Can You Be Truly Vegetarian?
Recently, “reality” show personality Kristin Cavallari admitted that she wasn’t able to maintain a vegan diet, but in an effort to stay healthy, half her meals are vegan.
Although we don’t really care much about “reality” TV and its so-called stars, Kristin’s admission brings up an interesting predicament for many people.
There are many reasons people choose to be vegetarian, including health and ethical considerations.
But how easy is it to be truly vegetarian/vegan? Beyond the obvious steps taken to avoid eating meat and other animal products does one also have to become hyper-vigilant about everything including clothing, cosmetics, and cleaning products? The simple answer is yes, if your vegetarian diet is ethically driven.
The BBC has produced a series called Kill it, Cut it, Use it. Host Julia Bradbury uncovers the surprising animal origins of our most popular items by following the transformation of each leftover body part all the way from the abattoir to the shop floor. From the sheep parts hidden in your soap to the fishy ingredient in your favourite pint, though you probably don’t know it, the bits of the animals we don’t eat for dinner often end up being made into the products we use every day. For example, in the episode on sheep, we discover how everything from their skin to the placenta can be turned into comfy boots, cosmetics, and even condoms.
And guess what, even tattoos are not safe for the ethical vegan. As Tim Donnelly wrote recently in The Atlantic, “The ink and processes at your average shop contain a veritable buffet of animal detritus: charred bones of dead animals in the ink, fat from once-living things in the glycerin that serves as a carrying agent, enzymes taken from caged sheep that go into making the care products.”
Below is a list of some common animal products and a few of their uses.
Ambergris is a solid, waxy, flammable substance produced in the digestive system of and regurgitated by sperm whales. As it ages, it acquires a sweet, earthy scent making it a popular additive in perfumes.
Chitin is a glucose derivative that can be found in crabs, lobster, shrimp, squid and octopi. It’s similar to keratin and is used for a wide variety of purposes. It’s a binder in dyes, fabrics, and adhesives. It’s used to strengthen paper. It makes good surgical thread because it is strong and flexible, while its biodegradibility means it wears away with time as the wound heals.
Gelatine is derived from the collagen inside animal skin and bones. It is commonly used as a gelling agent in food, pharmaceuticals, photography, and cosmetic manufacturing. It is found in some gummy sweets as well as other products such as marshmallows, jello & puddings, and some low-fat yogurt. The shells of medicine capsules are made from gelatine to make them easier to swallow. It makes beta-carotene water-soluble, which gives yellow soft drinks their colour. It’s also used as a binder in match heads and sandpaper, as well as some glossy printing papers, art paper, playing cards, and it maintains the wrinkles in crêpe paper.
Isinglass is harvested from the dried swim bladders of fish. It is a form of collagen used mainly to clarify wine and beer.
Keratin is a kind of protein found in our skin, hair, and nails. It is also found in other mammals, as well as reptiles, birds, and amphibians. It is currently used in a popular hair treatment, as well as various medical applications, including tumour diagnosis.
Tallow is a rendered form of beef or mutton fat, used primarily in soap production and animal feed.