Veganism. When people usually hear that word they shudder away and think of people breaking into farms to rescue animals, or that they’re “dirty hippies”, or that they have a “holier than thou” complex. But that’s really not true for the majority of us.
When you think “vegan” the one thing that most commonly pops into peoples heads is “but what do you eat?” This is a question that I have personally dealt with so many times and the answer is simple: vegetables, nuts, grains, legumes, basically, anything that doesn’t contain any animal products. And yes, that does mean that eggs, even backyard eggs, and honey are off limits.
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But veganism is so much more than a diet, it’s a lifestyle. The Vegan Society’s definition of veganism is “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; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms, it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals”.
So what about when you’re beginning on your vegan journey and you try to seek advice online in different Facebook chat groups, or other online forums? More likely than not, unless you’re in a specific beginners group you’ll be met with the “Vegan Police” who instead of helping and educating you, will berate you for not being “vegan enough”.
So here are a few simple things for you to look out for on labels of things you’d be less likely to think about than food to help you on your journey – because believe me, we’re not all bad people.
There are a shocking number of animal products in most cosmetics including makeup, shampoo, body washes, soaps – there’s even pork fat in a well-known brand of toothpaste in the US – and animal testing is still widely used.
Look out for the leaping bunny sign on packaging to indicate the product is cruelty-free. If a product has the V symbol on it, it’s vegan.
Some common animal products found in cosmetics to look out for include:
Squalene: this is derived from shark liver.
Tallow: this is another name for animal fat.
Caprylic acid/caprylic triglyceride: made from cow and goat milk.
Hyaluronic acid: derived from rooster combs (the bit on top of their heads)
Beeswax, honey, propolis, and royal jelly: often found in lip balms, so watch out.
Keratin: it’s found naturally in your own hair and nails, but in cosmetics, it comes from hooves, quills and animal hair.
Silk powder: silkworms get dissolved in boiling water to create silk fibres.
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I’m sure everyone has gone shopping at some point and saw a pair of shoes, or a jacket, or top they the fell in love with, and before beginning your vegan journey you didn’t think too much about what materials were used to make them.
Some common materials to look out for include:
Leather: usually made from the hides of cows.
Suede: usually made from the underside of the skin from lambs, calves, goats, and sometimes deer.
Silk: made from boiling silkworms until they dissolve to create fibres.
Wool: once again, it’s an animal product so it’s not vegan.
Feathers: you may think that birds lose their feathers regularly, but most are plucked bare for their feathers.
Cashmere: usually made from the soft undercoat of cashmere goats.
Shearling: not the same as wool, it’s actually a sheep’s skin tanned with the wool attached. Shearling refers to a sheep that has been shorn just once, so usually a lamb at one year old.
Angora: have you ever Googled an angora rabbit? You might want to. These beautiful creatures are skinned – usually alive – for their wool.
Fur: fur is the animal’s coat still attached to their skin. Some common furs include bears, beavers, cats, foxes, chinchillas, minks, rabbits, raccoons, even dogs among others.
Glue: yep, you may not have thought of this one, but what about the glue that holds your shoes together? Glues derived from animal products are most commonly used.
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Ever seen a pair of earrings, a necklace, or a purse that you just had to have? Have you looked at what its made from though? Animal products have found their way into every part of our lives.
Some common things to look out for include:
Pearls: natural pearls are made by oysters, mussels, or clams when an irritant, usually a piece of dirt, gets trapped inside their shell. They cover it with a fluid which hardens. Commercially, the irritant is put inside the crustacean forcibly, and then they are cracked open when the pearl is ready.
Exotic skins: snake, alligators, crocodiles, kangaroos, even cats, and dogs are all killed for their “exotic”-looking skins and made into handbags, shoes and other items.
Down duvets, pillows, blankets: these items are filled with the soft down feathers of ducks and geese. These feathers are the ones that are found under their breast bones and don’t fall out.
As you can see, veganism is so much more than just a diet, it’s a lifestyle dedicated to trying to cause as little harm as possible to animals and the planet. Hopefully this little guide will help you on your vegan journey and give you the motivation and understanding you need to continue.