Where do you draw the line with animal testing?

December 2, 2010

Today’s question came via Nic, and it’s one I don’t have an answer for, so I’m looking for your guidance and experience to help me figure it out.  What are your personal policies on animal testing and consumer goods?  Sure, it starts easy enough, but in today’s world of multinational conglomerates, things can get confusing really quickly, at least to me.  Help a vegan out!

So here’s the question: what are your personal rules regarding animal testing and consumer goods?  Is it at the product level, the company level, the holding company level, or something else?

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Erin December 3, 2010 at 12:54 am

Such a hard question! For my family, I’m totally at the mercy of science. My husband’s cystic fibrosis requires that he take enzymes with everything he eats, and they are manufactured using pancreatic enzymes from a pig. Without them, he would have died long ago.

My daughter gets vaccines despite my misgivings.

For myself, I try to avoid what I know, a lot like you. I was saying to someone that even just supporting a vegan product within a corrupt company (like buying cheap soymilk from Costco- not sure if you have Costco in Canada) is a way for me to vote for the product with my dollars and show that maybe that company should move to more cruelty-free products. At the same time, there’s no way I’d buy a Foster Farms stuffing mix, even if it was just bread and seasonings (I don’t even know if they make one, that’s just the example I pulled out of my ass).

So I guess my answer is that I deal with it case by case.

nic December 3, 2010 at 6:40 am

with regards to medical products i.e prescribed drug, etc , you have to put your health needs first and foremost , however, you can counteract this negative downside by purchasing as many cruelty free/animal free products that are available which covers a broad range such as toiletries, cosmetics, household cleaning items ,etc.
by buying these products you support the little guys, who generally give better customer service and care more for their customers. some also support lesser know charities (i.e promoting ,addressing and taking care of animal welfare)

Also we can protest- publicaly and privately , against animal cruelty by bringing awareness to the general public and our dissatisfaction with the mistreatment of animals to the the major companies who are notorious for the harm they do to animals .

Do research into which companies test on animals an a regular basis,even signing up for email updates and news with groups like PETA can accomplish this without taking time out of busy lives.
nobody is perfect , but we can strive to do the lease harm to animals, even if we only manage 85-90% of the time. This is better than sitting on the fence and doing nothing at all

Cindy December 3, 2010 at 10:16 am

I’m a relatively new vegan (2 years in Feb.), from a small Texas town about 30 miles from the DFW Metroplex. Your whole series this week (Q&A) has been very interesting because it is not only extremely difficult to find vegan choices w/out going to Dallas – and to my knowledge, I’m pretty much “it” for the vegan population here. As to “this” question about using products tested on animals … the biggest challenge I see is “honesty” from manufacturers. Everyone’s quick to say something is “natural,” “organic,” or “green” because it’s popular (and a selling point), when quite often the product is NONE of the above – or just enough of the above to obtain the label! The reality of my environment puts me in the position of investigating my purchases “to the best of my ability.” At the end of the day, that – and the pure intent of always trying to meet that goal – is the best I can do. Until its “profitable” for manufacturers to STOP testing on animals, the cloud of abuse will continue to be imbedded in our purchases – and some necessary products have no viable “vegan” options.

Cathy December 3, 2010 at 1:26 pm

I usually take my vegan stance as more of a “idealistic – striving” approach. I usually try to buy things from vegan companies (usually online) or the healthy food store, etc. but I know that there is A LOT to consider when working for the greater good. It’s hard to have make some tough decisions but thats really the essence of morality. To me, being the vegan is always trying to do the BEST that you can – it’s impossible to be perfect – but it’s not a problem to strive for it. Usually the vegan shoes I want to buy are helluva a lot more expensive than the synthetic fiber shoes that I can buy at payless. I don’t think we need a straving vegan on the streets the way the economy is today…

And now recently I’ve been reading some reports about vegan cheese (and probably some other products as well) that use palm oil in their stuff. Now that might not seem like a big deal – but some enviromentalists have pointed out that in order to get this palm oil a lot of deforestation happens (and in a roundabout way animals get kicked out of their homes and many die). Usually I like to stick with a lot less processed fooods (fake meats, cheeses, ice creams, etc) and just still is a much more natural selection – but still – when my family (who are not vegans) come and sit around the table with their big bowls of ice cream – I’m inclined to reach for a Tofutti popsicle.

I mean, in any case, there is only so much that we can do (we drive cars, that cause pollution, that ruins the environment that kills not only plants but the inhabitants within) and it’s hard enough having to watch out for those secret hard-to-pronounce ingredients like casien or that-thing-that-begins-with-an-A.

I believe people are hard pressed to make the vegan “slip up” as you say. Being a predominantly carnivore/omnivore environment – people usually don’t understand the vegan – and what people don’t understand usually leads to a fear/hate/pity/etc. Usually when people go “Oh! You know that if you do this-this-and-that – you’re still hurting animals you know?” And I would be like “You’re hurting the animals,environment,etc. more by continuing to eat meat than I do”

Getting off on the tangent/rant business – ultimately – we just do the best we can. Period.

Jason December 3, 2010 at 1:45 pm

I love the deep feedback I get after posting these. Thanks so much!

There’s another video, possibly a series, forming in my head, but here’s the sneak peek in case anyone has any ideas: I think the concern with a lot of vegans is that we try to do all we can, but it’s not always clear what “all we can” is, exactly. Are we making excuses for ourselves or are our decisions a realistic compromise based on our environment? Are we really doing our best?

This is one of those dilemmas that leads to people trying to be supervegan, and it’s also what leads to burnout. I can’t tell you what the right set of decisions is for anyone (I can’t even do it for myself most of the time) but I can offer this: try to be at least a little uncomfortable. That might sound negative, because everyone wants to be comfortable, and heaven forbid we make veganism sound UNcomfortable, but the fact is, it’s the areas out of our comfort zone where real growth is achieved. If you’re happily doing what you’ve always been doing, the odds are greater that you’ll slip backwards rather than stay the same or improve (it’s a “if you ain’t growing you’re dying” thing,) and we owe it to ourselves and the people around us to grow as vegans and as humans as much as we can, because that’s the leadership that’s going to help inspire those around us.

Hmm, video series or newsletter content?

Amelia December 10, 2010 at 2:27 am

Hi Jason

I’ve started formulating my stance on this issue thus:

In terms of tests being done for medical reasons, I believe it is my moral obligation to try and stay as healthy as I can through a healthy, whole foods diet, exercise, spiritual awareness, etc. so as to minimize or eliminate my need for medicines tested on animals. It’s really amazing what the influence of our lifestyle can be on our health, and with a huge amount of processed foods now available to vegans, as well as a sedentary lifestyle, it is possible to be a really unhealthy vegan who might need a lot of medical care – if not now, in the future. In my view this is not compassionate to yourself, your family or to the animals.

In terms of consumer products I try to stay away from anything that is mass produced, rather buying from local markets and small, local companies. Obviously things like toothbrushes are still a necessity, but you’ll be surprised at how much ‘stuff’ you can live without or replace with locally made, earth-friendly alternatives. These days I don’t shop at the supermarket at all anymore! Avoiding malls has reduced my stress levels dramatically – I suggest everyone give it a try 🙂

Thank you for an amazing website. I’ve been checking in every day since discovering it.

Molly Horn December 10, 2010 at 9:45 pm

Gosh, I guess I never thought about this in-depth. There’s so much more to this than I realized.

All I’ve been doing up till now is turning the package over and looking for the “not tested on animals” wording. If I have a choice between two products, I choose the one that has that promise.

Why is Costco a corrupt company, for example? I shop there, and I didn’t know they were corrupt. 🙁

I guess I have a lot more homework to do if I’m going to be “a real vegan.”

To wit, Jason, regarding Monday’s post – this is precisely why many of us who’ve been vegan for a while (8 mos. in my case) still call ourselves “new” vegans – because there’s still so much we don’t know, and, at least in my case, because I don’t feel comfortable claiming to be part of the vegan crowd yet. I feel like I don’t know enough, like I’m “not vegan enough” yet, and therefore I preface every statement with “new vegan, still learning”, so that people will cut me some slack.

As you know, some vegans can be notoriously hard to please, and can be militant about veganism. I don’t like being judged by that standard, so I try to distance myself from it by qualifying my veganism as “new.”

Jason December 10, 2010 at 10:34 pm

Molly, I wish I could start every video with “new vegan, still learning” but then nobody would watch – the fact is that after 15 years (or whatever it’s been) I still get the curveballs like toothbrushes. Frankly, that’s alright by me – if I could say “yep, got that figured out” for everything I ever learned since I was 3 years old, things would be pretty boring.

And why is Costco corrupt? We have them in Canada but I missed the earlier comment (I don’t shop there but it’s for other reasons, like how I don’t need 500 rolls of toilet paper at a time.) I always thought they had better than average employment policies. If they sell products that aren’t vegan friendly, that just means they’re not tuned to our value set yet – by their own values, they’re oblivious to the problem, is all, and you can choose to shop there or not, but they might not understand the reasoning. Hey, new vegan here, still learning 🙂

Erin December 11, 2010 at 12:24 am

Corrupt Costco… I guess I read somewhere that many “Kirkland” products are made through not-so friendly means. I’m not really sure the specifics.

Also, Costco is evil in my mind because they replace my beautiful vegan egg rolls I was getting with LAME pork and chicken egg rolls. They carry only Morningstar products that have egg and milk in them, they no longer carry the Multigrain Cheerios I like to give my baby, they don’t carry organic berries, etc. They have MANY things that I love though. I’m mostly bitter about my potstickers.

Molly Horn December 15, 2010 at 1:39 am

Hey Erin,
Not sure if you’ll see this or not, but many Kirkland products are manufactured by national brands (i.e. Bumble Bee Tuna, Tyson Chicken), so the manufacturing practices would depend entirely upon the parent company, and not on Costco. They just slap their label on the package.

Regarding your most beloved eggrolls – I can totally relate. The grocery store where I work refuses to carry GardenBurger GardenVegan patties, despite my continued begging. However, I don’t think this makes Costco evil; it is simply a matter of supply and demand. The grocery business is one in which there is only a very, very small amount money to be made, so grocers do everything they can to achieve that sale. If the vegan eggrolls are gone, it is likely because they were not selling well. But most stores have a customer comment area – have you considered filling out an “item request” form or a customer comment asking to have the eggrolls brought back?

I’m not trying to be all “Pro-The-Man,” but I do work in the grocery industry, and I know that often, what customers perceive to be “The grocery store won’t carry what I want,” is actually a case of the grocer having very limited shelf space and hundreds or thousands of items vying for that space. Costco has to choose the items that appeal to the masses, not to the specialty crowd… unfortunately for us. That’s why vegans are relegated to the health food stores! 😉

Erin December 15, 2010 at 5:41 pm

Thanks Molly! My husband is always saying I should do those comment cards and I never do. It’s good to hear they actually do have a good effect.

It’s also good to hear about the Kirkland thing (although most those companies aren’t great). I’ll bet the Kirkland soymilk is just Silk then.

I know I shouldn’t blame the company, but when they already have 5 other pork potstickers/dumplings/shumei/etc, one more pork egg roll feels like a kick in the face.

Jason December 15, 2010 at 5:46 pm

You know what’s a real kick in the face? When companies mix tofu with pork or fish. Tofu’s ours! 🙂

Krista January 4, 2011 at 4:34 pm

I agree with a lot of you. I look for that “not tested on animals” label and accept it to be so. I have emailed several companies in the past to find out if they do test on animals. Usually companies are quick to respond because they want your business.

I also have a hard time thinking about what to do in medical cases. I am lucky so far to not have needed any medical care that would come from testing on animals or be an animal-based product. For example, the flu vaccine that they use every year can either be from eggs or from something else. Where they give the flu vaccines in my town, they did not know the source, so I opted out. I couldn’t imagine having to decide what to do if I needed an animal-based product to live.

About Costco, they were selling crated veal. They have now dropped that company and everyone who was using that practice. They have also changed their company policy to reflect better standards of living for the animals.

The biggest issue I have with animal-based products are in my classroom. I am a 2nd grade teacher. I know that there are several classroom products that are not vegan that I have in my room. What do I do? I cannot tell my children to buy Melissa and Doug crayons and only gluesticks from certain companies.. and I certainly do not have the funds to make sure that the products in my room are all vegan (most vegan crayons, glue, and other products are twice the price of others).. I am simply stuck. I hate it.. but what else is there to do? When I do samples in the class.. I pull out my vegan crayons. When I am at home, I am much better and using products and companies that I trust.

I have found that the best way to deal with this is to find a couple of companies that you trust and get all your products from them.

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