Being vegan in a world dominated by animal agriculture and its by-products is not easy at the best of times. Trying to avoid animal ingredients in foods, cosmetics, clothes, and even razors is a minefield we have to continually navigate.
For some, however; the struggle is much greater. Some people face the dilemma of whether to put their moral beliefs before their livelihood, essentially risking their financial security and that of their family.
Some vegans, and vegetarians, would argue that under no circumstance should a person knowingly work on a farm, in a zoo, in an animal rescue organization even. Some would say that working in a shop that sells leather and wool clothing is absolutely out of the question.
But life isn't always as simple as making the choices we'd like to, nor as black and white as our opinions and beliefs might explain.
For example: Many vegans drive cars with leather seats in, and if not the seats then the steering wheel or trimmings. Disgusting! Right?
Yes. But the majority of people don't have the money to go out and buy a new car, and the second-hand car choices they are limited to will 9 times out of 10 have some leather in the car, somewhere.
Moreover, those who go vegan will inevitably have some leather goods in their closet, or perhaps a silk scarf or wool jumper. Many of these people may be unemployed, single parents, disabled and on welfare and unable to afford new clothes.
We can't chastise such people and call them “fake vegans” because they still have such goods in their possession.
We should not encourage people to get into debt by expecting them to buy a new car or sofa because the one they still have from before they went vegan is not vegan.
Instead we should positively encourage them with tips and advice to find ways to eliminate animal products from their lives other vegans.
The reality is; some people go vegan and find it a real challenge to change every aspect of their lives. And no more so than the vegan butcher who sent me an email this week.
That's right, I said vegan butcher.
At first I was like “what the f**k! How can a butcher be a vegan?”
Surely you would just find a new job. But hear this guy out a minute. It's an interesting situation.
Hi, I have been working at a meat department for close to 15 years now. I am at highest salary of the whole store and have the almost perfect work schedule and benefits, etc. I have no real reason to leave this job, till now.
I actually became vegan in September of 2015. After watching documentaries and videos on YouTube, I discussed it with my wife and we thought veganism was something we should seriously try, so we did.
Losing weight, feeling better, no more excessive sweating, no more snoring, discovering new foods, etc. All good things. Except one major inconvenience, I am still a butcher. Note that I do not literally murder the animal; I cut and trim pieces that are already sent to us from the slaughterhouses.
You could just imagine how difficult it is talking to people about how I changed diet and don't wear leather, wool, etc. My wife changed to cruelty-free makeup and instead supports cruelty free and vegan products. We even changed our dog's food to vegan! But yet my job still remains the same.
My question is: Am I a hypocrite for keeping my job? I have done all the changes I possibly could in my life to not support the meat dairy and egg industry. I should also mention that at least 6 people have gone vegan around me since I made the change last September and countless others are eating less meat because of me.
But is that all erased because of my job ?
Is all the criticism from family saying how could you post on the internet and talk bad about the industry when you work as a butcher right?
The thing is, I have to provide for my wife, my dog, my cat and me. This is my job security, and since I do not have any diplomas or anything other than a high school education it would be extremely hard for me to find a job that pays as well or close to what I make now. If I left this job I could face years of unemployment and would be throwing away my family's financial security.
So I'm sending this out there. Maybe you can write an article about it or give me feedback. I am really struggling with this whole thing.
Thanks for reading, Sorry it was so long.
After years of working in the meat industry, this guy has gone vegan. His wife has subsequently gone vegan. Even his dog has gone vegan. He is also influencing others. He is trying his best.
But his job is about as far from a vegan-type job as you could possibly get.
Of course, the thought of working with meat – slicing it, holding it, serving it – makes us feel sick. But the vegan butcher had this job before he went vegan. It has provided him with a home, food to eat, a family- it has been his survival mechanism.
You can tell he wants an alternative, but he can't just leave. if he does he is jeopardizing his financial security, and that of his wife. He has limited education and therefore may not find a job for months. If he did leave he could lose his home, his car, his pension would take a huge hit.
So on one hand I'm like “Man, you have to get out of their asap”. But on the other I think this situation needs to managed carefully and without haste.
Here was my reply:
Hi [name removed],
Thank you for writing in.
I really feel for you, and I know you are torn inside. It is very hard to be vegan and still be surrounded by animal by-products, or in your case have to serve meat to customers in your place of work.
I do sympathize with your situation. You have made steps towards being a vegan: you eat vegan and do what you can to influence others.
But not all of us have the luxury to change everything about our lives immediately. For example, some vegans still have leather seats in their cars, or a leather sofa, but can't afford to upgrade.
Some vegans have a cat that eats meat. The journey towards being 100% vegan in all areas of your life takes time. As long as your intention is good, and you are doing all you can at the moment, then that's all you can do.
Some vegans might say different, but in my opinion you should not quit your job because A) it will put your family's future security at risk, and 2) your prospect of finding work with the equivalent pay is low, as you say.
What I would say is that you should look for another job with the same pay, or speak with the department store to see if you can make a sideways move to a new area of the store that doesn't handle meat or animal by-products; not just because it is the right moral choice, but because you will continue to feel uncomfortable and torn until you do.
All the best,
Peter ~ VeganMotivation.com
Are you a vegan who works in a job where you have to handle meat?
Perhaps you are a waiter or waitress. Perhaps you work in a supermarket. How do you feel about your job? What steps are you taking to minimize your involvement with meat? How do you feel about the way other vegans judge your situation?
What do you think about the vegan butcher's situation?