Do you REALLY love animals if you’re using this?

Yes, it’s Valentine’s Day, and I love you for reading this. What I don’t love is when people say “I love animals” or “my kids love animals” yet they’re eating them, wearing them, and buying and using products made of animals.

I get the food. We were raised on the food. But if we’re already killing trillions of animals for food, is it necessary to kill them for all this other stuff too? (You know the answer is no.)

Even if you don’t own a fur coat, animal products in apparel and fashion are common: wool and cashmere clothing and accessories during winter, goose-down puffer jackets, and leather anything. (Don’t even get me started on the designer purses.) There are SO MANY alternatives to animal apparel today, it’s overwhelming. This post is a good starting point and I can give you more recent ideas of brands you can shop from if you’re in Canada.

Just a month ago (3 years and 9 months after transitioning to a vegan diet) I realized I was still using Ivory soap, which I’ve used since childhood. I was reminded that a lot of soap is made out of glycerin, which comes from tallow (which comes animal fat!). Thankfully the products I refill from The Soap Dispensary are vegan, including my body wash. (But let me know if you know of a vegan bar soap that’s just as cheap as Ivory!) After buying very economical sea sponges from them, I also learned sea sponge was considered an animal, therefore not vegan. So even vegans make mistakes and continue to learn and do better.

When I researched for this blog I found SO MUCH. So instead of launching into a super long list, I’m going to review some of the secret animal-based ingredients that I already mentioned in my blog on veganizing your business so that when I refer to them later, you know what they are. I’ve added these to my list love page under “Keep it clean.”


The Glossary

Albumen – Egg white
Aspic – Meat gelatin (see gelatin)
Carmine/carminic acid
– Red pigment derived from the cochineal insect. It’s also labelled Natural Red 4, or E120
 – The protein found in animal milk
Castoreum – Dried secretion from otter, beaver, musk deer, civet cat genitals
Cera Alba – Beeswax
Chitin – Fibre from crustacean shells
Collagen – The main protein in the body’s connective tissues, often derived from chicken skin, pork skin, beef and fish
Cultured dextrose – A food preservative that combines dextrose with Propionibacterium freudenreichii, a bacteria found in dairy
Gelatin – An ingredient derived from collagen taken from animal body parts
Glycerin – A colourless, odourless liquid polyol compound, often derived from tallow. (Vegetable-derived glycerin is labelled as such or as glycerol or glyerine.)
Guanine – A compound in guano, the excrement and dead bodies of birds, bats, seals, and fish scales (Remember the glorified substance in Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls?)
Hyaluronic acid – A substance found in animal tissues and capsules of streptococci: rooster crown, body, umbilical cord, synovial (joint) fluid, skin, and so on
Isinglass – Fish bladder
Keratin – A fibrous protein also known as scleroprotein, found in feathers, horns, wool, scales, nails, claws and hooves
Lactose – A sugar found in dairy
Lanolin – A wax derived from wool-bearing animals, also labelled as wool yolk, wool wax, or wool grease. It is commonly used to produce vitamins B and D3. Lanolin oil is similar but is sheep’s oil, common in beauty products.
Lard – rendered fat from a pig’s fatty tissue
Lipase – enzymes found in the blood, gastric juices, pancreatic secretions, intestinal juices, and adipose tissues of animals
L-cysteine – An amino acid often derived from duck, goose, chicken feathers
L-threonine – An amino acid often derived from lean beef, lamb, pork, collagen, gelatin, cheese
L-tryptophan – An amino acid found in red meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy
Natural flavour/enhancer – Compounds added to food to enhance its own natural flavour, which may include animal products
Octadecanoic acid – See Stearic acid
Panthenol – A chemical substance made from pantothenic acid (vitamin B-5), often extracted from meat or honey
Pepsin – an endopeptidase produced in the gastric chief cells of stomach lining in animals
Protease – Proteolytic enzymes, or enzymes that break down protein. They’re derived from bovine (cattle, bison, buffalo) or procine (pig) pancreas (often labelled as trypsin or pepsin)
Rennet – enzymes produced in the stomachs of ruminant mammals
Royal jelly – A milky secretion produced by worker honeybees
Shellac – A resin made from the female lac bug, common on fruit
Squalene – A chemical from shark liver oil
Stearic acid
 – A fatty acid found in animals, also labelled octadecanoic acid
Tallow – Beef or mutton fat, also known as lard
Whey – a byproduct of cheese manufacturing

Coincidentally, one of my past clients, vKind, put out a great interview with Allison Ritto Almstedt from Allison’s Goods as I was writing this. So I’m not the only one talking about this!

The list


You already know the obvious animal products that aren’t vegan, but here’s a list you may not be aware of.

Bread, bagels, buns: Bread products may contain L-cysteine in addition to the typical butter and eggs (that IMO are totally unnecessary to make good bread!).

Beer and wine: Isinglass, bone marrow, casein (dairy), chitin, dried albumen, fish oil, gelatin, and protease are commonly used as filtering agents for beer and wine, despite the fact that vegan alternatives exist.

Sugar: Refined sugar (your common white and brown) may use purified ash from animal bones as a filter. Not so sweet, eh?

Orange juice: If your OJ contains omega-3, that might come from fish oil (even though—and I’m sounding like a broken record here—vegetable-derived sources of omega-3 exist).

Creamer: Coffee creamers, even ones that do not contain dairy, might still have casein.

Red candy: Most red candy on the market is made from carmine which comes from red cochineal beetles (about 70,000 beetles create one pound of carmine).

Cake mix commonly contains beef fat, probably labelled under another name in the glossary above.


Beauty, health, and personal products

Beauty products and deodorants: These products commonly use collagen, glycerin, hyaluronic acid, keratin, lanolin, squalene, and tallow.

Hair products: These products typically use animal versions of amino acids, panthenol, and vitamin B, so if they don’t have a vegan label, check.

Soaps and detergents: These typically include glycerin (there’s that animal fat) and stearic acid. Fabric softener typically contains dihydrogenated tallow dimethyl ammonium chloride. (PS: Fabric softener is a completely USELESS product.)

Toothpaste typically contains glycerin.

Nail polish typically contains guanine.

Among other horrible chemicals, perfume usually contains castoreum (remember, that’s animal genitals).

Medication and other supplements may also contain some of the animal-derived ingredients in the above list. Again, look for vegan labels.


Home products

Candles that aren’t vegan typically contain tallow. Go coconut/soy and save the bees too!

Even that paper you’re writing on may contain glycerin!

Batteries contain gelatin. There doesn’t seem to be a substitute for this yet, but I’m sure if a vegan scientist wanted to create an alternative, they would!

You can get plant-based fertilizer, but the animal-derived fertilizer contains bone, feather, blood, or fish meal.

Floor wax may contain animal fat or beeswax.


Other items

Sports/dance equipment: Footballs and football boots, baseball gloves and cleats, soccer cleats, boxing gloves, and most running shoes use animal skin. Wilson, which makes 700K footballs each year, requires 35,000 cow hides. Ballet slippers are made of animal skin too. Tennis balls use wool felt.

Adhesives: Collagen is routinely used in glue, sandpaper, on musical instruments (but check this out), and wood products. Casein is used in glue, paint, and tooth repair material.

Plastic: Lots of plastic products contain stearic acid, including the coating on playing cards. The ban on single-use plastics is now being implemented in Canada, but if you’re not in a place where plastics aren’t looked down on, get on board the anti-plastic train yourself.

Condoms: Glycerin and casein make its way into these.

Cigarette filters are sometimes made of hemoglobin, derived from pig’s blood.

Tires commonly contain stearic acid. Again, an area that could use a great vegan substitute.

Fireworks contain stearic acid, so not only are you seeing animal bits explode, our pets hate us for it.

Biodiesel: Animal fats (cow, chicken and pig) are attractive feedstocks for biodiesel because they cost substantially lower than vegetable oil. So “bio” doesn’t necessarily mean plants.


I want to love animals. What do I do now?

I hear you. We can’t just start chucking all our belongings out the window (God knows there is enough trash), but what we can do is be ingredient detectives and ask if the ingredients we see in our everyday products are animal-derived. And if they are, search for alternatives that use plant-based or synthetic versions. And if there aren’t any versions, go to the source (yes, those corporation execs on their thrones) and demand better.

Just before I got married in 2016, I bought $100 worth of shampoo and conditioner from Aveda, meant for coloured hair. Aveda always touted itself as an eco-friendly company, yet there were obvious chemical ingredients on the package stating otherwise. I wrote a scathing message to their customer service department, and as I expected, nothing happened. However, Aveda is now vegan. It’s owned by Estee Lauder which routinely tests on animals and isn’t vegan so it’s hard to know whether things trickle down to the subsidiaries, but this is what consumers can complain about.

Once there was maybe one vegan ice cream option in the grocery store freezer. Or a couple of veggie burger patties. Vegan options are taking over shelves! Slowly, we’ll start to see brands not using animal products entirely, so that eventually you can look up an entire company ownership line, and maybe the parent company will be vegan. (Then human & planet-friendly is the next part!)

Each of us has a small share in consumer power. Let’s try and use it responsibly.

February 2023 update: I just remembered that I’m following a site called Double Check Vegan which is a searchable database where you can check if common products contain animals. Check it out at!


Header photo: Yulia Dubyna

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