Shockingly un-vegan household items

A look at the top-five household items you use that secretly contain animal products

Alissa Heidman

After making the decision to live vegan, avoiding animal products in your food is only the tip of the iceberg. Digging deeper you’ll find animal byproducts exist in things you would least expect, including items you use everyday.

Caution: this list may shock and even gross you out.

Toothpaste

Alissa Heidman/Say Vegan

Alissa Heidman/Say Vegan

Up and at ‘em, it’s another day. You get going with a vegan breakfast and then head to the sink to brush your teeth. But, how would you feel if you knew you were cleaning your teeth with animal lard?

Doug McNish, Toronto-based vegan chef recalls a cringe-worthy dental care discovery he once made. “I remember there was a brand of mouthwash when I first went vegan, and there was traces of whale sperm in it,” says McNish.

The truth:

Toothpaste gets its texture from glycerin which can come from plants, although it is less expensive when it comes from animal byproducts.When it comes to the competitive world of manufacturing, cheaper is better, so glycerin used in toothpaste often comes from extracting fat from animal bones.

The alternative:

Most toothpaste labels will simply state “glycerin” on the ingredients list and will not say whether it’s plant- or animal-based. In this case, do your research.

We recommend: Tom’s of Maine is a vegan-friendly dental brand that sells toothpaste you could try.

Fabric Softener

Alissa Heidman/Say Vegan

Alissa Heidman/Say Vegan

It’s time for laundry. You load up the washing machine with your favourite scented fabric softener to make your clothes smelling clean and feeling fluffy and soft.

The truth:

Dihydrogenated tallow dimethyl ammonium chloride – huh? That lengthy word is just a fancy way of saying boiled down animal fat mixed with ammonia. Cattle, sheep, and horse fat are one of the special ingredients that make your blankets so cozy.

The alternative:

With research you will come across several eco-friendly and vegan-friendly brands. You can even find DIY recipes online for your own fabric softener if you’re feeling crafty.

We recommend: Natural Choices Safe N’ Soft fabric softener.

Tires

Alissa Heidman/Say Vegan

Alissa Heidman/Say Vegan

You hop on your bike or into your car to go to the grocery store. But did you know those wheels getting you around likely contain animal fat?

The truth:

Stearic acid is taken from animal fat and used to help tires hold their shape under surface friction.

The alternative:

Don’t worry, no one is asking you to give up your modes of transportation. If you’re worried about what hidden animal byproducts might be in your tires it doesn’t hurt to check with the manufacturer. Ask them if they use animal-based stearic acid, and if so you can research for another manufacturer who uses a plant-based one.

Plastic Bags

Alissa Heidman/Say Vegan

Alissa Heidman/Say Vegan

You’re at the cash register and the bag boy is packing up your groceries into plastic bags. Or in other words: animal fat sacks.

The truth:

Animal fat is used during the process of making plastic bags; it’s what provides the surface lubrication. “Every time I get a plastic shopping bag from the store I think of those poor pigs in the slaughterhouse,” says McNish.

The alternative:

Many people have already hopped on the reusable bags bandwagon since many stores charge for the plastic ones now. It saves you money, and saves animals.

Candles

Alissa Heidman/Say Vegan

Alissa Heidman/Say Vegan

After your long day it’s nice to curl up on the couch and relax with a few scented candles.

The truth:

Some candles contain beeswax which is no surprise. However, in other cases candles contain sperm oil which refers to fat taken from the head of Sperm Whales and occasionally dolphins.

The alternative:

Animal-lover and vegetarian Felicia Berardi-Merrill keeps her eye open for special stores selling vegan candles. “[For] something like candles which can often contain red dyes or gelatin we go to a health food store which offers plenty of vegan-friendly options,” she said. “Unfortunately, far more products contain and test on animals than necessary. I spend a lot of time reading labels when I’m in a store. I look it up before I buy it.”

We find these byproducts in almost everything because they are cheap options for manufacturers. “Regarding industries all over the world, they all have byproducts left over [from] animals, and they want to sell those byproducts to generate profit,” says McNish.

College campaign coordinator for PETA in Los Angeles, Kenneth Montville, said byproducts like animal fat exist in everyday items because of modern industrialized meat production. “Factory farming doesn’t exist because of these products, these products exist because of factory farming,” he said. “You have the discarded bits, the tendons the bones the hooves the teeth and the cartilage. [They] all get boiled down and rendered into gelatin which is used in all sorts of products.”

Montville encourages consumers to do lots of research to ensure the items you use everyday aren’t tainting your vegan lifestyle. “It’s very important to ask questions and look for those hidden ingredients,” he said. “We live in 21st century North America. There’s plenty of places out there that sell products that are totally plant-based, totally vegan, and that don’t contribute to factory farming.”

Know your products and know your alternatives. Animal byproducts hide in almost everything, however so do vegan-friendly companies so you can find products that suit your lifestyle

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