Something fundamental changes when one becomes vegetarian. The active choice to forgo eating animals – to pursue a cruelty-free lifestyle – has the potential to unleash a domino effect on the rest of our behaviour.
A simple shift has taken place over the last several hundred years. Humans have migrated predominantly into cities. In these urban environments, we accrue material wealth. The middle class is a relatively new phenomenon. Monetizing every aspect of life, from morning to night, 24 /7, is the calling card of the 21st century shared experience. It is all too simple to unconsciously buy into (literally) the system of consumerism without questioning the methods that allowed businesses to economize on production at the expense of their workers in the first place. The western marketplace facilitates fast food, fast fashion, and fast living. In the tireless pursuit of convenience, ethics have fallen to the wayside.
Or have they? Entering this new decade, we are seeing a rapid displacement of the economic status quo. 2020 has been a cataclysmic shift for all. To survive the tectonic changes in economic activity that Covid-19 has generated, businesses across the globe have had to rapidly adjust. Agility, flexibility, and opportunism are key traits in the new business environment.
To meet evolving demands of the public, businesses must update their marketing, production, labour, and sustainability strategies. Consumers are more aware than ever before. The cosmic leap in communication that the internet has facilitated must not be taken for granted. Knowledge is empowerment in our digital age. The same platforms that have allowed individuals to educate themselves on compassionate living – whether it be choosing a vegetarian diet or any other ethical behaviour – can create accountability systems between businesses and their customer bases. Is social media merely a promotional platform? Not to the savvy marketer. A social page is the medium by which a business interacts with its customers. What is the precedent for this immediate feedback loop? Individuals in this digital renaissance of commerce have much more power than they realize. Opportunity abounds for empowered consumers to make informed purchases. With direct links to company representatives, buyers can be crystal clear about evolving concerns and requests. Flash and dazzle are no longer the keys to success; entrepreneurs must concretely prove they provide value. For this reason alone, we ought to be optimistic about the future of commerce.
How do compassionate individuals act in alignment with their moral codes, in the face of a chaotic marketplace of temptations? It bears consideration to distance oneself from the product or service. We must act with confidence and certainty when we know what is right or wrong. Vegetarians live by the radical code that innocent creatures do not deserve to suffer and be killed for ephemeral culinary pleasures. As this moral positioning affects several daily decisions, it becomes a staple of the herbivore’s identity. If you abstain from animal products or exploitation in several areas of your life, you already know the experience of carefully examining each potential purchase. The evolved consumer is so much more than a purchasing machine. She researches a company and its products. She consults reviews and online forums. Perhaps she explores the business’ labour practices. How do they treat their employees? Are they environmentally responsible? These vital questions are kryptonite to corrupt enterprises that have traditionally benefitted from consumer ignorance.
Ignorance has been weaponized by the greedy and heartless to ravage the natural world and exploit the less fortunate. In 2020, people have woken up. We no longer have to live in a world of thoughtless abundance. We are afraid of the impact that negligent companies can have on their workers, animals, the environment, and overall future. Today, we have the option to enlighten ourselves, and battle for a better future. Consumers have so much more power than we realize. If there is no demand for a cruel or faulty product, it will not continue to be produced. When we purchase from responsible, diligent, sustainable businesses, we actively contribute to building the world we would like to live in. We can thoughtfully question each buy; “does the low price seem too good to be true?”, “what is the estimated carbon footprint of this item?”, “did any animals have to die for me to enjoy this?”, “how does this company treat their workers?”, “are employees paid a living wage?”. A few moments’ pause for consideration can have a tremendous ripple effect. Those who seek out meatless options practice this exercise in compassion on a daily basis. These are concrete ways we can vote with our dollars and fight for a kinder world. We cannot wait until we have exhausted all our natural resources to act. Make the empowered decision to walk the walk, and the earth will thank you for it.