How about fundraising? Say I am a member of a service organization that decides to sell milk chocolate candies to raise money. Is it unethical to buy these candies for someone else or sell the candies to make money for my group?
What about even broader topics? For example, is it acceptable for me to pick up the tab when a friend joins me for a restaurant meal but doesn’t order vegan food? I'm not sure at what point my ethics are being compromised or I’m pushing them on others. I dislike being rude, but I also can't bear to compromise my beliefs.
Every time we make a purchase our ethics are directly or indirectly validated or contradicted. But determining what is “ethical” is not as simple as looking at the contents of our shopping carts or gift boxes. For example, buying meat or medications for a nonvegetarian, homebound, elderly relative is in fact an act of kindness and compassion. Forcing people who are desperate to eat the foods we choose for them even though they dislike those foods or depriving them of vital medications that contain animal products or that were tested on animals would be cruel.
Gifts -- whether material goods, charitable donations, or meal sponsorships -- should be given freely from the heart, with no reservations. If we have doubts about a gift, we need to investigate the source of our uncertainties and carefully examine why we are uncomfortable before we offer it. A present extended with indifference, or worse, resentment, is no present at all.
There rarely is just a single item that a person would be happy to receive. In fact, if that were the case, I would question the person’s true need for that item. Most of us want and need a variety of things, and we would be delighted to receive any one of them. When people request a gift that isn’t vegan, it’s a simple matter of stating that purchasing such an item would conflict with our values, but we would be pleased to get them something else. This doesn’t mean that the only substitute is a vegan version of the original request. For instance, a new magazine subscription or a soup pot might be a welcome option instead of leather gloves.
There are many ways to support charitable organizations other than sponsoring nonvegan fundraising activities. It’s also possible to work toward changing the types of products sold to raise money. Selling equally delicious vegan dark chocolates or cookies or even nonfood items is a perfectly valid alternative for vegans to explore and help initiate.
If you are uncomfortable paying for a friend’s meat meal, why not just ask for separate checks? If you know in advance that your friend will probably order meat, you don’t have to offer to pay for the meal. You can enjoy your time together without having to pick up the tab. Of course, you can ask if she would be comfortable choosing a vegetarian or vegan option or going to a vegan or vegetarian restaurant instead, and if she is agreeable you would be able to pay for her meal without hesitation.
Being honest about your ethics and beliefs is not the same as imposing them on others. If your family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances are uncomfortable with your values, that is their issue, not yours. There almost always are means to be caring and generous toward others without sacrificing our beliefs in the process. Finding those options just requires a little bit of effort and ingenuity. Regardless of what you choose to do in each situation, remember that what you hold in your heart supersedes what you hold in your hands.