Voting with Your Dollars

Piles of one dollar bills and a roll of I voted today stickers

World Vegan Day is here, and what better way to celebrate than to go out and vote. But by voting I’m not talking about the presidential elections (although I also encourage those of us in the US to do that too!). Although many of us don’t realize it, every time we make a purchase we are also voting for a specific product, or even an entire industry to either continue as it always has, changes, or disappear completely.

Not all industries are bad and not all industries are good. Animal agriculture definitely falls in the not good category. In fact, every time we purchase a product that came from an animal, we are not only voting for animal suffering, we are also voting for an industry that contributes up to 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions, is the leading contributor of Amazon rainforest destruction and consumes over 55 trillion gallons of water annually, among others.

Meanwhile, whenever we replace animal-based products with those of a plant-based or artificial origin (the latter is more common in clothing), we are taking incremental steps towards a better world. For example, whenever we buy almond milk instead of dairy milk, we are casting our vote to reduce agricultural greenhouse gas emissions by 70%, and saving an animal.

It is a common mistake to believe that our purchasing decisions, or votes, are meaningless in the grand scheme of things. Afterall, an entire industry is much more powerful than a single individual. But oftentimes we don’t realize that the reason it is so powerful is because we enable it to be so. Indeed, one vote may have little effect on such large-scale global activities, but it only takes a small number of individuals to cause a monumental shift in the direction we as humans take collectively.

Plant-Based burgers used to be nonexistent until a not so significant cluster of consumers demanded one and it was created in the early 1980’s, and commercially distributed. That not so significant cluster of consumers has grown into a force to be reckoned with.

Today, brands like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are gradually helping transform the food industry into a more compassionate and sustainable one. In fact, analytics company Numerator recently revealed that 92% of Impossible Burger sales come directly at the expense of meat derived from animal flesh.

Now, not only are we seeing a plethora of plant-based milks and meats in supermarkets, there is an increasing demand for vegan eggs, vegan cheese, and even vegan seafood. As a marker of this shift, the Good Food Institute recently announced a partnership with the World Sustainability Organization to create a certification program for plant-based seafood, which means soon vegan fish will be officially recognized as seafood.

This is not some random event that happened arbitrarily. This is happening because enough regular people, like you and me, have been casting our votes, refusing to give our money to an industry which has depleted 75% of the world’s oceans due to overfishing, and is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of dolphins, sharks, whales and sea turtles each year.

For the most part, the main objective of major corporations is not to destroy the planet. Their goal is to simply make a profit, though such ambitious targets often make industry leaders indifferent to the damage they are causing on a massive scale.

Each time we cast our vote we are sending these industries a message, enough of which can and will cause an enormous transformation in the way business is done, this time in the right direction.

Indeed, the VegEconomy is not just some fad that will fade away, as the meat, dairy and fishing industries are hoping for. By the looks of it, it’s here to stay. But the future is not deterministic, and nothing should be taken for granted. That’s why it’s important to keep the ball rolling, by voting with our everyday purchasing decisions, voting for more ethical and sustainable options in the supermarket shelves, on restaurant menus, in clothing stores, and in our refrigerators and closets.

Now, during the covid era, many people are opting to eat at home instead of dining out, and with good reason. This is why online sales of plant-based foods have also skyrocketed. Today’s VegEconomy is in place in large part thanks to our modern-day ability to buy online. Many vegan retailers are doing well thanks to their ability to adapt and sell their products online.

But these kinds of decisions go beyond just our plates. We should also vote for the right types of clothing and other products. In fact, our voting dollars can be included in our daily lives, which include the hairdressers we patronize, our personal trainers, our doctors, lawyers etc.

Unlike the presidential elections, which only take place every four years, this kind of voting needs to happen every day if we aspire to create a positive change in the world. But please remember that none of this exempts us from voting in the presidential elections. So let’s celebrate World Vegan Day and get out and vote, using our wallets, our conscience, and while we’re at it, our ballots next Tuesday.


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