Electronics covers a wide range of products that almost everyone uses on a daily basis – phones, computers, TVs, etc.
There are some serious ethical issues surrounding electronics, which I’ll go over below.
Overall, it’s a complicated issue. And although it depends on who you ask, most would say that electronics are vegan.
Remember that veganism is not about being perfect, it’s about reducing the negative impact of your life on animals (including people) as far as practically possible.
Table of Contents
Some Electronics May Have Animal Products in Them
You’re not going to find an ingredients list on the box of a TV or phone, which makes it hard to know exactly what’s in them.
Most modern electronics have hundreds of various materials in them. Some of them, like glues, could be made from animal products.
There are even concerns that LCD screens may have cholesterol in them, or that some batteries may contain gelatin.
The fact is, there’s no reasonable way to know if a specific electronic contains animal products or not. Most of the time, customer service will not be able to tell you these things. Additionally, there would be an extremely small amount of any of these materials if they are present.
When you combine all that, there’s nothing you can practically do to confirm that an electronic contains an animal product or not. So if electronics aren’t vegan, this isn’t the reason why.
One barrier to knowing if something is vegan or not is knowing what’s in it. However, it’s near impossible to get a complete list of materials that are used in a particular electronic device.
Some Materials Like Cobalt Often Involve Child Labor
This is something that has been a hot topic recently when it comes to ethics, for both vegans and non-vegans, is the use of child labor to mine certain minerals.
Minerals like cobalt, are mainly found in countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Cobalt in particular is necessary for smartphones and certain other electronics.
Unfortunately, a portion of it comes from child labor.
There are a few problems here:
- There’s no real “fair trade” for minerals like cobalt
- There aren’t great substitutes to use instead
So you have no way of knowing where certain metals in your electronics came from.
You could boycott electronics altogether, but that’s impractical, and maybe impossible.
The use of child labor in mining operations for metals like cobalt should be concerning to everyone, vegan or not. Unfortunately, it’s extremely difficult to do anything about this when most cobalt mining and processing takes place so far away, unless you’re willing to boycott electronics altogether.
Electronic Waste and The Environment
A final concern is that a lot of electronic waste is harmful to the environment.
Studies have found multiple concerning effects of e-waste in China:
- Levels of airborne dioxins rising 100 fold
- Carcinogen levels in duck ponds and rice fields higher than international standards
- Heavy metals found in road dust and agricultural areas
However, most first world places have fairly effective electronic waste recycling programs these days.
I don’t think many would argue that this makes electronics not vegan, even if many vegans are environmentalists.
Electronics can be recycled quite well, it’s just not cost-efficient in all places. This isn’t necessarily a direct concern of veganism, but trying to find e-waste recycling facilities that actually recover and reuse electronic materials is still a good idea.
Verdict: Electronics Are Vegan
There’s clearly some real ethical issues surrounding technology.
You can make a strong argument that everyone should limit buying electronics as much as possible, both vegans and non-vegans.
However, any of the reasons for electronics not being vegan are what most people consider not practical or reasonable.
So for that reason, the vast majority of vegans would say that electronics are vegan.
Finally, with all that said. If you are a vegan on the fence, look for companies that are doing their best to be ethical – like Fairphone.