From animal welfare and non-animal testing to veganism, more and more people are demanding transparency from businesses in terms of their principals.
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.
So where do we start if we want our business to align with the principals of Ahimsa? The answer, as with most things, is of course with ourselves.
The ‘aha’ moment
This occurred when I was a teenager, 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 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 like a ton of bricks. 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.
Do your research
Farming practices, 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 actually 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 is 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.
The wider meaning of Ahisma
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 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.
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 a 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 should eliminate ALL animal products from stock and supply chain. But you have to take that outside your own business too. Such as only working with ethical suppliers who have done their own due diligence on their suppliers. Be rigid in your checking because it really matters. If you want to be cruelty-free – you also need to ask the same of your suppliers.
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 Ahimsa 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.
If all our thoughts and actions were grounded in love, the world truly would be a cruelty free place.
By: Louise Palmer-Masterton
Louise Palmer-Masterton is founder of multiple award-winning restaurant Stem + Glory; a hip and trendy but accessible plant-based restaurant, serving delicious gourmet vegan food from locally sourced ingredient that are 100 per cent made on site. Stem + Glory offers all day casual fine dining, fast breakfast, brunch and lunch, juices, smoothies and great coffee. All available to eat in or take away. Stem + Glory also offers mouth-watering and hugely popular tasting menu evenings and special event menus. The restaurants have an extensive vegan bar, offering the best craft beers and fine wines, alongside cocktails, mocktails and smart drinks.