Veganism is being more widely accepted in the media and on a social level. There are many people who are open-minded to trying it out, even if that means consuming one plant-based meal a day or reducing their overall consumption of animal products. Having said that, how do companies that may hire you perceive the fact that you identify as a vegan? Granted, there are plenty of fields where being vegan doesn’t create such a dent in your ability to work there, so as long as it does not involve animal testing, working with animal products, or advising others on dietary choices.
Food Science is no exception when it comes to providing tricky territory for vegans. Left and right, there are companies that process animal materials, work with companies that do so, or operate with the same equipment and facilities that manufacture animal products.
If we were to create an alternative meat product, would you be open to cooking and eating the actual meat as part of the experiment?”
To be completely honest, this question did not leave me speechless for as long as most people would likely anticipate. Still, it popped up out of nowhere. For many vegans, the situation truly depends on the circumstances at hand as well as the general outcome. Is it worth, perhaps, cooking one animal product to help catalyze a viable alternative to it so that more and more consumers purchase less and less of that original animal product? Even in other careers, is it worth harming one, two, even a few animals to save the lives of millions with a product, such as the Impossible Foods burger. In this case, Impossible Foods needed to conduct a rat toxicology test for further evidence that their soy leghemoglobin was “generally recognized as safe”, thus they chose the most humane option.
Granted, this question did not situate me poking a monkey or drugging rats (fun fact: we had to dissect piglets in a high school biology class during our anatomy unit…it was pretty absurd with how my classmates joked about jabbing their guts and fooling around with their body parts). Alternatively, I would need to consume a piece of meat and prepare it in a lab for data use. The animal would have already been dead and the money spent on the meat would not be mine. Neither of these actions are ideal, but they lead to the benefit and safety of the humans in our society. It absolutely sucks that this is the system running our industries–sadly, the only way out of it is through until we expand the use of alternatives.
This is a question that many vegans do not bother to ask: how are vegan alternatives successfully produced if not one of the employees knows what the animal byproduct tastes like or at least has enough food chemistry knowledge about the subject matter? For instance, Miyoko’s Kitchen has several openings where experience in the dairy industry is preferred, if not absolutely mandatory. While this sounds terrible on the surface, some of their vegan cheese products are the best in the market place and the business has catapulted a huge revolution in the plant-based food sector. Again, the only way out of the exploitation of animal agriculture is to trudge through the system and demolish it from inside out.
Ultimately, if you are asked a similar question in a job interview, how do you answer? If you truly want this job or career, you stick to pursuing it. This is the key principle: acknowledge that this job has a much larger purpose in the long run and articulate that you would do absolutely anything to fulfill it. Having said that, you cannot just say this word-for-word; you must be specific in your example. Re-iterate the scenario they created for you or provide your own. This showcases to the company that you understand the industry, recognize the issue behind it, and lay out the plan of action you are willing to participate in. However, this endeavor is entirely in your control. If you wish, you can choose to walk away and say no. Everyone’s belief system and plan of action are different.
What is the most challenging question you have received in a job interview?