Looking for animal-free cosmetics? It might not be easy. Not only are the ingredient names confusing and often unpronounceable, but there are some ingredients that can be derived from plants, or from animals, or created synthetically in a lab.
Take glycerin, a common ingredient in skincare and cosmetics. It keeps water from separating in a given product. It’s also a lubricant. But just how do you know where it comes from?
The origin is rarely specified, unless the company itself is vegan — and only a handful will make this claim. Occasionally, a product will be marked as vegan. More often than not, even when cosmetics are animal-free, the responsibility of ascertaining such information is left to the consumer.
In the cosmetics industry, beetles may become lipstick. Fish may become eye shadow.
Mascara almost always includes beeswax. The wax is used as a thickener and makes mascara waterproof and long-wearing. Aveda and Urban Decay, two companies that produce ranges of vegan make-up, use beeswax in their mascara. Companies that do produce vegan mascaras include Zuzu Luxe, Ecco Bella and Beauty Without Cruelty.
Animal products, because they are so common on the market, are often the least expensive. To add to the confusion, cosmetic recipes sometimes change from batch to batch based on the market value of various ingredients. This might explain why most cosmetic companies don’t label animal-free offerings: there’s no guarantee that the next batch of make-up won’t contain animal products. So, when I asked the manager of Beautypedia, the most comprehensive computer database of reviews for skin care and cosmetics, to list individual products as suitable for vegans, I was told that this would be “impossible” because of the frequent changes to cosmetic formulations.
And yet, understanding the ingredients lists can be practically impossible as well. The terms are technical, and far removed from the animals from some are derived. “Carmine” is a bright red pigment that is derived from a small insect. It’s frequently found in cosmetics, and it’s also used in paints and foods. Carmine or “cochineal” — which is the small insect — can also appear in a variety of cosmetics, because of concerns that artificial dyes might cause allergies. But it’s not used in every lipstick, blush or other cosmetic product. It’s not easy to know what’s what.
So, for a long time now, advocacy groups have alerted consumers to cosmetics and skin-care companies that avoid the use of animal products in some way. Internet sites and pamphlets, some designed by popular animal advocacy groups, offer listings of “cruelty-free” cosmetics companies. But does that term mean the company does not test on animals? Or does it mean the product’s ingredients are vegan?
The meaning of “cruelty-free” varies from company to company. It might mean the company doesn’t test its finished products on animals, but the same company might buy individual cosmetic ingredients from companies that do.
Often, there is no way to know whether an ingredient is synthetic simply by reading the label — especially when most companies refuse to label cosmetics that don’t include animal products. What should we do? Talk to the company. If you have found a cosmetic you like that is vegan, encourage the company to label it vegan and to keep it vegan.
Sales staff might regale you with outlandish claims about their “miracle” products, but rare is the representative who can identify one that contains no animal material and hasn’t been tested on animals. Most cosmetic companies have customer service lines, though, with representatives who can answer such questions. If you want to know about a specific product, call the company’s toll-free number and talk to a customer service specialist. Be prepared with detailed information (name, shade and type) of the product.
Ask your questions clearly. Some companies we called did not consider bees or their products to be animal-based
Retailers Offering Animal-Free Cosmetics (no animal testing; no animal ingredients):
408 S. Pasadena Ave., Suite 1
Pasadena , California 91105
Toll Free: 866-758-5837 (United States & Canada)
Cosmo’s Vegan Shoppe
672 Highland Avenue NE
Atlanta, Georgia 30312
Toll free: 800-260-9968
Pangea Vegan Store
2381 Lewis Ave.
Rockville , Maryland 20851
Soul Vegetarian: Embracing Southern Comfort
The U.S. capital is home to many a vegan. But who knew? For Washington has a dearth of vegan restaurants. I moved here from a much smaller, Southern city that features inventive, delicious vegan food at practically every restaurant in town. Not that there isn’t inventive and fantastic vegan food in DC; but you do have to look a little harder.
A Southerner born and raised, I live for Southern-inspired vegan food. It’s my cultural identity, and my culinary passion. Think sautéed kale and collards, barbequed tofu, sweet potato biscuits, vegan macaroni and cheese and corn bread — my mouth waters as I write. In Washington, D.C., there’s one place to get the ultimate vegan comfort food: Soul Vegetarian.
Located in the historic Shaw neighborhood, on Georgia Avenue opposite Howard University, Soul Vegetarian is one of a chain of fourteen restaurants in places around the globe. With its soy milkshakes, cheese-steak sandwiches with grilled peppers and onions and all kinds of greens and barbequed things, the menu at first seems the opposite of health food, but it’s completely free from animal fat. This is the kind of food that you can eat now and then just because it tastes outrageously good.
But before I wax poetic about the collard greens, let me get the criticism out of the way. When I first moved here, friends warned me about the service at Soul Vegetarian, and rightly so. You must go to Soul Vegetarian knowing that — unless you order off of the daily special’s menu which is already prepared and waiting — your order requires an inordinate amount of time. Always. It’s a fact of life, like the perfection that is Soul Vegetarian’s famous macaroni and cheese.
The food, in my opinion, is worth the wait.
The menu comprises a daily hot bar featuring items like spicy collard greens, yams, curried cabbage, pepper steak and barbequed tofu. The hot bar is always new and different, and always delicious. There is also a made-to-order menu that features burgers, cheese-steak sandwiches and vegan takes on chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes, along with fresh juices, soy shakes and smoothies.
There is also a Sunday brunch. Wonderful desserts, too. If you live for sweet potato pie, you’re in luck. Best yet, the prices are pretty low, with most dinner dishes priced less than $10.
The restaurant itself is frills-free, with a few spare tables downstairs and an upstairs dining area that’s a little more aesthetically appealing. But Soul Vegetarian is the kind of place that you go to do one thing, and one thing only: eat delicious Southern food.
2606 Georgia Avenue NW
Washington , DC 20001
Open Monday-Saturday 11:00am- 9:00pm, Sunday 11:00am- 3:00pm
Cheers to the BellaVita School of in Longmont, Colorado. At this pre-school, which serves vegan meals, students planted their own community garden with the hopes of raising 5% of their own food – and two apple trees on the school’s front lawn! This story was covered in the Longmont Times-Call by Melanie M. Sidwell. Please thank the journalist and encourage more such life-affirming news coverage:
Melanie M. Sidwell
The students can be encouraged by writing to:
The BellaVita School
641 Terry Street
Longmont, CO 80501, United States
Cheers to Glascott Farm , located near Markdale, Ontario ( Canada) for transitioning to vegan-organic agriculture – growing vegetables without the use of animal manure or blood. Owners Cam and Rebecca, according to a profile on the Veganic Agriculture Network website, were inspired to make the transition after having developed a relationship with pigs once used to fertilize the fields. The pigs now live at a sanctuary.
The mission of the Vegan Agriculture Network is to promote the “production of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and cereals without the use of artificial substances nor the use of animal products” and “sustainable, low-impact, plant-based farming and gardening.” To learn more, please visit their website at www.goveganic.net
Cheers to Chicago Soy Dairy and its new creation, Teese — a meltable vegan cheese replicating mozzarella, so it’s perfect for a homemade vegan pizza. Other cheese products are currently in the works as well. Chicago Soy Dairy is a vegan-run business that uses dedicated vegan equipment.
Teese is available online, in some grocery stores and restaurants throughout North America. For a complete listing of stores and restaurants that sell Teese, visit:
We Love Soy, Inc.
P.O. Box 666
Glen Ellyn, IL 60138-0666, United States
Cheers to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters for pulling out of the ANWR Coalition – because, said a July Teamsters press release, the coalition lines the pockets of big oil tycoons.
Rejecting offshore drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Jim Hoffa stated at an Oakland, California summit on good jobs and clean air; “We are not going to drill our way out of the energy problems we are facing…We must find a long-term approach that breaks our dependence on foreign oil by investing in the development of alternate energy sources like solar, wind and geothermal power.”
The press release is called “ Hoffa Rejects 'Drilling Our Way Out' of Energy Crisis, Demands Long-Term Policy Solutions.”
Jim Hoffa, General President
Contact person: Leigh Strope
Jeers to Williams Sonoma Home for its new product which features Damselflies — an insect similar to the Dragonfly. The product, designed by Christopher Marley, is a shadowbox containing the Damselfly — marketed as artwork. Marley, on his website, claims that “insect collecting can actually aid in the preservation of insect species by offering an economic incentive to preserve the habitat in which this ‘sustainable rainforest crop’ thrives.” Please let Williams Sonoma Home and Christopher Marley know that insects, like other living beings who inhabit the planet, should be left free in nature.
Williams Sonoma Home, customer service: 888-922-4108
A customer feedback form is available online at www.wshome.com
c/o Form and Pheromone
P.O. Box 4451
Salem, OR 97302 United States
Jeers to Cirque du Soleil for featuring live birds in their Las Vegas show starring magician Criss Angel. While Cirque du Soleil is a world-renowned, artistically acclaimed circus troupe that features jaw-dropping human acts, they have no written policy against animals, such as birds or serpents, being featured in acts. Please send polite letters and e-mails expressing a desire to see such a policy instituted.
Contact: Renée-Claude Ménard, Director
Chantal Côté, Corporate PR Manager
Cirque du Soleil
8400 2nd Avenue
Montreal, Qc H1Z 4M6
Jeers to the 10th Annual Trout Rodeo of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. This event, held at Anson B. Nixon Park, is advertised as a “great opportunity to enjoy the outdoors while participating in a sport” to “enjoy for a lifetime.” Five hundred fish are stocked in two ponds for this event.
Humans can learn to both appreciate and enjoy the great outdoors by respecting the animals with which we share the planet — and observing them in their natural habitats. Suggest to the two sponsors a more respectful event. Kite-making and kite-flying, for example, would avoid the use of animals as amusements.
Red Clay Valley Association
1760 Unionville-Wawaset Road
West Chester, PA 19382-6751 United States
Kennett Area Park Authority
P.O. Box 1121
Kennett Square , PA 19348 United States
Cheers and Jeers to Austin, Texas for its Veggie Hot Dog Contest — a competitive eating competition that highlighted vegan hot dogs and ice cream. Promoting veganism is a noble activity, but highlighting gluttony by treating food as a contest is the wrong avenue.
While this event is a mixed bag and we’re not suggesting you contact the facilitators, we do recommend sharing the gift of peaceful food by preparing delicious meals for and with others, hosting vegan potlucks, or donating your time and vegan foods to those who need it in your area.
Jeers to the South Philadelphia Tap Room for including African lion on their appetizer menu. While US law allows “exotic animals” to be bred and slaughtered to eat, the habitat of African lions is continuously diminishing, and so are the numbers of lions living in their natural habitat. No animal need be included on a restaurant menu in the first place, and introducing people to lion flesh is preposterous. Let the South Philadelphia Tap Room know that lions do not belong on a restaurant menu — no matter how they’re raised or procured.
South Philadelphia Tap Room
1509 Mifflin Street ,
Philadelphia, PA 19145 United States
Report from Friends of Animals’ Canadian Correspondent
Miscarriages of Justice
We have a busy campaign here, in my home town of Victoria, British Columbia, to end the horse-drawn carriage business.
Last year, we educated through vigils held directly across from the carriage companies’ pick-up spot. We distributed thousands of leaflets and collected signatures from residents and tourists alike.
Next stop: City Hall. We’re bringing the signed petitions, and seeking a legal end to the custom.
KFC Canada: The Victory That Wasn’t
Recently, an animal advocacy group claimed a victory against KFC.
“All we want is for KFC worldwide to do what KFC Canada has done” says the organization, referring primarily to the use of gas instead of electricity to kill chickens.
But the only way to ensure birds are not maltreated is to stop consuming them. Which brings us to…
The Victoria Vegan
Now in its 13 th issue, The Victoria Vegan newsletteroffers Victoria and Vancouver vegans and other interested people fresh and informative articles written by local activists. We also offer recipes, product and restaurant reviews, and listings of local resources and vegan activities.
We print 900 copies on 100% post-consumer recycled paper, then distribute them to dozens of locations. The newsletter can also be read online: www.TheVictoriaVegan.com
Vegetarian in Toronto
Friends of Animals will appear at the 24th Annual Vegetarian Food Fair from Sept. 5 th through 7 th in Toronto. With over 100 exhibitors, it’s billed as the largest event of its kind in North America, and we’ll be looking forward to sharing the animal-rights message with the thousands of visitors who come to enjoy the presentations, information, and, of course, much delicious food.
Vegans on Wheels
Vegan advocacy group OrganicAthlete, with an active chapter and cycling team in Victoria, did well at the 2008 British Columbia Provincial Track Cycling Championships. I won four bronze medals in both sprint and endurance events. And that’s not all. Our group members also won gold and silver medals, demonstrating that athletes can cut out animal products and match the fastest riders anywhere in the province.
“I’ve lost weight; I’m as light as I was when I was 18, and am faster now than I was younger,” says 4km Pursuit Gold Medalist Emile de Rosnay, crediting a vegetarian diet for the success.
This past June, scientists, conservationists, and government representatives held an emergency conference on white-nose syndrome, an unexplained malady afflicting bats in the Northeastern United States in huge numbers. Alan Hicks, a bat specialist with New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation, estimates that as many as 200,000 bats have died of the ailment in the two years since it was discovered in several caves not far from the conference site in Albany.1
Since its discovery, white-nose syndrome, so-called because the dead bats often have a white fungus on their muzzles, has spread to other parts of New York, Vermont, Massachusetts and possibly Pennsylvania. The meeting was organized by Bat Conservation International, Boston University, the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Geological Survey, along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“This is the most serious situation facing bats in recorded history,” said Merlin Tuttle, president of Bat Conservation International and one of the conference’s main organizers. “We have an unidentified cause killing off up to 90 percent of bats of multiple species.”2
Some have observed similarities between the massive bat die-offs and colony collapse disorder, which has killed large numbers of bees (see Lee Hall’s “Making a Space for Bees” in ActionLine, Spring 2008). No evidence exists connecting the two, but Tuttle noted that the twin calamities are like “canaries in the coal mine. We need to pay attention to what we’re doing to the planet.”3
Tuttle said the June conference was called to consolidate research directions, making the race to solve the mystery of white-nose syndrome more effective and efficient. Several questions must be addressed. The bats with the syndrome are emaciated, nearly starving during their winter hibernation. Why is that? Are pathogens responsible for the die-off? Are there contaminants in the bats’ environment or their food supply? Is climate change or insect abundance somehow related? Is it a combination of factors?4
Consequences to the Biocommunity
Most of the bats so far affected by the die-off are little brown bats and the endangered Indiana bats.5 But the disease continues to spread, putting whole species at risk of extinction. Migratory bats, potential carriers to other bat communities, fly long distances; and bats reproduce slowly, usually producing only one pup a year.6
Susi von Oettingen, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist, agrees that the die-off is unprecedented. And it will affect other members of the bats’ biocommunities. In von Oettingen’s words, “We don’t know what effect it will have on the insect population and the environment if bats disappear. But it’s going to be a hole in the ecosystem, and we don’t know what’s going to fill it.”7
Economists are concerned as well. One study revealed that Brazilian free-tailed bats in southwestern Texas saved cotton farmers up to a sixth of the value of their crops by eating insects. Scott Darling, a biologist with the Fish and Wildlife Department in Vermont, said, “Logic dictates when you are potentially losing as many as half a million bats in this region, there are going to be ramifications for insect abundance in the summer.”8
Hicks, the bat specialist who was one of the first researchers to begin studying white-nose syndrome, is dismayed by the general lack of concern about population declines of animals such as bats, bees and frogs. “My kids save frogs when they come out on the road after a rain. But will my grandchildren be able to do that?”
“There are people who argue against doing anything about it,” Hicks adds. “But I can’t live in a world without frogs croaking and bats flying.”9
Intervening for the Bats
Like all free-living animals, bats should be understood as having the right to exist. So what can be done?
Several groups are taking action. In February, the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, the Forest Service, and other federal agencies “to re-evaluate federal projects where any endangered bat in the East might be harmed in light of the threat of white-nose syndrome.”10
One wind farm project in upstate New York has been put on hold at the request of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service until the syndrome is better understood. (To learn why wind turbines pose a threat to bats, see Lee Hall’s “Wind Farms – The Hype and the Hope” in ActionLine, Summer 2007.)
Developers of two other wind projects, however, have not responded to the request.11
- 1. Alan Hicks (phone interview with author, 2 Jul. 2008).
- 2. Merlin Tuttle (phone interview with author, 30 Jun. 2008).
- 3. Ibid.
- 4. Ibid.
- 5. Rick Callahan, “Mysterious Disease Casts Uncertainty on Ind. Bat Comeback”—The Chicago Tribune (15 Jun. 2008).
- 6. Tina Kelley, “Bats Perish, and No One Knows Why”—The New York Times (25 Mar. 2008).
- 7. Mary Esch, “Scientists, Cavers Gather in NY to Brainstorm on Bats”—Newsday (11 Jun. 2008).
- 8. Tina Kelley, “Bats Perish, and No One Knows Why” (see above).
- 9. Alan Hicks (phone interview with author, 2 Jul. 2008).
- 10. Center for Biological Diversity, “Bat Crisis: The White Nose Syndrome”; available: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/bat_crisis_the_white-nose_syndrome/index.html (visited 2 Jul. 2008).
- 11. Timothy B. Hurst, “White Nose Syndrome in Bats Stalls Wind Farm”; available: http://redgreenandblue.org/2008/06/08/white-nose-syndrome-in-bats-stalls-wind-farm/ (visited 2 Jul. 2008).