19 November 2010

Canadian company feels the heat for banning meat in the lunchroom

Can a private company dictate what not to have for lunch in the company lunchroom?

Absolutely, especially when that company is one of the world's most noteworthy creators of on-trend and completely vegan bags and accessories. Matt and Nat, based in Montreal, Canada, makes its purses and belts without leather or suede, using everything from plastic bottles to rubber tires in its designs

The highly successful company, which sells its bags worldwide, recently struck a deal with Apple to create a line of vegan laptop bags.

At its Montreal headquarters, the 18 Matt and Nat employees are barred from bringing meat or fish for lunch, and if they dine with a client at a restaurant, they are required to order vegetarian dishes.

Creative director and company founder Inder Bedi told the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC), "The fact that we don't use any animal products, it would be kinda weird or strange to be eating animal products on the premises."

Employees are also not permitted to wear leather, suede or fur to work. While this policy should come as no surprise to employees, as the strict veg guidelines are outlined to candidates at the very first interview, it was all too veg for one former employee.

The woman, who did not specify why she is no longer with the company, complained anonymously to the CBC about the regulations, saying that she often resorted to eating lunch in her car.

"It's a free country ... I think we should eat what we want," she said.

Not so, says Montreal lawyer Jordan Charness. "If this is a vegan company, they can say that everyone has to adhere to their vegan policies — at least at work," said Charness.

Adds Inder Bedi, "I've never really looked at it that way — whether we are infringing on somebody's rights. It's who we are as a company. You know, our brand."

The CBC website allows comments, and not surprisingly, the bulk of the comments condemn Matt and Nat for its veg stance and even for creating vegan products in the first place!

So for me, there are actually two stories here: that Matt and Nat is living its values (which cannot be said of actress Alicia Silverstone, who recently admitted that she cheats on her vegan diet by having cheese); but also that animal rights and vegan lifestyles are quick to be condemned by people who are significantly uninformed about all things veg.

Where are the veg commenters? Where are the animal defenders? This is part of a wider problem facing us, that we who love animals and don't eat them are too silent in the face of those who mock us. Or just maybe, silence is the best response to comments such as the following, which I have reprinted verbatim, without correcting any of the spelling or grammatical errors:

Would it be fair if I forced all of my employees to only eat meat everyday. No veggies, no bread, no pasta, no fruit, no cookies. How about no juice boxes, cola or water. Only milk. meat and milk at my company only. Sounds fair? No it's not because my policy discriminates. I've insured that the only people that I can hire are meat eating people. This company discriminates against people who eat meet. The hidden message is Vegetarians only are allowed a job here. That steps on culture, because many cultures foods are highly meat , fish and poultry based. This policy discriminates based on culture (race), which is a protected freedom.


Love them little mousies
Them mousies I love to eat,
Bite their little heads off,
Nibble on their feet.

HUH? Yes, these comments are a good representation of the rest, including the one we could have all expected, that Hitler was a vegetarian.  (Even though it's long been proven he wasn't).

Bonnie Shulman | @veganbonnie
Bonnie has been a vegan for four years and supports vegan advocacy organizations such as Vegan Outreach and Farm Sanctuary, as well as animal rights groups around the world. She is particularly nuts about ducks, as you can see from her flickr site. Feel free to add Bonnie as a friend on Facebook.

Photo credit: cc:flickr.com/photos/jeffgunn