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WTF... Vegancuts?

Earlier this month, we received our Vegancuts snack box and were surprised to find a postcard lettings us know that for the month of February, Vegancuts is supporting an organization called Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Florida.

Big Cat Rescue has come up before within the rabbit rescue community because of their practice of feeding live (and, to be honest) dead rabbits (and rats) to these cats. We recognize that big cats are deserving of life and rescue, but given that their lives require the deaths of so many others including rabbits just like those we rescue, we don't personally want our money to be donated towards this cause. Wouldn't it make more sense for a vegan organization to support rescues that don't kill other animals?

I emailed Vegancuts and this is our ensuing conversation. If you agree, please join us in contacting vegancuts and ask them to include rabbits in their circle of compassion.

Date: Mon, Feb 17, 2020 at 1:51 AM
Subject: Big Cat Rescue
To: support@vegancuts.com

Dear Vegan Cuts, 

With the thousand of animal sanctuaries out there who deserve help and support it is baffling why you chose to fund a rescue that sacrifices the lives of other animals. Frequently as public entertainment.

I run a rabbit rescue and the rabbits they are feeding to the big cats have typically been bred for laboratory testing and then sent for use in live feedings or killed as a readily available meat. What a short, miserable and terrifying cruel life for rabbits. They are one of the most popular pets in the country and easily as intelligent and sentient as cats and dogs. Featuring Big Cat as the beneficiary of a vegan snack box theme undermines decades of humane education and advocacy work on behalf of rabbits. If you look closer you will find they have been called out over the years for their heartless treatment of rabbits.

How does Big Cat rescue tie into promoting a vegan lifestyle?! Before I posted anything publicly I wanted to give you the chance to address the issue yourself. It’s a betrayal of trust to customers like me who genuinely want to avoid the violence of killing and exploiting animals.Your products and efforts are promoted as cruelty free, but they were not this month. It was really heartbreaking and demoralizing to get my box this month and discover that my money is going to Big Cat Rescue. And I know that I am not alone.

You may want to consider some sort of public acknowledgment of the controversy of your choice.

Thank you for your consideration,
Marcy Berman
Founder and Executive Director of SaveABunn
ywww.saveabunny.org

To which, Vegancuts responded:

Ashish (Vegancuts)
Feb 19, 16:22 AST
Hi Marcy,

I wanted to write to you personally as I hear your concern and it's important for me and everyone on the Team here as animal welfare is one of the reasons we exist. Our team dedicates a significant amount of time to the sanctuary we donate to every month, and we would never intentionally support sanctuaries that were not doing good for animals.

One of the third party accreditations that Big Cat Rescue has received is from the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, which has independently vetted them in detail and in fact recently presented them a special award: https://www.sanctuaryfederation.org/2019/10/22/founder-of-big-cat-rescue-recipient-of-global-award-for-sanctuary-excellence/

Separately, we chose to support Big Cat Rescue because they are committed to supporting legislation that prevents the abuse of big cats in captivity in the U.S. and the conservation of them in the wild. They use their resources to rescue them from abusive situations (zoos, circuses, private ownership, etc.) and do not breed them nor use them for photo opportunities. Big Cat Rescue has been providing the best home they can for the cats in their care, and release them back into the wild when appropriate, and prevent the extinction of big cats in the wild. They look to be actively fighting for freedom for exotic cats, and are transparent in their values, care of their 60+ wild cats, and finances.  

Cats are obligate carnivores and must eat meat. However from our search, the cats at Big Cat Rescue are not fed rabbits that have been bred for laboratory testing You may also read more about their feeding policies and procedures for releasing local big cats back into the wild at https://bigcatrescue.org/feeding-rabbits-to-bobcats-at-big-cat-rescue/. We understand that on rare occasions they do give their bobcats who are being rehabilitated for release back into the wild (they are wild Florida bobcats who have either been orphaned or injured) live rabbits to ensure they know how to hunt before they release them. Rabbits are a common prey for bobcats.

On a personal note, we are a very small business trying to do good things in the vegan world as best as we can. We recently started this donation program to support the hard work happening with animal welfare. I'm really sorry you've decided to cancel and also post publicly, but I understand that is your decision. Know that your comments are taken seriously by me and the Team. We're always striving to do business in a way that matches our values.

Warmest,
Ashish Gupta
CEO | vegancuts.com

My response:

From: SaveABunny
Date: Wed, Feb 19, 2020 at 1:10 PM
Subject: Re: [Vegancuts] Big Cat Rescue
To: Vegancuts

Dear Ashish,

Those who want to support a small business like yours are really dumbfounded and offended as to why you would choose a group like Big Cat Rescue to send the proceeds of of our purchases .There are literally thousands of deserving vegan sanctuaries who would benefit from your program, yet you chose one that has absolutely NOTHING to do with a vegan lifestyle. It should not matter to you where the rabbits are coming from. When you say “Nobunny was harmed in the making of this box”, do you mean just the cardboard or the whole box and contents?Because bunnies WERE harmed in the making of your last box. And vegan customers paid for it.

It should be noted that you have not even acknowledged that your choice could be offensive to your vegan customers. Nor have you made any sort of apology for sending me unasked for information on a group that has had multiple complaints for the humane treatment of rabbits and other animals. Instead of addressing the valid concerns of a customer,  you are lecturing me on the needs of Big Cats and justifying your decision. If you had responded in a way that said, something along the lines of “wow, we didn’t think about that and apologize” or “we realize we made a mistake and are fixing it via…” my reply would have been very different. 

One of the worst things a business can do is lose the trust of their customers— especially in a niche and emotionally based market. I chose to spend extra money to support small, growing businesses like Vegancuts. And, make a point of referring new customers. It’s really disappointing when something like this happens, because it is completely preventable by some common sense and basic market research.Does your action support a vegan lifestyle or not?Does this business choice we are making harm any animals? Would this offend our customers? Please keep in mind that I also did write to your company privately. I did not hear back. Linda Sue who started a petition is with another group.

You say that you are striving to do business in line with your values. Those values apparently include promoting the life and needs of one species over another --- which does not match my values. We will be adding a page to our website about this issue and the vegan community has a right to know and make their own choices.

Marcy Berman
Founder and Executive Director of SaveABunny Rabbit Rescue
www.saveabunny.org

Ashish of Vegancuts then responded by claiming they couldn't figure out how to adapt their donation program to exclude organizations that kill animals:

Ashish (Vegancuts)
Feb 21, 01:39 AST

Hi Marcy - looks like you might have gotten busy to talk via phone. Feel free to let me know if another time in the future works for you.

FYI - I am discussing in detail with our Team on how we can make amends to our donation program going forward. The donation program was meant to help support the good work that is happening and spread positivity about the importance of animal welfare, not to stir negativity or conflict. After this experience, I am considering potentially stopping our donation program altogether as we just don't know who else we could hurt by who we donate to.

Ashish Gupta
CEO | vegancuts.com

My response:

From: SaveABunny Info
Date: Sat, Feb 22, 2020 at 1:08 AM
Subject: Re: [Vegancuts] Re: Big Cat Rescue
To: Vegancuts

Dear Ashish,

I am happy to talk with you by phone, but I am surprised that you and your team are still unclear what the issue was and why your promotion of Big Cat rescue was so offensive to vegans and small animal lovers.

If you are considering ending your donation program that's your choice. It seems extreme, but again, if you guys don't understand why this was a bad business decision that there's not much more to say. You've heard from me and several other people. It's not complicated.

If your mission is to support a vegan lifestyle in an uplifting and positive way then stay away from anything that harms and kills animals of any kind. You've explained to me that Big Cats have to eat other animals. I know that. Your promotion also elevated Big Cats over their prey and then you tried to justify it to me.

A  little research about Big Cats would have shown you Big Cat rescue already had complaints about their operations and treatment of rabbits (ed note: See this link). Few vegans want to receive a "cruelty-free vegan box" which directs one to a website showing rabbits and other animals being shredded and devoured. It was insensitive, unexpected and offensive to those of us doing rescue work or living with beloved pet rabbits and rats. 
 
Isn't the box supposed to be fun, light-hearted and a positive experience for your customers? At least that what I thought and it was business I wanted to support. It seemed a poor choice of a beneficiary (as I have tried to explain in all my emails) and I certainly don't want to have my money going there. 

Marcy