Louise Palmer-Masterton, founder of accessible plant-based restaurant Stem + Glory, considers how small business owners can become more ethical and embrace cruelty-free practices.
More than half a million people have now adopted cruelty-free living in the UK, which is a rise of more than 350% in the last ten years. What might have been considered a “fad” is becoming increasingly popular.
And when it comes to veganism, animal welfare and non-animal testing, more and more people are demanding transparency from businesses in terms of their practices.
Even so-called “ethical” businesses are having to dig deeper into everything from supply chain to personal morals and motivations to stand up to the rigorous challenge that being truly cruelty-free brings.
For those wanting to embrace cruelty-free in business, where do we start? The answer, as with most things, is of course with ourselves.
“Start now. Build the ethos, bit by bit, into your business.”
Believe in cruelty-free
I had what I call my “aha” moment during a chance encounter with the Krishna movement. I was introduced to the idea of compassionate eating for the first time and it made complete sense to me.
I gave up eating meat on the spot and I have never looked back. As soon as I thought about what I was doing by eating meat and equally by eating any by-products from the meat industry, it just hit me. It was like I had just woken up from some murky fog and all of a sudden, I could see clearly how I wanted to live my life and how I should live my life.
After that, it was just inconceivable to me that I would ever eat meat or cheese, milk or eggs again. Not eating animals is a big part of cruelty-free for me, and I personally believe you cannot claim to be cruelty-free if you consume or sell meat products.
I do believe these kinds of “aha” moments have the power to change the path of your life in a very transformative way, so it helps to educate yourself about what is really going on in the world.
Take time to research
How we treat animals, and how we treat each other are all an integral part of our daily lives. Take the time to read about what goes on. If you have to push yourself out of your comfort zone to do that then so be it.
Just because something is out of sight it doesn’t mean it’s not happening and if the information is not in front of you, seek it out. Find out what really happens to animals when they are slaughtered. It may well make you cry.
Establish what cruelty-free really means to you
From my “aha” moment on, everything I have done has been driven by what yoga calls Ahimsa – non-harming. This is what I believe is the basis for a cruelty-free world – and therefore a cruelty-free business.
It’s obvious that not killing and eating animals is a big part of Ahimsa, but what about its wider meaning? Ahimsa is about refraining from harmful actions, but it is also about refraining from harmful thoughts too.
So, Ahimsa really means the complete absence of violence and harm in thought, word and deed. This, in my opinion, is what cruelty-free really means. And it is this ethos that needs to be applied throughout the business – from your suppliers to your staff, from your products to your marketing. Focus on a complete absence of violence and harm.
Over the years I have had to learn how to apply Ahimsa to business. I can’t live my life one way and turn a blind eye when it comes to commerce.
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The latest bowl to join the team in London. The Shakshuka bowl. Chickpeas, polenta crisps, rich tomato sauce, paprika, roasted eggplant + eggy tofu. All the bowls are on our lunch menu, and coming soon to our delivery/collection service. Maybe joining the evenings too – good idea? Do you like healthy evening dining as well as lunch?
Ensure you can stand up to scrutiny
On the surface, it might seem easy enough to just focus on your suppliers and the supply chain. But I have learned to look deeper. Everything, absolutely everything, needs to stand up to scrutiny.
Not stocking products that are tested on animals and having that as company policy is important. Dealing with fair trade companies who look after their staff, choosing ingredients and materials that don’t damage the environment, paying a fair price and treating suppliers fairly – are all part of being cruelty-free.
We, of course, also eliminate all animal products from our stock and supply chain. But you have to take that outside your own business too. We only work with ethical suppliers who have done their own due diligence on their suppliers. We are rigid in our checking because it really matters. If you want to be cruelty-free – you also need to ask the same of your suppliers.
Your actions and interactions
Beyond that, and perhaps even more importantly, being cruelty-free really starts with positive actions and interactions. And that comes from you. Look to yourself to be kind and be compassionate with everyone and that includes staff, suppliers, contractors – anyone and everyone really with whom you have professional dealings.
Although this may seem like a big undertaking, it is worth it – and customers (and suppliers) will appreciate it and recognise it. Cruelty-free businesses will be more and more important in the future – customers will demand it, and the transparency to be sure you are doing what you claim.
Start now. Build the ethos, bit by bit, into your business. Tell people what you are doing and be willing to accept that you may not get it perfectly right every time – but a desire to change, and genuinely sticking with your ethics will help you attract a strong, committed team and loyal customers.
I do believe that if we want to live in a cruelty-free world it starts with compassion to self and compassion to others – whoever they are.
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