Going vegan is the trend among the eco- and health-conscious, and those embracing the lifestyle are well aware of the fact that it goes much further than just cutting out meat (have you tried vegan cheese yet?). However, not many of us realise that going truly vegan would have to involve making changes to much more than just your diet or what you wear.
It may come as a shock, but lots of common household items we use on a daily basis are not suitable for vegans – and even those of us who aren't vegan will be unpleasantly surprised by the animal origins in some of the products we have in our homes.
A fair few of us will know that the majority of commercial personal care products contain ingredients of animal origin. For example, lecithin, commonly used in shampoo, is derived from dairy. Having your hair treated with keratin? It can be derived from hooves, animal hair, horns, scales and other keratinised animal parts. Love red lipstick? The red colour is carmine, which is made from crushed red beetles. Sporting a metallic nail polish? The metallic sheen is guanine, from fish scales (yes, really). Use a fancy razor with a soft strip that glides smoothly on your skin? It's been treated with glycerin, which can be either animal or vegetable in origin (do you know which one is used in your razor?). Fabric softener typically uses tallow, which is again produced from animal fat. Best thing to do here is shop for cruelty-free products.
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But even if some of us are clued up to the use of animal products in cosmetics and hygiene products, it's a whole other minefield with products that we use every day but don't associate with animal by products. Did you know, for example, that plastic bags contain 'slipping agents', made from animal fat, to reduce static? Or that your kids' crayons contain stearic acid, or processed beef fat. Or that stearic acid is also used in making the plastic that encases your computer? Or that glue contains isinglass made from fish bladders? Even more disturbingly, your rubber soled trainers contain stearic acid (from cows' stomachs) to keep them in shape longer, and the LCD screen of your TV contains animal cholesterol in the liquid crystals. Or that gelatin is used in metal processing to improve metal's structure, such as cadmium in batteries.
Food for thought? Certainly. The trickiest part is that it can be very, very hard to shop for homewares – or do without some buys – that are clearly sign-posted as vegan-friendly or at least cruelty-free, although this will change rapidly we suspect. Tara Hall, spokesperson for Hillarys (opens in new tab) who compiled the data, comments, 'Veganism is on the rise and so many restaurants and food retailers are expanding their range to appeal to a vegan audience. It is great to see the modifications people are making to their lifestyles for the sake of animals and the environment, but until further changes are made to the ingredients in household products, it will be hard for people to convert to a fully vegan lifestyle.'