30 Day Vegan Challenge – Day 5 – Get to Know What’s Really in Your Food

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Reading Labels

“Being vegan is about doing the best we can in an imperfect world. It’s not about being perfect or pure. If we lose sight of that, if we treat veganism as the ends rather than the means, then we’ll not only drive ourselves crazy, we’ll also forget what being vegan is all about. There are some things we have no control over, and I think it makes more sense to focus on what we can do rather than what we can’t.

And there’s so much we can do.”

Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, 30 Day Vegan Challenge

wine-186018_1280It’s downright depressing how much animal death is in the food we eat. Dairy, meat, fish and eggs are the main and most obvious ones, but all the things you would never expect! Who knew they use dried fish bladders to clarify beer and wine?

When you make your own food, you know exactly what is in it, but when you don't you need to read labels.
When you make your own food, you know exactly what is in it, but when you don’t you need to read labels.

Day 5 is a tour through the disturbing task of learning to read food labels. The best way to reduce this alarming foray into modern consumption is to make your own food from single ingredients and I guess, if you can, grow your own. However, this is not always possible or convenient, and a lot of good food does come in packages. You just have to invest a little time in learning how to read labels, but, as Colleen points out, once you know what to look for it’s a matter of seconds to scan a label. Also, once you have found the animal free products you like you just buy them when you shop.

It is pointless to get too overly obsessed with labels, as most of these non-vegan ingredients are cheap by-products of the main animal food industries. If these industries didn’t exist it would be more reasonable and cost-effective for food manufacturers to use plant-based alternatives. That’s the practical, pragmatic response, but emotionally I pretty much agree with Colleen’s sentiment:

“Although I agree that being vegan is not obsessing over being perfect, I simply don’t want to consume the blood, bones or fat of animals – even when they are hidden among other ingredients. I would never buy any of these things if they were sold individually, and I don’t want to eat them shoved into my food as filler or fat.”

Exactly, I don’t want the remains of the dead in my food, so if I can avoid it I will.

Do you really know what your food is made from? Reading food labels is an eye opening experience.
Do you really know what your food is made from? Reading food labels is an eye opening experience.

Candles are not vegan. Candles!!  It can feel like our whole culture is saturated by the contamination of death. Even the good stuff.
Candles are not vegan. Candles!! It can feel like our whole culture is saturated by the contamination of killing. Even the good stuff.

I used Day 5 to write out a list of additives onto a small card to put in my wallet and take with me shopping. This is the list to take shopping, along with my glasses – middle-aged eyes not being what they used to! It may take a little more time at first, but I hope that it soon becomes second nature.

  • gelatine – in jelly, marshmallows, vitamin capsules, gummy bears (and similar lollies?), ice cream ((plant-derived gelatine alternatives are agar, guar gum, carrageenan, pectin)
  • whey, casein, caseinate, milk protein, sodium caseinate
  • lactose (lactate and lactate acid are not from animals)
  • lanolin – in cosmetics, moisturisers, lotions, lip balms, beauty products
  • stearate, stearic acid – candles, soaps, plastics, chewing gum, candy (some are plant derived, usually says so on the label)
  • carmine, cochineal, carminic acid – colouring in red-colour juices, yoghurt, ice cream, cosmetics
  • bonito
  • lard
  • lipids, lipoids (some are plant derived, usually says so on the label)
  • rennet, rennin

There is also a certified vegan logo, which unfortunately is only applied to products manufactured in the United States, Canada and Australia.  I have noticed that a Malaysian brand of soy products – Everbest – at the Asian grocery shop have a vegan logo, not sure if it is their own or from a vegan certification body?

Note: I can ignore the warning labels saying the product was made on the same machines, The risk of contamination is realistically almost zero. Manufacturers include the warning label as liability insurance.

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6 thoughts on “30 Day Vegan Challenge – Day 5 – Get to Know What’s Really in Your Food”

  1. Many just eat anything, if it is put in front of them. Obedient souls that do not question many things or fear what they may stir up.
    Others are busy multitaskers, that just stuff whatever is easy into their mouths and have no time to question (or so they think).
    That’s all I have got, it is an observation.

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    1. Yes, it is interesting how since I made the decision to go vegan how much more aware of food and what’s in it and where it comes from I have become. It is totally mind blowing how much food includes animal products – it is insane, and nobody notices – I know I didn’t make the connection for about 40 years!

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      1. If you haven’t watched “The Green Beautiful” film yet, please do, because there’s this part when they hold their hair to undo the sleep of others, but that I don’t want to spoil it for you and that it is such a sweet sweet film. It is complete and online, I think on youtube.

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    1. Agreed. People can face very different challenges in life. It is easy to see behaviour, but what motivates that behaviour is less clear. That is pretty much what I have decided to genuinely try to do the best I can. I am lucky because my circumstances enable me to make vegan choices pretty easily.

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