Content warning: Anti-Asian racism, racist imagery

Sometime in 2022 I started following a Slovenian-based vegan meat company called Juicy Marbles. Their hyper-realistic soy steaks caught my eye on Instagram, and I even went so far as to turn on post notifications because they were always selling out online before I could even click through to their website to order. I believe they have some retail placement in the United States now, but it seems like it’s still easier to get your hands on their products in the UK and EU.

In early June 2022 my phone dinged with a notification that Juicy Marbles had posted. I tapped quickly to see if they’d restocked their store, and was astounded to instead find a post promoting a blog they’d just published titled “China’s ‘Meat Boom’ is kinda scary”. Anti-Asian rhetoric in the vegan community isn’t uncommon, and if anything there was a surge thanks to the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020. What shocked me about this post wasn’t the fact that this brand was leaning into this particularly tired form of anti-Asian racism, but rather the illustration that accompanied it.

There I was, on my Peloton, pedaling away and expecting to finally order this vegan steak that looked so good, and suddenly my legs stopped moving and my whole face felt hot. I typed a comment, I wish I screen grabbed it, but it was something like “Are you kidding me with this racist illustration?” Within seconds some of their followers responded to me, essentially telling me to relax. But other comments from similarly confused vegans started popping up too.

I screengrabbed the blog post they were promoting, which featured the same crude illustration of a slanty-eyed character pumping a chicken-shaped balloon decorated with the Chinese flag. (What a cursed sentence.) I posted it to my Story with a poll asking if other people found the illustration “wildly offensive” and 97% of responders voted yes. Dozens more DM’d me responses that could be summarized as “what the actual F?”

Meanwhile, other comments were appearing on the post, including a few from members of the API community. I thought for sure this blog and Instagram post would be quietly deleted. Best case, a few days later they’d post some kind of apology, worst case they’d dirty delete and only the handful of us who were on Instagram at 7am that day would know.

What I did not expect, but what Juicy Marbles actually did, was conduct a days-long back-and-forth comment war during which they refused to acknowledge that perhaps this illustration, much less this talking point about China’s eating habits, missed the mark and came across as insensitive if not outright racist.

Please take a moment to really carefully read these two comments. On the left, Juicy Marbles would like to know, if not for slanty eyes, how would anyone know this illustration was a Chinese person and not a white guy? (Nevermind the Chinese flag that is also in this abomination of a drawing.) On the right, they suggest this commenter is being “dramatic” and confoundingly conclude that she’s the real racist for thinking that a racist drawing of a Chinese person is racist.

I started screen grabbing their responses, and sharing those to my Story but pretty quickly discovered I’d been blocked. Some of my friends were also blocked. This did nothing to encourage any of us to “relax” and, in fact, made us all very angry. That’s when I started tagging folks with larger followings in my Stories. People like Joanne Molinaro, The Korean Vegan. And my friends started doing the same, letting creators like Jackie Sobon at Vegan Yack Attack and Larisha and Andrew at Make It Dairy Free know what was going on.

What ended up happening, of course, is that once Joanne shared my screen grabs to her hundreds of thousands of followers, the social media post and blog post were edited (see illustration below), and eventually deleted, and Juicy Marbles went into crisis mode. They started DMing the large creators who shared what I’d captured – sometimes profusely apologizing and promising to do better, and sometimes just demanding that they do the unpaid emotional labor of explaining racism to them. This attempt at “fixing” the illustration is truly incredible.

For a few months I archived all of the posts and comments on my account, and every time an influencer or publication posted about Juicy Marbles, people who’d seen the whole thing go down would start directing everyone in the comments to my archives. Eventually, though, bring the “keeper of the drama” wore me down and it seemed like maybe Meati entering the US market with a splash (and so far, no racist illustrations or blog posts) made everyone forget about Juicy Marbles.

But recently I’ve been seeing them in my feed again because they’re teasing new products in new markets, so I decided to put all this stuff I saved here, where Juicy Marbles can’t block me.

Did Juicy Marbles actually learn from this? I have no idea, I never heard from them and I’m still blocked. I know they did their best to apologize to anyone who had 100,000+ followers and shared what they’d posted, but I’ve never seen any evidence of them apologizing to the non-influencer AAPI folks who commented about the harm their post caused. Here’s the copy + paste DM several large accounts received:

Juicy Mables, if you’re reading this, we all make mistakes. Shoot, I’ve even reacted really inappropriately when called out on my own gaffes. Is that what happened here? You can’t DM me since you blocked me in 2022, but grab my email address here and send me an update. I’d love to know what you learned and what you’re doing differently now, if anything.

It should also be noted, for anyone who made it this far, that we wouldn’t have most of the mock meats we enjoy as vegans if not for Asian cuisine. Oh, and there are plenty of animal rights organizations in China and other Asian countries that white vegans always seem really concerned about so maybe trust that they know what they’re doing.

As always, the contents of my blog reflect my personal opinions and you know, all that stuff, don’t yell at my employer, especially because literally all of their emails and DMs on social media go to me first and I don’t want to hear about it.