Saturday, May 13, 2006

mail bag

i received this the other day:

I'm sorry to bother your but I found your blog site online and was wondering if you could possibly help me.
I am a soapmaker that has been requested to start carrying all vegan soaps.
The customer that requested this asked if my soap making equipment touched animal products or if my soap molds did.
I couldn't not bring myself to lie to her and told her yes, the equipment does, but it's thoroughly washed after each use and no traces of any thing remains behind. I also explained that my molds are all lined with non-absorbent paper and nothing ever touches the mold itself.
She told me that this did not matter and that was almost as bad as serving Kosher food on non-Kosher plates.
Would you be able to tell me if this is an accepted practice? And if so, could you point me in the direction of what is and is not acceptable in terms of a vegan lifestyle( dishes, ingredients that are no-no's, etc)
Thank you so much for your time.
Michelle Jones

here is my reply:


It is not a bother at all, and in fact I welcome questions like this as it gives me something to write about. You'd be surprised the kind of writer's block that can plague a person trying to maintain a vegan blog. Or maybe you wouldn't, actually.

My take on veganism has always been more casual than that of others. That's not to say that I'm not vegan or whatever, but I'm sure at times my actions might cause some of the diehards to wonder. I guess, in the end, I'm more concerned about the impact of my actions than I am about a label or a designation.

So for me, while I think it's a classy move for a restaurant to have a meat grill and a veggie grill, I certainly don't require that accomodation. In the end, I feel like what matters is that I ordered the non-animal meal, and that nothing was hurt or killed in its production. In fact, I would go so far as to say that vegans who require such accomodations are actually bad ambassadors of the cruelty-free lifestyle (what a funny term, and impossible in practice), in that they are needy and irritating. Further, they ignore the environmental impact of producing separate equipment just for them.

Certainly I can understand that people are squeamish, and so there might be an emotional need to have their soap processed on molds that don't touch animal products, and while I don't pretend to understand (does she refuse to walk through a field for fear of killing insects? How far do you take something like that? If she doesn't keep Kosher herself, how can she make such a comparison with any certainty?), I can see how a note on the soap's packaging might take care of any misgivings some may have: "Processed on equipment that also blah blah blah." I know that food companies include labels like this because of food allergies, so it's not terribly uncommon.

It sounds to me like you're doing everything right, especially lining the molds with non-absorbent paper. As for your last request, the happy cow has a list on-line of animal ingredients a-z. I just browsed through it quickly and discovered that alligator skin is an animal ingredient. Who knew?

I hope that this has been helpful (I know it's bound to spark some fiery discussions), and best of luck with your business.

The Surly Vegan

[This post has been edited for politeness]

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Become a correspondent!

That's right, kids. Seems I've been slacking a bit lately, so I thought maybe I'd provide the opportunity to some of you in the far-flung interworld to report back on your town and your travels. It could be Philadelphia or France, Cincinnati or Sri Lanka, but I'm happy to hear your vegan news and advice. Bring it. ( and/or the comments feature)