Dave Sudarsky of The Vegetarian Site
by Samantha Gendler
TheVegetarianSite.com hosts all your vegan needs, whether dietary (nutritional yeast, dairy alternatives), fashion (faux-leather belts, hiking boots), or just plain fun (cruelty-free nail polish, vegan-themed board games). But this one-man operation run by Dr. Dave Sudarsky out of Glatonsbury, CT is far more than just a virtual shopping trip. Just as vegans are far more than simply what they eat, the website goes beyond health and diet and explores ethics, animal welfare, agriculture, and the environment.
It makes sense that The Vegetarian Site would have a scholarly, scientific edge to it, as creator (and buyer, webmaster, packer, shipper) Sudarsky has a bachelor's degree in physics and a PhD in astronomy. The editorials he writes for his site, such as "The Economic Bane of Meat and Dairy," and "My Quest for a Humane Egg," (spoiler: there isn't one), are thoughtful, well-researched, and compelling while remaining relatable. "You may see a little of my science poking through," he said. "I like to think about things scientifically. I don't like fads." Sudarsky is referring to the recent backlash against soy. "I can certainly understand that some people can't tolerate soy, but if you look at the real scientific research, the balance of it, it's all quite positive or neutral."
Sudarsky initially started The Vegetarian Site in graduate school as a source of science-based vegan information. In 1999, the word 'vegetarian' seemed like a better fit because the term 'vegan' was much less widespread. "It had the reputation of being something extreme and unattainable at the time," Sudarsky said. (Sudarsky also owns the domain TheVeganSite.com, which autodirects to The Vegetarian Site). For the first six months, The Vegetarian Site was purely informational about ethics of the vegan lifestyle and the vegan diet. Then, as graduate school became increasingly stressful and competitive, Sudarsky decided to nurture his entrepreneurial spirit by working on the online store component, with the idea of a donation program.
Since the inception of The Vegetarian Site, 10 percent of each month's sales have been donated to a vegan outreach organization. Sudarsky has more than 10 organizations he works with, including In Defense of Animals, Compassion Over Killing, Mercy for Animals, and The Vegetarian Resource Group. This means that online shoppers are supporting an independent business and a cause they value with each purchase. As if that's not enough of a reason to tempt you away from 'big box' online retailers, Sudarsky has high standards for the products he offers: everything The Vegetarian Site sells is 100% vegan, natural, and contains no trans fats, artificial flavors, or preservatives. Sudarsky also feels strongly that his products must be ethical to an important species: humans. "Fair labor is very important...I wish more people were concerned enough to buy fair labor footwear," he said. "There are companies that are making vegan shoes that can be found easily online, but people aren't considering where they come from...I wish people would give some priority to the human rights side of it."
It's been 44 years since Sudarsky went vegan, much to the consternation of his family (who are now vegan and mostly vegetarian), and he wants people to know that he's not sacrificing anything. "It's important for people to realize that it's not difficult to make changes and there are a lot of options out there. People think not consuming or wearing animals is a monumental path, and I want to make clear that it's not," he said. "It's a matter of getting online and trying some stuff." Check out TheVegetarianSite.com.
Samantha Gendler is Senior Editor of the Vegetarian Journal.