We Don't Have Time
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We Don't Have Time

The vegan changemaker and the battle of the veggie burger

The battle is won. A European veggie burger can still be called a veggie burger.
Gustav Johansson, one of the leading Swedish voices on vegan food, played a key role on the battle-field. One of his weapons was a climate review he created on We Don't Have Time.

Vegan entrepreneur Gustav Johansson enjoying his favourite meal.

Gustav Johanson is the hard-core burger lover who ate his last piece of meat in 2006. In 2018 he turned vegan, and since then he has written three cookbooks, lead countless workshops on vegan cooking, received numerous awards, and collaborated with restaurants, schools, and food companies. He runs the biggest vegan food blog in Sweden and his Instagram-account has got 88 000 followers.

It came as a surprise to no-one that Gustav Johansson reacted with anger and frustration when in 2019 a proposal to ban the use of terms like ”veggie burger” and ”veggie sausage” was put forward by the EU parliament’s agriculture committee.

The proposal stated: “Names currently used for meat products shall be reserved exclusively for products containing meat [including] steak, sausage, escalope and burger.”

This made Gustav Johansson really upset. ”I felt that the proposal was so far from what the EU should be doing. It was a decision that went against all sustainability principles you could think of. If the European Parliament would vote in favor of the proposal it would be very destructive for the climate, as well as for consumers trying to find good alternatives to meat.”

So Gustav Johansson created a climate warning on the We DontHave Time App, titled #Savetheveggieburger.

The campaign got a lot of attention, spread quickly, and has today received over 1 900 agrees.

”The response was good”, Gustav Johansson says. ”I think the main reason is that this was something very concrete and easy to explain. It is also a very emotional topic, which makes it easy for people to engage.”

Gustav worked hard to get the proposal rejected. He joined a big European campaign that lobbied heavily against the proposal, and started collaborating with organizations deeply involved in the debate.

The work paid off. On October 23, the European Parliament voted in favour of the veggie burger.

Do you believe your efforts made a difference?

”I really think so. I have campaigned for this on so many levels. I have a big platform in Sweden, which I have used to spread information and interview Swedish EU parliamentarians, amongst other things. And the week before the decision was to be made we managed to get all political parties in the Swedish parliament to go out on social media and distance themselves from the proposal. We really struggled with a few of the parties, but eventually we got them all on board.”

Gustav Johansson preparing a vegan version of the classic Swedish pannbiff.

But even though this battle was won, the war is ongoing. There is already a ban on plant-based alternatives calling themselves milk, cream, butter, cheese or yoghurt. And the EU has now voted in favour of extending this to outlaw terms likening the products to dairies, such as style, imitation, flavour and substitute.

”This means it is no longer allowed to compare CO2-emissions from vegan based products with cow milk for instance, which is really bad from a consumer perspective. But the meat lobby is very powerful and has invested heavily in this”, Gustav Johansson says.

He is also aware that the massive attention for the veggie burger victory put a much larger and more important decision in the shade, namely the common agricultural policy (CAP) reform package.

Even though the CAP for 2021–2027 has put more emphasis on climate and environmental improvements than its predecessor, many climate organizations and activists argue that the reforms are far to week to tackle the ongoing climate crisis and massive loss of biodiversity. Some, like BirdLife Europe even calls the new policy ”an extinction machine”.

Gustav Johansson says: ”I have heard many organizations stating that the CAP reform is terrible, but it has been hard to understand exactly why they think it’s so terrible. What does it mean that an agricultural policy is bad? I want the hard facts. Even for a person like me, who has a keen interest in these questions, it has been difficult to get to grips with the issue.”

We Don’t Have Time is the world’s largest social network for sharing climate action and solutions. Join our network: wedonthavetime.org

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We Don’t Have Time is a social network for everyone who wants to be a part of the solution to the climate crisis. The power of many enables us to influence businesses, politicians and world leaders. But We Don’t Have Time to wait.

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We Don’t Have Time

We Don’t Have Time

We Don’t Have Time is a review platform for climate action. Together we are the solution to the climate crisis.

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