Supporting Non-Vegan Institutions

As a vegan, should I be supporting institutions that are not 100% vegan?

I‘m not talking about hunting clubs or the dairy lobby. The answer would be an easy no. I‘m talking about institutions that share some of my opinions on animals, but are not vegan. Let me give two examples.

I‘m a member of Tierschutzverein Berlin, the Berlin branch of the German Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. They run one of Europe‘s largest animal shelters, and when I adopted one of their cats, I decided to become a member, too.

It‘s a nice animal shelter―relatively speaking, of course. All cats live in spacious rooms with access to outdoor areas. Cats that can handle company live with a couple of other cats, and cats that prefer being alone live by themselves. It‘s certainly better than the stacked boxes I know from US shelters, not too speak of the fact that like all German shelters, and in contrast to many American ones, it‘s no-kill. The Berlin shelter does not receive any tax money and finances itself only through donations and members‘ yearly fees, which is why I decided to join.

So what‘s the catch? Neither the shelter nor the society that runs it are vegan. They are devoted to the pet animals in their care, but not to the ones that never made it there. The shelter houses a pig named Rudi, for example, but in its little restaurant sells sausage. And the society‘s president, Wolfgang Apel, is also a board member of Neuland, one of Germany‘s largest producers of organic meat. Talk about conflicting interests.

I‘m uncomfortable giving my money to a non-vegan institution, yet I want to help those shelter animals who would otherwise be on the streets. What‘s a vegan to do?

photo credit: Salzburg Museum

photo credit: Salzburg Museum

Another example is LPG, a large German co-op, of which you can become a member by paying a deposit and a small monthly fee. As a member of the co-op you can buy everything in the store at a reduced price, including their wide selection of vegan toiletries, vegan baked goods, produce, and other vegan groceries. Your deposit and monthly fee support organic farmers, who do not receive sufficient state subsidies. The drawback? My money also goes to support meat and dairy producers, whose products I find immoral and would never buy. I hesitated becoming a co-op member for this reason.

On the other hand, if I were to continue to buy my groceries in regular supermarkets, I would also be supporting non-vegan companies and industries, including the supermarket itself. It may not seem as direct, because there are no deposits or fees or memberships, but every time I swipe my card or count out my coins, I‘m propping up some business.

As a vegan in a non-vegan world, it‘s difficult to support only companies I find moral. The best options are buying nothing or supporting only small vegan businesses, but for necessities like groceries, both are basically impossible. So what should vegans do? Support shelter animals and accept that we‘re also supporting the shelter‘s sausage-selling restaurant? Be a co-op member and have access to local organic produce and vegan goods, but know that we‘re also supporting butchers and cheese makers?

I hope that one day I won‘t have to choose. Until then, I‘ll be discontent with whatever I decide.