Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Vegan MoFo Day 15: In which I fail, sorta.

The ethical grounds of veganism seem pretty cut-and-dried: no animal products. So what does it mean for my trial-period vegan self when vegan products made in the presence of dairy (for example) are on the line? I'm not asking to be absolved of that Clif bar - that was an informed decision, justified by the notion that not consuming animal products negates supporting companies that do use animal products.

In my understanding of capitalism, that doesn't jive.

So what consequences come of the occasional snarfing of a vegan item made by a non-vegan company? Ultimately, it's a political decision that - implicitly or explicitly - expresses approval for that business.

This month, I've supported decidedly non-vegan food sources. Even in Portland, it happens. Because the stand I've taken this month is more or less dietary, I don't think that veganism burns in me like it does for others. Not to say I condone the mistreatment of animals. Of course I don't. I suppose all of this is to say that I'm not sure how thorough I'm willing to be about this. After all, veganism is a type of extremism - a dogma carried to a logical conclusion. Extremism gets a bad name these days; it can be a very noble and brave thing. (See also: folks from Malcolm X to Julia Butterfly to Gertrude Stein to Peter Singer.) And although I feel better physically (to say nothing of the sense of righteousness), this form of extremism might not be my path. Keeping my footprint small and the lives taken so I can enjoy my meal to a minimum was my guiding principle before, and I'm still exploring the perimeters of that.

In the end, I'll feel like I failed myself in this month's vegan session because I didn't do it with the thoroughness that I bring to my obsessions.

Next time: pictures of spelt rolls!


herbstsonne said...

This has been discussed a lot on the forums I frequent. Ultimately, (a) those warnings are going to be on almost every package for a product that is not made on a vegan-dedicated equipment, because it's very very expensive to have your own, and (b) they're there for people with very severe allergies, like folks who are celiac or allergic to even trace amounts of nuts. The majority of vegans I know don't worry about the "made on factory equipment that may have also had milk or blah on it." (That said, considering how expensive packaged stuff usually is, I don't tend to buy it much anymore... :/)

While I'm all for supporting vegan companies, I think there's something to be said for buying vegan products from not completely vegan companies, to show there's a demand. :3

Jonas said...

If there's an alternative product available without allergy warnings on it, then that's what I'll get, but otherwise I don't sweat it too much. Those labels are basically on everything at Trader Joe's, for example. It's what keeps their prices low. And it doesn't seem right to not buy something from an otherwise well-meaning company just because they can't be as pure as we would like.