Non-compliant certification schemes

Non-compliant certification schemes

Vegan Society of Canada News
Published November 21st 2020
Updated May 8th 2023

Non-compliant certification schemes usually fall into two broad categories:

  • Certification not run by a vegan organization
  • Certification which does not provide a clear path to achieving our vision or is incompatible with veganism

We are aware of various certifications or standards currently available in and outside of Canada that we have banned. We have had limited success in having the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) change their definition of what is vegan. It would be unthinkable for the CFIA to unilaterally define what food is suitable for Christians, Jews or Muslims but for whatever reason the CFIA found it to be ethical to discriminate against those who observe the vegan creed for years. Unfortunately, we do not have the nearly unlimited resources of the Canadian Government but one day, whether it be in 10 or 100 years, we intend to hold the Canadian Government and the CFIA accountable for this discrimination in a court of law.

Furthermore, too many organizations certifying things vegan are not vegan organizations. We could not even fathom ourselves offering certification of other creeds, for example, kosher or halal certification. Unfortunately, we see many non-vegan organizations with no understanding of the vegan creed offering vegan certification, and this must stop.

As mentioned, we will not accept the Government of Canada redefining veganism. We are currently investigating various strategies, including but not limited to various legal actions.

One of those strategies is to test the new definition of the CFIA with a formal complaint. As it stands today, some of those fraudulent certifications certify products vegan even if the products or the ingredients have been tested on animals. This is unacceptable. We are looking for a product to use as a test case that is labelled vegan with ingredients or the product itself that has been tested on animals. If you are aware of such products, please contact us with the details.

We strongly encourage businesses, instead of using fraudulent certifications, to consider labelling their product 100% plant ingredients, 100% plant-based, animal-free, plant-based, egg-free, dairy-free, or various other “free” labels as appropriate. We will never accept the blatant exploitation of animals under a vegan label.

In that spirit, let us share with you some features of our vegan standards so you can make informed choices. Our standard is written to include 99% of people who self-identify as vegan. There are various reasons for this, one of them being that vegan certification is one of the most stringent standards in the marketplace today. There is no other option for people who self-identify as vegan who would find vegan standards too low for their individual interpretation of what is “possible and practicable.” This is why the “possible and practicable” must never be considered at the standard level, but left to the individual.

On the other hand, if someone finds our standards stricter than their individual interpretation of what is feasible, they have many other alternatives in the marketplace; there is no vegan police and individuals are free to buy other non-vegan certified products that reflect what is feasible for them. In addition, our standards do not aim to include 100% of what is feasible for all people who self-identify as vegan because to include the last 1% would require exponentially more strict criteria. For example, some people’s “feasible” would exclude vegetables grown with animal manure. We believe covering 99% makes sure the majority who self-identify as vegan are included, and we include the rest of the 1% in our “Vision” sub-component of our certification that is not required for the main vegan certification.

Here are the main features of our standards, the vast majority of them that we share with the draft standards of the Vegan World Alliance (VWA), to help you investigate products you support:

  • Standard is evolutive and structured in a way to make it clear how we intend to achieve our vision. Various practices that are currently allowed, like animal manure, are clearly isolated in their own sections to make it clear to corporations where we are going and what will be removed over time as we revise our standard.
  • Standard is exclusive in nature—nothing but those practices we have identified are allowed to cause animal exploitation, everything not clearly stated in that section is forbidden.
  • Standard is incremental and has five sub-components, giving as much information to consumers and encouraging businesses to participate in the process while not labelling everything vegan. When businesses fulfill the first four component, and various other additional criteria that do not fit nicely in any categories, they also get to label their product as vegan certified:
    • Cruelty free certification without exceptions, based on the portion of the VWA standard on animal testing.
    • Ingredients based certification, based on the portion of the VWA standard on ingredients composition
      • 100% plant ingredients certification
      • Animal-free certification. Since not all ingredients are from plants we give two options to achieve this sub-component
    • No human animal exploitation certification, based on the portion of the VWA standard on the working conditions of human animals
    • Packaging certification, based on the portion of the VWA standard on packaging
    • Vision certification, based on the standard without exceptions. This is aimed at recognizing the business pioneers who produce goods and services in a way that is concordant with achieving our vision today
  • Include every possible stage of the lifecycle of a product, e.g. land clearing practices, marketing, selling, etc.
  • Cross-contamination should not occur.
  • Mandatory inspections for medium and large businesses.
  • The ban on animal testing in our certification is free from many common loopholes, for example the REACH loophole. It includes the entire supply chain, whether done by a third party or not, a food business operator (FBO) or not, and whether directly instructed or not. It is agnostic to time after our cut-off, to change of management, to change of board of directors and purposes.
  • Various conditions on the treatment of human animals must be respected, like the ban on slavery and slavery like conditions.
  • Non-passive compliance requirements to ensure the respect and enforcement of the criteria, e.g. whistleblower program, public information visible to employees, etc.
  • Animal labour is not allowed.
  • Packaging must meet the same restrictions as the product itself, e.g. we do not certify bananas sold in a cow-leather pouch.
  • Consumable assets at any stage must comply with all the criteria as well, meaning that if a product requires filters, gloves or any other consumable assets during production, they must comply with the same criteria as the product itself.
  • GMO made with anything coming from animals is not allowed.

The sub-component aspects of the standard is something we added in the last few years. It was always part of our standard, i.e. we never certified products vegan that were the results of slavery like practices, but those sub-components were never available separately. It was the result of various discussions in the VWA on how to encourage businesses to take part in the process, give consumers the most information possible to make an informed choice and not label everything as vegan. Please contact us for more details.

As people who self-identify as vegans, please investigate the products you buy and do not buy anything labelled vegan that you do not trust. There are a lot of questionable vegan claims on the market, and until there are some regulations it is only bound to get worse before it gets better.

We hope this will help you investigate the products you buy and certifications you support. We have one of the most stringent vegan certifications in the world, and we assure you that if you support products that are certified from us or comply with the draft standards of the VWA, and everybody else does too, we will attain our vision in a timely manner.

What is ethically wrong with killing, animal testing or any other form of animal exploitation is not where it occurs in the supply chain, or whether it occurs to an animal that looks like a cow, but that it occurs at all. Always support products, services, certifications and organizations that align with your beliefs. Ours are clear and our dedication to our vision is unwavering.

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