The Cruelty Free Shop – an interview with owner Jessica Bailey

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Source: The Healthy Herbivore

The Cruelty Free Shop was founded as an online store in 2001 and now supplies Australia’s widest range of vegan food and products. From small beginnings with $500 of stock in a cupboard, the store grew throughout the GFC and in June 2012, owner Jess Bailey opened a shop front in Glebe, Sydney. I talked to Jess about all things vegan and her fantastic business.

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Hi Jess, you’ve been vegan since 2000 and have said that up until then you were a ‘usual unthinking omnivore’ – what was it that made you choose the lifestyle?

One day I came across an Animal Liberation stall, I picked up some of their brochures and read them on the train. I was horrified and phoned Animal Lib as soon as I got home to find out what I could do. My first task was to get some mobile phones donated for the rescue teams, after that I drove a bus to a circus protest, stuffed envelopes, did stalls etc. As I learned more about the meat and dairy industries I realised that I was supporting the cruelty through my purchases. That was it – I became vegan. I’ve never looked back, being vegan is the best thing I’ve ever done!

Who, or what, has influenced you the most in the vegan community?

Certainly Animal Liberation has had a huge influence in me. But overall it’s not one person that’s influenced me it’s been a collective thing; I get inspired by meeting all the dedicated people who give their time to fight for animal rights and by all the lovely, caring vegans I meet every day.

I saw that you were a board member of Animal Liberation, what was it like to work with them?

I ran the Cruelty Free Festival for Animal Liberation for three years and then had to step back from it as the Cruelty Free Shop had grown to a point where I just didn’t have enough time for both. I still wanted to be involved with animal rights though, so when the then president asked me to join the board I leapt at the opportunity. I was fortunate to work with some fantastic board members and I’m really proud of the work we did during that time.

I went to my first Cruelty Free Festival, shortly after becoming vegetarian in 2010 and fondly remember my first vegan brownie. What is your favourite part of the festival?

The Cruelty Free Festival started as an idea I had about 7 years ago, I pitched it to Animal Lib and they agreed to support it and the rest s history. My favourite part of the day, without a doubt, is the food - especially Rubyfruit vegan cheesecakes! My goal in starting the festival was to show people how they can make simple changes in their everyday lives to help animals. If every person makes one small change it can have a huge impact. The most rewarding thing for me is hearing people saying they went vegetarian or vegan after attending the festival.

I absolutely love your store in Glebe. Is there a particular reason why you chose the area?

I love that Glebe is such a melting pot, so many different types of people hang out there and it has a really nice atmosphere. There was already a vegan and a vegetarian cafe in the area so it seemed a good fit. We’ve spoken with many of the other cafes on the main strip and suggested they put some vegan food on their menus and two already have done so, so we’re having an influence on the suburb too.

I read that Clover Moore opened the store in 2012, as a politician who wants to ban the sale of animals in pet stores and opposes factory farming she must be an interesting person. What was it like to have her open the store?

I didn’t think Clover Moore would say yes to the invitation, I mean she’s the Lord Mayor and must be very busy but I’d heard she was very supportive of not only animal rights but also small business so thought it was worth a try. I was very surprised and pleased when she said yes. Clover came and did a lovely talk before officially opening the shop. It was lovely to meet her - such a passionate and intelligent woman.

What are your favourite products in the store? For the record mine are Pana Chocolate, the Primal Strip jerky and all of the helpful pantry items!

My personal favourite products (which strangely always seem to be missing at stocktake time…) are the Lamyong soy nuggets – we use these in everything; stir fries, curries, casseroles – so yummy! Second are the Redwood meatballs for a quick and easy and oh so delicious spaghetti with meatballs. Oh and Tofurky slices and Delicaseys chocolates and Cheezly on pizza…I could go on all day!

I’ve noticed that Tofutti, Go Max Go and a lot of other vegan products contain palm oil, how do you feel about this? Is there really such a thing as ‘sustainable’ palm oil?

It depends on what you mean by sustainable, if you’re talking about Orang-utan habitat then yes you can get palm oil produced in places other than Sumatra and Borneo. For example there is a lot of palm oil coming out of South America now. While palm oil from other places does not impact upon Orang-utan habitat, I don’t know if it is sustainable in other ways. While the world’s population continues to grow well beyond the means of our planet I start to wonder whether any food products are sustainable. We all know that producing plant foods is much more efficient and environmentally sustainable than producing animal products but in order to feed all the people in the world we need to be clearing more and more land. Whatever country this happens in or whatever we’re harvesting, there will be species of plants, insects and animals who will be losing their habitat. It’s a terrible situation.

What’s your best piece of advice for new or transitioning vegans?

Don’t listen to people who say it’s hard – it’s not! Being vegan is so easy these days. There are so many great animal-free alternatives that you don’t have to miss out on anything. Also don’t listen to all the marketing hype by the meat and dairy industries (which seem to have become fact in most people’s minds) that you need meat and dairy for iron, protein, calcium, whatever. These are myths created by an industry who wants you to eat their product. You can easily get all the nutrition you need from a vegan diet. Lastly get yourself a copy of John Waddell’s fantastic book “But you kill ants” for simple, intelligent answers to all those misguided questions vegans are always being asked. It is essential reading, especially for new vegans.

Finally, I know it’s your goal to make it easier for people to be vegan and I’d like to thank you for making this a reality!

Thank you, it is absolutely my pleasure. I love my work and love having the opportunity to help people become and stay vegan – they are doing such a wonderful thing for animals, the environment and their health too. It’s a win-win-win life choice! The Cruelty Free Shop is located at 83 Glebe Point Road, Glebe NSW 2037.

Cruelty Free Shop Online store

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