Why People Are Demanding That Popeyes Go Vegan

Two weeks ago, a petition launched on Change.org titled "Popeyes, stop risking workers' lives for your chicken!" Pointing to how COVID-19 has disproportionately affected Latin American workers in the meat industry, the petition asks signers to join them in demanding that Popeyes offer a vegan option. As of writing, the petition has reached over 12,000 signatures of its 15,000 goal. Back in May, The Guardian reported that meat processing plants in the U.S. had been found to be the source of 12 of the 25 coronavirus hot spots. They noted that the virus spreads amongst people in close proximity for long periods of time, and how the working conditions of such factories means that workers were unable to perform social distancing. Furthermore, to maintain the nation's meat supply, these plants penalized workers for not showing up due to sickness, meaning that it was in their best interest to come to work even with the risk of infection — or worse, when already infected. 

Because many Latin Americans work in the meat industry, the League of United Latin American Citizens had called for a meat boycott on the Mondays in May, according to VegNews: "We are asking our community of 60 million members, and the entire country, to stand with essential workers and not purchase or consume any meat products once a week to highlight the need for protections for these workers." In this vein, if Popeyes offered a vegan meal, the stress on the workers in this COVID-stricken industry to meet demand will lessen, mitigating the pandemic.

Also, it just makes sense

After making the humanitarian point, the petition notes that it would simply make sense for Popeyes to start offering a vegan option. Cruelty Free Reviews, a website that reviews cruelty free, 100 percent vegan food products and restaurants, wrote a profile on Popeyes. The entire list of Popeyes' vegan offerings consists of corn without butter, a baguette that is only available at some locations, grits when the store makes them with water, apple sauce, and their juices, black coffee, and sodas. That's it.

But, as the petition points out, other restaurants (including their arch-rival KFC) have started to experiment with meatless offerings. It should be noted here that KFC did receive some flack from the vegan community in the beginning of the year because, according to TheVeganKind, they were frying their French fries in the same oil as their chicken, which for many vegans makes the side unacceptable. However, the complaint and KFC's genuine-seeming response shows that companies are taking such issues more seriously and customers do want the option.

Moreover, as The Beet reported in May, sales of meatless meat products in general rose by 35 percent during the pandemic, in part due to concerns over how widespread COVID-19 was and is in meat processing plants. Other reasons given were that plant-based products last longer and consumers decided to use the lockdown to attempt a healthier lifestyle. Even if the petition fails to reach 15,000, there is little reason why Popeyes should hold out from offering a plant-based chicken option.