Ask a Vegansaur: Vol. 07: Where can you get a vegan tattoo in the Bay Area?  »

Me, getting my boogie on, with a number of tattoos

This is a one-question post, but it’s one I mulled over quite a bit and polled a number of artists, so I hope it is helpful. DOWN TO BUSINESS:

Jacinda asks: Do you know any vegan-friendly tattoo artists in the Bay Area? I’m having a problem finding people. I search on Google and can’t find valid info for current people. All the ones I find are all old info. Any help you might have would be appreciated.

There is a TON of misinformation out there with regard to tattoos and veganism. I spoke to my artist (who happens to be a vegetarian) and several others to get a better feel on the situation. If you don’t agree that they are the experts in their field, I advise you to skip this entry. Here’s what I learned:

What makes an ink non-vegan is its binder, or carrier. Basic colors, such as most blacks (obviously not bone black, which uses bone char as the pigment), greens, reds, and so forth, are likelier to use no animal products. Less common colors—things like lavender, turquoise, chartreuse—might use binders and mixers that are not animal-friendly, just because that’s what’s keeping the color together.

Specifically vegan inks are available, so if you really want to use them, find an artist you like, and ask if he or she can use them. However, it seems to be a common opinion among tattoo artists that these inks don’t hold up as well. Remember, this is something you are putting on your body permanently, so you’d ideally like it to last forever. 

Here’s my advice for anyone seeking a tattoo anywhere: Find a pool of artists whose work you like (on the internet, through a friend, etc.) and bring them your idea(s). A knowledgeable artist will be able to tell you what is feasible and keeps within animal-friendly parameters. 

I hope that helps. The internet has yet to reach a consensus on this subject. If you are or know of a tattoo artist who specifically caters to vegans, now is the time to share.

Want to Ask a Vegansaur a question? Email me, and try not to be a jerk! 

[Photo credit: me]


Ask a Vegansaur: Vol. 06  »

Hello, it’s me, your Vegansaur, offering somewhat solicited opinions that may or may not reflect those of the Vegansaurus writers and editors!

Dian asks: I did the Cancer Research UK “Relay for Life” two years ago, and since then I’ve gone vegan. I’ve just been asked to join a team this year, and I agreed—until I realised, wait a minute. Research. Animal testing. According to their website, they only test on animals when they absolutely have to, as a last resort, and they no longer use monkeys, or dogs, or anything like that. But they do still test on animals. At the same time, they do amazing work. I don’t know what to do! It’s a lose-lose situation, I’ll feel awful if I do it, and money I raise goes towards testing on animals; and I’ll feel awful if I say “No, actually, I can’t help you raise money, because I’m vegan.” I realise there are other cancer research charities that do not test on animals, but CRUK is the main one here. I don’t know what to do.

Oh, Dian, my heart breaks for you. First, good on you for running. That is an exercise I cannot do; I get shin splints immediately. But moving on: I know how it feels to have to weigh one evil against another. You could say that the main point of this column is, “Hey, at least we’re trying,” and I’m going to offer a variation of that here. I did some digging, and while you’re right about CRUK being predominant in your corner of the world, there are a few other options to hit the pavement and raise money benefiting people who have cancer. Many charities do not fund research but rather promote awareness, support, and care for people with cancer, none of which involves animal testing. I know it’s not the same as cancer research, but it seems that you’d be hard pressed to find cancer research that does not test on animals; hell, stateside it’s hard to find cancer charities that don’t hate women and their ladybusiness! That might be a good compromise. This is what I would do if I were in your running shoes. Here is a big fat list. Good luck!

Patty asks: I had a “friend” ask me what I couldn’t help but feel was a really “weird” question. He asked how vegans can really consider themselves vegan since, as he put it, “Vegetables are grown in animal sh*t.” He was totally asking this question in the vein of “catching” me in some way, and it was more of a statement question. I could not answer him. I thought that I could go look up and learn about fertilizers and growing, but then I thought I’d ask you what you think, know, etc., both about the fertilizer aspect, but also, how I maybe could have responded to this.

Yeesh, Patty, this is a rough one, quite the dilemma, yesiree. My research is inconclusive, but I do know that people who feel threatened by our dietary choices try to make themselves feel better by pointing out what they see as inconsistencies. There are “veganic" veggies—those grown without any animal products whatsoever. My response to a question like that, quite frankly, would be, "Go fuck yourself," but in more eloquent terms, it would be something along the lines of, "If you go to that level of commitment and compassion in your diet, then we can talk about where the fertilizer used to grow my vegetables comes from. Sucka.” [Ed. note: I’d also like to add that being vegan is about doing as little harm to animals as possible. It’s not about being perfect!]

Matthew asks (via Twitter, @mattheworbit): Omnis have a prob with us giving non-vegan names to vegan food items. How should we get around this?

As Jenny Bradley put it, “Omnis have another problem with us?” Yes, it’s true, the list of problems people think they have with vegans is never-ending. In this case, we don’t have any sort of burden of proof; we don’t have to get around it. Half the time we put a disclaimer in there anyway, right? “Tofu dog,” “soy yogurt,” etc. If omnis don’t like what we’re calling our food, they can shove off; there are a lot more important issues to worry about than renaming seitan barbecue wings something that omnis are more comfortable with. Because you know our lives and dietary choices are primarily to make others comfortable, right? Christ, I can’t stand this kind of bullshit. Omnis can call their pile of chicken nuggets “kale salad” if they want. I don’t give a fuck, so long as I don’t have to eat it.

Want to Ask a Vegansaur a question? Email me, and try not to be a jerk!

[Photo credit: John Baxter via Flickr]


Ask a Vegansaur, vol. 05  »

Three separate errands have been accomplished, a batch of seitan is simmering on the stove, and yours truly is making good on one of many 2012 resolutions: Be Less Slackerly (and five is my lucky number, so here’s hoping it sticks). I don’t want you to heading into weird Mayan apocalypse (LOL?) in December without having your questions answered, so here we go.

Erin asked: How do you feel about receiving items secondhand that contain animal products, hand-me-downs, etc.? For example, your parents give you their old couch for your apartment and it is leather, or if you buy a pair of shoes from Goodwill that are leather? Does the fact that it is second hand negate it’s non-veganism, I guess?
Hi, Erin; I don’t think it negates its non-veganism: It’s still made of animals, right? However, to me it equals out environmentally. Rather than have a company manufacture a new man-made belt for me, I’d rather just find a belt that’s already been used, or continue using a leather belt I bought before I was veg. Tanya Barnard and Sarah Kramer agree with me, according to How It All Vegan. If you’re asking me whether you should buy a new vegan belt or a secondhand belt of unspecified materials, I think you should do what you’re comfortable with. I have friends who are squeamish about wearing leather, fur, or any other animal material.

Allison asked: As a vegan, I have enjoyed eating soy yogurt with granola (yum!) to obtain that beneficial bacteria that aids in digestion. However, I just recently saw a disturbing note on the back of a Stonyfield O’Soy carton: “Contains milk (Our live cultures are milk-based).” Not buying that anymore! Back at the store, I decided to check out a cup of So Delicious coconut milk yogurt, which only reads “Contains live cultures” on the back. So what does this all mean? Does all live cultured yogurt contain milk or is Stonyfield the exception among non-dairy yogurt purveyors?
Allison! I like soy yogurt, too! Have you tried the coconut ones? I did a little research, and Stonyfield appears to be an exception. Let’s do a quick roundup: Silk, which makes a lot of bomb-ass flavors, says its lactic acid and live cultures come from a vegetable source. Nogurt says its strains of microflora are free of dairy, wheat, gluten, and soy. WholeSoy says its strains are grown on a vegetable medium. And finally, So Delicious—a slightly trickier proposition, but all the company can say is that it uses no dairy. And you can always make your own. Does that help? More next time, folks. I’ll be Officially Less Flaky from here on out, deal? Don’t be afraid to hold me to it.

Want to Ask a Vegansaur a question? Email me, and try not to be a jerk!

[Photo credit: Ravenelle via Flickr]


Ask a Vegansaur: Vol. 04  »

This is how I’ve felt for the past week. I pretty much had the plague, yo, but today I finally left the house after about a week in seclusion and had no excuse not to write another edition of Ask a Vegansaur.

Lenore asks: My vet told me that unlike dogs, cats are obligate carnivores and cannot survive or be healthy on a vegan diet. Do you know if this is true? Do most vegans who have cats feed them a vegan diet? Thank you.

Thank YOU, Lenore, for being so polite! This is a controversial subject. For my part, I feed my cat a very fishy diet because that’s precisely what our veterinarian said. Every vegan I know who provides for a cat does the same. According to some sources, a vegetarian or vegan diet fails to provide the nutrients cats need while the makers of vegan cat foods tend to disagree. Interests on the food companies’ side are obvious, and only anecdotal evidence supports the hypothesis that cats can be healthy on veg diets. I suggest following your vet’s instructions to keep your kitty healthy. Although the process of making carnivorous cat food is no better than that of harvesting meat for human consumption, once you sign on to take care of another animal, he or she should be your priority above the other animals in the world. Not to say that anyone should ignore them, but I think you get the point. On the other hand, dogs can be vegetarian, and rabbits, guinea pigs, and the like are veg by nature. If you’re considering adopting a furbaby but don’t want to feed him or her meat, consider these choices.

Nicole asks: I recently transitioned from vegetarian to vegan. I am having trouble finding products other than food that are vegan (i.e., makeup, chapstick, body/face washes) and was wondering if you could lend me a hand? Thanks!

Sure thing, Nicole! Here’s a list of companies that don’t test on animals, and here’s a list of companies that do. Looking for a specific company? Use this tool to search for it. If you’re not sure, take a gander at the list of ingredients on your current products. Watch out for these ingredients. Does that seem overwhelming? Take a deep breath! You’ll be fine! You’re just starting, so you’ll get more practice in identifying vegan and non-vegan items as time goes on. Beauty tip: Dr. Bronner’s Magic All-One soap works for my shower, cleaning, and even (in a pinch) toothbrushing needs, and Tom’s of Maine makes good toothpaste and deodorant. Finally, How It All Vegan! contains a variety of recipes for homemade cruelty-free beauty products.

Amanda asks: I think I accidentally ate meat at a restaurant outside of the U.S. Am I still a vegetarian?

Only if you want to be! Seriously, people should not be punished for true accidents — that is, incidents that result from no fault of their own. You’re away from home, and you’re starving. You do your best to ask what’s in your food, but the local language might not be your native one. You take a bite, you’re not sure, you eat it anyway because it’s food and it’s there. I can’t hate on you for that. Even the purest, most perfect vegans make mistakes. How you recover from them is most important.

Want to Ask a Vegansaur a question? Email me, and try not to be a jerk!

[Photo credit: Rex Features]


Ask a Vegansaur, vol. 03  »

It’s that time again: I’ve accumulated enough questions/found enough time in my busy schedule of unemployment (now accepting paying-job leads!) to write another round of Ask a Vegansaur! This one only consists of two questions because they are long. Deal with it.

Tim asks: We know that the traditional vegan rejects honey as part of the general “exploitation and abuse of living creatures” principle. But what about the use of bees as pollinators? Bee colonies are used in large numbers for commercial agriculture. Should “real vegans” mostly reject strawberries, blueberries, almonds, and other “confined bee” pollination-required forms of vegetable matter?
Dang, Tim, you smart! Before I answer the question, I’d like everyone to know that when you eat figs, you might be eating wasps: Wasps can get trapped inside a fig while pollinating its flower and subsequently DIE. That’s nasty, but I digress.

In truth, I have not thought about this much before, but I’m going to try to answer this question reasonably and intelligently. Although bees can’t give consent, I would say that it’s difficult to “force” bees or other insects to do your bidding because they are relatively small and hard to trap. Bees can and will leave the hive for any reason their bee brains deem fit. You can smack a bee or squash it, but it’s risky to humans. Plus it’s hard for the layperson to gauge a bee’s emotions, so you won’t see a bee squealing in fear like a pig about to be slaughtered.

I feel beekeeping is on a different level than factory farming. All we ask the bees to do is pollinate (the byproduct of honey is another topic), which they’d do anyway, and then we harvest the plants. So while almonds, berries, and the like might not be vegan in the sense that they’re technically the result of animal byproducts, I don’t think it’s necessary for vegans of any stripe to avoid them. Am I in the wrong? What do you readers think?

Ellen asks: I work at a grocery store where they put labels on the products for specific nutritional info. Now, I was looking at some of the info on some products that weren’t labeled vegan, and they did not contain any animal ingredients, but there is a statement saying that they may have come in contact with milk/eggs or that the product is processed in a facility [with] non-vegan products. Would you still consider these foods vegan? Or are they considered non-vegan because of the chance that they came in contact with something like that?
One of the unfortunate facets of veganism is that we have to place a lot of trust in the products we choose to consume. Readers might recall the Emes Kosher-Jel scandal of 2005 or so, in which a product most vegans considered “safe” was shown to contain gelatin. While that was unfortunate, I don’t think that made anyone who had consumed it no longer vegan.

Because food manufacturers are being held increasingly responsible for food allergen content, good hygiene practices for workers and machines are becoming more popular. We should try to do the best we can with what we have. The point is that we’re thinking about it. The more we support vegan products, even though they might share facilities with non-vegan ones, the more likely the companies might be able to afford their own facilities one day.

To answer your question succinctly (tl;dr): Yes, I still consider these products vegan, especially because the likelihood that they came into contact with trace animal products is minimal.

Want to Ask a Vegansaur a question? Email me, and try not to be a jerk!

[Image by fklv via Flickr]


Ask a Vegansaur, vol. 02  »

Hello again, my dear vegan, vegetarian, and veg-curious readers! It’s time for another round of answers to your amazing questions. I’m answering in the order received, more or less, so if you emailed me a question, be patient. I promise I’ll get to it, unless it was jerky/annoying. LET’S DO DIS.

Jon asks: Do you have any animosity toward us megans/meatitarians? Because you can have my salad if I can get your steak.
I think our Megan would have some sort of clever retort re: your dietary classifications, but that’s irrelevant. Personally, I don’t have any animosity. Do I wish you’d pick healthier options that are better for the planet (ahem—vegan)? Of course. But that doesn’t mean I want you to die. I will, however, take your salad because I’m running low on Metamucil this week. GO FIBER!

Damian asks: Why are things with unsourced white sugar considered vegan by many vegans? Answer without the phrase “doing the best they can.”
Damian, you’re, like, Ask a Vegansaur MVP. That’s an excellent question, although I’m not a fan of the restriction on my answer because that would be my (simple) answer. However, playing along: As the use of bone char to filter sugar becomes less and less common, the chances of that unsourced sugar being strictly vegan rises. It’s clear that someone who identifies as a vegan will make every effort not to consume obvious animal byproducts (meat, dairy, eggs), but how far down the line is anyone willing to police the less-obvious ones? When we make veganism seem ever more daunting by pointing out that, for example, anything with refined cane sugar cannot be trusted, we lose our new friends to the “ex-vegetarian” crowd that seems to be all over the internet. They stop making vegan choices that have more of an impact than unsourced sugar. Would it not be a better use of time to relax when a vegan eats an Oreo so that fewer animals are used overall for the bigger byproducts? The goal of veganism, to me and many others, is a mindset that chooses compassion as often as practically possible. I’m not saying that we should pretend things are vegan when they are not or that we shouldn’t try to eliminate as many animal byproducts from our diets as possible. But when veganism stops being practical, it stops seeming fun or even possible, and that’s a major reason people quit.

Tim asks: What about sci-fi, vat-grown meat that doesn’t have a brain?
What about it? If you’re asking whether I would eat it, I say, “Hell to the NO, boyfriend,” and then I would z-snap. The main reason I started eating vegetarian a decade ago was because I hated the taste and texture of meat, so unless lab-cultured meat is reminiscent of tofu, that ain’t happenin’. But if you’re asking whether I think it’s a good idea, I respond in the affirmative. I’m pro-food science (that’s the reason we have Daiya, y’all!), so if people want meat, I’d prefer that it come from a lab where an entire animal didn’t have to die to bring the masses their cold cuts. Ideally, the agriculture industry will allow test-tube meat to catch on, and factory farms will cease to exist. Hey, it could happen, McWorld.

Want to Ask a Vegansaur a question? Email me, and try not to be a jerk!


Ask a Vegansaur, vol. 01  »

Hello, and welcome to what might pass for an advice column on Vegansaurus!

I’m a vegan, and people ask me a lot of questions. I’m getting pretty good at answering them, I think, so I want to share with you. Please note that my answers to your questions, while they have to go past some editors here, will only reflect my own opinions. Let’s go!

Damian asks: Should there be a “legal” definition of vegan food? Like if something is “non-alcoholic” or “artisanal”?
I think there should be for packaged/prepared foods; at least, I hope you wouldn’t wonder whether a head of cabbage is vegan. In this review, I didn’t do extra research and accepted the “no animal products” designation on the label. Unfortunately, it was not until after I had reviewed the product that I was informed it contained bee food and excretions. Even though food-licensing organizations are suspect, such a rating would make veganism more accessible—especially if, for example, you have a hard time remembering WTF carnauba wax and rennet are. I would like to see the “vegan” label become as visible on commercial products as the “gluten-free” designation is.

Roxane asks: Where do vegans get protein?
From the flesh of naughty children—try it with barbecue sauce and grilled corn. But on the realio, I get it from everything I eat. My favorite forms include tofu and quinoa, but you can also get it from every other bean ever, grains, greens, veggies, seitan, etc. Did you know that the “average” human only needs 10 to 15 percent of his or her calories to come from protein? There are plenty of articles with much more depth on this subject on this site. I know this question annoys a lot of vegans, but I welcome it—when asked sincerely—as answering might help raise awareness. Readers, what are your favorite protein sources?

Greg asks: Is it true that a vegan can’t come into your house unless invited?
It’s easy to get vegans confused with vampires, because both words start with the letter “V” and they both drink blood. KIDDING. I won’t come into your house unless you invite me, but only because I have good manners.

Want to Ask a Vegansaur something? Email me, and try not to be a jerk! Please do not confuse this column with Laura’s Ask Laura column in VegNews; read that, too! VEGAN ADVICE WOO!

[photo by Stephen and Claire Farnsworth via Flickr]

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