Seeing Ecophobia on a Vegan Plate


  • Simon Estok Sungkyunkwan University



Vegan studies, ecophobia, food and gender, The Game Changers, meatless burgers


      There has been a sudden growth in the vegan industry, with meatless burgers garnering a profoundly inviting reception and even people such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jackie Chan supportively entering the conversation. In some ways, companies such as Beyond MeatTM and Impossible FoodsTM and films such as The Game Changers are succeeding in doing what many political vegetarians and vegans, academics, and activists have long failed to do: to have a real effect on the animal agriculture business. Perhaps this is something to celebrate, especially since (despite the arguments, protests, and even veg-friendly businesses having steadily increased) the numbers of animals involved in the industry have consistently swollen. To rest much hope in the current vegan trends would be to fall victim to a deceptively sexist and ecophobic guiding narrative. While taking big steps toward shutting down the animal agriculture business, the great strides of the vegan industry follow a well-worn path. Putting veggie patties in the meat aisle and shunning words such as “vegetarian” and “vegan” engages in a disavowal of vegetal realities, and the fact that the meat aisle itself is so heavily gendered effectively re-genders the food itself. It may all seem harmless enough—even productive—until understood within the larger context of patriarchal “attempts,” to cite Laura Wright, “to reconceptualize veganism as an alternative untramasculine choice.” The Game Changers drips with such attempts, and, like the “meatless” products now enjoying such popularity, reeks of male self-delusionalism about having discovered a healthful, new diet. There is a lot more than veggies being served up with what we might call the new veganism, and there is not much chance of really effecting change unless we look at what’s really on the plate.


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Author Biography

Simon Estok, Sungkyunkwan University

Dr. Simon C. Estok is a full professor and Senior Research Fellow at Sungkyunkwan University (South Korea’s first and oldest university). Estok teaches literary theory, ecocriticism, and Shakespearean literature. His award-winning book Ecocriticism and Shakespeare: Reading Ecophobia appeared in 2011 (reprinted 2014), and he is co-editor of three books: Landscape, Seascape, and the Eco-Spatial Imagination (Routledge, 2016), International Perspectives in Feminist Ecocriticism (Routledge, 2013), and East Asian Ecocriticisms (Macmillan, 2013). His latest book is the much anticipated The Ecophobia Hypothesis (Routledge, 2018; reprinted with errata as paperback in 2020). Estok has two co-edited collections coming out through Routledge (Mushroom Clouds: Ecological Approaches to Militarization and the Environment in East Asia, forthcoming December 2020 and Anthropocene Ecologies of Food, forthcoming June 2021), and he has published extensively on ecocriticism and Shakespeare in such journals as PMLA, Mosaic, Configurations, English Studies in Canada, and others






Articles: Food, Plants, and Interspecies Relations