When I read the news that an online petition is urging the West Coast fast-food chain In-N-Out Burger to offer a vegetarian burger option, I realized I had a vital question to ask on behalf of you, the public. I got a company spokeswoman on the phone.

Me: So your chain is really named In-N-Out Burger?

Company spokeswoman: That’s true!

Me: Why not simplify it to Eat-N-Excrete?

After a gasp followed by a long silence, the company spokeswoman and I chatted amiably a bit longer, mostly to establish that (1) for the record, she felt the company’s name suggested speed of service and not digestive-tract functioning; (2) she saw how someone might see it like I do, and eww; (3) there was no way she was going to let me put her name in this column.

(Illustration by Eric Shansby)

The online petition, created by the Good Food Institute, a nonprofit that promotes alternatives to the use of animals for food, got tens of thousands of signatures from like-minded people. But it also got a hemorrhage of emails and tweets from persons who were oddly angered at what seems to be just a bit of good-natured noodging from a lobbying organization. Bruce Friedrich, who is executive director of the nonprofit Good Food Institute, shared some of the responses with me. They were eye-popping, not just because many contained language that would nauseate a buzzard, but because they make it apparent that there is a culture war over food, specifically people objecting to being told what to eat by a sissified population of effete bunny-hugging tofu munchers:

“You are disgusting and awful. If you don’t like what In-N-Out serves, don’t go there, you crybaby whiner.”

“You are food fascists ...”

“Stop trying to force your lifestyles down other people’s throats, literally.”

“You’re like a damn fanatical religion. You are control-freak sociopaths ...”

“I think it’s ok for people craving a ‘veggie burger’ option to go SOMEWHERE else instead of INSIST that a restaurant CONFORM to the needs of every living person’s desires at any given moment.”

“You bleeding heart, ass-backward dummies ...”

“You soft vegan nerds.”

“Why don’t you attack BMW for not building Audis? How about an attack on the NFL for not offering basketball? You folks are so stupid I AM SPEECHLESS.”

I decided to contact some of these people, who were nice and friendly, if bizarrely opinionated on this subject.

Here is the verbatim assessment of David Leslie, a friendly 36-year-old marketing manager:

“As a result of the endocrine system disruption, soy lowers testosterone and raises estrogen in men, making them extremely soft — mentally, physically and emotionally ... causing men to have more of the qualities of women. It is making them emotionally distressed and offended on a widespread basis as they seek to ban everything that personally offends them and force their hormonally-retarded, liberal, politically correct lifestyles on everyone else so as to join & commiserate with them in their castrated agony.”

In-N-Out Burger has so far been silent about its plans, but it is notoriously resistant to change — its menu has been pretty much the same since the Truman administration — and it has a fanatic following. Paris Hilton once famously got a DUI while rushing to an In-N-Out Burger. With free publicity like that, the company doesn’t really need to worry about niggling issues like expanding its customer base, or jackasses making fun of its name. It could probably even change the name to something worse, like Eat-Pay-and-Get-the-Hell-Out.

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