Some people are upset about the fact that Daiya has been acquired by a company that is reported to do animal testing. They are claiming that Daiya products are, therefore, no longer “vegan.”
That is silly.
It is no different from saying that a package of frozen broccoli isn’t vegan because it is made by a company that also makes meat/dairy/egg products. It is no different from saying that the vegetables you just bought at the farm market are not vegan because the farmer is not a vegan and will use the money you paid to buy animal products she will consume. There is no difference between animal testing and any other form of animal exploitation. It’s all morally unjustifiable. But it is not relevant to whether a product contains animals or animal ingredients. And that is the only thing that determines whether a particular thing is suitable for a vegan to eat.
A company may make a product that contains no animal ingredients and do no testing, but may make all sorts of animal products. There is no moral difference between exploiting animals for testing and exploiting them in any other context. Many “animal people” seem to think that animal testing is more morally objectionable than other forms of animal exploitation. But then, many “animal people” believe that fur is more morally objectionable than leather or wool; or that foie gras is more morally objectionable than steak or chicken or fish; or that that hunting is more morally objectionable than paying someone else to impose the suffering and death and buying packaged corpses at the store. Many “animal people” really have been taken in by single-issue campaigns that may be great for fundraising, but are an impediment to clear thinking about animal ethics.
Where do people buy Daiya products now? They buy them from a supermarket that sells tons of animal products, or from a “health food” store that sells “happy” animal products. Indeed, many people buy their Daiya in places like Whole Foods, which relentlessly promotes “happy exploitation” and is praised for doing so by the large corporate charities. How is animal testing any different from the exploitation that these welfarist “animal groups” shamefully praise? And even if the store in which they bought the Daiya was exclusively vegan and the owners and employees were all vegan (pretty unrealistic for sure), the Daiya was transported in various ways by people who may not be vegans. And is everyone who works at Daiya and who is involved in the production of these products vegan? Are all of Daiya’s suppliers vegan? If Daiya is not vegan because the acquiring company tests on animals, it was not vegan before either. Indeed, on this reasoning, it was never vegan.
What determines whether a product is suitable for a vegan to consume is what is in it. The moment you go beyond that, then you rule out anything and everything that you do not make yourself using things that only you produce and that you do not acquire from any other source. Once you get away from what’s in the product, given the pervasiveness of animal use and the fact that all money is dirty, there can be no limiting principle.
We are all in favor of supporting “vegan” companies (although all companies participate in animal exploitation in the production/distribution process). We are not opposed to expressing disappointment when a vegan company sells out to a company that is not vegan (although that will happen more and more as veganism becomes more popular and larger companies will see acquiring vegan subsidiaries as profitable). Our point is that a “vegan” product does not cease to become suitable for vegans to eat because there is animal exploitation involved in the production/distribution process. There is animal exploitation involved in everything that you don’t make yourself using ingredients that you produced.
We are also not saying that there are not good reasons to be critical of particular corporations, such as their treatment of workers, the environment, etc. We don’t eat non-fair-traded cashew nuts or dairy-free chocolate because, although these products are vegan, they result in terrible harm to humans. But they are vegan.
By the way, we are not encouraging people to eat Daiya. We personally think it is a very unhealthy thing to consume. We never eat it.
If you are not vegan, please go vegan. Veganism is about nonviolence. First and foremost, it’s about nonviolence to other sentient beings. But it’s also about nonviolence to the earth and nonviolence to yourself.
If animals matter morally, veganism is not an option — it is a necessity. Anything that claims to be an animal rights movement must make clear that veganism is a moral imperative.
Embracing veganism as a moral imperative and advocating for veganism as a moral imperative are, along with caring for nonhuman refugees, the most important acts of activism that you can undertake.
Learn more about veganism at www.HowDoIGoVegan.com.
Gary L. Francione
Board of Governors Professor of Law, Rutgers University
Anna E. Charlton
Adjunct Professor of Law, Rutgers University
©2017 Gary L. Francione & Anna E. Charlton