Vegan food is often produced by companies with non-vegan ethics. Knowing which companies can and can't be trusted can get a bit confusing.
Are you a level nine vegan?
This means you must be a vigilant vegan, ready for the vegan police to pounce on your Facebook page if you like a company owned by another company that’s a bad company – and you should know that the company is owned by another company and you should also know that another company is a bad company.
It’s simple really.
The vegan police will be called if you like such a company and they will hound you until Facebook makes you go “arrrggghhh”. A lot.
We live in a corporate world. It’s a simple fact. We may not like it, but the truth is, corporate tentacles spread far and wide. They cross oceans, invade neighbouring boardrooms and terrify anarchists like an all-encompassing corporate Cthulhu, wrecking any independent boats that sail across its path.
This poses a huge problem for vegans – a problem beyond the vegan ethics of destroying a mythical sea God, albeit a very dangerous one.
The serious point is that it really is difficult to find out which company owns which company and who they’re owned by in turn. Yes, it really can be that confusing. This means that when you’re trying to be as vegan as possible, you may not know your soya milk is produced by a company, owned by another company, owned by a company that tests on animals.
If you did know, you would probably boycott said soya milk in favour of a more, well, vegan, alternative.
Most consumers simply don’t have enough time to walk around supermarkets in a paranoid daze wondering who owns what and what is, ultimately, safe to buy. The modern world of consumerism is much more complex than is necessary, therefore, having the vegan police on your back isn’t necessarily very productive.
If you’re a busy, working, single vegan mum or dad, you want to run in the supermarket, grab a few things and then run out – although paying for them before you run out is generally a good idea. People often don’t have the time to check who is owned by whom and so forth.
In some respects, the rise in veganism hasn’t helped the cause of the level nine vegans, because as consumer demand for vegan products increases, so does the number of companies producing “vegan-friendly” lines – even some companies you’d avoid like Cthulhu with the plague.
My general advice, is that you can only do your best. Price is always going to be a factor, as is the wants and needs of any children you may have – vegan or otherwise. Independent vegan companies are always a good place to start. I, personally, think we should be promoting independent companies anyway. They are often more approachable for one thing.
But, even independent companies want to sell their products in as many outlets as possible – so is the very shop which is selling the product also ethical?
Remember, busy people often use supermarkets, or online services to get the shopping delivered and supermarkets are often not the most ethical places to shop.
Maybe you prefer the local market? But you have to be able to get to the local market in that short window of free time you have while little Veggie Vernon is screaming out for vegan ice cream.
The vigilance of those who do know who owns who and who do actively boycott companies and spread the word about corporate ownership should be applauded, but it can put new vegans off if we automatically go into attack dog mode when they post a picture of a particular product online.
There is also the argument that raising the profile of vegan products and persuading more companies to produce vegan lines is a good thing – after all, people go vegan for many different reasons and there is gold in them there vegans! And this means, that sometimes, companies which we may not like will start churning out vegan lines. Some people will buy them, some people won’t.
The whole vegan police thing can get a bit ridiculous if I’m honest. So please, if you’re online, play nice with other vegans – after all, being vegan is better than not being vegan after all.