Conflict of Interest

When vegan meets non-vegan world.

I’m caught in the middle of a huge conflict of interest. This is the first time I’ve really felt obligated to do something that goes against everything I stand for. The interesting thing is that this would be a conflict of interest for me even if I still wasn’t vegan yet.

For those of you who’ve known me for ages know that this was my entire life in high school and my early college years:

WesleyI lived for one purpose: to go to the barn and hang out with Wesley. The realization that people eat horse is probably one of the reasons veganism clicked with me.

Anyways, I grew up loving horses and was always taught that horse racing is a terrible, terrible, terrible “sport” just as terrible as hunting.

Fast-forward to last year. Sean started playing an Irish sport called hurling.


This sport’s group is a volunteer-run non-profit. When they posted a list of open positions several of them sparked my interest. It seemed like an awesome way to gain experience and learn how non-profits run; So I’m on the advertising/marketing committee.

This being our first year in the club we are pretty clueless about the annual events. I had heard something about a “night of the races” at one of the ladies’ nights, but I didn’t know all the details. Later we kept seeing emails about NOTR, which turns out to be short for Night of the Races. Sean and I talked about it and we decided that fake horse racing is horrible, but we want the club to do well and it’s not our place to come in and try to change everything. I was still under the impression that I could fly under the radar and have little involvement with this event. Later we learned they play real horse racing! AH! And that this is an all-hands-on-deck kind of thing since it’s planned about a month before the event! AHHH! What a nightmare.

So here I am now, helping promote and coordinate this very vegan-unfriendly horse racing event. I was hoping I could at least find a vegan food vendor, but it turns out it’s hard to find free catering three weeks before an event. What makes this even worse is that I’ve pulled a half a dozen people into this event. In one of my classes we have to do a group service learning project and I thought it would be fun to have people help me with my advertising/marketing committee duties. I gave my group two options and they all voted to do the fundraising event. Sigh.

My plan is to try my best this year and keep suggesting that they change the theme to something that doesn’t involve animal exploitation and to make it clear that I don’t want to help with the event next year if is still horse racing theme…

I imagine there must be tons of vegans out there dealing with conflict of interest, such as vegans serving non-vegan food in restaurants.

How would you deal with this situation?


  1. Unny Nambudiripad March 11, 2013 1:52 PM Reply

    Great post, Genevieve. I don’t think there’s an easy way to deal with this. I think your solution is as good as any — go through with it as planned and express your opinions for next year. It’s a tough balance between what you are comfortable with doing to live out your values and following through with the obligations you’ve made. When the people you are dealing with probably know little about why you are vegan, it can appear unreasonable if you just back out.

    I once bought somebody lunch with cheese made from cow’s milk. I offered to buy her lunch without specifying that it has to be vegan. By the time I was paying for it, I thought I would lose more by saying that I it doesn’t fit my values. I try to make a mental note to not offer to buy somebody a meal without first specifying it must be vegan.

  2. amyjleinen March 11, 2013 9:14 PM Reply

    As a newer vegan I am astounded by all the situations that are suddenly an issue for me, from dinners out with friends, to events I participated in, and groups I volunteer for.

    I decided recently to not attend the Volunteer Appreciation Night for a no kill animal shelter recently. They were hosting a dinner at a restaurant …with NO vegan options. While the restaurant were willing to create something specifically for me, I felt it was best to just let the organizers know that as a vegan I didn’t want to participate in an event that is centered around helping one species while eating another.

    Keep up the great work you do on educating the public about your values!

  3. Emily Combs March 11, 2013 9:33 PM Reply

    Great post! This makes me feel a bit more “normal” — I feel like there is conflict of interest in so many aspects of my life! One in particular though: as a nanny, I can’t expect the family I take care of to live a vegan lifestyle, and often I find myself having to prepare non vegan meals for the children, which just leaves me feeling so displaced and out of my element. And, to be honest, some days I just feel like a terrible person in regards to the situation. I absolutely love, love love working with kids – and someday in the near future dream of running a vegan in-home daycare – but for now, the only option I have is setting an example by doing; not preaching to the families. They know how I feel, and my reasons for being a vegan — the rest needs to be up to them. The kids ask all the time why I don’t eat meat or animal products, and I like to think that I am subconsciously planting little seeds in their heads without forcing my beliefs on them when I respond. It’s a struggle — but so worth it!

    As far as your situation specifically — I agree with Unny! Good luck!

  4. Emily Combs March 11, 2013 9:34 PM Reply

    Ohhh — I totally also forgot having to bring kids to the Zoo — which so far I have been able to avoid, but people suggest it to me all the time. I know eventually I may be put in a situation where I don’t really have a choice — and I am dreading that day!

  5. B March 11, 2013 11:00 PM Reply

    A few years ago, after being vegan for 20+ years, I got a job that involved serving animal products to 60+ people per day and I didn’t think I would have a problem with it. There were various ways I tried rationalize and justify doing this job (I’m not the person ordering the food, if I didn’t do this job someone else will, etc.)

    As it turned out, I DID have a problem because it felt like I was face to face with needless animal cruelty and death every day (even though by the time the “products” reached me, they no longer had a face).

    Actually this experience propelled me into activism for the first time in my life. Activism has been a way to try to balance out the wrong I’ve done. Of course I also need to transition out of this job because it does not align with my values. And I will continue to be active for animals long after I leave this job behind and probably for the rest of my life.

  6. Melissa March 12, 2013 9:39 AM Reply

    I work for Whole Foods making signs and chalkboards. Often they are for meat or dairy. It bugs me, yeah. I do small things like REFUSING to make special large signs/boards for veal/lamb and by promoting the vegan options in our pfds dept as much as I can. I think, eventually, that disconnect between my veganism and the stuff I’m doing will cause me to change jobs if I can find a vegan friendly design job… I keep wishing local AR non-profits would hire graphic designers and pay a living wage! Ah, I can dream.

  7. veganwego July 8, 2015 10:29 AM Reply

    I just found your Facebook page and started reading your blog as well. I really appreciated this post. Being vegan for the past few years has made me think about a lot of issues like this that come up.

    I recently started horseback riding and it was so important for me to find the “right” place before being OK with the activity aligning with my personal ethics of veganism. I finally found a stable that is really about the horses – how they communicate, what they need, what we can learn from them, etc., along with being a good horseman (er… woman) and what that means in being an advocate for horses. They are incredibly respectful of and kind to their horses and it is very apparent that it is genuine. I have learned so much from the owners and their horses.

    Now, certainly the dreaded “vegan police” would take issue with this decision, but, ultimately, it is my decision and it is yours, too. You will know best by instinct how you feel about your individual riding/stable situation and that also may (and likely has since this post a couple of years ago) evolve over time. I would love to know how you worked through this conflict and what you’re up to!

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