8 Unexpected Items That Contain Animal By-Products
When purchasing a pair of leather shoes, it’s difficult for a consumer not to be aware that the footwear is made from animal hide. Because leather is something a shopper can see and feel, it’s easy to avoid if you’re trying to cut out all animal by-products. But when you’re attempting to go full-on vegan—in diet and in lifestyle—a number of products are less obvious. A variety of foods and cosmetics sneak in animal fat, glands, scales, or milk without making those ingredients clear to customers.
So, Why Should You Care? Aside from the “ick” factor in some of these items, consumers deserve to know what they’re buying. Factory farming has long arms, and shoppers are potentially supporting a big business they detest because brands don’t list their ingredients or do so without revealing how they’re derived. Between 30 and 45 percent of a slaughtered animal is rendered inedible and used in nonfood items, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Some ingredients are more obvious than others, but most home products don’t like to advertise that they’re using animal parts to make their lotion creamy or their school supplies waxy. Even if the ethics don’t bother consumers, they still might prefer not to rub a beaver’s bottom all over their body.
A Manicure That Sparkles Like the Sea
The shimmer in nail polish has to come from somewhere, and in many cases, it comes from shattered fish bones referred to in the beauty industry as “pearl essence.” There are loads of vegan options, using aluminum, that can create a shiny, iridescent veneer. Shoppers attempting to keep fish off their fingertips might want to do a little research before buying drugstore brands; polish labels are minuscule and practically impossible to read.
Cat Got Your Instrument
Musical instruments have a long history of using animal products to make up bits and pieces of violins, guitars, and pianos. While newer instruments switch out banned ivory for plastic, the non-vegan catgut—a strengthening cohesive—helps create durable strings for instruments such as the violin, the viola, and the upright bass. Before you get too grossed out, catgut isn’t made from household felines; it comes from the intestines of other animals, most often sheep or goats.
What Latex and Lambskin Have in Common
Both aren’t vegan. Most regular latex condoms contain casein, which is made from milk protein and acts as a lubricant. Some also contain glycerin, which is often made from animal fat. But when it comes to condoms, vegans don’t need to find alternative methods of contraception. Glyde brand offers a vegan product, and in the wise words of PETA, safety first: “If you don’t have certified vegan condoms, sex with any condom is better than sex with no condom.”
Signature Fragrance Leaves Behind Notes of Animal
On scents like Yves Saint Laurent’s Opium, shoppers might notice that the description mentions notes of castoreum along with plum and tangerine. While plum and tangerine are easily identifiable fruits, the former is not as widely known. Castoreum derives from a beaver’s castor sack, located between the pelvis and the tail. A beaver’s behind apparently smells a bit like vanilla, and the ingredient provides a musky aroma. Ethical alternatives to castoreum are available, but most perfumeries just list the “notes”—and if they’re not promoting the product as animal-friendly, that’s most likely because it’s not.
Not Quite Picture-Perfect
That natural paintbrush you dip in watercolors for a dreamy sunset or in acrylic paint to decorate a flowerpot is made with real hair—plucked from a horse, a badger, an ox, a goat, a squirrel, or sable, depending on its intended use. Different animal hair types match up with alternative forms of paint to create the perfect picture. For a more compassionate way to apply paint to canvas or blush to cheek, synthetic brushes are a better bet.
Grocery Bags: Not Just Filled With Meat but Made With It Too
In case you needed another excuse to switch to reusable bags, not only are they better for the environment but they don’t contain cow parts. The “slip agent” in plastic bags that allows them to easily separate from each other derives from stearic acid, which is made from beef fat.
Hair Care With a Side of Animal Fat
Shampoo, conditioners, lotions, body scrubs—loads of personal care and beauty products contain components, including vitamin B and glycerides, that are commonly derived from animal fat. Many can be made from plant protein too. As cruelty-free has become increasingly popular, many brands, including Alba Botanica and Earth Science, are going with plant-based options.
A Reason to Go With Colored Pencils
The scent of a fresh pack of Crayolas can transport an adult back to grammar school. But that nostalgic smell might make noses wrinkle now. The waxy scent comes from stearic acid, or beef tallow, which gives crayons their waxy consistency and smell.