When most of us think of something being “vegan,” we think of a food item at a restaurant that doesn’t contain animal-derived ingredients.
However, many vegans have a broader concept of what makes something vegan-friendly, which takes into account issues like animal testing and animals used for entertainment. For a deeper dive on this, check out How do you know if something is vegan?
Plus, there can also be some really weird animal-product curve balls that folks don’t see coming. While you might suppose it’s safe to assume that something is vegan as long as it doesn’t contain meat, dairy, or eggs, that overlooks the fact that we have decided to do some really creepy and perverse things with animal parts.
Like, did you know that Downy has horse fat in it? (Bleh, I use dryer balls instead.) Or that certain kinds of beer are processed with fish bladders before bottling? (Bleh, I check Barnivore for bladderless beer instead.) Or that, before they got called out by vegans, Starbucks used to color its strawberry drinks with crushed up beetles? (Bleh, I’ll have some actual strawberries instead.)
Because a lot of these uses for animal parts are so non-obvious, and also because they appear under codenames to avoid grossing people out (“ammonium chloride” = made from horse fat, “isinglass” = fish bladders, “cochineal extract” = crushed up beetles), a lot of times vegans will think that something is vegan when it really isn’t. Due to this and other considerations, figuring out how to reduce our impact on other beings ends up being an ongoing, evolving process, and nobody can ever really be 100% vegan — we’re just trying to learn, improve, and make better choices that will have less of a negative impact.
(So, PS: if you ever see a vegan consuming something that you know isn’t vegan-friendly, like Altoids or Murphy’s Irish Stout, please consider giving them a gentle heads-up. I’m always grateful for this information, because the last thing I want to do is to unwittingly support practices that I disagree with.)