I do not usually use this blog for political issues, or for discussion of the ethics surrounding veganism. I especially do not use it to discuss religion, but today I will make an exception.
Some religious groups, notably the 7th Day Adventists and some Buddhist organisations, operate vegan businesses. These groups tend to be open about who they are, and you will find material about their beliefs, and how veganism or vegetarianism fits in with them, and yet they tend not to be pushy about them (it would drive away customers, especially me).
They weren’t always so, of course – a quick look at the introductory material in many 19th century vegetarian cookbooks will reveal many pious assertions. While there are always the fringes, these groups are “mostly harmless”, and the businesses primarily staffed by people trying to live by their own principles. There have been allegations of the exploitation of illegal immigrants in some businesses (see the first comment to this entry), but this shit is rife in catering generally.
There are other places that are both by religious groups and are openly used by those groups as a means of recruitment. Again, they’re open about what they’re doing, and I quite simply avoid those restaurants as I find such behaviour incredibly annoying.
There is a third category of business, not limited to the vegan and vegetarian market, which are operated by some of the more dubious religious organisations as a means of raising funds or of gaining access to vulnerable people. They rarely mention this, or will couch it in weasel words, because they know potential customers will be put off. Lists of businesses that are fronts for various organisations of concern can be found easily online.
Today, I learned that special diets foods retailer Goodness Direct is a front for the coercive cult, the Jesus Army (some of the comments might be triggering, so tread carefully if you have issues). Now, this is the type of religious group to which I really object and do not want to fund in any way. Even the Evangelical Alliance won’t have anything to do with them! I haven’t used the site myself, but I know many vegans do and that many vegans also try to use ethical businesses wherever possible.
I am privileged to have a reasonable (for the UK) whole foods shop close to where I live, but for more unusual animal-free products, I have good personal experience of shopping with Vegan Store, which appears to be a small, independent, vegan-owned company.
And now I shall resume normal service. I’m still in Japan thanks to that unpronounceable volcano, and have a backlog of restaurant reviews.