The Vegan Consumer: Making Better Choices

Last November, 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. 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, and to boycott the company and all the stores that were listed on their website as sellers. 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.

Cut to three-and-a-half months later, March 12, 2017: I am pleased to say that I have made significant changes to my buying behavior. I now buy almost exclusively organic products. The only exceptions so far have been trash bags, tissues, and 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 haven’t set foot into the two supermarket chains, which I vowed to boycott for a year, Billa and Merkur. I have nothing against these two supermarkets, they’re really just collateral damage; but it seemed silly to boycott just the company which produces the hummus, as I rarely bought their product anyway. So I decided to boycott the supermarkets too, at which their products are sold. While I don’t miss shopping at Billa, I do miss shopping at Merkur. They have a fairly large selection of vegan and organic products.

Instead, I shop 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. But it’s only March, and I’ve given myself a year to change my buying habits.



As I am making such huge changes to my buying behavior, I decided to record all my shopping expenses for one year – and I have to say I am quite shocked at the amount of convenience foods and junk food I buy. 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.

So now I am cooking more, and am slowly using up all the expired food items in my kitchen. (The photo shows about half of the expired items I found on my shelves, I already used up the other half). Amazingly, they’re all still good and usable.

All in all, this experience is an eye-opener. There’s still much room for improvement, but I’m happy that I have initiated several changes in just three months time. I’ll post occasional updates throughout the year about my progress.

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