Monday, January 10, 2011

Shopping Activism

This one comes to you courtesy of my sister, an animal rights superstar.

I first witnessed it when she and I went out shopping on one of her visits. We had gone to a shoe store that had loads of vegan-friendly boots and were each able to get a nice pair to keep our tootsies warm that winter.

When she got to the counter, and the sales clerk asked her if she found everything alright, she surprised me with a loud, clear response. She thanked the clerk for having so many vegan-friendly options. She continued and gestured to me and my other sister and said something to the effect of, "We're all vegans and so when stores like this one have so many non-leather products, we make sure to return."

The manager was standing right there and turned around to join the conversation. My sister chatted with them a bit about animals and vegans and we left. I was a little stunned, but ready for it when we found non-wool pea coats at the next store. The clerks there also asked her a bit about animal products and rights, and there were several customers nearby.

It was a little odd to see, but she did it in such a congenial, and genuine way. I of course know that her day job is in the AR field, but the clerks didn't, and from that point of view, her gratitude did not seem like campaigning or activism. She looked like a customer who was happy that a store offered her options, and she was saying as much.

Saying as much is really the key to what my sister calls "shopping activism." You don't have to discuss your personal beliefs or politics to do it, but you have to speak up. If a store carries vegan-friendly merchandise, let the manager know that it's what draws you there and you'd like to see more. If a store doesn't carry what you want, tell them.

Animal ag wants your money, but stores want your money too and they'll carry what they need to in order to get it. Besides that, sometimes you'll have the opportunity to talk to people one-on-one about why you want vegan-friendly products. It's an opportunity to educate, and to normalize. By being in the store, you already have something in common with the clerk, so you can help them see that anyone can be vegan.

Accordingly, anyone can be an activist. Whether you're holding signs in front of city hall or encouraging businesses and people to take an interest in ethical products, you're using your voice to speak for the animals.

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