It's Much More Than A Diet
“Veganism is often narrowly defined as a restrictive diet for people who love animals. For us, it’s much more than that. We see veganism as a conscious lifestyle choice that’s rooted in anti-speciesism and respect for all beings.” –Jeff Kurosaki, Co-founder
Meow Meow Tweet has been a vegan business from the beginning. We (Tara and Jeff, co-founders) were already vegans in our personal lives, so it was a no-brainer to bring that into our business. Veganism for Meow Meow Tweet looks like this: not using any animal-derived ingredients in our natural products and making decisions that reduce harm as much as possible for people, animals, and the planet.
It’s not about being a “perfect” vegan… whatever that means. For us, being a vegan company is about living and operating by our values.
OUR VEGAN VALUES
We love and care about animals, and we’re also passionate about equality, justice and caring for our planet. While we hold space for veganism by itself, it’s also important to us that our veganism is intersectional. The destruction of the earth is also the destruction of animal homes, and the exploitation of “resources” from both animals and the land goes hand-in-hand with the exploitation and oppression of humans. For us, veganism is about being a good neighbor—to all who share this Earth.
A good example of our values can be seen in the reasons we don’t use palm oil in our products. Palm oil may be a plant-derived (and technically vegan) ingredient, but the production of palm oil is directly linked to the death of animals, the exploitation of Indigenous people and the degradation of the environment.
BTMS (the active detangling ingredient in our conditioner bar) is usually derived from palm oil, but we worked to formulate our own version of BTMS that could be derived from coconuts instead. And rather than using palm oil as the base for our lotions, we always opt for less harmful plant-derived oils that are gentle on your skin.
“It was important to me that our SPF and underarm lotions be palm-free (which I think of as being vegan), and it’s very hard to find emulsifiers that are petroleum and palm-free. Ours are olive oil and sunflower oil based. Sunflower isn't a perfect plant, but we’re able to track the sourcing of it more easily than palm since it’s grown and pressed in the U.S.” –Tara Pelletier, Co-founder
Our vegan values also intersect with a locavore mindset. If we can source an ingredient from a small organic producer nearby, they will always be our first choice. Two examples of this can be found in the hops flowers we use in our Rosemary Avocado Shampoo Bar, and the marshmallow root we use in the Matcha Lime Exfoliant Mask. Both ingredients are sourced from local herb farms in the Hudson Valley and we extract them in-house. We love working with neighboring farms because it helps us feel really connected to the plants and our communities.
We’re lucky to live and operate in a place where we can access beautiful produce and amazing food co-ops all year round, and we’re grateful to have the time to connect with our food through cooking and eating as a family. We extend our vegan philosophy in our personal lives through participating in mutual aid in our town, shopping with regional farmers and small businesses, and treating all of our human, animal, and plant community members with appreciation and respect.
WHERE THE MAINSTREAM VEGAN MOVEMENT NEEDS TO IMPROVE
What our vegan values don’t stand for is placing animal lives over Black or Asian lives. We also don’t stand for veganism that caters to the privileged or markets consumer choice as meaningful change. Just like “sustainable,” “green,” “natural,” and “non-toxic” have become buzzy marketing terms, the vegan movement is not without its fair share of greenwashing, whitewashing and capitalist co-option.
As Khushbu Shah writes in her article “The Vegan Race Wars: How the Mainstream Ignores Vegans of Color”, veganism is still heavily geared toward a white, privileged, middle-upper class consumer—despite the fact that nonviolent diets originated in non-white Eastern religions and that 8% of Black Americans identify as vegan, while only 3% of the total U.S. population does. Communities of color have incorporated nutritious (and delicious) vegan foods like tofu, avocado, quinoa, sweet potatoes, and lentils into their cultural cuisines for centuries, yet commercialized veganism rarely acknowledges or appreciates where these “trends” come from. This is made worse by the trendification and subsequent commoditization of these foods.
“Expecting a system that thrives on exploitation to somehow magically end exploitation is a losing strategy.” (1)
Veganized capitalism won’t help us or the animals. The industrialized mass production of anything, including vegan products, is actively harmful to animals and humans alike. We would like to see less people in the vegan movement pointing fingers at people of color for eating their cultural foods or shaming low-income folks for eating what they have access to, and more people asking questions about how capitalism, racism and sexism intersect with veganism.
Moralizing the way we eat without challenging systemic values and structural oppression only serves to put more money in the pockets of multinational corporations and CEOs who profit from violence and abuse. Instead of supporting “big vegan” initiatives or shaming people for their lifestyle, we prefer to uplift folks like the AfroVegan Society, Detroit Food Academy, Harlem Grown, Dream of Wild Health, Grandma’s Hands, Feed Black Futures and so many more who are working locally to increase access to and education around plant-based, nutritious foods in communities that have been systemically subjected to food insecurity.
At the end of the day, we see veganism as a form of harm reduction. If we can (and we recognize that not everyone has this privilege) choose an ingredient, a meal, or an action that prevents the harm or death of another being, we will. Practicing veganism through daily decisions translates to a larger practice of advocating for animal liberation, human rights, and the abolition of all oppression and exploitation. Supporting community-based initiatives while saying no to the dominant capitalist culture gives us a sense of empowerment that encourages us to keep living by our values.
The Meow Meow Tweet Blog Is A Collaborative Thought Project Between The Founders Of Meow Meow Tweet And Our Editorial Team. This Post Was Written By Faye Lessler.
(1) Ari Solomon, “Will Capitalism Save The Animals?” Veganista, January 25, 2020