Being Vegan Away from the Table

Many people, particularly those who don't embrace veganism, tend to think of a vegan lifestyle as one in which people avoid animal-derived foods. Some vegans may even view it in this way. But a truly vegan lifestyle should extend to every part of life, not just the dinner table.

While you might have already purged your fridge and cabinets of every offending item, just a quick glance around can reveal many other products created with animal ingredients. Cleaning supplies, hand creams, pet food, makeup and hair products like shampoos and styling gels are often either derived from animal products or cruelly tested on animals. Even that hairbrush you may own with "natural bristles" is an animal product.

Organizations like PETA regularly list companies that produce cruelty-free products, and those are definitely a step in the right direction. But not all companies that avoid testing on animals actually produce things like vegan make up or vegan hair products. While not tested on animals, the products may contain animal ingredients. And in some cases, the animals may be killed to specifically extract those ingredients.

How do you know if your cruelty-free, never-tested-on-animals item contains animal products? You have to become a bit of a sleuth. There are certain ingredients that are popular in hair products, cosmetics and hygiene products that will give them away. Some ingredients are obvious, like hydrolyzed animal proteins or beeswax. Look for less obvious ingredients like:

  • Keratin: keratin is derived from things like animal hooves, teeth, hair and skin, found in beauty and hair care products
  • Casein: this is a milk-derived ingredient, common in hair products
  • Acetate: derived from eggs or fish oils, common in hair dyes
  • Lanolin: oil pulled from sheep's wool, common in beauty products
  • Polypeptides: derived from animal placentas, often found in shampoos
  • Guanine: derived from fish scales, it's found in shampoos and similar products

There are many more ingredients that appear in beauty and hair products, among other common household items, that are animal-based. You should look up any ingredients you're in doubt about to be sure they're not animal-derived. You can also find stores online that only sell cruelty-free vegan products, as well as lists of companies that only produce those kinds of products.

If you're horrified by some of the products currently in your home, just remember that none of these products are advertised as "tested on animals" or "made with animal products" so you, like most shoppers, just didn't know. Now that you do, you might have to switch brands on everything from your dishwashing liquid to your deodorant, but you don't have to do it all in one day. Replace the products as you go with animal-free and cruelty-free products and you'll achieve a truly vegan lifestyle.

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