This essay is an excerpt from our 4th quarter 2021 Investor Letter that explores how my vegan values influence my personal decision making and inspired me to start this firm. The whole letter has a lot more perspective on what we’re doing in our investment portfolios, and you can download it by clicking here. Please note that this portion contains references to where food comes from that may be unpleasant for sensitive readers.
On the surface, committing to vegan values is sort of a small thing.
Just change what you eat! Simple as that.
But it brings an awareness of suffering that cannot help but build a flywheel of understanding, opening our eyes more with each quickening turn.
People come to this way of life in all sorts of ways. A chance encounter with a cow might teach us that our bovine brethren are much more than just livestock. Then beef starts looking funny on the plate and ethical questions start getting asked.
Is eating chicken really necessary when chickpeas have sustained millions for millennia?
Do fish feel pain? Veganism offers a concise, compelling answer to these questions. And a straightforward goal: avoiding preventable harm to living things.
But it also causes us to reevaluate the effect our consumption has on the world with unusual rigor. Were the people who picked our pineapples paid fairly? Have these pears been coated in pesticides? Do the people who make our lemonade support fascism?
Questions abound. And although the process of asking them that comes from closer examination of the world around us is priceless, it can also be a daunting thing to grapple with. Grotesque practices seem to be everywhere. Even the jellied sweets we so often associate with the innocence of childhood are made by boiling flesh and bone.
Reality is stark, and confronting it can give rise to apathy and even anger. Many vegans will empathize with the experience of standing in a supermarket, seeing almost nothing they can eat, and wondering whether the other shoppers are uninformed or just uninterested in preventing suffering.
It’s exasperating to exist in a world that doesn’t share your values. But incremental progress can be hugely beneficial and firm moral clarity is hard to find. You can do a lot with it, too. The inspiration to start Invest Vegan came from my personal reckoning with the enormity of this challenge. It’s my answer to the question “what can I do?”
I have faith that you will find your own answer, and that it will be awesome. The path to getting there is not simple, but as long as you hold yourself accountable to your own best intentions you will be making progress.
Here are a few pieces of reading/listening that have been meaningful to me, and might be helpful as you think about what matters to you and how to push for change:
- Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System (Donella Meadows Project – Academy for Systems Change)
- You and Your Research – A Lecture from Longtime Bell Labs Engineer Douglas Hamming (YouTube)
- A conversation with shareholder activism titan Andy Behar from Sloane’s podcast (Free Money Podcast)