22 Mar 2015

Should Vegans Support Non-Vegan Companies?


In the past, I've experienced some backlash towards my posts about eating vegan at non-vegan restaurants, how to eat vegan at popular fast-food chains, and when talking about buying from non-vegan companies in general. This is a very controversial topic within the vegan community, and we all have very different views on the subject, so all I can do is provide my personal opinion. Whether you agree or disagree, remember we've all got the same goal in mind - to make the world a better place for animals.

I'll start off by saying that I do buy food from non-vegan companies. Many other vegans do the same. I try my best to avoid especially heinous companies, but I certainly don't limit myself purely to buying from one hundred per cent cruelty-free companies. I'm lucky enough to have access to some vegan brands, although most are much more expensive than standard brands. Other vegans (such as those living in rural areas or countries where vegans are scarce) aren't so lucky.

"Veganism is very personal. We all have different ideas and values about what is and what isn't acceptable within the confines of veganism, but we can acknowledge, at least, that we all share a common goal."

Veganism is very personal. We all have different ideas and values about what is and what isn't acceptable within the confines of veganism, but we can acknowledge, at least, that we all share a common goal. How we go about achieving this goal is up to the individual, and depends completely on their personal circumstances.

For example, some vegans see palm oil as a vegan ingredient, some don't. Some vegans support people who choose to eat eggs from their backyard chickens. Some vegans use a whole lot of supplements, some refuse to take any at all. Some vegans only eat raw or unprocessed food, some vegans gorge themselves on junk. I have my own opinions on all of these subjects, but I'm also happy to accept that other vegans' opinions may differ. Our brains are all wired differently - we can't expect all people to hold the same views, especially since these ideals are mostly subjective and aren't based on facts. The baseline of veganism is rooted in fact (unwarranted animal use causes animal suffering), but several related concepts that stem from veganism are rooted in belief and opinion.

Let's get back to the main subject here. Is it acceptable for vegans to support non-vegan companies? Would doing so somehow make us 'less' vegan, or would it mean that we don't care about animals as much as other vegans do? The short answer is no. At least not in my opinion.

Here's the common justification for buying vegan food from non-vegan companies: doing so encourages said company to produce more vegan products. It all comes down to supply and demand. The more vegan products we buy from any company, the more they'll have to produce. If we encourage people to steer away from their non-vegan products, they'll produce non-vegan products on a smaller scale. This is good news for the animals.

As mainstream companies begin to offer vegan options, the concept of veganism is introduced to the masses. It makes vegan food cheaper, more accessible, and more popular. This is all good news. We don't want veganism labelled as unusual, difficult and obscure; we want it to be seen as 'normal'. If 'normal' companies offer more and more vegan options, veganism will gradually ease its way towards that same label.

"We should be supporting ethical, cruelty-free companies as much as possible, since they're going out of their way to make sure the highest moral standards are met. The thing is - we want all companies to take this path as soon as possible."

I understand why some people choose only to buy from vegan companies. This is also a good move to make. We should be supporting ethical, cruelty-free companies as much as possible, since they're going out of their way to make sure the highest moral standards are met. The thing is - we want all companies to take this path as soon as possible. That's why we should support any effort an otherwise non-vegan company makes to avoid cruelty.

Some of this produce might come from non-vegan companies. Does this mean we shouldn't buy it?

Plus, the ideal of solely supporting vegan companies is unachievable and unrealistic for many. Any time we buy from a mainstream food chain such as Coles or Woolworths, we're supporting a non-vegan company. Even if we buy fresh produce straight from a farm, there's no guarantee those farms are completely cruelty-free. We can try our best, but the only definite way to avoid supporting non-vegan companies is to grow all of our own food from scratch. Because of time constraints, money, weather, gardening ability, and a whole bunch of other factors; growing one's own food is impossible for many.

As vegans living in a non-vegan society, sometimes we simply must make the most of what we have. Essentially, what we have is an abundance of non-vegan companies just waiting for our help. Through only buying their vegan products, we can encourage these companies to improve their practices. Vote with your wallet and make a change!

"The 'rules' of veganism aren't governed by one particular 
individual, but by the vegan community as a whole."

It's important to remember that not all vegans follow the exact same ideals and philosophies, as mentioned earlier in this post. While some may say that supporting non-vegan companies goes against the vegan way of life, others disagree - which essentially denounces that belief, as the 'rules' of veganism aren't governed by one particular individual, but by the vegan community as a whole.