Updated: May 26
Being 'Vegan' seems to be the sexy new lifestyle embraced by celebrities and social media influencers but as Veganuary looms - do you fancy going vegan? Do you know what makes a vegan? Is it all lentils, dreadlocks and animal rights protesting?
Vegans can be described as people who avoid animal products for ethical, health or environmental reasons - or a combination of all three.
But it is not as easy to describe as you think. Firstly, believe it or not, there are different types of vegan - yes, really.
‘Proper’ Vegans, as defined by the Vegan Society: Follow a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.
Then you have:
Dietary vegans/plant-based eaters - whilst animals are avoided in their diet, they may use them for clothing, cosmetics etc.
Whole-food vegans - their diets are rich in food in its natural forms like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains.
Junk-food vegans - animals products are not used but an array of processed foods like vegan meats, fries, convenience foods and non-dairy ice cream makes up their diet in the main.
Raw-food vegans - mainly eat animal-free foods in their natural state but either raw or cooked at a temperature below 118°F (48°C)
Rawfood, low-fat vegans - these are also known as fruitarians, they limit foods high in fat like coconuts, nuts and avocados and mainly eat fruits although some other plants which are eaten in small amounts.
So what do vegans eat/not eat?
Things generally accepted as not being eaten:
Meat, including organ meat, of all animals ie - pork, beef, lamb, veal, liver, tongue, duck, chicken, turkey, goose, game, fish, octopus, crab, lobster and all other seafood.
Gelatine, which is used in some jellies and sweets is derived from animal body parts and is therefore avoided.
Eggs from any source ie, chickens, fish, quails
Dairy products from any animal, cow, goat, sheep etc - these products include milk, cheese, yoghurt, butter, ice cream etc (some dairy products are not obvious like lactose, casein and whey, but are still derived from dairy so are avoided)
Less common things that absolute vegans avoid but dietary vegans may include:
Fur/leather - no fur or skin from any animal is worn but synthetic products are ok.
Lanolin - this is the grease from sheep’s wool which is found in many cosmetics.
Honey or bee products like Royal Jelly and Beeswax (found in beauty and household products).
Shellac - often found in nail varnish, food glazes and wood finishes, this is the secretion of an insect called a lac which is found in India and Thailand.
Cochineal - a red dye found in food and cosmetics which is from an insect called cochineal.
Isinglass - used in the making of beer and wine, this comes from fish bladders.
Vitamin D3 - most comes from lanolin or fish oil.
Omega 3 fatty acids - usually from fish.
Some e numbers - many are derived from animal ingredients.
Except for wool and bee products, all the other products can only be produced following the death of an animal. In the case of wool and bee products, it is the exploitation of these creatures that is the issue. (I will be covering this in a future blog)
‘Hidden’ non-vegan products:
Not blindingly obvious to everyone, animal products are sneaked into all manner of foodstuffs:
Dark chocolate - whilst most are ok to guzzle, milk powder is added to some brands.
French Fries - often they are cooked in animal fat.
Bread - check for L-cysteine in the ingredients - a softening agent grossly made from poultry feathers.
Deep-fried foods - again, check labels as the batter on your onion rings might contain eggs.
Sweets and chewing gum - carmine, shellac and gelatine can be included.
Crisps - always check the label; whilst the potatoes are obviously vegan, milk powder is often included in the flavourings along with milk proteins and powdered cheese.
Roast peanuts - gelatine is sometimes used to ensure the spices and salt stick to the peanuts.
Worcestershire sauce - sounds harmless - may contain anchovies.
Tapenade - made from olives, sounds ok but again some brands use anchovies to give it its rich flavour.
Pasta - often contains egg.
Pesto - most brands include parmesan cheese.
Beer and wine - isinglass, casein, gelatine or eggwhite albumen are often used in the manufacturing process.
Refined sugar - if the sugar has been lightened with ‘natural carbon’ chances are that came from cattle bones….nice!
Non-dairy products - always check, read the ingredients as casein, from milk, may have sneaked in there.
The above are not definitive lists, there are many other products which you need to be wary of but this hopefully gives you a general idea of how much we use animals in our everyday life.
Did you know:-
Plastic bags often have stearic acid to stop them from sticking together (beef fat)
Fabric softener may have tallow dimethyl ammonium chloride (from cows, sheep or horses)
Shampoos and conditioners may have one or more of 20 potential animal-derived chemicals in them (hooves, horns, hair, scales)
Glycerin appears in many kinds of toothpaste and can be derived from plants but guess what? It is cheaper to make it from fat taken from animal bones, so they do!
Perfumes don’t often have their ingredients listed so you may be spraying on the secretion of civet cat genitals or beaver parts; only by buying a cruelty-free brand can you be sure what you are walking around smelling of.
Crayons are made waxy from stearic acid, better known as beef fat to you and me!
This post is just meant as an overall view of what it can be to be vegan. There are numerous resources that you can visit to get more information.
Whatever your reasons for giving it a try - health reasons, environmental reasons, love of animals, please remember it is YOUR reason, you do not have to label yourself or explain yourself to anyone else (unless you want to).
More soon xx