Note from the Coordinators

Making Choices

Debra Wasserman
Charles Stahler

We're writing this after we were interviewed for National Public Radio's Marketplace. Their interests were the number of vegetarians, new vegetarian products, and large companies entering the natural foods arena. Media ranging from The Washington Post to NBC and ABC have also called us for this information.

We have been keeping tabs on the number of vegetarians by doing national polls.

We will be conducting two more studies this year. You will be able to see the results of these various polls at our web site To also help in our assistance to news agencies and businesses, we hope you will complete our reader survey on page 25.

Running a vegetarian non-profit group since 1982, we're always looking at the bigger picture and noting how trends are impacting what we all do. For example, when we became vegan, we never thought we would have "ice cream" or "cheese" again. Now you can find vegan frozen desserts in many supermarkets. When we exhibited at Food Marketing Institute's national supermarket conference, there were numerous seminars and exhibitors related to natural foods.

Probably at least 10% of the population has thought about the reasons for being vegetarian--not killing animals, or caring about your health and the environment. Though it's terrific that so many people are eating at least some meatless meals (57% when eating out according to our last poll), it's fascinating why only about one percent of us actually become vegetarian (no meat, fish and fowl) or vegan. This seems especially true for animal welfare folks. If you care about animals, you realize you are eating animals, and you have the information about how to be vegetarian, then why eat them? It seems you would automatically stop. It doesn't have to do with being a good person, since we know lots of very kind people (with pets) who eat animals. This puzzle just shows you how complicated people are. We'd like to hear from readers about what you think is the difference between the one percent who are vegetarian and the 99 percent who are not.

The nightly news had a story about millionaire computer folks in Silicon Valley who were using their monetary resources and personal time to improve educational settings. This is great. We know numerous computer specialists have been very helpful to VRG. An interesting question arises though. Institutions that provide care, such as animal shelters, nursing homes, day care, and service oriented health food stores are dependent on relatively low salaried employees. If everyone focuses on their career and getting ahead, so they can eventually give lots of money to charity, who will actually do the work?

Will the brightest among us be spending our most productive years building a better computer game or finding ways for others to buy more stuff rather than improving society and caring for people (and animals)? Since capitalism seems to work, one answer that interests us is ethical entrepreneurs. These are individuals and companies that not only act in an ethical way and make money, but which only produce products or services which make society better. If you fit this mold, you are probably too busy to write. But we'd love to hear from you about how you stay successful by selling only ethical goods or services, and how you are able to compete against companies which market all items. If you weren't able to stay in business, what did you learn?

Debra Wasserman & Charles Stahler

Coordinators of The Vegetarian Resource Group