There is a huge debate within the Vegan community as to whether it is a good thing to support non-vegan businesses that offer vegan options or not. There are, I believe, two possible situations with this issue, which may appear contradictory. But read on.
As some of you know, I was born in France, then lived in Los Angeles, California for over 17 years and became vegan there. Being vegan in a big city is so easy. You have tons of vegan restaurants, you can easily find whole foods that you can prepare at home etc… What I noticed, however, is this tendency from some vegans to believe that by supporting non-vegan businesses that have one vegan option, they are encouraging them to promote veganism more. I would like to point out a few facts:
- If you purchase from a non-vegan company, you will likely buy from a giant corporation who makes millions or billions of dollars which they use to continue to kill more animals. Do they also need money from vegans?
- Several people have reported that companies, like Chipotle for instance, have given them « vegan options » which in fact had animal flesh in them. It happened to me as well a few years ago at another non-veg restaurant when I ordered a vegan burrito and got one with chicken in it. So much for your vegan option.
- Why is it that the Animal Advocacy Museum in Los Angeles can obtain free food from Veggie Grill or good discounts for large happenings while a big (supposedly vegan) festival like WorldFest hires El Polo Loco, a large animal killing corporation, to feed its volunteers? Why not make a deal with vegan chains like Veggie Grill or Native Foods which truly support veganism and instead settle for an animal killing industry? This still baffles me and I find it very disappointing and a betrayal for the animals we pretend to defend.
- If you think your vegan option at Chipotle (or other non-veg place with one « vegan dish ») is vegan, think again. Do you really believe that they cook your food on a separate grill than the one used to grill animal body parts? Your food is certainly contaminated and as I pointed above, the chances that it contains what you don’t want to eat are high.
- Vegan businesses are usually owned by small entrepreneurs who want to do the right thing. When I was in Los Angeles, I tried to support the L.A. Vegan Crepe, whose owners are not only ethical vegans but do bunny rescues. In other words, they had no life. I created movie/dinner events there to encourage our community to support them instead of supporting their local Burger King (because it has a vegetarian burger). As vegans, isn’t it the right thing to support our own first when they are the ones struggling the most to do the right thing? Or is it just because some vegans, still conditioned by mainstream non-vegan thinking, choose convenience over doing the right thing?
Now, my opinion on this is finite when it comes to big cities like Los Angeles which have all the vegan convenience we can get. There is no excuse to do otherwise.
The problem is that not everyone lives in Los Angeles. Some of you live in small towns or villages where there is absolutely nothing. But should you support non-vegan businesses?
One approach in this case, is to encourage them to offer what big cities have: more vegan choice. I also wish there were more courageous entrepreneurs in these places who tried to bring the vegan message to their local places by creating 100% vegan businesses. But we have an economic crises all over the world and I understand that starting a vegan business is extremely hard. That is why the L.A. Vegan Crepe (and a few others) eventually closed down, not just for lack of support from vegans themselves but because it was a very hard and brave thing to do in the first place.
The second approach is to start your own whole foods vegan delivery system and stop relying on your local businesses to provide for you. You can also find a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) in the US which supports local small farmers (which is better than a giant corporation). In Europe, we have tons of farmers’ markets with local produce.
Get your butt in the kitchen! Cooking is an art that is getting lost and a lot of vegans choose the junk food route (which is not healthy in the long term) instead of reconnecting with their food. You can find vegan cookbooks everywhere to help you. Even in small towns, there is always a veg section in bookstores and at least one vegan cookbook. If I can find them in a small pro-bullfighting French city like Nimes (France), you definitely can!
When I moved to France in August, I discovered there were nearly no vegan products on the market unless I lived in Paris (or another big city), which has several vegan restaurants. (I am not counting the abundance of fruits, vegetables, and so on) but I also realized that I needed to encourage local businesses (not big corporations) to see the bigger picture and see what their advantages were at increasing or changing their businesses to more veg-friendly outlooks.
They are very aware of the millions of tourists visiting France each year. Paris is the most visited city in the world for instance. Nimes is famous for its Roman buildings and therefore attracts a lot of tourists from England and Germany (which we know have more vegetarians and vegans).
In France, a lot of local small businesses still flourish and I am not talking about giving money to giant corporations (aka giant killing machines). I therefore connected with Happy Cow and started visiting my local businesses to show them that there is worldwide demand for veganism/vegetarianism and I found out that they were in fact excited to be included and offer a choice to vegan customers. The more we encourage them, the more some of them and new ones may in fact turn to a 100% vegan way of living.
That is the situation for small places where there are no vegan restaurants or businesses easy to find.
How about voting at the booth for the people who really matter. Dennis Kucinich (who is known as the only – now former – vegan congressman) had a bid for being chosen as the candidate for the democratic party in the 2004 election. But what did vegans (and others) do? Instead of voting with their conscience (and it doesn’t have to be Kucinich, it can be anyone you really feel strongly about), they voted for the lesser of two evils as usual (or as Michael Moore, who is becoming more vegan each day according to Victoria Moran, once said « the evil of two lessers »).
According to this article on the Raw Food World website (16 Millions Vegans and Vegetarians in the USA), we have 16 millions vegans and vegetarians in the USA. If these 16 millions voted with their conscience now instead for settling down for the status quo, we could have sent a strong message to the fascists who control us all.
Think about it and stop settling down for that lesser of two evils and actually join together to make your statement. The worse scenario that can happen is that the majority will still vote for the idiots but that more people who vote for the alternative will be heard.
In France, when we are not happy with something, we strike. Our government is scared of us. In America, people are scared of the government (to quote what an American woman living in Paris said in the movie Sicko by Michael Moore).
Isn’t it time that we really vote the right way? Let’s vote with our wallets first. That is our biggest power. There are places where I can find vegan products and I found them and that is my vote. When I was in Los Angeles, I voted by supporting vegan only businesses because they need our help to stay, non only in business, but to inspire others to do the same. In small places, it is about creating more awareness so the options increase and it eventually inspires some people to go all the way.
The choice is yours today. Make it the right one.
Picture: courtesy www.Pixabay.com
© Copyright VeganEmpowerment/Veronique Perrot – November 2014 – No republishing allowed unless permitted. Sharing is encouraged.