is passionate about farm animal welfare and is a patron of Compassion in World Farming, is hopeful that the Beyond Burger will spur more people to ditch meat.
Speaking exclusively to HuffPost UK ahead of sampling the new Beyond Burger, which isn’t yet available in the UK, the 71-year-old says she is confident that plant-based alternatives to meat and fish will “catch on”.
“The idea (of not eating meat) panics people. They wonder ‘how do you get your protein’, but the truth is that we’ve never been taught about it because the farming lobby is so strong and so powerful, it’s rather like the oil lobby, which manages to bury or stifle any new ideas which is not to do with oil,” Lumley says.
The food innovation event took place on London on Wednesday night as part of the world’s first ever conference to explore the impact of livestock production on our planet.
Lumley stresses the importance of working with farmers and calls for meat to be more expensive in order to limit the amount that is being consumed.
Yet she admits that the idea of more expensive meat is hard to sell as people want meat that “costs the gutter”.
“And then there’s something slightly aggressive about it (people’s arguments) ‘I don’t see why I should go without meat’, ‘animals are there for us’, Lumley adds.
She stresses the importance of meat alternatives being appetizing.
“If you can lay the breadcrumbs to the cage then you can catch any animals you want. It’s got to be delicious, so you mustn’t do it to feel virtuous and a slog,” Lumley says.
The Beyond Burger, which is backed by Bill Gates and Twitter founder Biz Stone, is the first of its kind to be stocked in the meat section of US supermarkets.
Vegans are hopeful that the burger will soon make its way onto the shelves of Britain’s retailers, although no plans have yet been announced.
Its creator, Beyond Meat, says the plant-based burger has 20g of protein, is cholesterol free and contains no gluten, soy or GMO ingredients. The effect of the burger “bleeding” comes from beetroot.
Lumley says she is hopeful that people, particularly the younger generation, are starting to embrace a plant-based diet.
“Once it’s in your head that it’s completely normal not to eat meat or fish, there’s no battle to be fought because the next generation will have expensive meat when they do eat it, they will eat much less of it, and they will be much, much healthier.”
But Lumley says apathy is the biggest threat to people embracing a diet richer in plant-based alternatives.
“The difficult part to sell about this is to try to say to people to do something good for the planet. 50% of people will do something good for the planet but 50% couldn’t give jack anything, they will continue to chuck stuff out of the window, buy 74 plastic bags a day and throw them away, they will not recycle stuff because they don’t care.
“Indifference is the worst killer. It isn’t the enemies who you can always have a debate with, it’s the people who simply couldn’t care less.”