The Vegan Consumer: Making Better Choices

Please note: This article was first published on The Vegan Tourist on March 12, 2017 and last updated May 25, 2019.

In November 2016, I cancelled my membership of the Vegan Society Austria after a rather unpleasant experience at their Vegan Planet fair. One of the vendors had put out a sign which informed customers that all profits from their sales at this fair would be donated to medical research. I was furious, as this means only one thing: animal research. When I complained, the company’s general manager and staff told me they didn’t care about animal research, and the (vegan!) fair’s organizers didn’t resolve the issue to my satisfaction. I was furious, and penned a couple of angry German-language blog entries, which I have now deleted, as I decided to revert this blog to a strictly English-language blog. (I think it confuses readers, if I blog in two languages.) I swore that I would resign my membership of the Vegan Society Austria – which I did – and that I would donate the money to an NGO instead, which supports research without animal testing, Doctors Against Animal Experiments. I vowed never to buy that particular company’s food products (hummus) again. I also decided to make better buying choices in the future, because I realized that I wasn’t living up to my own personal ethical standards.

While I always buy vegan products, I don’t always buy organic products. In the past, I  shopped frequently at supermarkets, and not at smaller, family-owned stores or at farmer’s markets. I didn’t know anything about the companies which produced the products I was buying, or their business ethics; and I frequently ordered take-out from non-vegetarian restaurants through an online delivery service. I wasn’t just furious at the company which made the (non-organic) hummus. I was angry at myself for buying non-organic foodstuffs in the first place, and for not being a more ethical consumer.

In the years that followed (I am updating this blog entry on May 25, 2019) I did make significant changes to my buying behavior. I now buy very few non-organic food items. Unfortunately, many non-food items are not available in organic quality, e.g. vacuum cleaner bags. There’s also no organic (vegan? non-animal-tested?) substitute for printer toner, and I continue to buy magazines, books, and DVDs. But I have made improvements in regard to my buying behavior.

I did not manage to keep up my boycott of major supermarkets, as intended. While I do shop more often at organic and/or vegan supermarkets, it’s not always possible to do so. I shop more often at Maran Vegan, a small vegan, family-owned supermarket, where all the employees are either vegan or vegetarian. Unfortunately, it’s located far away from where I live, and each shopping trip takes about 2 1/2 hours. I also shop at Denn’s Biomarkt, which is an organic supermarket chain. There’s a branch closer to where I live (15 minutes on foot), so I do most of my shopping there. I’m sorry to say that I still order take-out food over the Internet from non-vegetarian restaurants. When I am too exhausted or too tired to cook, I order out; and there aren’t many vegetarian restaurants which deliver food in Vienna.

© Ingrid Haunold

As I was making such huge changes to my buying behavior, I decided to record all my shopping expenses for one year – but was unable to stick to that decision. I kept records for a few months, but then fell behind, and abandoned the record-keeping. However, I kept records long enough to realize that I buy a lot of  convenience foods and junk food. I also noticed that while I buy plenty of healthy food items, they usually just end up sitting on a shelf for months (and years) on end, until they’re well past their due-date. 2 1/2 years later, not much has changed in this respect.

I am cooking more, and I am slowly using up expired food items in my kitchen. (The photo shows about half of the expired items I found on my shelves in late 2016). Amazingly, they were all still good and usable. But it’s now May 2019, and I still have a few of the items shown in the photo.

All in all, this experience was and continues to be an eye-opener. There’s still much room for improvement, but I’m happy that I have initiated several changes since I first wrote this blog entry in early 2017.

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