With more and more people transitioning into the vegan way of life, terms such as ‘cruelty-free’ or ‘vegan-friendly’ can be quite confusing. Whether or not your goal is to become vegan, it’s first important to know what it means for something to be vegan friendly.
The term vegan-friendly refers to products that do not have any animal-derived ingredients. Moreover, it can also mean that no animals or animal products are used during its production process.
While the term is relatively simple to understand, you may be shocked at the amount of non-vegan products that might seem like they’re vegan. As such, it can be quite hard to navigate the path of being vegan-friendly, especially if you still don’t know much about it.
This article will act as a starter guide for people considering changing their eating habits and opting for more vegan-friendly options.
Definition of Vegan Friendly
If you’ve been thinking of transitioning into a vegan lifestyle for quite some time now, you’ve likely found yourself confused about certain things. What does it truly mean to be vegan, and what does it mean to be vegan friendly? Is it just limited to the food we eat, the products we consume, or the clothes we wear?
For starters, a product that is vegan-friendly means that it does not contain ingredients that are derived from animals. It also ideally means that there aren’t any animal products or animals involved in the manufacturing process of a product.
Regarding product labels, the main distinction between a vegan or vegan-friendly product may only allude to a certain certification that comes from a vegan organization. These kinds of certifications help make sure that the product is not tested nor used on animals, especially because vegan-friendly doesn’t necessarily mean that the product is cruelty-free.
Unfortunately, some companies label their products as vegan-friendly despite having them tested on animals. Therefore, for the most part, vegan-friendly simply means that a product lacks ingredients that derive from animals.
How to Determine Vegan-Friendly Packaged Food
Labels have proved to be useful in determining whether a product is vegan-friendly or not, especially in the last few years as more and more brands make significant efforts to place a product’s vegan friendliness on the label.
However, there are still more ways that a brand can have an official vegan stamp.
For one, a product can have a vegan trademark which simply means that the Vegan Society has approved it for being certified as a vegan product. Moreover, if a manufacturer or company considers a certain product vegan but isn’t registered with a vegan trademark, the Vegan Society may deem it as vegan-friendly instead of vegan.
The group behind Vegan.org – the Vegan Awareness Foundation – provides certifications as well.
Products that have a certified vegan logo have undergone a process of approval to make sure there aren’t any animal products within the product and that none have been used during manufacturing. To be certified by either organization, products should also be cruelty-free.
But even so, it’s worth noting that not all products that are vegan-friendly have applied for certification or trademark rights so you should always pay close attention to a product’s ingredients list. Not having a certificate doesn’t mean that a product is any less vegan, it just means that it hasn’t undergone an evaluation by an external organization to meet certain standards.
For example, I’m a big hummus lover, and hummus is a vegan product. However, it often comes without a vegan-friendly trademark, but that doesn’t make it any less vegan. Not all vegan products have clear, easy-to-grasp labels.
That said, don’t be discouraged if the product you want doesn’t have a clear sign showing it’s vegan-friendly.
Make sure to read the product’s list of ingredients and if there’s anything that you don’t know, either search online or contact the company/brand directly for more information.
An easy way to immediately know whether a product isn’t vegan is to scan for allergens. If the label states that it contains allergens such as milk, eggs, or shellfish, then the product is not vegan.
What Foods Are Generally Vegan-Friendly?
Keep it simple and look for vegan foods, namely whole plant foods such as:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Grains such as wheat, rice, oats, corn, barley, and millet
- Legumes like peas, beans, and lentils
- Nuts such as peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts.
- Seeds such as linseeds, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds.
- Vegetable oils
- Meat alternatives such as tempeh, seitan, and tofu
- Plant-based milk such as soymilk, coconut milk, almond milk, and oat milk.
There is a world of foods such as bread, breakfast cereals, protein bars, and chocolate that might also be vegan-friendly, but it’s only possible to know after scanning the packaging as animal ingredients may be present.
It’s not super obvious for some foods/products, so it’s important to scan the label even though it might seem at first that it isn’t vegan.
Is Being Vegan-Friendly Only Limited to Food?
Let’s say that you’ve finally made up your mind to commit to a vegan diet and are passionate about animals, the environment, or simply want to have a healthy diet.
When we think of veganism, the first thought that bursts into our minds is “food without animal ingredients”. But the truth is that the term refers to anything free of animal products or materials, not just simply food.
There are also vegan clothes, which are the next best thing after vegan-friendly food. Some vegans usually don’t wear clothing that is created using animal feathers, hair, or skin. This means that you won’t see any kind of leather, wool, furs, or silk in their wardrobe.
Instead, vegans often opt for plant fabrics such as hemp, cotton, and linen, including other manufactured materials such as nylon, polyester, and acrylic. If you don’t know where you can get these kinds of products, PETA endorses stockists and brands that sell vegan accessories and clothes under their PETA-Approved Vegan program.
But beyond food and clothing, the vegan-friendly lifestyle also extends to the area of skincare. It was mentioned earlier in the article that cruelty-free pertains to products that have not harmed or used animals during the creation process.
This is probably the trickiest part of going the vegan-friendly route. Many household items are worth inspecting as to whether or not they’re vegan friendly in the first place. Daily products such as makeup, shampoo, soap, or laundry detergent have a high chance that they might not be vegan. These products may contain several questionable ingredients that may put them in a non-vegan category.
Fortunately, you can also opt for the available vegan alternative, but you need to learn how to distinguish one from the other. Glycerine, for instance, is a product that is abundant in many personal care products. Glycerine can be derived from both animals and plants, but it’s hard to tell as such information is usually not specified.
If you want to make vegan-friendly choices for yourself, it’s wise to not purchase products or cosmetics that have used animals for testing and instead choose vegan and cruelty-free products. It’s becoming more common for brands (both clothing and cosmetic brands) to include certain trademarks or symbols that allow consumers to choose them based on whether they are vegan-friendly and cruelty-free.
Certain non-profit organizations like Choose Cruelty-Free, which campaigns actively against the use of animals for testing, offer consumers a helpful list of vegan and cruelty-free brands, allowing more eco-conscious or ethical consumers to better identify brands they’re willing to purchase from.
Why Should You Opt For Going Vegan?
For health purposes
Well-planned vegan diets usually follow healthy eating guidelines and thus have the nutrients that our bodies require. Moreover, they’re also suitable for every stage of life and age.
There is research that associates vegan diets with lower cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as decreased rates of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
Opting for a vegan-friendly diet is an opportunity to learn more about cooking, nutrition, and truly taking care of your health.
For the animals
If you have compassion for animals, the most immediate stance you can take to prevent animal suffering is to stop consuming animal foods.
Even though it’s not the only reason people go vegan, it’s certainly the primary driver for most vegans.
It’s the underlying narrative in most vegan documentaries— recognizing that animals are sentient beings that can feel pain as much as we do, and thus have the right to freedom and life, and it’s not in our place to dictate what their destinies should be.
For the environment
One of the most effective actions one can take to decrease carbon footprint is to avoid animal products.
This is because the production of meat and dairy puts a heavy burden on the environment, from the resources necessary to feed animals to the pollution that results from that process.
That said, considerably minimal quantities of water and crops are needed to maintain a vegan diet, making the transition to a vegan-friendly lifestyle an effective way to lessen the negative impact we have on our environment.
If you want to make the switch to a vegan lifestyle, knowing which products are vegan-friendly is key as it will help you navigate a world where it’s difficult to tell if a product is vegan, especially when it’s not made immediately obvious by the packaging.