Effective Vegan Slacktivism: Vegetarian Companies

What is the easiest way to make an impact as a modern vegan advocate?

Today I explore what I consider to be the most effective form of vegan slacktivism: contacting companies and asking them to make their vegetarian products vegan.

Why vegetarian companies?

Why contact vegetarian companies? Well, for one thing, they’re almost there. Companies like Yves, Annie’s, Morningstar Farms, and Amy’s already make meals without using meat. But they still use dairy and eggs.

Most of these companies started many years ago, when veganism (and vegetarianism!) was poorly understood. Many people were unsure about the safety of a vegan diet, and it was not popular enough to warrant developing entirely vegan food companies. So most of these pioneers were vegetarian, rather than vegan.

In the intervening years, there has been a increase in fully vegan companies, such as Gardein and Daiya. And vegetarian companies have begun to adjust their offerings, with more and more vegan products each year.

But there still is plenty of progress to be made. Morningstar farms, for example, manufactures a lot of extremely veggie burgers, most of which are vegetarian, rather than vegan. There’s no need for these products to contain eggs. It’s generally used as a binder, which extremely unnecessary now that we have amazing plant based binders, such as flaxmeal and other products. Removing the egg from these products would affect neither taste nor texture, would reduce the cost of the product, and would also make it friendly to consumers with egg and dairy allergies.

Small slacktivism victories

While this might seem like “slacktivism” (writing letters instead of engaging in more visible forms of outreach), it can be very effective.

I recently experienced some success with a product my kids have enjoyed in the past – Yves Veggie Nuggets. We bought the nuggets for a while, thinking that they were vegan. Every other Yves product we’ve purchased has been vegan and it didn’t occur to me that “veggie” meant vegetarian, or to look for albumen – an eggwhite byproduct sometimes used by a binder. I wrote a letter to the company and asked them to consider removing the eggwhite to make the product friendly to vegans and children with egg allergies.

And guess what? They did it! The product disappeared from store shelves for a few weeks and came back vegan!

Obviously, this doesn’t always happen. I write to different companies quite a bit, and I haven’t had any other success that I know of. But it’s pretty cool when it happens, and I’m grateful to everyone else that must have written to them asking for the same thing.

Stay positive and be prepared!

Stay positive, and keep writing. I’d recommend having a standard script that you can use in your emails to companies, and you can alter it a bit for each one.

Every time, be careful to emphasize:

  1. You are excited about the product, and wish it was suitable.
  2. Note that your concern is not just for yourself, but also for others, such as people with allergies to eggs and dairy.
  3. It doesn’t hurt to mention that it can help the company’s bottom line! Plant-based alternatives to eggs and dairy are less expensive, and more environmentally friendly

Don’t just focus on vegetarian companies. I would also recommend sending a letter to companies every time you find a product you’d like to buy, but contains small amounts of animal ingredients. Think about products like pancake mixes and other items that can easily be made vegan, but often aren’t.

It might seem like writing letters is slacktivism. But it’s effective and direct, and allows companies to hear directly from consumers who care about these issues. And honestly, I don’t consider writing letters slacktivism at all. You aren’t being a slacker if you take the time to write to companies and let your voice be heard. It goes far beyond simply liking something on facebook or retweeting it. Make sure letter writing is a key part of how you engage in vegan advocacy. And it’s an absolutely wonderful way to start your journey in being a voice for the animals!

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