I’m often asked “why go cruelty-free?” and to be honest, I often just want to say, “Why not?” I love animals too much to keep one as a pet and misuse another by skinning it for a bag. It’s that simple for me. As someone who’s been veg and non-veg both over the past 15 years I can tell you that it’s honestly not very difficult to transition to a veg lifestyle. Many people already have “meatless Mondays”, wear faux leather or buy cruelty-free makeup without realizing it—making the switch is often easier than you think!
That said, I understand that it can seem like a daunting prospect, especially if you plan to go fully vegan, and I get a lot of questions about what I eat, wear, and use on a day to day basis. I’ve tried to answer some of them here, but if there’s anything else you’re curious about, feel free to email me (email@example.com) or Tweet me.
WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR PROTEIN?
This is one of the oldest (and most oft-repeated) questions I hear, but it’s understandable if you can’t imagine a meal without meat. There are so many tasty ready-to-heat meat substitutes on the market for hamburgers, fish, chicken nuggets, and more. I also love cooking with quinoa, beans, tofu, tempeh, and nuts or nut butters, which are all high in protein. (I’m eating more of these now that I’m primarily plant-based.) Seitan is a popular wheat-based alternative “meat” if you’re sensitive to soy.
If you’re one of those folks who’s on the go a lot and doesn’t have time to cook (raises hand), vegan protein powders can easily be mixed in a blender with your favorite ingredients—you won’t even miss the smoothie shop. (Though there are more and more veg-friendly protein supplements available at commercial smoothie bars, too.)
WILL A VEG DIET MAKE ME SKINNY?
Maybe. Tofu is obviously lower in calories and fat than a hamburger, and meals based around veggies and lean proteins tend to help you slim down, so lots of people assume going veg will make you skinny. But remember that there are lots of “veg-friendly” junk foods like chips, pizza, and soda, that are not healthy and definitely won’t help you get fitter! On the flip side, it’s totally possible to go veg and still bulk up with lean muscle, so don’t let anyone tell you cutting out meat with make you a skinny wimp. As with any diet, it’s all about research and meal planning to make sure you’re getting the right calories and nutrients to support your body goals.
HOW DO YOU BALANCE A VEG DIET WITH PLANT-BASED OR CLEAN EATING?
I try to follow an 80/20 rule, eating primarily plant-based and leaving a little room for veg-friendly treats like tacos or ice cream. Life is about balance! Intentional eating is my guide here; I listen to my body. At the end of the day I don’t consider it a diet failure if I ate Boca tacos and pizza and had a few glasses of wine; I just set my intention to eat a little cleaner the next day, because I know that’s how my body feels best.
IS IT HARD TO EAT ON THE GO?
Yes—I’m not gonna lie!—though it’s getting better as time goes on and meatless options becomes more mainstream. Restaurants are not always veg-friendly, so if you’re traveling to a new city, I recommend hopping on an app like Urban Spoon to find veg-friendly eateries and shops near you. And I’ve found that it never hurts to ask a restaurant if they can make a dish without meat or dairy in it—many are happy to help you out.
I love packing Clif bars in my bag, since they’re natural, travel well even in heat and are filling. I’ve also found that more mainstream stores like Walmart are expanding their veg-friendly offerings, stocking dairy-free yogurt, meatless microwave dinners, and other hotel-room-friendly items.
CAN YOU RECOMMEND ANY RESOURCES FOR A NEWBIE VEGAN?
Isa Chandra Moskowitz‘s cookbooks, particularly Vegan With a Vengeance, take the mystery out of vegan cooking (even for newbies), and she has even more recipes and vegan goodness at The Post Punk Kitchen. Some other great websites to check out are Forks Over Knives, Thug Kitchen, Logical Harmony and Vegan Miam.
WHAT MAKES A CLOTHING ITEM VEGAN?
Vegans avoid wearing fur, leather, suede, silk, feathers, snakeskin, and wool—anything sourced from an animal. It used to be really hard to find quality vegan leather goods, but some brands/shops are doing a great job of offering non-icky alternatives: Target, H&M, Lulu’s, and ModCloth are some of my faves. Here’s a big list of stores and sites I love for vegan-friendly clothing, accessories, beauty, and more.
WHAT DOES “CRUELTY-FREE BEAUTY” MEAN, ANYWAY?
Unfortunately, there are no regulations for the use of this term, so when a company says that their products are “cruelty-free”, it could mean almost anything! Many consumers also mistakenly assume that a product marked “cruelty-free” is free of animal ingredients, but that isn’t always the case. Here are a few different labels you may see on a product or retailer website, and what they mean:
- The finished product was not tested on animals. This doesn’t mean that individual ingredients were not tested on animals, or that the product contains no animal-derived ingredients.
- “We do not test our products or ingredients on animals”—however, the products may still contain animal ingredients like beeswax, honey, carmine, or lanolin.
- 100% vegetarian. This means that the finished product and ingredients alike were not tested on animals and the product contains no ingredients obtained by harming the animal. This includes ingredients like carmine, made from crushed beetle shells, which is used for pink and red dyes in many beauty products; or lanolin (sheep grease), which is a by-product of the wool industry. Vegetarian products may still contain ingredients like beeswax or honey, which can be obtained without killing the animal in question.
- Vegan. The product was not tested on animals in any way and contains no animal-derived ingredients of any kind. This is because vegans do not believe in using any type of animal ingredients, even if the animal is not technically harmed in the collection process. Urban Decay is one cosmetic company pushing forward with vegan makeup and denotes vegan offerings with a purple paw print on their website. Other companies might use a “V” or a “vegan” label.
- The Leaping Bunny logo (at right) denotes that the company is 100% cruelty-free through all stages of testing and is regularly audited for compliance by the folks at the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics This logo is considered the gold standard for cruelty-free products, but it doesn’t mean that a product is vegan, so you’ll still want to check the ingredients.
There’s a lot of debate about what exactly “cruelty-free” should refer to and what constitutes a truly conscience-friendly buy. Some people are okay buying from a cruelty-free company even if their parent company still tests; others are okay with any measure of cruelty-free, even if only on the finished product; others want to buy products that are strictly vegan. I personally choose to stick to vegan products, however, I realize that everyone will have a different opinion on the matter, and I also realize that there are some brands out there that offer amazing vegan products alongside non-vegan ones.
I’ve compiled a cruelty-free brand list here that includes both types of companies. I hope you’ll use this list as a starting point for your own cruelty-free beauty journey. As always, if you have any questions about shopping cruelty-free, please email me or Tweet me and I’ll help you out as best as I can!