In a nutshell, what we’re talking about is quite surprising. If you were truly aware of every single ingredient in every product that you used, you probably wouldn’t want to use half the things you picked up at the supermarket.
How can you tell if your product is vegetarian, vegan, or non-vegetarian? One popular means of showing this difference is right on the back of the box or carton – a green dot, indicating that the product inside is free of all animal ingredients. That makes us feel like smart, informed consumers and satisfies us enough to make the purchase. However, do we ever really check the ingredient list? More importantly, do we ever check for these signs on any product other than food items?
It probably comes as no surprise that the vegetarian population of the world is increasing. For many, religion is one of the most significant factors behind this, but people are also becoming more conscious of their food choices. Vegetarian and vegan diets are gaining popularity in many countries across the world, for reasons ranging from health and detox to religious abstinence.
However, there’s another reason why a lot of people are beginning to take vegetarianism seriously, which is to take a stand against animal cruelty. It is a well-known fact that animals bred for consumption are often raised in cruel and abysmal conditions. There are numerous articles and campaigns that promote vegetarianism as a step towards discouraging animal cruelty. However, the question arises – is that enough?
Lets take a simple test. Do you have any idea what squalene is? It sounds rather harmless, right? It’s commonly used in skin moisturizers, but do you know what it actually is? Squalene is an organic compound that was originally obtained for commercial purposes, primarily from shark liver oil. Shocking, isn’t it? (It should be noted that at present, plant sources like vegetable oil are also sometimes used to derive squalene).
Did you know that animal-based ingredients are used in a wide variety of products that we use on a day-to-day basis? From cleansing agents to cosmetics – if you look closely, there is a good chance that you will find a few animal-based ingredients used in these popular products. Now, lets take a look at some of the most common products containing these unexpected ingredients.
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According to PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), there aren’t just one or two, but a whopping 20 ingredients commonly used in shampoos that are derived from animals. It’s difficult for a layman to tell, because when you look at terms like panthenol or keratin, there is no way to tell the true source of the component. Panthenol may be derived from animal or plant sources, whereas keratin is a protein from the hooves, feathers, quills, and hair of various animals.
Most fabric softeners have a ridiculously complex-sounding component that they list as Tallow dimethyl ammonium chloride. When decoded, this material is basically ammonia with rendered beef fat.
Many times, lipstick can be a cesspool of animal-based ingredients. Tallow, gelatin (usually from the skin and tendons of pigs and cows), guanine (obtained from the scales of fish), and cochineal dye (red pigment from the crushed female cochineal insect) are just the more common ones. It’s a bit gross when you try to visualize exactly what you’re putting on your lips, isn’t it?
Car or Bike Tires:
This is even trickier, because they never actually hand you a list of components used in the manufacturing of the tires you purchase. You could still try and speak to the manufacturers to find out if they use animal-based stearic acid in the production of their tires. This is a component that helps the rubber in tires hold its shape under steady surface friction.
Several animal-based ingredients are used in perfumes, either for their unique scent or as a fixative. Although many perfumeries now use synthetic alternatives, these products are still in use. The list includes ambergris (a grey, waxy substance produced in the digestive system of sperm whales), civet (a secretion painfully scraped from a gland of civet cats), and musk (a dried secretion painfully obtained from musk deer, beaver, muskrat, civet cat, and otter genitals).
Apart from latex, glycerine and casein are also used in making condoms. Casein is a milk protein, while glycerine can be derived from animal fat. In this case, again, there is an option to obtain glycerine from plants or synthetic processes, but there is no way to tell which kind is used in your product. Glycerin is also used in the production of mouthwashes, chewing gum, toothpastes, soaps, ointments, medicines, lubricants etc.
This fashion fad certainly isn’t easy on animals. Some of the animal-based ingredients in the ink could consist of bone char (Animal bone ash that is used for black pigmentation), shellac (the resinous excretion of certain insects), and glycerin.
This is just a brief glimpse into what really goes into the items we use every day. It’s quite morbid when you think about it, right? But don’t worry, as there are healthier, vegan alternatives available for almost all of them. Always be sure to look for organic or vegan products. Moreover, plant-based oils make effective substitutes for many perfumes. The key is to take the time and look closely before you make your product choices. The information is out there; you just need to look for it. And also care about making a positive impact on the world.
Note: None of this is to say that a vegetarian diet does nothing to discourage animal cruelty. It does, and every effort counts. Check out this page from PETA to get a glimpse of what a significant difference it can make.