Discussion of vegan labelling

Discussion of vegan labelling

Vegan Society of Canada News
October 21st 2019

We have discussed before the issues with the word vegan being used on products that are not vegan certified. Today we will not cover why having independent third-party certification is a good idea as this is the same reasoning that all Canadians have already accepted with regards to organic, kosher, halal and many other non food certifications in Canadian society.

Instead we will discuss in more depth the aspects that are particular to veganism:

  • Why we encourage businesses not to use the word vegan unless they are certified
  • What to do instead of using the word vegan
  • Why we want to incite vegans to encourage businesses they support to get certified

First, we encourage businesses that are not certified to simply give the consumer as much information as they can. Use the words meatless, egg-free, dairy-free, no animal testing, 100% plant-based, 100% plant-based grilling, no GMOs with animal genes, etc. This enables consumers to make informed choices.

There is some misunderstanding that because something is bought by many people who self-identify as vegans that it means it should be vegan certifiable. However, this could not be further from the truth.

Case in point are medications that have been tested on animals. Sometimes there are no alternatives to those medications, however, that does not mean that we should condone those products and certify them vegan.

The vegan philosophy of possible and practicable is an individual choice, one that we leave to the individual to make. If there are no vegan certified pain medications, for example, we have no choice but to buy non-certified products that are widely available.

However, this does not mean that those products are vegan certifiable or acceptable to people who self-identify as vegans, it simply means that vegans are making, on a day-to-day basis, their individual choice as to what is possible and practicable for them. On the other hand, our standards aim to certify products that are suitable for 99% of people that self-identify as vegans, and animal testing is not suitable for 99% of the people that self-identify as vegans.

Vegan certification is perhaps more important than organic, kosher or halal certifications, primarily because vegan certification criteria are dynamic. Every member organization in the Vegan World Alliance, and certainly most if not all vegan organizations in the world, aim to one day eradicate animal exploitation for all animals, including human animals. One small way we do this is through certification. For example, our standards get regularly reviewed. When we review our standards, we listen to manufacturers and move standards forward in a way that gets us closer to our vision.

We have never heard of a corporation which labels products vegan on their own stating: In the last 5 years we have forced our suppliers to move away from using animal manure and completely banned the use of GMOs that are designed to kill animals. And for the next 5 years we expect all our suppliers to have moved to veganic farming.

It is highly likely that a corporation that labels their products vegan on their own in 2019 will still label them vegan in 2029 with little or no change at all to their practices and those of their suppliers.

On the other hand, the Vegan World Alliance does.

The Vegan Society of Canada in the last year already instituted a moratorium on certifying palm oil much before the disastrous fires in the Amazon. We have known for a long time that most cultivation of palm oil goes against the vegan philosophy.

Furthermore, in the next 12 months alongside the Vegan World Alliance, we are planning to review biodynamic farming practices, palm oil and/or unsustainable palm oil, and blood and bone fertilizers in our vegan standards.

We are also considering introducing veganic farming standards so that while it is not possible for large scale manufacturers today, it encourages early adopters to move forward and gives visibility to global manufacturers about where we want to be in the future.

We also encourage consumers to investigate the certifying organization they trust. Currently, just like with organic certifications, there is not one global definition of what certified vegan means; the Vegan World Alliance intends to address this, but for the time being we are in a situation where many things that are certified vegan do not fulfil our standards.

It is important to investigate further the organization we trust to make sure they align with our ethical values. For example, many organizations do not include packaging in their standards. An exaggeration to make this point would be a banana sold in a leather pouch with mink fur trim and a crocodile embossed vegan logo would be vegan certifiable under their standards.

Furthermore, some will allow animal testing if done by a third party whereas our standards does not allow any animal testing anywhere in the supply chain—whether it is minority or majority controlled, or a third-party even without an explicit request.

In addition, some organizations use little of their revenues from certification to further goals compatible with the vision and mission of the Vegan World Alliance, and we are not even discussing scams or entities that do this for profit. We know it requires much effort for consumers to investigate this on their own, but unfortunately for now this is where we are.

This is just the tip of the iceberg; there are many other differences currently in the marketplace.

For the Vegan Society of Canada, we are committed to a standard of vegan certification that is consistent with our vision and mission and to never letting revenue generation interfere with our charitable purpose. We are also committed to reaching the vision that we share with the Vegan World Alliance. All our revenues go toward this end.

We believe individual vegans look to organizations like vegan societies and the Vegan World Alliance to lead the way, to have plans and actions that will one day bring animal exploitation to an end. One way we do this is through vegan certification.

A change of lifestyle offers individuals a powerful means to combat a range of issues, including personal health problems, climate change, loss of biodiversity, global acidification, eutrophication, freshwater shortages, pandemic prevention, antibiotic resistance, save countless lives and much more. We know of no other efficient way for individuals to address these critical challenges simultaneously without waiting for government, corporate, or technological interventions. By changing lifestyle, people can take immediate and impactful action. We encourage you to embrace this lifestyle change today. Contact us for support and to connect with local communities in your area.

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