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"Gary" the Cheese Goes Viral

Angry cheese ranter sparks mass media coverage of vegan cheese.

Last week, United Kingdom-based supermarket Sainsbury’s released its own line of seven coconut milk-based vegan cheeses. When Sainsbury’s promoted its cheese on Facebook, it received countless responses—one of which was a nearly 1,000-word rant by an unidentified woman who stated that “cheese is not made with coconuts,” adding, “call it Gary or something.” The anonymous ranter then offered a history lesson of how cheese has historically been made from animal milk and, now famously, uninvited those who consume “coconut cheese” to her wine and cheese parties. The vegans of the internet quickly collaborated on memes, videos, and posts that re-named all vegan cheese “Gary,” using the image of cartoon character Spongebob Squarepants’ beloved sea snail sidekick by the same name. To get in on the fun, Sainsbury’s photoshopped the label on their new vegan cheeses to read “Gary by Sainsbury’s.” Media coverage of this humorous story has exploded across outlets worldwide including fashion magazine Glamour, gossip news outlet Inquisitr, Howard Stern’s blog, and Yahoo Sports, amongst many more. The sarcastic re-naming of vegan cheese points to a more serious debate surrounding the idea of whether certain foods must contain animal products to retain their identity—a battle Hampton Creek recently won when the United States government allowed the vegan company to continue calling its egg-free product “mayo.” It also reveals that vegans indeed have a sense of humor.

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