Vegetarian food company’s new ad condemned for suggesting being queer is a ‘lifestyle choice’

A vegetarian food company has been skewered for a tone-deaf advert that parodies the coming out experience with a son telling his family he’s a flexitarian.

The ad from Gosh! Food begins with the boy’s sister telling the camera: “This is it, he’s going to tell them.” The boy nervously approaches his parents, who exchange bewildered looks as he says: “There’s something you need to know.”

“I’m…” he pauses. “I’m flexitarian.”

“I don’t believe it – first your sister, and now you?” the father says angrily, before lunging at the camera.  The boy’s mother then tries to placate him, saying: “It’s just a phase.”

The video is captioned: “It’s not a phase. Don’t let who you are keep you up at night. Do the right thing and get it off your chest. Because like our food, it’s all perfectly natural.”

The advert falls short of funny when you consider that more than a quarter of UK adults would feel ashamed to have an LGBT+ child, and just less than half would feel proud.

The increased risk of family abandonment means LGBT+ youths are disproportionately likely to suffer from mental health issues, become homeless, and be victims of human trafficking.

Soon after the ad was posted online it was criticised by LGBT+ people, who accused it of trivialising the coming out experience.

Lesbian Twitter user @LesBeMums directly called out Gosh! Food, telling the company: “I’m really quite disappointed with this choice of advert. Firstly, being a flexitarian is a LIFESTYLE choice. Being LGBT+ is not. You appear to have crudely confused the two.”

“Secondly, as @aktcharity would agree, thousands of young people are made homeless each year for being LGBT+. I’m sure the pathetic father in this advert is going to be fine after a few hours, however a lot of so-called parents are not when their children come out.”

@LesBeMums later said that Gosh! Food had responded to her, “but in a ‘sorry you’re offended’ way.”

Other viewers also shared their horror at the oblivious advert, and questioned who signed off on it.

When writer James Kavanaugh noted how “weird” the ad is, Gosh! Food replied: “Hi James, sorry if it came across this way. We believe life’s amazing & you should be whoever you want to be, in all walks of it. It’s pretty absurd that people (looking at you, onscreen dad) still react this way to someone else’s life choices.”

The company had totally failed to understand the point, as one Twitter user made clear. “You realise this ad makes a joke out of violent reactions to coming out?” they said. “You’ve used queer people’s trauma as a marketing tool. That’s the issue here, not ‘onscreen dad’.”

PinkNews has reached out to Gosh! Food for comment. A spokesperson said: “Here at Gosh! we have a commitment to inclusion across race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, age, religion, identity and lifestyle. We are proud of our ‘everyone welcome’ principles and strive to nurture a bold, fun culture where inclusivity is second nature – both internally to our workers, and to our valued customers.

“Our ads seek to point out the ridiculousness of a negative reaction to dietary choice.  As a plant-based food brand we know that people only choose to follow a vegan diet for positive reasons – to be healthier themselves, to protect animals and to ultimately contribute to saving the planet.

“However, our recent research has shown that 53% of vegans and vegetarians still claim to have been bullied and treated badly for their dietary choice. With that in mind, the father character in the communications is deliberately set up as a figure of ridicule, an intolerant buffoon. Someone who embodies the very antithesis of our brand beliefs around inclusion and positivity.

“By no means are we claiming that one’s diet is on the same level as other big life moments. We want to reassure everyone that Gosh! believe people should eat whatever they want and be whoever they are.”