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as well as general inquiries about vegan ethics, philosophy,
practical applications, and living compassionately.
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I have been a vegetarian for over a
year now and am beginning to pursue my beliefs a step
further into veganism. The only major obstacle I am
finding is that many of the ingredients in foods are
animal products or by-products in disguise. I was curious
if you might be able to provide a list of sorts, identifying
the most common animal products used that I wouldn't
There are a number of ingredients often
found in commercially-produced food products that are
typically animal based and easily identifiable. A few
of the most common are albumin, calcium caseinate, calcium
stearate, carmine, casein, cochineal, gelatin, honey,
isinglass, lactase, lactose, lard, myristic acid (tetradecanoic
acid), oleic acid (octadecenoic acid), palmitic acid
(hexadecanoic acid), pancreatin, pepsin, propolis, royal
jelly, sodium caseinate, suet, tallow, and whey.
What complicates matters is that many
ingredients that appear to be animal-derived could also
have been made from plant sources or produced synthetically.
Some of these are adipic acid (hexanedioic acid), capric
acid (decanoic acid), clarifying agents, disodium inosinate,
diglyceride, emulsifier, fatty acid, glyceride, glycerol,
lactic acid, magnesium stearate, monoglyceride, natural
flavoring, polysorbate, sodium stearoyl lactylate, and
stearic acid. Often manufacturers don't know if their
ingredients are from animal or non-animal sources because
buyers frequently alternate among suppliers depending
on who has the lowest market price. In other words,
there may be no definitive way for you to determine
the origin of certain ingredients.
Many people who are new to veganism
get caught up in an endless and frustrating search for
"hidden" animal ingredients. Some vegans become consumed
to the brink of obsession with unearthing the tiniest
trace of animal derivatives. Sadly, this misses the
point of being vegan, which is to reduce suffering.
Instead, these vegans end up chasing rainbows and ultimately
heap anguish upon themselves and those around them.
A classic scenario that illustrates this absurdity is
the vegan who idly walks past a homeless person while
pondering whether or not the diglycerides in her bread
are animal derived. Wouldn't it be more in the spirit
of veganism to forget about the diglycerides and share
some bread and conversation with the person in need?
There are specks of animal products
in practically every commercially produced commodity
from glue to plastics, from sugar to wine, from medicinal
tablets to paints. There is little that we encounter
throughout our day that is not the product or by-product
of the slaughter industry. Even books about veganism
or animal rights are likely bound with animal-based
glue, printed on equipment lubricated with animal fats,
and packaged by workers who eat meat and wear leather
shoes. So where do vegans draw the line?
Sense and sensibility must be our guiding
factors. Otherwise, we are doomed to insanity, for persisting
in achieving the, as yet, impossible will surely drive
us mad. Yes, it is infuriating that animal parts are
used so pervasively. But is it realistic and prudent
to rebel against the minutia while draining energies
that could be better spent in eradicating the source
of these components?
Focus on the "bigger picture" and abstain
from buying, using, or supporting any commodities, ingredients,
or enterprises that are obviously and incontrovertibly
nonvegan. However, avoid getting caught up in the "I'm
more vegan than thou" syndrome that emphasizes personal
perfection at the cost of realistic and achievable goals.
By accentuating the attainable, you will release yourself
from needless anxiety and can help make compassionate
living more appealing and practical to nonvegans, which
will do far more to advance the vegan cause and end
suffering than all other actions combined.
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