I stumbled across an online argument the other day about whether or not vegans should be buying products from non-vegan companies. Products that are “accidentally vegan” – i.e. they don’t contain animal products, are not tested on animals, but are not intentionally designed to be a vegan product.
Personally, I try really hard to support vegan products and companies wherever I can. I pay particular attention to cosmetics and household items, buying brands that I trust to be cruelty-free. And if I’m going to buy some soy mince then I’ll make an effort to get it directly from the Cruelty Free Shop instead of Woolworths because I’d rather see my money go to a small, ethical business than a giant corporation. But I’m far from perfect. I’ll check the ingredients thoroughly on a packet of crisps, feel satisfied that the product itself is vegan-friendly, and buy them even though sitting alongside them, from the same brand, are packets of crisps with dairy ingredients in them. And unless you’ve found yourself a vegan supermarket then it’s likely your weekly grocery shop comes from Coles or Woolworths, large companies that both stock and sell huge numbers of non-vegan items.
Is it massively hypocritical? Or is it an inevitable factor of living in a predominantly non-vegan world. Should we be boycotting companies that aren’t 100% cruelty-free? Where do we draw the line?
I’m still not entirely sure where I stand on this argument. I think it’s really important to support companies with ethical values. I also think it’s really important to support smaller businesses in the local area. Many us have seen “the little guy” swallowed up by major brands that have total market dominance, and we actually end up having less and less choice as big businesses overrun our towns and cities. In this respect I think it’s a great thing to be able to support smaller businesses that cater specifically to the vegan market. I want to stand in solidarity with companies that more closely share my beliefs, and give the proverbial middle finger to supermarket giants that clearly care more about profits than ethics.
The other side of the argument is the importance of creating demand for vegan products in the hope that a) they’ll become more readily available, and b) vegan products will be showcased to people who might otherwise not be aware of them. There’s currently a petition doing the rounds with the goal of persuading some of the big supermarkets to introduce a vegan aisle. This would make vegan products more accessible to multitudes of people, and demonstrate a demand for cruelty-free items.
So would it be beneficial to the vegan community to see the likes of Coles and Woolworths stocking more cruelty-free products or would this inevitably lead to the demise of smaller, truly vegan stores?
There are strong views on both sides of the argument, and personal circumstances have to be considered. Not everyone can afford to shop at vegan stores. Not everyone can get to the organic market. Not everyone lives in the city. But it’s something worth thinking about because the choices we make as individuals have an impact on the world around us. As vegans we choose to live consciously compassionate lifestyles, and, putting our own needs aside, we can choose to support companies that are 100% ethical or we can choose to try to fuel demand for vegan products, helping them to become more mainstream. Maybe there’s a balance between the two.
I’m not sure what the right answer is. And I’m not sure which outcome would better benefit the animals. I don’t want to see ethical companies bulldozered out of the way by big business, but I do want to see vegan and cruelty-free products more readily available. Perhaps the happy medium will be a growing vegan market creating more cruelty-free companies.