Monday, November 1, 2010

Vegan products in a non-vegan brand, or: the perils of the supermarket

It’s not often that PeTA and I agree. As I rule, I, like many others, feel very icky about their tactics and imagery, but they get thoroughly criticised for that if other places so if you’re interested, just go and have a google.

But to the agreement: I agree that L’Oreal are vile animal abusers and I haven’t used any of their products since veganising myself over three years ago (my how time flies when you’re busy reading every label on every product you buy …). However, I read some time ago that they had brought out a vegan hair care line, EverPure, which actually marketed itself as being vegan, and my interest was piqued.

I had a little tussle with myself when I finally saw it in the supermarket on the weekend. My personal policy has always been that through mainstreaming and the wonders of shoppering veganism would become more widely known, acknowledged, desirable and even easier for people to live with. I have always supported the power of the market in being able to bring consumers vegan-friendly, reasonably-priced and high-performing products, and I am always pleased to see any product which states its vegan credentials on the label, because this is recognition that being cruelty-free is a selling point and worth shouting about – and I usually buy one in a show of support. The EverPure line meets all these criteria.

But did I want to support a company I know to be heavy users of animal testing and derivatives? Not really. Did I want to buy a line they had produced – one of many other, non-vegan lines, admittedly – which highlighted that it was vegan? Yes.

So my next question to myself, staring intently at the shelves in the personal care aisle, was that even though the product was vegan, in that it contained no animal products and had not been tested on animals, was it ok to buy it knowing what we do about L’Oreal? This was really where I felt uncomfortable.

And then I looked around me at the supermarket where I shop every week. That supermarket sells flesh and cow breastmilk and chicken ova and all sorts of non-vegan things. In my trolley was bread from bakeries that offer honey-infused lines. I bought cereals that offer yoghurt covered raisin varieties, baked beans which have ham-filled counterparts, hummus from brands that also sell smoked salmon dip, and tinned soups which I had to hunt for amongst their chicken stock and milk solids-filled shelfmates. On a naughty day I’ll buy chips that I can eat whilst leaving the honey baked ham packets from the same brand alone, and some types of sweet biscuits but not the creamy ones. I do this all the time. I choose products that suit me, and ignore the rest. I choose to buy things and tell companies that I, the consumer, want milk and honey free bread, cereal-only cereals, bean-filled baked beans, dips made only from chickpeas and vegetable soups that only contain vegetables. I choose because I have to and I want to. I choose because despite the existence of the outstanding Radical Grocery, I cannot and do not buy all my grocery items at vegan-only shops. My belief in the power of mainstreaming and my desire to see veganism become more widely understood and accepted make me choose.

And so I chose to try EverPure.

Incidentally, it wasn’t half as good as Organic Care and almost three times the price, but I would still like to know what you would choose. I chose one way, but you may choose another. Do you buy vegan products from non-vegan manufacturers (or do you not consider those to be vegan products at all?)? Or do you draw the line at very-non-vegan companies like L’Oreal and Proctor&Gamble on principle? Or do you support companies putting a toe in the water and buying their vegan-marked products regardless?

I’d really like to know – without wanting any Vegan Policing, I think this is fascinating.


Danni said...

I have a similar conundrum with Nestlé.

I think there's a line somewhere between companies that are not exclusively vegan and companies that deserve to be boycotted because they're routinely horrid.

Polka Dot Rabbit said...

I too struggle with this issue, I guess I hope that if companies cruelty free products are the most popular then the rest might follow.

Sometimes I just get stuck. I realised the other day that I need to get some razors and have no idea how to buy cruelty free razors...

Mandee said...

Those are the same reasons why I boycott the Body Shop. But you're right, there are plenty of other companies I support for their vegan items when they also make more non-vegan items.

I probably wouldn't purchase the shampoo/conditioner because I love Nature's Organic, but if I didn't have that option I might try it because at least they are making a vegan product.

Theresa said...

I have a tendency to buy from vegan-only companies when the option is there. All my cosmetic and 'personal care' products come from a local, vegan and organic place, so because I have that option I will always take it over a vegan option from a non-vegan company. But with things like food, that's not so much an option! I do admit, though, that I am much harder on non-food companies. Maybe it's hypocritical, but I guess I've never really thought about it until this post!