Dear Bob and Charlee Moore,

Recently, I found out that you have pledged to give Oregon Health & Sciences University $25 million to study poor nutrition and obesity.  I’ve been waiting to write this letter until I heard what you had to say, and now that I have- well, disappointed is an understatement.

Oregon Health & Sciences University is notoriously heinous for their animal research programs. As such, by offering them a donation- regardless if it is to be used to fund animal research or not, you are directly making it possible for these types of programs to continue.  There are many universities who do not use animals as test subjects who would benefit greatly from such a donation.

If I continued to purchase your products I too would be supporting that university, since it’s me and thousands like me who’ve bought your products thereby giving you the profits to donate.  And Mr. and Mrs. Moore, I can’t do that.  We’ll be parting ways, I’m very sorry to say it.  I’ve been a loyal customer for years, but I don’t support organizations who test on animals.  I do my best to ensure that my vegan dollars are spent with companies that are more aligned with my ethics.  As long as Bob’s Red Mill provides money to organizations that perform animal research, I will not buy your products.

With Sincere Regret,

KD Traegner

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Many of you might be wondering why, as other bloggers and companies have reaffirmed their support of Bob’s Red Mill since the press release, that I am still going to boycott them.  Here are some thoughts:

  • Bob’s wanted to assure us that no part of their donation will be used to fund animal research, I appreciate that.  But the fact remains that their funds will go to a university that performs animal testing.  Wouldn’t it be better to support a university that does not support or fund animal testing at all?  If Bob’s Red Mill is against animal testing, then why partner with an animal tester- regardless if you are funding it or not?
  • Bob’s could only donate the profits they made from people like you and me.  Without our support, there would be no profits to donate.
  • Even if Bob’s wasn’t aware that OHSU tests on animals, they are now.  And they are still donating $25 million dollars to them.
  • The letter from OHSU?  It’s vague and political.  It never mentions one time that they will not use the funds to test on animals. (Will they be policing the funds to ensure that not one dime goes to fund anything else?)

Some might say that this issue isn’t black or white, we all fund the exploitation of animals in some form or another- that a boycott would not be a good use of our activist time.

I strongly disagree.

Listen, I am a realist enough to know that no one is 100% animal free- I’m talking myself here too.  But there is a difference between: purchasing a vegan product made from a non-vegan company that is cruelty-free, and buying a vegan product from a non-vegan company that funds universities that test on animals.  It’s right there, in the open for us all to see.  It’s rarely that easy to make an ethical decision, right?  It can be a challenge to determine whether a company is cruelty-free- in this instance we can easily see that Bob’s is not.

Every time you stand up for your vegan beliefs, every time you raise questions, have a vegan dialogue with someone, every time you sit down to a vegan meal- you are participating in activism.  You are making a difference to someone every time you interact with them.  Don’t underestimate the power you have to affect change.

Think about this, The Informed Vegan wrote a post about Bob’s Red Mill that went viral.  It was his influence that had thousands of people tweeting, posting on facebook, and commenting on blogs about the issue.  It was his influence that prompted the protestors, that prompted Bob’s Red Mill to issue a response.  One can make a difference.  You are that one.

I realize that I can’t tell you what to do with your money but I can tell me what to do with my money.  I do not support companies that test on animals.  Bob’s Red Mill supports a university that supports/performs animal testing.  If I buy their products, I’m providing them the profits that they’ll use to donate to facilities that are not aligned with my beliefs.

UPDATE 9/30/11: This issue has sparked much debate and none more so that with the readers of YDV.  In lieu of commenting, I’ve expanded some of my original thoughts on this issue.  Please find them after the jump.

Updated Thoughts on Bob’s Red Mill

Recently, I decided to stop buying Bob’s Red Mill products due to the CEO and founder donating $25 million dollars to a university that also experiments on animals.  My decision, and subsequent post regarding it, has angered people- none more so than my vegan peers.  It has been said that:

1.  The donation is from the founder, not the company, so a boycott of the company (and it’s employees) is wrong.

2.  The Moores released a statement (on Bob’s Red Mill website) that the donation won’t be used to fund animal experiments.  The University also released a statement, though it is more vague and doesn’t specifically mention that the donated funds won’t go towards animal experimentation.  To some (vegans), this shows that Bob (and Bob’s Red Mill by extension) is “doing the right thing” so we (vegans) shouldn’t “turn our backs on them.”

3.  Boycotting Bob’s Red Mill is fruitless because we could never boycott every single company/individual who exploits animals.  This is by far the most popular rebuttal.

4.  The company wasn’t a vegan company in the first place so a boycott makes little sense in terms of vegan consistency.

5.  It is unproductive as advocates to work on a project beyond advocating veganism because there are no moral differences between instances of animal exploitation.  There is no moral difference between wearing leather or wearing fur, for example.  To do otherwise is labeled as “single-issue” campaigning.

To which I reply,

1.  Bob Moore acts as the company spokesperson and retains the position of CEO of the company.  As such, Bob Moore and Bob’s Red Mill have a mutually beneficial relationship.  Bob Moore profits when Bob’s Red Mill profits.  I provide those profits when I buy their products.

2.  The Moores donation may not go to pay for animal experimentation (if we trust those with little regard for animals on their word), but it will go to pay for salaries of those who do.  Recruitment of the institute’s leader is specifically listed as an approved expenditure for the donated funds.  One must infer what this means, the letter is (again) specifically vague.

3.  Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good. In other words, just because you can’t do everything doesn’t mean you should do nothing.  I may not be able to boycott every instance of animal exploitation, but I can and should take direct action whenever possible- particularly when it can benefit the lives of animals.

4. & 5.  I used to agree with the sentiment about single-issue campaigning.  In fact, I’ve even wrote about it as recently as June.  I was wrong.  This is a separate issue in which I will address in another post.

The bottom line, for me, is that Bob’s donation (and his subsequent promotion of it using Bob’s Red Mill brand and blog) has raised some serious issues.  Not only with Bob, but with how vegans deal with non-vegan companies.  As a vegan, I question if my actions are going to help the animals or if it’s going to keep their situations status quo.  Not doing anything because of any of the reasons listed above means that those animals’ situations won’t change- maybe those situations won’t even change by my boycott.  But I have to try, based on what I know- I have to try.

It is important to discuss these issues with our fellow vegan peers, even if the views are different.  We can do so much more good with open and honest dialogue than we can without it.  It isn’t hatred that fuels these types of discussions (as I’ve read some say), it’s responding to the very real situations that these animals are placed in.

Limiting the amount of profits to later be used as a private donation to fund these types of experiments, while a single issue, is advocating the vegan message and taking a direct action at the same time.  This is the best direct action I can offer those animals right now.  So that’s what I’ll do.