While vegan product options are happily becoming more popular and commonplace every day there are unfortunately still animal bits lurking in the most unexpected of places…

It’s important to raise awareness about animal products lurking in unexpected places because it’s only when we are aware of their presence that we can let producers and retailers know there’s demand for vegan alternatives. So, spread the word!

1. Bananas

Eh what? While the fruit itself is obviously vegan, they are often sprayed with a bacteria-fighting compound containing chitosan, which is made from shrimp and crab shells.

This practice is more common in certain parts of the world, so may not be an issue for you personally, but if you want to stay 100% vegan (or if you have a shellfish allergy) go for certified organic bananas.

2. Crayons

Many – perhaps most – brands of crayons are non-vegan because they contain stearic acid derived from beef tallow (fat). That distinctive smell of Crayola crayons mean they are not even vegetarian!

As with most of the other items on this list there are vegan options available (Melissa & Doug, for example), though they are slightly more expensive.

Stearic acid is unfortunately quite versatile, which is why it can be found in many common purchases – soaps, shaving creams, paints, playing cards, and many more.

3. Oreos

Ok so we’re perhaps being a bit technical here.

According to the Oreo UK website FAQ the vegan staple is not, in fact, suitable for vegans due to cross contact with milk products.

The product itself does not list any non-vegan ingredients, so whether you think that makes it vegan or not depends on how technical you want to be, and whether you choose to ignore the amount of palm oil in them.

Given the popularity of Oreos it’s obvious there are quite a few alternatives available on the market. Newman O’s, for example, is very similar to Oreos and has the added benefits of being organic and kosher but it also unfortunately uses palm oil.

4. Apple Juice

Look for certified vegan apple juice because many brands are clarified with isinglass (fish bladders).

As a rule of thumb if the apple juice is cloudy then it’s more likely (but not definitely!) to be untouched by isinglass. If you want to be sure then your best bet is to look for a brand that is certified vegan.

While we are on the subject of isinglass, many (most) brands of wine and beer (and Guinness) also aren’t vegan, for the same reason.

5. Tattoo Ink

Black tattoo inks are often made using charcoal sourced from burning animal bones. Many inks use gelatine (derived from animal-sourced collagen) as a binding agent, and some also contain shellac (from insects).

The good news is there are plenty of vegan tattoo inks available. Simply ask for vegan ink when booking your appointment and it should be no problem.

5. Condoms

Many brands of condoms still include casein – derived from cow milk – in their products, especially latex-based ones.

And brace yourself for a second reason condoms aren’t vegan… many brands are still, uh, tested on animals.

There are plenty of vegan certified condom brands on the market these days, so you can get your freak on with peace of mind.

7. Nail Polish

Most nail polishes these days unfortunately still contain animal products, with the three most commonly used ingredients being guanine, carmine, and keratin.

Guanine gives nail polish its shimmery appearance, and is made from fish scales. It’s also often referred to as “pearl essence”, and can be found in other products too, like shampoo. 

Carmine is a bright red pigment made of dried and crushed insects. Other than giving certain nail polishes its red colour it can also be found in many other products, even food, where it may be labelled as “Natural Red 4”.

Keratin is included in nail polish because it’s thought to make nails healthier or stronger, at least until it’s removed. It is a protein derived from feathers, horns, and hoofs.

Luckily there are many vegan nail polish brands on the market, with many – like YAPA and L.A. Girl – widely available.

8. Hard Candy

Shellac is responsible for the hard coating on certain kinds of candy. It is refined from a resinous excretion produced by a certain type of insect (the lac bug), and has a large amount of other uses – from furniture polish to confectioner’s glaze.

As a general rule of thumb, if a candy has a hard shiny coating (like candy corn or jelly belly’s) then there’s a good chance it’s covered in shellac.

It is quite easy to indulge your sweet tooth as a vegan though! My kids love Skittles and Sour Patch Kids, which are both free of shellac (and any other animal ingredients).

9. ChapStick

There are plenty of vegan lip balms on the market, but ChapStick isn’t one of them because it contains lanolin, which is derived from the oil in sheep’s wool.

Lanolin is used extensively in personal care and health care products, and can be found in a wide variety of applications, including nipple creams, make-up bases, moisturisers, and some lipsticks.

Not many people know lanolin is a common allergen, so if ChapStick irritates your lips consider asking your doctor for a patch test to see whether you’re allergic.

If you’re looking for a vegan alternative to ChapStick, or if you are allergic to lanolin, try out Shea Moisture’s Shea Butter Lip Balm or Crazy Rumors Lip Balm (with wacky flavours like Cinnamon Bun and Pistachio).

10. Toothpaste

Many toothpaste brands contain glycerine derived from animal fat, and are therefore not even vegetarian.

Some major manufacturers (including Colgate and Crest) have responded to public demand by creating vegan toothpastes, but many companies unfortunately still test their products on animals. So, while their products may be animal-product-free, they’re unfortunately still not cruelty-free.


Progress Over Perfection

Bit demoralising, right? It feels like every rock you kick over has animal products lurking underneath, and when you look at PETA’s list of animal-derived ingredients and realise the scale of the problem it can be incredibly disheartening. The good news is there are many, many vegan options available today which didn’t exist even ten years ago. The market – and society as a whole – seems to be moving in the right direction, even if progress is frustratingly slow.

And don’t worry too much about doing it perfectly today. Just try to be better today than you were yesterday. Over time these slight improvements will manifest into a huge body of knowledge that makes you an expert who knows their stuff.

Don’t worry about being perfect. Perfection is unreachable, there’s no such thing. Put your energy into progress, because that’s where improvement lies. Progress over perfection.

Above all, keep asking companies and shops for vegan options – the more we can spread the word that there is demand for vegan options, the faster manufacturers and retailers will come round and give us what we want: products which are animal-free and cruelty-free.

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