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Cod liver oil?!

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Cod liver oil?!

Postby jlmarck » Mon Jul 12, 2010 3:50 pm

So I paid a visit to the co-op today and, while browsing the aisles, I noticed that you sell cod liver oil. Now, my understanding is that the co-op is vegetarian, which fish most certainly is not. An oversight? Well, there's a sign advertising fish oil and the oil itself was made specifically for the co-op! And it also contains gelatin, another big no-no. I spoke to the guy working and he said something about there being an unresolved conflict between the policy and the practice. This is pretty upsetting for me - I've only been shopping there about a year and I'm not a member, but I have viewed the co-op as a place that I could trust and be comfortable as a vegetarian and now I feel a little duped. Why is this contradictory practice going on? What will it take to end it? What are other people's feelings on the subject?
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Postby John Leary » Mon Jul 12, 2010 5:04 pm

Hi, I'm the guy you talked to. :D I believe the best mechanism for addressing this issue is to join the Product Committee, which is the Co-op's forum for product ethics issues. If you think you'd be interested in serving on this committee, send me a private message ("PM" button immediately below this posting) and I'll get you contact information for the committee chair.

We're not perfect as an organization, but the more we get caring people involved, the better we get. Thanks for speaking up today.

Best regards,
John
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why not cod?

Postby dvdgrog » Mon Jul 12, 2010 5:47 pm

I've also noticed the cod liver oil, gelatin, etc. I guess my question is, if cod liver oil is ok, then why not cod liver? Or the whole cod? The questioner should not have to join a committee, though it's not a bad idea, to question the prominence of a clearly not-vegetarian product at a store that identifies itself as a vegetarian institution. There has been discussion in the past about handling such products through special order. I think this would be a reasonable solution, so that people who, for health reasons, need a product like cod-liver oil, could get it through the Co-op, withoout compromising the vegetarian culture of the store for shoppers. Having these products appear on the shelves when there hasn't been a membership consensus to move in this direction is not a good thing. Co-operatively, David Rogoff
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Postby John Leary » Mon Jul 12, 2010 5:53 pm

David, I personally agree 100% with everything you're saying here! That said, I've been told that certain members will be up in arms should the Co-op actually strike those non-vegetarian products from its inventory. I'm hoping we can initiate an organization-wide conversation to resolve this, even if the answer is only "when we said vegetarian we meant it!"

If we want to strike them in the meantime, that's a decision for the Manager to make, and nobody else. I'll bring this thread to Jeremy's attention.
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acting cooperatively

Postby dvdgrog » Mon Jul 12, 2010 6:37 pm

Thanks for the reply, John. More distressing than the presence of non-vegetarian products on the shelves is the idea that what keeps them there is the threat by some members to throw a tantrum. A change in something as basic as the founding principles of the organization shouldn't be settled by which camp theatens the biggest tantrum. :D Lovingly, David
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Postby jlmarck » Mon Jul 12, 2010 10:39 pm

I think that the point that needs to be stressed is that the co-op is, as I understand it, a vegetarian space not a health food store. People tend to equate vegetarianism with "healthy" and while that is often the case, it is not always the case. The co-op should not have to change it's self-image to accommodate certain people's vision of what it should be.
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one member's feeling on the subject

Postby Jenn Smith » Tue Jul 13, 2010 12:55 pm

is that it does belong on co op shelves, if co op members want it. it's my understanding that a decision was made years ago that the co op is NOT a vegan organization, when they began carrying free grazing and organic dairy and eggs. i personally get the dry heaves even thinking about consuming fish oils or gelatin, but i wouldn't force fellow members to shop elsewhere if they do. to my mind the co op is an anti corporate, anti consumerist, alternative economy type organization, rather than simply vegetarian. if they started carrying flesh, i'd still shop there.
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Postby John Leary » Tue Jul 13, 2010 1:24 pm

The Co-op was never vegan. As I understand it, we have always carried milk products, eggs, and honey.

But we've also always been "non-flesh". From our 1978 Articles of Incorporation (emphasis mine):
The purpose for which this corporation is formed is to provide non-flesh foods with a minimum of processing and contaminants; and other health and household products to the George Street Co-op, Inc. at the most reasonable prices available without allowing for a profit to the corporation. The goals of the corporation are to promote general health through provision of appropriate foods and education, within the context of a cooperative spirit among the members, and bring an awareness to the membership that the work invested by individual members is the cohesive force making this organization a Co-op.

This is a founding principle of the organization, and to protect the people who care for this principle, it isn't supposed to be changed except through an inclusive democratic process. In this case, the appropriate process is a full membership referendum. Last time this suggested change was sent to referendum, it didn't pass; our founding principles were reaffirmed.

And according to those founding principles, the only real question here should be this: Is fish oil "non-flesh"?

Personally, I don't happen to have a strong opinion about whether the store carries meat, goes all-vegan, or picks a point somewhere in between. I do care a great deal about whether we make agreements fairly and candidly, and then live up to them.
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