In our modern world, is it possible to live without purchasing or consuming anything that contains animals or animal byproducts? Here are 10 things you thought were vegan that aren't.
I've been vegan for a little more than two years. Occasionally, I eat honey if I know where it's sourced. Does admitting this mean I shouldn't identify as a vegan? Or, as an episode of "The Simpsons" taught me, maybe I'm just not a Level 5 Vegan.
Lisa: Oh, the earth is the best! That's why I'm a vegetarian.
Jesse: Heh. Well, that's a start.
Lisa: Uh, well, I was thinking of going vegan.
Jesse: I'm a level 5 vegan—I won't eat anything that casts a shadow.
If Level 5 Vegans exist, surely they would read a new book called Veganissimo A to Z: A Comprehensive Guide to Identifying and Avoiding Ingredients of Animal Origin in Everyday Products (The Experiment, 2013). The dictionary-style book takes knowing what animal products are in your food, supplements, cosmetics and even electronics to a new, transparent level, helping you navigate confusing labels.
The book defines it as "one who is vegan to the highest possible standard" or "the most vegan" that a vegan can be. Armed with this book's knowledge, is it possible to completely live without any animal byproducts in today's world?
I'll let you be the judge. Here are 10 things you thought were vegan that may not be—and that you may not be able to avoid.
Could the books you own not be vegan? Veganissimo states that animal glue is traditionally used in paper and wood processing, bookbinding, painting, conservation/restoration and for making musical instruments and furniture. Animal glue can be made of animal proteins such as gelatin, which is created by boiling animal tissues.
2. Photo prints
Photos, both printed commercially and at-home, use paper that contains gelatin. Alternatives? Non-photo quality paper.
Your flu shot as well as any other vaccine you get is not entirely free of animal substances, according to Veganissimo. Classically, vaccines were created by infecting pathogens into fertilized chicken eggs, then destroying the eggs and extracting the pathogen serum. Modern methods include using cell cultures obtained from the tissues of animals, such as dog kidneys. These samples can be reproduced without addition sample-taking from animals.
4. LCD screens and displays
Liquid crystals found in screens on TVs, computers and cell phones may be based on cholesterol taken from animals.
Gelatin is used in metal processing to improve metal's structure, such as cadmium in batteries. Animal fats and gelatin are used in many technical applications to which we owe the comforts of our life… and "at present it is extremely difficult—it not impossible—to find alternatives," write the authors.
6. Vitamin D
Some vitamin D dietary supplements source vitamin D3 from animals. Look for vitamin D3 supplements that are produced from non-animal sources and clearly labeled "vegan."
7. Clear fruit juices, beer and wine
Gelatin, egg white, isinglass (fish glue), casein (milk protein) or activated carbon are the top choices for the "fined" process, which clears beverages of cloudy substances. The only way to know if an animal substance wasn't used is to ask the producer.
8. Bone china tableware
This type of pure white, fine china is made of porcelain that contains bone ash, the residue from burned animal bones. Earthenware or porcelain that's creamy white, or mineral in origin, can be substituted.
9. Sponges (Porifera)
Natural sea sponges are plant-like animals that live on the sea floor, and used in the bath, for home cleaning or watercolor painting. Seems obvious, but I hadn't stopped to think about this one before. Synthetic sponges are alternatives.
10. Pharmaceutical drugs
Lots of drugs contain hidden animal substances in the form of excipients, ingredients that stabilize or bulk the medicine. The most commonly used substance is lactose (milk sugar), which can be found in tablets. Another is gelatin, which is found frequently in capsules. Look for vegan alternatives which include starch or cellulose.
Surprised? Me, too. Share in the comments!