Whether you've been vegan for a few years, a few months or are just transitioning, it's a good bet there are a few everyday products you might not have realized weren't exactly vegan. Why must they put animal products in everything, right? Ugh. The good news is there are alternatives for most of them! Read on to find out the top ten things you didn't know weren't vegan (and what you can use instead!)
The Glue In Your Shoes
It's not just leather, fur or suede that makes footwear not vegan. Many companies use animal based glue, meaning an animal's connective tissue or bones are boiled together to make it. Gross!
Thankfully, more companies are now using synthetic, animal free glues and many more are making the switch. And, even better the glue without boiled up animal parts is actually more effective and more stable at holding shoes together. Seems like a no-brainer, right? Quite a few shoe companies are now certified vegan or PETA approved, but it also doesn't hurt to contact the company directly to ask about what materials are used in their products.
Say whaaat? Money isn't vegan? Well, not all of it, unfortunately. Ya know those newer bills that feel a bit slippery? Well, the reason they feel like that is because they're made with polymer which contains small traces of tallow. Tallow is basically animal fat, usually derived from cows, pigs (lard) or sheep. Again, gross! Money might be the one thing on this list where there isn't a great alternative, unless of course you commit to only using loonies and toonies from now on!
You might be wondering how on earth a razor of all things could NOT be vegan. It comes down to two things: first off, the little lubricating strip on many razors is made with either lanolin (which comes from sheep's wool) or from the animal derived kind of glycerin (there is also vegetable based glycerin!). Secondly, while razors themselves are not necessarily tested on animals, most of the big brands that you're probably familiar with definitely do test on animals in other areas of their companies. No thanks! Investing in a straight edge razor
is always an option as an alternative. Or if you're on a budget there are also some great vegan razor brands that are affordable, eco and animal friendly!
This one was kind of shocking, to be honest. Matches have animal products in them? Where? Why? There are actually a couple of different parts of that teeny tiny little match that contain animal products. Gelatin or animal glue is used in the match head as both a combuster and as a binding agent. And, isinglass (aka fish guts) is used as a "conditioner." It's too bad because there's nothing quite like the smell when you light up a match (to light your soy wax candle, of course!), but we're going to stick with our good 'ol zippo lighters instead.
When most people think of why a vehicle wouldn't be vegan, the first thing that usually pops into their head is a leather interior. But, did you know that the tires are often not vegan? It has to do with the stearic acid used to make them. Most stearic acid is made from animal fat, but there is a version made from plants. So far there's just one tire manufacturer that uses the plant derived kind and hopefully more will follow. Next time you're shopping for new winter tires, make sure to specify that you want 100% vegan Michelin wheels!
We all know plastic bags aren't great for the environment, but it turns out they're also not great for the animals either. Most of them have what's called a "slip agent" to reduce friction. Those slip agents are made from animal fat or tallow...the same thing that's used in our dollar bills.
Obviously the alternative for this one is pretty easy - don't forget your reusable tote bag when you're out shopping! And, if you do happen to forget, ask for a paper bag instead.
You might wanna think twice before lighting up again! Smoking cigarettes is definitely not vegan for a few reasons. Many people don't realize that the tobacco industry still tests on animals. It's pretty disturbing, especially when tobacco affects different species in different ways. Why would we torture dogs, monkeys, rats and other animals when the tests aren't even accurate? Some cigarette brands also contain pig's blood, beeswax and/or castoreum (which, in case you didn't know is the discharge from a beaver's anal sac!) And as if that's not bad enough, discarded cigarette butts are also a major problem; trillions of them are thrown away every year which not only can harm animals, but the filter core of most cigarettes is made of a kind of plastic (which can take up to ten years to decompose). The filters also contain arsenic, tar and ammonia which seep into the ground and bodies of water, also harming fish, wildlife and humans. So, is there an alternative? Maybe - the jury is out on vaping; there is a lot of conflicting information on whether or not some kinds of e-juice may have some animal products added. Again, it doesn't hurt to contact the company directly. And, it's not quite the same as smoking tobacco, but it is now legal to smoke marijuana in Canada! Ya know...if you're into that!
Okay, tampons are definitely something most people never really think about, when it comes to whether they're cruelty free or vegan. And, to be fair it's only about half the population who thinks about tampons, period. Pun unintended! The bottom line is that tampon companies routinely test products on animals; from subcutaneously inserting tampons into the necks of rabbits to vaginally inserting rabbits, baboons and guinea pigs with TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome) laced tampons to see what happens. Live chicken embryos were also injected with TSS and in almost every experiement cow's blood was used to simulate human's. Insane, right? It literally makes me nauseous even writing about it. So, what other options are there? If you're set on tampons, there are a few companies now who are vegan and do not test on animals (you can usually find these in specialty health stores). The same vegan tampon companies also make pads, although re-usable pads are another alternative (and not as gross as one might think!) And, of course there are also the re-usable cup options available, these days!
Before you panic and think you have to give up all things that are delicious and sweet, there IS vegan sugar! There are three main sources where sugar comes from: sugarcane, sugar beets, and coconuts. It's mainly the white cane sugar you need to be aware of because it's often processed with bone char. How many times do I have to write "gross!" in this blog post? The ground up bones of cows is widely used as a decolourizing filter to make it white, although it can also be used in brown sugar. A couple of things to keep in mind - if you're in Western Canada, the Roger's brand sugar that's produced in Taber, AB is vegan; if it's produced in Vancouver, they do use bone char. You can look at the product number that's printed on the bag to tell: if it starts with a "22," it's from Taber and is vegan friendly, if it starts with a "10," it's from Vancouver and is not.
Also, if you're from or travelling in Australia, all sugar there is apparently vegan friendly! Yay!
It's true - many makeup brushes aren't vegan because real animal hair is used as the bristles. Usually the hair is taken from horses, mink or squirrels, among other animals. But, it's also true that many companies have switched to using synthetic fibres, like nylon or taklon. It makes more sense (besides just the ethics of it), because the synthetic brushes are are easier to clean, they're hypo-allergenic and they actually hold powders more effectively. If you're shopping for a new brush, a quick google search of whatever brand it happens to be + vegan will usually tell you what kind of bristles are used. Some will even say "vegan" right on brush or package, which makes life even easier!
If you're reading through this list thinking "man oh man... NOTHING is safe from having sneaky animal products added and now I have to re-think/get rid of/buy new EVERYTHING..." Don't let it overwhelm you! It can be surprising and a bit disappointing to find out that so many everyday products are full of cruelty, but being vegan is also about learning as you go. There's no need to throw out all your maybe-not-fully vegan shoes or go out and buy all new makeup brushes. Wear the shoes out, use the makeup brushes until they need to be replaced...and then next time choose one of the cruelty free, vegan options!