Being a proper vegan means eschewing all forms of animal products. Those of us old-skool vegans remember studying our vegan bible and breaking out the magnifying glass on labels just to be lucky enough to scrounge up a few lentils to sustain us. Nowadays though, with the abundance of vegan products available it takes more of a commitment to locate a non-vegan item and raise the alarm. Not only must vegans worry about products containing animal ingredients but there are more obscure ways items could not be vegan. This opens up a frontier to whole new categories of non-vegan products for vegans looking to be a pioneer. Some may disparage these vegans as being the “vegan police” but those people only are trying to justify their own vegan failings. Pay no mind to them, true vegans like Gary Francione will say anything less is not very vegan.

Any vegan who finds a previously unknown vegan item where one was thought to be otherwise can announce proudly: “NOT VEGAN!”. Vegans will adulate you for devotion to the cause by adding to the list of NOT VEGAN ingredients that even the vegan bible may not contain. For the newly vegan or those looking to be vegan here are some areas which you might need to watch out for as exemplified by popular vegan blogs:

Animal ingredients in “vegan items”
Vegan blog QuarryGirl is the elite detective squad of the vegan police. VegNews magazine even went so far as to bestow QuarryGirl with the “Scandal Breakers of the Year” award for their Operation Pancake investigation. In that investigation they tested “vegan” menu items from local restaurants for animal ingredients and many came out positive. With that taste of success they have outed several other restaurants in rich delectable schadenfreudic detail. Score a major vegan victory against restaurants attempting to offer vegan options! Be sure to keep an eye on their NOT VEGAN tag blog updates lest you may find yourself at a NOT VEGAN vegan restaurant. Think you can relax in a vegan restaurant? Oh no! Be sure to analyze each ingredient in the dish even if they claim it’s vegan. Interrogate each server because they’ll each have a different answer. Try to find the inconsistencies in their stories. If you discover something NOT VEGAN, blog the hell out of it and break that scandal so that it becomes part of public record and forever discredits their reputation with little chance of redemption. It’s their fault for trying to pull a fast one on vegans and you will have done your righteous duty.

Animal testing
So most vegans know that items tested on animals like cosmetics are NOT VEGAN already but did you consider things that were tested but not anymore? Give thanks to Your Daily Vegan blog for their pioneering efforts to bring this often-overlooked category to light in their post: Warning: What You Don’t Know About Food Colors. Not only were artificial food colors once tested on animals but they are made up of chemicals! Fear not though because they offer natural alternatives to manufactured synthetic colorants. From art school I remember natural cadmium pigments made great colors. I’d think twice about ingesting those though. In any case, this exposed issue by Your Daily Vegan surrounding synthetic food colors have wiped hundreds of products off the map for vegans. Their animal testing past make them forever NOT VEGAN!

Let’s extend though the animal testing vegan alarm further by looking at how the money you buy from a vegan product goes into the pocket of somebody who then donates to a school who then tests on animals! Ok did you catch all that? Well The Informed Vegan did and exposed this maker of grain foodstuffs in their post: Bob’s Red Mill Funds Animal Testing. Nevermind that Bob’s Red Mill isn’t even a vegan company and that the company isn’t actually donating money(the ex-owners are), and that the donation isn’t even funding animal research. They dared to offer products that were accidentally vegan, getting them on the vegan radar. Once that happens, you’re guaranteed to be subject to their whims of boycott. By this logic we can extrapolate all sorts of ways pristine vegan dollars are eventually funding animal research. The government for example certainly is responsible for much of this so one would think a good vegan should also stop paying taxes. Taxes yup, you guessed it, NOT VEGAN.

Animal molecules rubbing up against vegan molecules
Even though no animal ingredient is actually in a product it could be deemed NOT VEGAN if molecules of it brushed up against another animal molecule. Every good vegan knows to avoid any product that has a warning on the labels that says it was made on the same machinery as animal products but do they know about the non-labeled stuff?

Some sugar companies use bone char to filter their product. Most food items that list “sugar” won’t even say whether it was filtered using animal ingredients! Anytime you buy a product that has “sugar” in it or eat a restaurant that uses sugar or an ingredient containing sugar, be sure to inquire from which sugar processing plant it came from. Some municipal water processing plants will use bone char to filter their water so watch out for tap water. When you travel, be sure to quiz the locals on how their water is processed before hitting the tap or taking a shower. Don’t even think about buying bottled water unless it has the vegan label on it! Oh, before I forget, water has been found to contain copepod crustaceans so just avoid that NOT VEGAN processed BigWater and stick to the natural pure vegan stuff.

Alcoholic beverages like beer and wine are often clarified using isinglass so put down that Guinness! Even though there isn’t any trace of the animal ingredient left behind, this molecule rubbing clause obviously applies. But how then is a vegan able to imbibe? Luckily the Barnivore website is on the case crowd-sourcing and cataloging information. There’s even apps for that so when you belly-up to a bar and the bartender asks your order, be sure to squint into your mobile device and check their selection one by one until you find a confirmed vegan drink. I had to learn this the hard way when my favorite brew at Chicago Diner was taken off the menu because of its NOT VEGAN status. Somebody from Barnivore must have cited them on it. The cage-free eggs they serve however, are somehow more vegan. Anyway, today’s vegans are lucky enough to have this terrific resource of Barnivore to scour any last remaining bit of NOT VEGAN fun from their already diminished vegan lifestyles.

Images of animal products
VegNews magazine was the center of a controversy when ironically, the same people they awarded “Scandal Breakers of the Year” set their sights on VegNews itself and discovered they were using stock imagery of actual animal products and airbrushing them to look vegan! QuarryGirl’s RANT: VegNews is putting the MEAT into vegan issues challenged their questionable practices making vegans drool over pictures of food they thought was vegan but actually wasn’t! That is definitely NOT VEGAN. Don’t you dare get caught with a copy of VegNews tucked under your arm you animal exploiter! Some day perhaps vegans will achieve Muslim-like devotion to the cause and make even drawing animal ingredients verboten. Stock photography is a good start. Just be sure it was created using a digital camera and not traditional NOT VEGAN gelatin film.

And beyond…
So I hope those examples have inspired you investigate other tiny nooks and crannies of the complicated world of voting with your dollar and discover more NOT VEGAN products. Other avenues I have yet to see people explore further are third party materials like the inks and dyes on food packages, or the glues that hold on labels or used in shipping boxes. Also, there’s third party services like the people that benefit from selling you vegan products. Are they vegan themselves or will the money they earn go to buy NOT VEGAN items? Are vehicles shipping vegan products made of or powered by non-vegan ingredients? That’s just to start you off, be creative! There’s plenty of NOT VEGAN items out there just waiting to be discovered! Be sure to especially concentrate on any so-called “vegan” products and/or services and needle the hell out of it until you uncover the slightest tenuous NOT VEGAN connection. Businesses might then think twice about extorting hard earned vegan dollars from the pockets of unsuspecting vegans again and you will have gained major vegan cred. That’ll show them. Your work is cut out for you. Now go forth and be the best vegan activist you can be!

22 comments to NOT VEGAN

  • You’re right that quite a bit of this is ludicrous. On the other hand, the main QuarryGirl expose that I remember involves a place that was selling ‘vegan’ wraps using tortillas that have lard in, because management always understocked on the brand they were meant to be using, staff were having to run to local shops to get more and some of the more clueless ones weren’t checking for animal ingredients/pre-warning veg*n customers about the presence of pig fat in the wraps.

    On the VegNews thing, I’m in two minds. Yes, if someone has already killed and cooked an animal then taking a photo doesn’t do any further harm, and if the worst thing I’d seen in my time as an animal rights activist was a photo of some meat in a form that could be remotely convincingly disguised as something vegan then I’d consider myself to have had a sheltered life. (Ie seeing these pictures isn’t harming vegans) On the other hand, the pics in question give a whole lot of ammo to a certain variety of carnist, the ones who believe vegans are martyrs who are giving up all the good stuff – after all, our food can’t even *look* nice compared to theirs, because if it did why would ‘we’ have to resort to such measures? Also, nobody likes being lied to.

  • The irony of veganism is that for a movement based upon “voting with your dollar” it readily and easily eats itself. Businesses that attempt to cater to vegans are held up to a standard they could never meet. A business that doesn’t cater to vegans will do better to avoid controversy than those who make they attempt.

    QuarryGirl’s obsession with policing vegan food is actually deemed an honorable way to spend one’s time. Hey, I think it’s ridiculous but bravo I say anyway. Do more of that! It’ll hasten the end of veganism and maybe we can get down to the brass tacks.

    With VegNews, the worst past was their dishonestly and how they handled the controversy. Ammo schmammo, it wasn’t an issue of vegan food not looking good but just how the business of running a periodical works. Stock photography isn’t as resource intensive as new content so it’s not a measure resorted but a business being efficient. Much of that whole controversy was steeped in ignorance or lack of context.

  • Wow, thanks a lot, Dave! Now I’m afraid to eat absolutely everything! That’s it – I’m done with food. If I can’t be 100% vegan, I’d rather die.

  • Angela

    Are vegans NOT VEGAN??? Just a thought…;-)

  • Great post. It is fun to see what length people will go to to be “pure” vegans. Even though QuarryGirl’s obsession does seem a bit over the top I do think her type of investigation like Operation Pancake is good for overall quality control (but would rather see professional inspectors do the work). I mostly am thinking about labeling requirements and people who are allergic to items that should not be present. Think if you were allergic to shellfish/egg/milk and eating at one of those vegan restaurants that failed her tests.

    • Yeah I’d rather have a professional lab test for that or some FDA investigation than rely on an amateur investigation. If people with allergies were getting sick you’d think this would pop up on the radar elsewhere.

  • Libby

    Someone once worried about applying to any university in the UK because the application system they use has a red letter A in the logo so the letterhead on the “you got accepted by school X” and “you got rejected by Y school” letters might be printed with carmine. is the question. from someone else clarifies the issue for Americans:

    “Just as a note to people who think UCAS is a university, it is not. It’s the administrative body in this country through which one applies to university. As far as I know, it’s impossible to get into any university in the UK without applying through UCAS…”

  • Katherine

    This was a pretty good blog post to start with but I did think ironically you took your disdain for “not-vegan” a bit far.
    Sure, it would be pretty impossible to only buy from vegan businesses or restaurants, but for things like avoiding isinglass and other animal products (they also use milk proteins and gelatine for filtering)in alcohol is easy. Barnivore is a great website, you don’t have to squint at your phone every time you go to the bar. Just search for your tipple on the website and it will come up straight away then you can use the power of memory for next time. I know a lot of brands that are vegan thanks to Barnivore so when I go out I know what to order. As for “animal molecules rubbing up against vegan molecules”, you seem to be just disagreeing with it for the sake of it?
    It would be like ordering a chicken salad at a restaurant then picking out the chicken. Sure, the salad afterwards would be vegan, but you still paid for the chicken, the restaurant will still go out and buy more chicken to replace it. Just the same as in buying alcohol that has been filtered with animal products you are causing demand for the brewer to buy those products.
    For something so easy to avoid, why would you not bother?

  • Katherine

    “Muslim-like devotion”.
    I don’t know whether you’re doing this ironically too, or whether you’re just a bit anti-muslim?

    • Nice catch there! Six years ago when I wrote this I was one of those intolerable “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” (citation was provided) anti-religion skeptics. You know the type, like today’s “freedom of speech”-ers who defend nazis. Since then I’ve matured a bit. I was comparing the zealotry exhibited by some muslims in their imposition upon others with restrictions on depicting their prophet Muhammad. I certainly wouldn’t make such a point nowadays with the discrimination muslims suffer. I forgot that was even there. I will probably edit it out.

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