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You’re Still A Vegan If Your Job Isn’t

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I’ve worked a lot of non-vegan jobs in my short vegan life. From writing recipes for a site that glamorized meat, to managing accounts for a website that sold it, I have always been at odds with how vegans can sustain a living without feeling hypocritical from nine to five. So when friends and family learned that I was joining the Ecorazzi team, I was met with lots of encouragement. People said “oh, that’s what you’re meant to do,” and “what a perfect fit.” But what about the vegans that put their heads down, do a job, and a collect a paycheque from companies they don’t ethically mesh with? As the number of vegans grow, and the number of vegan outlets subsequently do to, we might see the day when no one is expected to silence their inner critic to make ends meet. But until then, I have some suggestions for all the vegans working non-vegan jobs today.

So there’s a lot of ways that a job can be interpreted as being vegan friendly, or not, and I appreciate that many readers will likely back-up their place of business. The first way being the company, or nature of the company itself is in conflict with veganism. For example, it’s not hard to find a vegan waiter or waitress serving steak and wings at a restaurant. They might not be directly contributing to the slaughter of animals, but they rely on others continuing to support that, to keep their jobs. It’s tricky, but veganism isn’t the only moral belief that sees people working in situations of conflict. Take racism or sexism, for example. People continue working for a person like Donald Trump, despite his publicized racist opinions. Many people in the hospitality industry face sexual harassment, but stay in their field. It sucks, but these are all examples of the capitalist world we live in. Since vegans are still a minority, not wanting to work for a non-vegan company, ethically, still isn’t enough when people don’t have the privilege of walking away.

Then there are jobs that don’t directly clash with any of our values, but put you face to face with situations involving collaboration with non-vegans, or using non-vegan products. It might be as complicated as my experience helping butcher shops sell successfully on a coupon site, or as simple as having to smile politely while cashing out someone’s rotisserie chicken at the supermarket. It could be a leather emblem on a uniform, or having to drive a company car with leather seats. You’re left with the choice of sticking to your beliefs and risking your position, or putting those feelings aside for the good of your family. Although no one can be 100% vegan, something non-vegans love to point out, it can be defeating to feel like our attempts are cancelled out by the choices of our respective workplaces.

The last and most popular way vegans are challenged in the workplace is with non-vegan coworkers. Though I have seldom experienced any scenarios where exclusion was intentional, I have had many where I was expected to laugh, agree with, or shrug off the often rude, inconsiderate, and abrasive comments of colleagues. How many vegans have had to eat plain salad at a company Christmas party? At best, it’s misguidance. And at worst, it’s harassment.

Vegan jobs are rare, but they do exist. You can try looking on  Vegan Job Board, Vegan Mainstream and VeganJobs.com. The reality is that most jobs we find ourselves doing won’t be completely vegan, but that the likelihood of vegan employers, vegan rights, and a shift in society is growing. Until then, we have the choice to suffer through, or make the best of a bad situation.

Okay, so you work for a non-vegan company, or your work survives on non-vegans, or you work with non-vegans. Now what? When it comes to sticking it out in a workplace that you don’t feel at home in, consider it a learning situation. As vegans, it’s important that we use our voices in advocating our way of life. Being surrounded by people, or situations, that aren’t vegan allow us opportunities to creatively spark up discussion, and see the other side. I’ve enjoyed having non-vegan co-workers come to lunch with me, or try my homemade snacks. You may find you have opportunities to host post lucks, movie screenings, or other social events that show those you work with a bit about who you are. Rather than hiding away, or denying your veganism when you punch in, consider the scenario you find yourself in one that’s ripe with lessons. The same goes for working for non-vegan companies – they want to know what their employees think, and you might have an idea for something new that will appeal to whole a new market for them. Pitch carrying a vegan clothing line at your department store (like Artizia). Find alternatives to the way things are currently being done, and suggest them. It’s not always going to be met with open arms, but you’ll be amazed what sharing your passion with others can spark.

The important message I hope readers can take away here, is that working in a situation that feels non-vegan is just that; a situation. People shouldn’t say “gotcha” to vegans faced with employment that doesn’t meet our goals, the same way people shouldn’t say that someone is sexist if they happen to work for a misogynist employer. Making the choice to be vegan and staying vegan, for the good animals, is not one that avoids obstacles. I like to imagine that the work we put in today will not only improve the likelihood of a vegan world, but that on a smaller scale, we can help make the jobs of others easier. I don’t mind speaking up because if I’m the first vegan that people get to work with, my efforts will make it easier for the next one.

In a perfect world, all the ambitious, creative vegans that I’ve encountered would start their own vegan businesses. Until then, we can soldier on in our respective fields, confident that the efforts we put forth to not consume, wear, or use animals for entertainment in our lives is enough. We are not in control of each and every detail of our modern lives, but as long as we stay true to our ethics, we should feel at peace with our day to day.

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  • infamouscrimes

    It’s difficult to be totally ethical. For instance I work in automotive advertising. Cars are responsible for many gruesome deaths and they often come with dead animal skin on the seats. Should I quit my job because I’m a vegan? I don’t know. But I did turn down a job with a military contractor for ethical reasons. It probably depends on how many jobs are available in your field and in your city. I definitely wouldn’t work at a restaurant that serves meat but I wouldn’t necessarily blame someone who did. You gotta have money to buy fruits and veggies. But I couldn’t take the smell.

    • Ellen

      Likewise. I work in an industry that causes the deaths of numerous birds, bats, fishes and other sealife, and migrating animals. I’d quit in a second if I had another option.

      BTW I work in the solar and wind energy industry.

  • Becca

    I want to thank you so much for writing this post

    I’ve worked, and still work non-vegan jobs. Currently I am at a chocolate factory and repeatedly have conflict within myself about promoting the dairy industry. But I think this does reflect the capitalist society we live in where we are blinkered to what is really going on. Namely cause advertising and shops say “hey, buy these leather shoes and your life will be so much better.”

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