Constantine Sandis, University of Hertfordshire – « The Cheese that Agriculture Won’t Allow » (online | en ligne)

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Constantine Sandis, University of Hertfordshire – « The Cheese that Agriculture Won’t Allow »

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In recent years, the European Union has been amending its agricultural bills to ban the use of terms like ‘cheese’, ‘milk’, ‘butter’, ‘mayonnaise’, ‘sausage’, and even ‘burger’ in the marketing and advertising of plant-based products. Now the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CIFA) and the USDA in the States are following suit. The socio-economic and political motivations behind the proposed legislation are obvious. Without losing sight of them, this paper focuses primarily on the poverty of the linguistic arguments mounted in defence of said regulations. These allege essential ties between certain words and animal produce. Thus, for example, in February 2019 The Globe and Mail reported ‘lawyers say … cheese is a common name defined by its standard of composition; it must be made from milk and/or milk products; and milk comes [from] the normal lacteal secretions obtained from the mammary glands of animals’.

I begin this paper by pointing out that such claims are factually false, as evidenced by the existence of coconut cream, almond milk, and cocoa butter, all of which are exempt from all current and proposed legislation. I next argue that there is no coherent argument against the extension of such terms to products derived from soya, oats, cashews, etc. Following an interlude in which I briefly compare the rhetoric of vegan companies to those of animal agriculture, I conclude with some remarks regarding the relation of meaning to use, and reflect upon why it is much easier to engineer the extension of concepts rather than their contraction.