AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO IS CONSTANTLY IN A RAGE ABOUT THIS?
Sorry to yell, but I keep getting all shakey and screaming-with-rage about this. A sure sign it’s time for a blog post.
Every week it seems there’s a fresh new crop of for-profit enterprises asking for donations on my Facebook wall. Recently it was a vegan bodega in NYC.
Yes: you are supposed to give your hard-earned vegan cash to some vegans who want to sell you shit corporate junk food back to you. But it’s vegan junk food! So it’s totally fine.
The doughnuts look fucking amazing (as do the boys, which I already mentioned. I digress.). And, as is typical with these things, you do get something in return for your cash: free doughnuts, in most cases.
So many of my friends are directly involved in projects like this, I’m beginning to think there’s something wrong with me that it makes me so ragey. Maybe it’s because my town is full of displaced people whose houses are ruined, businesses trashed, farms flooded? Maybe because people are starving all around the world, animals are being tortured everywhere, women are being beaten by men everywhere, etc etc forever forever?
It’s wonderful that these hot boys are making sexy little doughnuts.
I want to make that point clear. They look delicious. I keep meaning to seek them out when I’m in the city. But it’s not true activism. It’s joyful work, and it’s on the activism spectrum, sure. But treating doughnut-making like a non-profit makes me sick. Yes, of course, the vegan world needs delicious food activists making food so good it converts non-vegans instantly. I’d argue we are the core of the vegan movement, in fact. But there’s a line in the sand that separates us from non-profits—animal sanctuaries, animal rights groups, etc. We are not non-profits. We are here to support non-profits. We are also here, no matter how you spin it, to make money.
It’s really, really, really hard to run a small business, particularly a hardcore vegan foodie small business. I spend hundreds of hours a week doing it and have, full-time, for nine years now. Every single day of these nine years could I have used a free cash infusion.
I work 12, 13, 14, 15 hours a day. I make poverty line wages (actually the shop is doing pretty grand, but it’s just that I have those three mortgages and student loans, renovation expenses, etc blah blah, sexy lingerie to buy on etsy, etc, so I’m always poor). But my job is pretty fucking easy. I make chocolates. My job is the literal definition of fun. And you know what? It is fun. Lots.
I’m not, like others I know, undercover working at slaughterhouses and coming home crying every night, taking hours’ long baths to attempt to soften my shocked and aching muscles so I can get through another awful day smothering baby chicks. I’m not, like others I know, a social worker attempting to keep teenage girls off heroin and alcohol. My job is not deserving of free money.
Also, there already exists a system for funding businesses, called investors. It’s not my bag, being an anarchist and whatnot, but it works for some people. If I invested in a business, I’d sure want dividends, not “shout-outs” on websites and whatnot. I get that this new, social network-based investing system is meant to be something inbetween finding traditional investors and just straight-up asking for money, but it’s the appeal to one’s social-justice consciousness that annoys me. I do think sites like IndieGoGo and Kickstarter *can* be used to provide “investors” with something actually valuable or meaningful for their donation/investment, but a few doughnuts, a t-shirt here and there, and recognition seems pretty sad. Dun-Well is offering a sweet catered doughnut party, which seems fair for a larger donation–actually, several of the incentives seem logical: a doughnut named after you, a tile with your name on it in their shop-to-be. All of this seems fair, actually. My problem is with the appeal to one’s animal rights ethics. If you want to trade some money to a great little start-up in exchange for a bunch of doughnuts so they can get off the ground, please do. But please don’t pretend that NYC having a vegan doughnut shop is going to change the face of the animal rights world and thus your donation is as valuable as if you gave it to a true animal rights group.
Maybe a lot of it is pride. I guess I have to admit that. If I opened up my shop without help from my family and secret riches, others should be able to too. Of course I have my partner’s (rather scanty) income to lean on when things get lean, and I’ve borrowed a TON of money from friends over the years. And I’ve always paid it back. I never hesitated to ask, they never hesitated to give, I rushed to pay back. I also, as you know, do a ton of barters, and I suppose this is somewhat like a barter. Sort of. But I never acted like I’m doing God’s work by making caramel. I would have been ashamed to do so. I’ve certainly said it’s part of my mission to live a life in line with my values, and that the shop is my personal attempt at animal rights activism, but I’m sure not going to pretend that you buying chocolates there is yours.
My plan is to make money, I’m not going to pretend it’s not. I want to make enough to buy myself cute shoes, and eventually to build a small, eco-friendly house on that little bit of land Jacob and I own. I want to make enough to travel a bit, work a bit less, and, of course, to give to my favorite animal rights organizations and arts organizations and environmental organizations because I love animals and I love art and I love the earth and they are all essential for my sanity and survival.
I also love doughnuts. But never will I love doughnuts enough to donate money to two hot boys running a for-profit business making them.
Am I saying I feel superior to them, because I’ve managed to find a way to run a business without begging for money from well-intentioned people by appealing to their ethical beliefs in animal rights? Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying, I suppose. And so it is.
Hmm. I just realized that as I edit this and mull this all over while answering emails, I just signed up to pay $250 to be a sponsor for New Paltz Flood Aid, which is basically giving money to farmers. How is it different? It is. And not just because it’s a catastrophe, because farming is just…different. Maybe I’m a hypocrite. I don’t know.
Don’t give money to people running for-profit businesses, friends.
It’s a disgusting thing to ask of you.