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Constantine Sandis – The Cheese that Agriculture Won’t Allow

Le Groupe de recherche en éthique environnementale et animale (GRÉEA) a le plaisir de vous inviter à son prochain événement en ligne :

Constantine Sandis (University of Hertfordshire), “The Cheese that Agriculture Won’t Allow (voir résumé ci-dessous). La conférence aura lieu sur ZOOM mardi 13 octobre 2020 à 12h (EDT).

La préinscription par courriel est requise : ely.mermans@umontreal.ca. Pour toute question concernant l’accessibilité de l’événement, n’hésitez pas à nous contacter.

The Research Group in Environmental and Animal Ethics (GRÉEA) is pleased to invite you to its next online event:

Constantine Sandis (University of Hertfordshire), “The Cheese that Agriculture Won’t Allow (see abstract below). This event will be held through ZOOM on October 13, 2020 at 12:00 pm (EDT).

Registration by e-mail is required:ely.mermans@umontreal.ca. For any accessibility issues, please, feel free to contact us.

Constantine Sandis, University of Hertfordshire, “The Cheese that Agriculture Won’t Allow”


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.

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