Things you might want to watch out for
There are some products that you would never think aren’t vegan. Sometimes it almost feels like companies have made it into a sport to find ways to incorporate animal derivatives in their products.
For someone like me, that is trying to be strict on supporting vegan brands and products, strong believer in that you vote with my wallet, this can be quite annoying and a bit stressful. My only advice is to live and learn and to be kind to yourself when you realize that your favorite X, Y or Z is basically just as bad as eating steak 😱.
As part of this intro I also like to say a few words about Eco-friendly, organic and cruelty-free. All good labels but it’s not the same as vegan. Wool gloves can be labeled Eco or organic, but they are obviously not vegan. Cruelty-free means not tested on animals, does not mean the product doesn’t contain ingredients obtained from animals.
Looking from another perspective, a product labeled as vegan-friendly is often Eco and always cruelty-free. I have also noticed that vegan is often accompanied by a Fair Trade label, especially in foods. This absolutely make sense to me, feels strange to be fighting for animal rights and not care about fighting poverty and improved business practices in development countries.
Wine and Beer
Wine is made from grapes, beer is made from grain, should be vegan, right? Not always, finings obtained from animals are often added to clarify and improve the taste of beer or wine.
Most commonly used finings in beer are isinglass and gelatine. Isinglass is a collagen obtained from fish swim bladder. Gelatine is cooked collagen from animal skin, bones, connective tissue etc.
In wine, isinglass, gelatine, chitosan, casein and egg whites are most common. Chitosan is made from the shells of shrimp and other shellfish. Casein is the main protein in milk.
So, how do you avoid the animal ingredients? Not easy, that’s for sure. There is, in Sweden at least, no law that producers need to write out all ingredients on their products. They do however need to state if casein or egg whites have been used to protect people with allergies.
With this said, the interest in cruelty-free products are increasing and just in the last year more and more breweries and wine makers are starting to market themselves, and labeling their products as vegan. We all remember when Guinness released that they are now completely cruelty-free, we all love them after that.
Below are some vegan labeling to look out for, researching on the producers website or even contacting customer service is always good as well.
Nail polish can seem like a simple, innocent indulgence, one that you would never expect to include animal products. Unfortunately it’s not that simple. Ingredients from animals you might find in your favorite polish are guanine, carmine and oleic acid.
Guanine is obtained from fish scales. Is it used to add shimmer not only to nail polish but also to eye shadow and skin products. It might be listed as ‘pearl essence’ on your nail polish bottle.
Carmine is a bright red colour pigment produced from crushed scale insects. You might find it under names such crimson lake or carmine lake, natural red 4 or E120. Its not only used in nail polish but also in for example sweets, fizzy drinks and makeup.
Oleic acid comes from animal fat and can be found in soaps, detergents, printing inks, cosmetics and of course nail polish. Look out for Radiacid 0212 which comes from animal fat. Radiacid 0202 and 0253 as well as Nouracid 1880 are vegetable based. Worth noting is that Radiacid 0253 is extracted from palm, thus, In my opinion, best avoided.
Even if the ingredients list is free from animal products most nail polish brands test on animals and products contain chemicals not to be messed with. For an easy win-win for both animals and health, by vegan nail polish, these are usually not only cruelty-free but also free from nasty chemicals.
So, obviously you know that leather, suede and fur is not vegan. You avoid these fabrics and think your purchase is now vegan. Again, it’s not that simple. The glue keeping the shoe together can contain animal products, usually gelatine. Also, a lot of shoes have little leather patches on them or the insoul can be made from leather.
Reading labels will unfortunately only get you so far, it won’t say if the glue is vegan for example. Often, the salesperson in the shop won’t know either. I have several times asked about what has gone into a shoe only to receive a blank look as answer. The Best thing is to contact customer service about the product you are interested in.
I know that this can seem like a hassle but it’s a good practice both because it shows interest in vegan products and promotes better and clearer labeling. Thirdly is slows down your shopping habits, avoiding impulse purchases 👌.
When you first become vegan (and later on too) you will get flooded by well-meaning advice about all the supplements you now need to take. I’ll leave it to you to make up your own mind what you need, personally I only take D-vitamin and B12 and occasionally Omega 3. Point for this post is that not all supplements are vegan-friendly.
D-vitamin is something always recommended taking when you live as far north as Sweden. D-vitamins comes it two forms, D2, that you get from plants and D3 that is most commonly from animal sources but that can also be obtained from lichens. D3 is considered superior to D2 so try to find products with vegan D3. I would assume that if not clearly stated to be derived from plants, a product with D3 will be non-vegan friendly.
Omega 3 supplements are generally made from fish oil, thus very much not vegan. The outer layer of the capsules also often contain gelatine. Do some research or ask the salesperson in the chop, there are almost always a vegan option available with omega 3 extracted from algae.
I do not take iron supplements. So far I have not had an issue getting it from food, plus I do a lot of my cooking in cast iron pots. If you do want to take iron supplements, make sure you are taking non-heme iron that originates from plants. Heme iron on the other hand comes from animal protein.
There as those that will say that heme iron is superior when it comes to absorption, perhaps true in terms of the floodgates being completely open. The body will actually self-regulate the uptake of non-heme iron, boosting uptake when needed and limiting it when stores are full. For me this is a clear indicator that we evolved to get most of our iron from plant sources. Also, resent studies indicate that heme iron plays a part in cancer development and could actually be one of the culprits behind why meat in carcinogenic.
Candles are literally what gets met through the dark Swedish winter. I would probably die of depression if I did not have them.
Non-vegan candles contain stearin that is made from animal fat. Up to now I have happily been buying vegan-friendly candles made of paraffin, easy to find and always clearly labeled (my experience).
Recently I have however started to read up on the potential health issues with paraffin. Paraffin is a by-product from the oil industry and contain the same harmful particles as exhaust fumes from a car engine, not something I like to expose me or my family to, plus its bad for the environment.
What I have understood so far is good quality candles, that burns with a steady flame are sort of OK. The steady flame indicate complete combustion of any harmful substances. If the flames is flickering, sot particles are produced and this is what you need to avoid.
Still, considering the environmental impact I have started to look for a good alternative. Bee wax is not an option for a vegan, palm oil is also a no-no, leaving candles made of soy. After spending hours searching for soy tea lights online without result, I finally found some at one of the big hardware store chains. Shows that sometimes you don’t need to go out of your way to find Eco friendly vegan options 😃.
Hope you found this post helpful, until next time, take care and be safe out there in the big non-vegan world…