My heart leaped pathetically when, as a nascent vegetarian, I discovered I could still buy mini-scotch eggs (aka "picnic eggs" - boiled eggs wrapped in meat wrapped in breadcrumbs) containing "meat-free" meat. The fact that I am still looking for "meat analogues", as the food industry would have it, probably confirms that my vegetarianism is more pragmatic than philosophical.
A proper vegetarian surely sees no need for fake meat because he or she finds meat so repellent. A vegan, of course, sees no justification for eggs - a key feature in the picnic egg, and also used as a binding agent in Quorn, the UK's biggest-selling mock meat, with 60 per cent of the market.
And it's quite a market. I dare say many will imagine that Quorn is grown by a few kaftan-wearing hippies, but the truth is more prosaic: it's owned by food giant Premier Foods (which also owns meat-free product producer Cauldron). This isn't surprising; food corporations have a big appetite for meatless meat - in the US, Kraft owns Boca, another plant-based meat substitute.
After all, novel proteins are where it's at in the food industry. In a way, this marks an unexpected convergence of opinion between those in white coats and kaftans, both acknowledging that the environmental pressures of a surging global appetite for conventional meat are unbearable.
Producing livestock is a startlingly inefficient way to create protein. As David Pimentel from Cornell University found, producing beef protein requires 27 times as much energy as plant protein. Meanwhile, the UN estimates that it takes 100,000 litres of water to produce 1kg of beef, but only 500 litres for 1kg of potatoes.
In any case, in the West we consume three to four times the amount of animal protein that we actually need for optimum health. Put aside the notion that we have no business eating animal products at all, and replace it with the idea that there's no need to.
But true ethical eaters will bridle at the man muscling into plant-protein territory which very much belongs to them (as evidenced by enduring years of tofu jibes). In any case the ethical eater is usually vehemently opposed to the trend for channelling control of the food chain into the arms of a few behemoth corporations.
But what about tofu, soy, et al - considered stalwarts of the ethical vegetarian diet? Soy's halo in particular has been tarnished thanks to large-scale plantations, particularly in South America, which have led to large-scale environmental degradation. And nearly half the global soybean crop is now estimated to be GM. But the key here is scale - there is no reason vegetable-based proteins shouldn't be derived from all kinds of plant matter and produced sustainably.
And ethical shoppers need to be given some of the same labelling on meat substitutes that they use for buying meat, namely guaranteeing that it is from a sustainable source.