Update: Statements have been issued by both the Moores and the OHSU. You can find links and excerpts here.
I recently toured the Bob's Red Mill facility in Portland. Being with a group of vegans, the tour leader made much of the vegan options in their restaurant and their vegan-friendly offerings in general. Vegans, in turn, give Bob's Red Mill and its products a lot of love in their cooking and baking...especially gluten-free vegans, given Bob's healthy line-up of GF supplies.
So, there's disappointment in VeganLand this week as Bob Moore and his wife Charlee have made a massive donation to an Oregon university is notorious for doing animal research. There's ongoing debate, including someone form the university itself weighing in over at The Informed Vegan.
It brings up a classic dilemma: How do you state your displeasure if you purchase Bob's products? The money isn't earmarked for animal testing, but nor can they state it will not be used for it. Bob and his wife are no longer sole owners of the company, having sold shares to employees, but they are clearly a significant part of the operation AND his name and face are the primary branding element the company still employs. Sure, they're donating their personal money, but that money comes from Bob's Red Mill, the company.
A similar dilemma arose for me personally a few years ago when it was divulged that the owner of the Century and CineArts movie theatres in our area was a huge Prop 8 proponent and donor. That year we took the company out to a movie as a holidy outing, and we purposely chose a different theatre chain.
While it would seem the answer is simple...avoid giving your hard-earned dollars to companies who values do not align with yours...it's actually a complicated matter, involving several big questions:
1. Can you apply your decision consistently, or can you only apply it in those rare cases when we learn about a company (or its founders) charitable or political donations? Does it matter if the answer is that you only find out, and therefore act accordingly, only rarely? Does that make you a hypocrite, or just doing the best anyone can expect?
2. When an "owner" is really someone who has a stake, but not the sole stake, and they are putting in "personal money", is any action you take against the company even impacting the right people? People who could forestall future such donations? Or are you harming employees, even management employees, who can't effect change anyway?
3. Wouldn't the boycott approach mean that you shouldn't buy the vegan products put out by companies that also sell non-vegan products? Quite the opposite of my usual approach, which is to encourage more mainstream companies to make vegan options by buying the ones that exist.
You could certainly say "This is such an outlier...it's such a large public donation; he's the face of the brand. No, I can't possibly keep track of every possible shenanigan I don't agree with happening behind the scenes at every company, but I do know about this one, so I have to act!"
And that probably is what I will say. (And admittedly, easily so, given I don't bake a whole lot.)
What will you say?
Hat tip to JL Goes Vegan and her weekly vegan news round-up.