My Ethical Choice

By Jordan Collins

It hasn’t happened yet, but I am anticipating it: the moment I am confronted with a choice between Booja Booja© brand ice cream and Ben and Jerry’s© new vegan variety.

As a vegetarian I loved Ben and Jerry’s frozen yogurts. The chocolate fudge brownie was my favorite, but I wouldn’t turn down the Cherry Garcia, either. I actually spent my first few years of life in Vermont, where Ben and Jerry’s was created, and I have vague memories of going to the local ice cream parlor to buy puzzles and t-shirts with their logo. Later we moved to Ohio where I quickly found another ice cream brand to love. I was seri-ous about ice cream.
I still am, but I’ve come to accept that I’m just not going to love vegan ice cream as much as I loved cow’s milk ice cream. To me, something is always just a little bit off. No matter; ice cream isn’t reason enough to turn this train around. But the possibility that Ben and Jerry’s might make a vegan ice cream that will satisfy me like their non-vegan ice creams did has me wondering: given the choice between supporting an undoubtedly smaller vegan company and funneling more money into a massive non-vegan company, what would I do?

coneIt’s not quite that simple, of course. By purchasing the vegan variety of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream I’m demonstrating a demand, thereby making it more likely that the company will continue to invest in vegan products. And if there are more vegan products on the shelves, the average person might notice and realise that veganism isn’t nearly as inaccessible as they previously thought.

Unfortunately, none of this changes the fact that at least a portion of the money I give Ben and Jerry’s will fund practices that I don’t agree with. For example, my money will help fund the insemination process which often necessitates the electroejaculation procedure (look it up; it’s horrendous). It will help pay for the steel bars that entrap female cows so that they can’t get away from the teat cups attached to their udders (the same machines that drain them of the milk intended for their calves, long-since removed). My money will help pay for the gas that goes into the trucks that carry these dairy cows to the processing plant when they’ve gone “dry”. The list goes on.
Alternatively, my money could go toward the development of fledgling vegan companies that are struggling to compete against the behemoth mainstream ones. My cents could pad the paychecks of the employees who will advertise these companies and try to convince consumers to purchase less-cruel products. I could fund the efforts and the people and the ideals that I understand and appreciate.

Some will argue that I won’t be helping veganism spread this way. I disagree. Supporting the growth of a vegan company is helping veganism spread and (for me, at least) it’s not just an exchange of revenue. Yes, money matters, but these people remem-ber that animals’ lives matter as well, and that shared belief system means I want to support their companies and their employees.

All of this said, it’s impossible to only support vegan endeavours. They’re everywhere. That’s the way the world works right now. And even if you can buy exclusively from vegan companies, you’re still paying for the petrol that the delivery vehicles use, which in turn con-tribute to environmental degradation. This is something vegans have to struggle with quite often, not just on their own but in conversations with defensive omnivores: you can’t be per-fect, so why are you even trying?

But as we all know, trying matters. Every little bit. And for me, this is one of those bits. Given the choice, standing in the ice cream aisle with the decision that blatant and simple, I will always, always try to support the people who, like me, are attempting to do the least harm possible. My heart couldn’t make any other choice.

There’s no right answer, only what’s right for you. We’re each trying our hardest to be kind in a world that is determined to be anything but, and that’s always a good thing.