A win for free speech and Tofurky. Vegetarian food companies can legally use terms like sausage and burgers in their marketing, per a new federal court ruling.
The decision stems from a lawsuit brought by the plant-based “meat” makers at The Tofurky Company. Tofurky challenged a Louisiana law (called the Truth in Labeling of Food Products Act) banning the use of the terms like meat and sausage in vegetarian product marketing, with no exceptions for products that qualified their use of these words with terms like plant-based, vegan, or vegetarian. The law—which took effect in October 2020—said those in violation could face fines of up to $500 per use of the term per day.
As plant-based alternatives to animal products—including meat, milk, and mayonnaise—have gained in popularity, there’s been a growing push (often driven by the likes of dairy farmers and other animal-product producers) to control what companies can call these alternative products. Proponents of laws like the one in Louisiana argue that categorizing vegetarian and vegan products by names once reserved for animal products is deceptive and consumers will be confused.
It’s a weird argument, since these products are not only not trying to pass themselves off as actual beef, dairy, etc., but are specifically marketed as alternatives to animal-derived foods. Their labels tend to prominently declare that they are plant-based, meatless, vegetarian, or vegan. For instance, Tofurky brats, kielbasa, and other encased “meats” say on the label that they are “plant-based” sausage.
In its lawsuit against Louisiana, Tofurky—represented by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and the Good Food Institute (GFI)—sought to halt enforcement of the labeling law, saying it violated its First Amendment rights.
“Under the First Amendment, companies are entitled to market and label their products in truthful ways that consumers will recognize and that aligns with their values,” said ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells in a statement.
Now, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana has sided with the ALDF and the faux-meat company, finding that Louisiana’s law unconstitutionally restricts Tofurky’s speech.
“The Louisiana court has seen right through the disingenuous pretext under which this law was passed, and rightfully intervened to protect the first amendment rights of companies like Tofurky,” said Tofurky CEO Jaime Athos in response. “The law was an obvious attempt to give unfair advantage to animal agriculture interests by stifling the growth of plant-based food sales, and this ruling serves as a warning to other state legislatures who may forget that they are elected to serve the needs of their constituents, not those of corporate special interests.”
Laws similar to Louisiana’s Truth in Labeling of Food Products Act have been passed in other states, including Arkansas, Missouri, and Mississippi. Tofurky, the ALDF, the GFI, and the American Civil Liberties Union successfully halted the Arkansas law in 2020.
Last year, a federal court sided with Miyoko’s Creamery in a suit concerning the vegan product brand’s use of the term vegan butter.
And in 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit dismissed a class-action lawsuit challenging almond milk maker Blue Diamond Growers’ use of the term milk.
These rulings should make other states think twice before trying to impose their own vegetarian food-labeling censorship schemes.
Inside Meta’s campaign to smear TikTok. The Washington Post reports on a campaign by Facebook parent-company Meta to discredit and undermine TikTok. Meta paid the consulting firm Targeted Victory to place “op-eds and letters to the editor in major regional news outlets, promoting dubious stories about alleged TikTok trends that actually originated on Facebook, and pushing to draw political reporters and local politicians into helping take down its biggest competitor,” write Post reporters Taylor Lorenz and Drew Harwell.
This is an absolutely incredible story that sheds some light on the story we had last fall about the moral panic around TikTok challenges. We noted how it actually began with parents on FB, not kids on Tiktok… but… https://t.co/uyOGEduZJG https://t.co/eh8yqOhVqw
— Mike Masnick (@mmasnick) March 30, 2022
The firm hired to carry out the anti-TikTok campaign responds:
Today’s Washington Post story not only mischaracterizes the work we do, but key points are simply false. We tried to reach out to The Washington Post to further talk through them, but never got a response. I want to address my concerns: 1/
— Zac Moffatt (@ZacMoffatt) March 30, 2022
Targeted Victory CEO Zac Moffatt notes that the “dubious stories about alleged TikTok trends” reported in the Post’s latest story were earlier hyped by Post reporters as real threats:
These viral stories about TikTok they claims are “rumors” were actually reported by their own newspaper, some from over 6 months ago. We emailed *their own* reporting! 5/
— Zac Moffatt (@ZacMoffatt) March 30, 2022
New research on immigrants and welfare benefits:
New Cato brief released today on immigrant and native welfare use.
Headline finding: The average value of welfare benefits consumed per immigrant was $5,778 in 2019, about 28 percent less than the $8,012 average per native‐ born American.https://t.co/nTtrhcglwu pic.twitter.com/eKKiz7Elos
— The Alex Nowrasteh (@AlexNowrasteh) March 30, 2022
• President Joe Biden is pushing for more pandemic-related spending amid a seemingly endless stream of stories about waste and fraud in previous rounds of spending. The White House says Congress must authorize at least another $22 billion. “But Senate Republicans have balked at setting aside additional money, saying they want a full accounting of earlier spending, and House Democrats subsequently rejected a plan to repurpose money already pledged to states,” notes The Washington Post.
• More than two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government has launched a website (covid.gov) to direct people on how to get vaccines, tests, masks, and disease treatment and provide information about virus spread around the country, travel rules, and more.
• U.S. prosecutors are charging people with federal civil rights offenses for blocking access to an abortion clinic.
• The Electronic Currency and Secure Hardware (ECASH) Act aims to spur the creation of a digital dollar by allowing the Treasury Department, rather than the Federal Reserve, to create one.
• “California’s first-in-the-nation task force on reparations has decided to limit state compensation to the descendants of free and enslaved Black people who were in the U.S. in the 19th century, narrowly rejecting a proposal to include all Black people regardless of lineage,” the Associated Press reports.
• Oklahoma’s governor has approved a bill banning transgender girls from playing on female sports teams in schools and colleges. Oklahoma is the fourth state to enact such a ban.
• Arizona’s governor has signed into law a ban on abortions after 15 weeks.
• Techdirt’s Mike Masnick on “why moderating content actually does more to support the principles of free speech.”
• Tennessee’s cannabis legalization bill is effectively dead.
• Houston has banned vaping in public spaces.
• Video footage shows a Tulsa Police Department officer laughing and saying “this is gonna be so fun” before cops kicked down a door to respond to a woman having a mental health crisis and forced the woman to the ground.
• Bail reform is going in the wrong direction in Ohio.