Tokyo Burger Joint Goes 100% Vegan After Pandemic Wake-Up Call

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Great Lakes Tokyo, a burger restaurant in Tokyo, has recently revamped into a 100% vegan restaurant amid the coronavirus pandemic. For restaurant owner John Penny, the decision was made after realising how the animal industry contributed to the current pandemic and will continue to drive the emergence of future health crises.

Burger joint Great Lakes Tokyo has recently wiped beef and dairy off its menu and turned into a completely vegan restaurant. It first opened in December last year, but quickly had to shut its doors when coronavirus hit the city – and it was during this time when founder John Penny began learning about how the livestock industry contributes to animal exploitation and the degradation of nature that in turn drives the emergence of zoonotic diseases. 

“With the health and prosperity of our customers and planet in mind, we are making one major change to how we operate: Great Lakes is now 100% vegan,” said Penny in a statement revealing the revamp as the restaurant reopened its doors on June 2. 

 “Covid-19 has severely crippled us and countless other restaurants and bars around the world,” Penny added. “As the virus was directly caused by animal exploitation there was simply no way we could move forward contributing to something that nearly killed our business, has literally killed hundreds of thousands of people, and, of course, trillions of animals each year.” 

Prior to the pandemic, Penny’s menu already offered some vegan burger options. But now, the vegan menu includes the Michigan Burger, which features a shiitake mushroom and brown rice patty topped with a plant-based cheese sauce and caramelised onions, and it’s been incredibly popular despite the ongoing pandemic crisis. 

Speaking to the Japan Times, Penny described how Great Lakes had to close early after selling out its burgers twice within a week. “It was just so shocking. So I’m delighted with the response.”

Coronavirus has prompted greater attention over the dangers of animal farming. In a recent report by the United Nations, experts highlighted the rising consumption of animal protein and unsustainable agricultural intensification as a result of demand for animal-based foods as key causes of zoonotic disease emergence.

To date, 60% of all the 1,400 microbes known to infect humans have originated from animals. Most recently, scientists have identified a new strain of swine flu that is alarmingly described to have “pandemic potential”

The pandemic has also wreaked havoc on meat supply chains, as slaughterhouse outbreaks around the world force factories shutdowns, prompting farmers to cull millions of animals while food banks face record-high demand. 

Perhaps the light at the end of the tunnel is the shifting consumer habits as a result of the coronavirus-induced meat crisis, with the latest data indicating that global meat consumption is set to experience the biggest decline recorded in decades

Lead image courtesy of Great Lakes Tokyo. 


  • Sally Ho

    Sally Ho is Green Queen's former resident writer and lead reporter. Passionate about the environment, social issues and health, she is always looking into the latest climate stories in Hong Kong and beyond. A long-time vegan, she also hopes to promote healthy and plant-based lifestyle choices in Asia. Sally has a background in Politics and International Relations from her studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

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