FishGate & Food Police, Vegan Fridays, and Why Consistency Matters
Medium, February 27, 2022
Recently, we published an article exploring our concerns about how people in the vegan movement champion New York City mayor Eric Adams as a symbol of progress for the vegan, plant-based, and food justice movements, despite his harmful, anti-progressive agenda. One intent of the piece was to examine what message haloing Adams sends to other social movements and those most impacted by injustice that many vegans purport to be allied with.
We made a point to grant that we believed Adams’ commitment to veganism was sincere. In the days after it was published, a minor controversy that came to be known as FishGate broke out. Politico and many other outlets reported that Adams regularly orders and eats fish at the swanky establishments he frequents, and we began to reflect on why we so easily believed that Adams was representing his dietary practices honestly. After all, this is a man who generally does not behave like someone who holds himself accountable to his words. His ability to stretch the truth led many during his mayoral campaign to question if he is truly a New York City resident. Sometimes it seems like the only thing consistent about him is inconsistency.
In short, we were misled by the same greenwashing tactics that we were writing to warn against. To greenwash is to convey a false impression about a product, company, or brand’s commitment to positive impact through performative gestures or misleading labeling. Often greenwashing is not just about encouraging positive sentiment among consumers, but also distracting from business practices or scandals that could draw negative attention. In the case of Eric Adams, the aggressive promotion of his veganism has been used to pull focus from his long and not always pretty history in New York City politics, and his administration’s dangerous policy agenda.