“I drink green juices and have done for the last year or so, but living the life of a vegan is not for me. I think there are lots of other people like me out there,” Martin Bates told the New York Times. Bates turned around Pret a Manger’s business in the United States and is now taking charge of Organic Avenue, a company that sells vegan products that would like to expand into the national market.
While vegans often hear from non vegans that the vegan lifestyle is “not for them,” the new leader of a company that sells vegan products to at least a majority vegan customer base should be held to a higher standard and perhaps a more thoughtful and courageous assessment of what veganism is all about. Instead Bate’s makes a transparent appeal to the majority, a majority that is grossly misinformed about the true ethical and ecological impacts of their food choices.
At the core of the problem with this statement is the characterization of being vegan as a personal choice made in an ethical and ecological vacuum. It’s a statement that reaffirms one’s narrow self interests while remaining “comfortably unaware” of animal agriculture’s mass destruction of ecosystems and the death of some 60 billion domesticated land animals every year on this planet — all for a food choice we make — not out of necessity — but again, out of “personal choice,” as Bates himself admits. And it’s a choice that effects us all.
If I were the new leader of a vegan food company and not yet vegan, I might at least offer something complimentary to my vegan customer base and then encourage others who aren’t vegan to understand what the benefits might be. And I might say something like, “I’m working on it.” This would have the dual benefit of helping animals and expanding the audience for my product line.
And if Bates couldn’t bring himself to do this, then I think he should be asking himself, other than capitalizing on the growing popularity of the vegan food market, why would a business leader who has no interest or intention of going vegan think it would be a good idea to become a spokesperson for a vegan food company?