Wednesday, 20 September 2017

#VEGANPROBLEMS



You may have noticed that I got my hands on the highly anticipated vegan Ben & Jerrys at the weekend and I couldn't wait to share with you all my thoughts on the two flavours I was able to track down in a nearby Tesco's. What I hadn't quite anticipated was the handful of people who crept out of the woodwork to attempt to argue with me on whether or not this is a brand I should be buying from, or promoting, due to the fact that they're owned by the unethical parent company Unilever. 

If I am being honest, this blog post has been building up inside of me for some time now and my stress levels on this topic reached an all time high at the weekend so I decided that I needed to vent. And what better place to do it than on my blog! (You may want to grab a cuppa!)...

Over the past few months I have become more and more disillusioned with a proportion of the so called 'vegan community' who appear to consider themselves to be a much superior vegan than I. Superior vegan I hear you ask!? Yes. There would appear to be a kind of spectrum of veganism emerging on which you are judged on how vegan you really are...

At one end of the spectrum there are the the beginner vegans who are evidently those who do not have more sense than to buy the new vegan Ben & Jerrys. The ill educated who have yet to be converted into superior vegan ways through multiple assassinations on social media. (*evidently I fall into this category of vegan).  And at the other end of the spectrum we have the elitist vegan, or the perfect god like vegan if you will. The vegan who would never touch vegan Ben & Jerrys with a barge pole because of Unilever. Their determination to lead the most ethical lifestyle motivates them to tear others down and they appear to have lost focus on the bigger picture and instead put all their energy into policing other so called vegans (Nee Nor, Nee Nor, Nee Nor! Yes, you've guessed it, they are the so called 'vegan police').

Ever since going vegan, or plant based as I am now tempted to call myself (*and have been told to call myself in the past week), I have always looked at things pretty black and white and in the most practical way in order to help me to achieve my goal of leading a cruelty free lifestyle for the animals. If a product is labelled vegan then it's quite simply vegan. The lines are not blurred for me and if it doesn't contain any animal based ingredients and is not tested on animals then it's vegan. This is also how I like to promote veganism to others, in the most pragmatic way, in order for the lifestyle to appeal to others and thus ultimately reduce cruelty to animals.  

Let's just go back and again use the example of the new vegan Ben & Jerrys. It contains zero animal ingredients, it's says on the packaging 'I'm vegan' and has a vegan stamp of approval. For me there are no question marks around whether or not this ice cream is vegan or not. Because, well.... it is. And this argument is about so much more than just ice cream. As vegans we have been used to going without ice cream for some time and, yes its great to now have options, but I also know I can live without it. Ice cream is only an occasional treat for me and at £5.50 a pop it isn't something I am going to be buying all the time.

Now please don't get me wrong, I have the utmost respect for the vegans who try so hard to lead a completely ethical lifestyle. If you're one of them then good for you! Seriously this isn't an argument against you and I admire your determination. People have different opinions on parent companies and where they personally choose to draw the line, and thats fine! But what I don't agree with is the blurring of the lines of what a vegan product actually is depending on differing opinions. It's making veganism a confusing  and off-putting place to be, especially for those starting out on their journey, but even for the somewhat experienced like myself, it's not a great place to be right now. If it's seriously making me consider referring to myself as 'plant based' then what is it doing to those on the cusp of veganism? I don't doubt for one minute that they will be too scared to even dip a toe into a vegan lifestyle.

It's perfectly ok to support vegan products with non vegan parent companies, just as it is to support completely vegan brands. It doesn't have to be a choice between one or the other. As vegans we have been petitioning for some time to have multiple choices and now they are here it really beggars belief that some are unhappy about it. In order for veganism to really take off it needs to become more mainstream and accessible so when huge brands like Ben & Jerry's get on board it really does seem like a positive step in the right direction. To me it does anyway.

More vegan products = more vegans = less animal lives lost. Or maybe I'm just doing the math wrong?

In my responses I have asked those arguing with me if they shop at supermarkets because I personally really don't see any difference between this and non ethical parent companies. Supermarkets sell, and waste, unthinkable amounts of meat, dairy and products which are tested on animals. Therefore, if you're buying your vegan products from a supermarket isn't that just as bad as buying a vegan product with a non vegan parent company? Furthermore, to not buy vegan Ben & Jerry's because of Unilever is like having to avoid all restaurants that offer vegan options. Are people really going to do that!?? I personally love the fact that I can go into most restaurants these days and get a decent vegan option. Am I going to skip the delicious Pianta pizza at Pizza Express because there's meat and dairy on their menu? Hell no. Am I going to stop enjoying those wonderful vegan options at Nando's because of all the chicken on the menu? Nope. Will I avoid the yummy vegan lunches at Pret because there's also meat on the shelves? Nooooooo! 

I think you can see where I am going with this... 

These days people have little choice other than to shop at big supermarkets so I think it's extremely unrealistic to suggest otherwise. But it would seem that the rules the superior vegans try to impose onto others are applied to certain things but not others which just adds further confusion. Dare I say they appear to be picking and choosing what they are most ethical about? This is totally fine by the way, but it is the expectation that others will follow this made up rule book that is both illogical and unreasonable. To attack someone else because they don't live their life exactly how you choose to lead yours is  quite simply discrimination.    

What bothers me the most is the narrow-mindedness of it all. If we don't support new vegan products when they come onto the market they will be removed as quickly as they come about. Huge corporations like Unilever need to see there is a demand for vegan ice cream and cruelty free products and I can pretty much guarantee that the only way they will perk up and pay attention is when they're shown the financial figures on a spreadsheet. If we don't shop the vegan options in shops and restaurants they will disappear and we will find ourselves back at square one again moaning about the lack of options. Choosing to spend money on the vegan Ben & Jerry's is not funding animal testing by Unilever, it's voting for a vegan product and the development of more vegan products.    

It may be far fetched to think that there will be a day where the shelves of supermarkets will only contain vegan products, but how will this change ever come about if people don't believe that change is possible. A few years ago people would have never believed vegan Ben & Jerry's would one day exist, but look at us now! It seems so contradictory to me when I see vegans protesting against animal cruelty and for veganism on the streets, yet those same vegans will then protest against certain new vegan products. It almost feels as though people are throwing their toys out of their pram because veganism is now becoming mainstream and it's not their own special thing anymore.  

Times ARE changing and big brands ARE taking note. I for one am optimistic that once these brands realise how much more easier and cost effective it is to make plant based ice creams, and how much better it is for the planet and our health, they WILL begin to question the dated methods of production they have been using. Change IS possible. But only if people are open and receptive to it. I think as time goes on more and more big corporations are going to want in on the plant based industry because it's making money. Soon there really won't be any getting away from them and as long as we live in a capitalist society the idea of leading a completely ethical lifestyle is futile.   

It's so tiring responding to argumentative comments from people who disagree with how I live and promote my version of a vegan lifestyle. I find it insulting at times that they try to call me out on things and assume I don't already know the facts. Most of them haven't even watched or read my content which is equally as frustrating. Veganism is meant to be about compassion to others and yet this is something I often see so little of in the vegan community. Nothing bugs me more than when people live up to a stereotype. 

If you take any issue with the cruelty free and vegan lifestyle I choose to lead, or the products I use and promote, it's probably best to stop following me now. I won't be changing any time soon and what keeps me going is the amount of people I hear from who are now shopping cruelty free and who have become vegetarian and vegan because of me.

There is a way to win this war and trust me when I say I am already winning it. 
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14 comments

  1. Here,here Sarah!

    Agree with you 100%! Rant away :) To garner change in the food industry we have to support these vegan products. If they are profitable the companies will sit up and take notice, and adapt their business to meet the ever-growing demand. Just look at the effect your blog and youtube channel has on your readers/viewers. Your positive approach is helping to plant the seeds of change, and from seedlings mighty oaks grow. I was a vegetarian interested in veganism when I found your blog & vlogs, and hand on heart you were my main inspiration to transition. From that moment on & because of me some of my family members, friends and colleagues have gone veggie or vegan too. Who knows who else will be inspired because of them and so forth. Just wanted to let you know this so that the actions of a few doesn't get you down. Sending love & positive vibes xxx

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  2. I agree with everything you've said! I've been following you a while now and I have to say that ever since going vegan (and yes I will call myself that) I've learnt that I need to avoid groups on facebook and the like to keep sane, especially after one particular nasty incident involving being told that I can't be vegan if my other half is not!

    It really gets my back up when people say they want change but are too narrow minded to allow it to happen in a way that is completely different to how they imagine it to be! I appear to look at it the same way you do for the most part so of course I agree, but I just can't see how we can progress if we don't allow change in the smallest forms! I find it outright rude that someone who doesn't know you personally feels they can make judgements because you don't live how they do - for what it's worth I don't think you should refer to yourself as plant based just because of some judgemental people who have decided you don't fit into their little box of what vegan means.

    At the end of the day every change in the direction of avoiding animal cruelty is a great step forward and I for one certainly wouldn't have found the change to vegan easy if I had listened to the negativity from some. we should all be supporting each other instead tearing each other down - enough people do that already!

    Keep doing what you're doing and keep being you :)

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  3. Great post. My only issue with the vegan Ben & Jerry's is how insanely expensive it is! I think it's very important to keep shopping the vegan items/brands that are owned by parent companies that are NOT cruelty-free! This sends a very strong message to the parent company. If they see the vegan/cruelty-free offerings growing and selling, they will without a doubt invest more effort in them. Big brands are not going anywhere, and the best we can do is to show them that will only support vegan and cruelty-free endeavours. That's why I will keep buying Body Shop, Swedish Glace, Ben and Jerry's and all other cruelty-free products that have a non-CF parent company. To those who don't agree - do you shop at all-vegan supermarkets only?

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  4. Well said.
    When I first went vegan thirty years ago there were so few things available - and those only in "health food"shops.You couldn't get plant milk, plant cheese, or anything like that in a normal supermarket AT ALL.
    And don't forget, thirty years ago there was no internet!
    Things are so much better now because with each step forward, people supported the companies in their vegan offerings so that slowly more and more were offered and more easily found.
    The more vegan ice cream sold, the more it will be offered. Even non-vegans do eat vegan foods for reasons of their own or as part of "cutting down". Even these little steps need to be encouraged in order to bring about greater changes.
    So, I agree with you on this. And what's more, I am old enough to have seen these market forces WORKING!

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  5. Thank you for saying this! Would it be nice if the world was perfect? Yes. Would it be nice if we could all only ever afford to buy absolutely perfect things based on our beliefs? Yes.

    Should we be allowed to live our lives the way we believe works for us? Yes. It doesn't mean if we are not perfect according to someone else that we are wrong.

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  6. Great post and you no doubt speak for many of us. I have had the same (though obv not in the same scale) for buying Flora Freedom, Swedish Glace and BodyShop vegan produce. Some people can't resist being holier than thou. And obv as you can imagine, my whole blog topic is unvegan..apparently. You can't win with these people and I worry they will be put off some newbies or vegan curious folk. I so hope not. Thank goodness I have lots of lovely sensible vegan friends.. but it is frustrating. Meanwhile these ppl are typing on computers and smartphones that clearly aren't vegan either - yet choose to look down on those who don't follow their particular chosen ethics. Keep up the good work - and how are you liking the Ben & Jerry's?

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  7. Well said Sarah!!! I totally agree with you that if we don't buy the vegan products they will be discontinued. The only way for real change to come about is to make it really accessible to everyone. If enough people back the vegan Ben and Jerry's then hopefully they will increase the range and if it sells really well a vegan flavour may take the place of a dairy flavour on the supermarket shelves which means that's less dairy available. Keep supporting the changes and ignore the short sided people sitting on their perch who are clearly not looking any further than the end of their turned up nose!

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  8. So well put Sarah! It is so therapeutic getting that off your chest i'm sure. Like you mentioned, being compassionate is the most important thing! If I was considering going Vegan now and saw similar comments to what you received I would think twice! We all need to support one another <3

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  9. Perfect. You have exactly summed up how I feel. I get so frustrated with the apparent vegan hierarchy. Anyone who does not eat any animal products and avoids using and wearing them etc is vegan. The end. When I find some Ben and Jerry's I am going to try it.

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  10. Yes! I became vegan 9 weeks ago and I have made this very argument to countless elitists who seem to feed off of the failures they perceive in other vegans. I am committed to living my life the way I choose and I'll call myself a purple dinosaur if I want to, so their disapproval is lost on me, but I wonder about new converts without my thick skin. How many animals die because veganism isn't a very friendly community? Great read.

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  11. Love, love, love this post! I feel exactly the same way. I've never understood the whole CF/vegan beauty product argument; how can something be cruelty free but contain animal byproducts? I also support brands who offer vegan products regardless of their parent company. I also share the exact same opinion with you when it comes to supermarkets - it's the same thing in my eyes; if you wouldn't support a brand who sells in China because the test on animals there, surely you wouldn't want to shop at a supermarket where they sell dead animals? Very strange.

    Ultimately, we're all just trying to do our bit. I hate that it becomes a "holier than thou" argument where people starting arguing about who is vegan and who isn't. It's childish. To be fair, I often see this a lot with younger people. I'm in my 30s, I've been vegan for +13 years, and vegetarian before that. I'm bored with the petty fighting that goes on between vegans. We have more important work to do like showing how the vegan lifestyle and the plant-based diet is beneficial to everyone and our planet.

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  12. Wow I loved reading this so much - you couldn't have said it better. It is essentially impossible to live a 100% ethical lifestyle and I wholeheartedly believe in doing your best whenever you can without putting so much pressure on yourself that it ends up being discouraging. There is no right or wrong way to be vegan - for some people the label encompasses just food, and for others it extends to their lifestyle as a whole. Very few companies are 100% cruelty free and if they are, they're usually ridiculously expensive..Thank you so much for sharing and helping to spread this very important message!

    Maria | http://whatismaria.wordpress.com

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  13. I agree! I put a video on my instagram of me eating the peanut butter and cookies one (YUM by the way ��) and someone commented that eating it was as bad as eating veal... Ummmmmm, it's not though is it?!

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  14. I agree whole heartedly! I’ve been vegan almost a decade and have been told I’m not vegan enough for eating Oreos or eating in a toby carvery or buying milk for my partner, or buying from urban decay...... I do sometimes start to feel like it’s impossible to do enough.

    But at the end of the day I’m doing what I can and im happy with that.

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