Vegan Grey Areas: Tricky Things That May Not Be Vegan

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Some areas of veganism are quite clear.

For example: killing animals to eat them unnecessarily is wrong.

But like most things in life, there are grey areas. For vegans, it’s mostly about how far it is reasonable to go to avoid causing suffering.

In most cases, there’s not a clear right answer, and you’ll find vegans on either side of the issue.

These are mostly small things that account for maybe 1% of the impact of a vegan diet (maybe even less), but they are still things that most vegans will want to think about at some point.

Issues That Are Tricky for Vegans

Here’s a list of grey areas along with a quick summary and links to a more detailed look at each issue.

Potential IssueQuick Summary
Is Food Coloring Vegan?Artificial colors like Red 40 and Blue 1 are regularly tested on animals by researchers because of concerns over how safe they are to consume.
Is Palm Oil Vegan?The palm oil industry is responsible for killing animals like Sumatran tigers and orangutans in brutal ways, and driving their species into near extinction. Very controversial among vegans.
Is Almond Milk Vegan?Over 80% of almonds are grown in California, causing droughts and millions of bees to die every year. As demand for almonds continues to grow, this has become a controversial subject for vegans.
Bone Char in SugarIn North America, somewhere around a quarter of white (and brown) sugar is filtered through bone char (from bones of animals). If you see “sugar” on an ingredients list, should you avoid it to make sure that bone char hasn’t been used to make it?
Should Vegans Own Pets?Some vegans argue that pets are seen as “property” and that animals are not the property of anyone.
Is Hunting Wrong?Not super controversial, but different arguments are made for hunting compared to regular meat eating. Similarly, some wonder if vegans can fish if they let them go.
Vegans and Horseback RidingA pretty split issue. Some vegans feel like horseback riding is “using” the animal and putting its health at risk.
Should Vegans Use Electronics?Some electronics (or components) are made in sweatshops or with child slavery, so should vegans boycott all electronics? Additionally, some electronics may have small amounts of animal products.

There are other issues that aren’t really controversial, but are tricky.

For example, not all wall paint is vegan, but it’s a big pain to confirm if a particular brand is or isn’t. The controversial part is whether or not you should worry about it (and how much).

About the author

Dale Cudmore

Your friendly neighborhood vegan from Toronto. Chemical engineer turned semi-professional soccer player and freelance nutrition writer. I've been vegan for years and try to make life easier for others by sharing what I've learned.

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