The Search For Alternatives in Cosmetic Testings

Vanity products such as cosmetics are not essential to human health and welfare, but are generally subjected to the same types of animal-based testing protocols as are more "useful" materials. In the United States, such cosmetic tests are not required, but are routine. In Europe, they are mandated, but with some interesting additional provisions. European Union Cosmetics Directives include requirements that animal tests should not be performed if scientifically adequate alternative procedures are "reasonably and practically available." In essence, this represents a built-in restriction on animal (in vivo) tests and promotes alternative (in vitro) tests-at least in principle.

The European Commission provided a further incentive for the development and use of alternative tests when, in 1996, it decided to prohibit cosmetic products containing ingredients or combinations of ingredients tested on animals. Although implementation was postponed from January 1, 1998 to June 30, 2000, this Directive produced a major push for new alternatives. A similar, proactive environment remains lacking in the U.S. regulatory community.

Major problems to the advancement of the alternatives approach remain, but are being actively addressed:

There are more than 7,000 chemicals used in cosmetics. In Europe, more than 400 substances are prohibited, while in the United States, only 14 are restricted. More restrictions correlate with fewer animal tests.

There is a general lack of high-quality in vivo data to serve as a baseline for in vitro validation studies. Considering the multitude of serious deficiencies associated with animal tests, this is not surprising. However, requirements that proposed in vitro replacements be validated against poor quality animal test data, biases such procedures before they begin.

Animal test data may be semi-quantitative, relatively useless, unreliable, and irreproducible, but it is still used to accept or reject many in vitro test proposals.

Regulatory authorities fail to promote alternatives for political rather than scientific reasons.

Corporate product liability lawyers and insurance companies continue to endorse the use of animal tests.

There are no consistent, effective, international efforts to promote alternatives or harmonize testing strategies. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) provides testing guidelines and procedures, but usually remains significantly out of date with respect to improvements in alternative testing methods.

Despite such difficulties, progress in promoting the alternatives approach to safety testing is being made. Cosmetic products provide several excellent examples.

Skin Corrosivity/ Irritation

Because cosmetics are designed for direct application to the skin, toxic responses of that tissue are of particular interest. Furthermore, if substances are identified as non-corrosive, then further testing for irritancy can be conducted on human volunteers rather than laboratory animals.

There are a wide variety of in vitro or computer-based replacement alternatives for the more traditional and inhumane Draize Rabbit skin tests. These alternative methods use numerous endpoints that provide a relatively complete picture of the potential toxicity of test substances.

The European Center for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM) recently noted that "it is becoming increasingly apparent that the development and implementation of stepwise (hierarchical) testing strategies" is providing the most effective approaches to predicting the toxicity of new substances and to reducing the number of animals killed in in vivo test procedures.

Quantitative Structure Activity Relationships (QSAR) are particularly useful regarding skin responses to toxic substances. A PC-based system for predicting skin corrosivity is routinely used as an initial screening procedure by companies such as Unilever. Even the OECD recommends that animal tests need not be done if skin corrosion or irritation can be predicted by the basic physiochemical properties of the materials. This is precisely what the QSAR does so well.

The OECD also suggests that "it may not be necessary to test in vivo materials for which corrosive properties are predicted on the basis of results from in vitro tests."

Based on currently available in vitro methods, there are no longer any justifications for the use of animal-based skin tests.

The use of multi-layered, in vitro human skin models is rapidly increasing in both testing and research laboratories. One such in system was recently approved as an in vitro replacement for animal skin corrosivity tests.

According to the ECVAM Scientific Advisory Committee, "the results obtained with the EPISKIN (a test involving the use of a reconstructed human skin model) in the European Center for the Validation of Alternative Methods international validation study on in vitro tests for skin corrosivity, were reproducible, both within and between the three laboratories that performed the test. The EPISKIN test proved applicable to testing a diverse group of chemicals of different physical forms, including organic acids, organic bases, neutral organics, inorganic acids, inorganic bases, inorganic salts, electrophiles, phenols, and soaps/surfactants.

The concordances between the skin corrosivity classifications derived from the in vitro data and from the in vivo data were very good. The test was able to distinguish between corrosive and non-corrosive chemicals for all of the chemical types studied. The Committee therefore agreed with the conclusion from this formal validation study that the EPISKIN test is scientifically validated for use as a replacement for the animal test, and that it is ready to be considered for regulatory acceptance."

EPISKIN is therefore a valid replacement for the Draize Rabbit Skin test, with the former's basic skin-like gross and microscopic structure, growth characteristics, and biochemical similarities to real human skin.

It is possible to replace the skin of live sentient animals with an in vitro system. Even more astounding possibilities are planned for the future. Work is currently in progress to provide blood vessels and sensory nerves to these artificial human skin equivalents.

If a test substance is found to be non-corrosive, then it becomes possible to determine the potential for skin irritation using human volunteers. A human 4-hour patch test has been developed, is widely used in several companies, and is being considered for endorsement by the OECD. This test was developed by the Unilever Company and validated with more than 65 types of chemicals. It was also optimized for possible ethnic, inter-individual, and seasonal differences in on the skin of volunteers. This represents another ideal replacement for animal-based procedures.

If the properties of the test substance are in doubt, several in vitro methods are also available. Single layer cultures of skin cells are useful for some categories of chemicals. Organ cultures of human skin are suitable and easy to use. Although some laboratories prefer to use animal skin, comparative results suggest that the latter are inappropriate and likely to over-predict toxicity. For example, rabbit skin is far more sensitive than human skin for the same materials.

Perhaps the most useful in vitro method for predicting skin irritation is the three-dimensional, reconstituted human skin equivalents.

As the sophistication of in vitro testing methods continues to increase, justifications and rationalizations used to defend animal testing diminish. As a consequence of this transition to a more rational, alternatives-based testing program, consumers' health and welfare are more adequately protected. As the following brief examples demonstrate, this trend is real and undeniable.

Acute Toxicity

For decades, the routine approach to this concern was mass poisoning large numbers of animals in the classical Lethal Dose 50 test (LD50). The LD50 test is still on the books, but conducted infrequently. It was replaced by several new, less traumatic, but still lethal options. Two of the latter were formally adopted by the OECD and are becoming worldwide standards: the fixed dose and acute toxic class methods.

There has always been a need for a quick, easy in vitro replacement for such lethal tests. Such an alternative-based approach is now available.

The Multicenter Evaluation of In Vitro Cytotoxicity (MEIC) program was initiated in 1989. By mid-1996, the 29 contributing laboratories had tested all 50 chemicals in each of the 61 proposed in vitro assays. Evaluation of the data was completed in 1998 with very positive results.

The MEIC found that the toxicity of most chemicals to human cell lines was relevant to acute, lethal effects in humans, with a successful prediction rate of 84%. Of the many methods examined, the MEIC group selected 15 of the best tests as replacement candidates for animal-based acute toxicity methods.

Two simple in vitro methods had an 84¢ prediction success rate for some, and 71% for all of the test substances. Addition of a third technique raised the overall success rate to 77%. If information on certain physiological parameters was added, the rate increased to 83%. What is particularly important about the MEIC effort is the use of human rather than rodent reference data to determine the efficacy of the proposed replacements.

What is also significant is that for the first time, an animal toxicity test was subjected to validation procedures. The mouse LD50 failed in comparison to the in vitro options, achieving only a 66% rate of accurate predictions.

Based on the results of the MEIC study and the creation of batteries of in vitro tests to measure acute toxicity, it is no longer necessary to poison even small groups of animals in order to identify risks resulting from human exposure to new or existing materials. Lethal animal tests are no longer necessary.

A practical, easy-to-use battery of in vitro tests, based on four different toxic endpoints, is now available and was proven to provide better results than traditional rodent-based procedures. The MEIC testing scheme is ready for adoption by companies and regulatory agencies. In addition, the MEIC in vitro methods are ideally suited to study the unknown mechanisms of acute lethal and toxic actions of chemicals, which would contribute to a rationally based approach to product safety.

Eye Irritancy-Draize Tests

About 20 years ago, the use of rabbits to test the ability of compounds to cause serious eye damage became a major focus of anti-animal testing and the development of replacement alternatives. In the decades that followed, multiple in vitro methods were proposed, tested, semi-validated, but not widely adopted. In large part, this is an artifact of the very serious problems with the unreliability of the original, animal-based Draize tests and a relative absence of suitable human eye exposure information.

Many of the available in vitro alternatives to the Draize clearly provide adequate information on ocular irritation. However, it is difficult to conduct an in vitro replacement validation study when the alternative is expected to favorably compare with in vivo results that are subjective and highly variable. In the long-term, the Draize Eye Irritancy Test and all of the data it has produced should be abandoned and replaced with a new set of well-defined, mechanistically based endpoints to which the proposed in vitro replacements can be compared. Toxicologists and regulatory agencies do not need a substitute for the Draize, but rather an entirely new approach to answering such questions.

As an interim step, a battery of in vitro and computer-based methods could be adopted to provide adequate information to determine the potential eye irritancy of new substances.

Structure Activity Relationship computer models combined with data on basic physiochemical properties can act as a pre-screen. A variety of cell-culture-based assays that have had difficulty passing earlier validation tests should be reconsidered on a case-by-case basis. These can be combined with more recently developed in vitro techniques.

Of particular interest is the HET-CAM assay, which utilizes exposure of the chorio-allantoic membrane of chicken eggs to test substances. This test provides information on inflammatory processes and passed several multi-laboratory validation trials with prediction rates as high as 80%.

The Epi Ocular in vitro system is a multi-layered culture of human cells that very closely mimics the structure of the human cornea. It consists of a metabolically active, stratified, squamous epithelium, with growth and morphological characteristics similar to human tissue. Although man-made, it behaves like the surface of the eye in response to direct exposure to compounds that cause inflammation and irritation.

A number of experimental trials with various chemicals and compounds have shown that the Epi Ocular System can act as a reliable safety test and provide a reproducible and accurate replacement for the Draize Eye Irritation Test. In one instance, the system was exposed to 41 materials, which included final formulations of shampoos, off-the-counter cosmetics, and basic chemicals. Epi Ocular had an 86% correct correlation. Other trials produced similar results.

Although "officially" still "necessary," the Draize test has never been a valid indicator of potential human eye injury. It can and will be replaced with a battery of humane alternatives.

Skin Sensitization

Because cosmetics are designed to make contact with the skin, potential allergic responses are a serious consideration for manufacturers. Traditional testing approaches involve exposure of substances to the skins of guinea pigs coupled with deliberately increased sensitivity. The resulting allergic reactions are observed and ranked.

In the United States, federal regulatory agencies recently adopted a new approach. Substances are applied to a mouse ear. After several days the mice are killed and their lymph nodes are examined for evidence of immune reactions. Although this murine Local Lymph Node Assay represents both a reduction (fewer animals) and refinement (less pain) alternative that is cheaper and quicker than the guinea pig tests, it still involves animal deaths.

In contrast, 1998 Belgian studies using reconstituted, multi-layered in vitro human skin examined potentially sensitizing materials. They concluded, "it may be possible in a single integrated assay to classify and to discriminate between irritant and sensitizing agents." Researchers in California examined the chemical profiles of substances (cytokines) released by humans in response to irritation and allergic reactions. This information may be combined with in vitro tests, making it easier to determine relevant properties of test substances.

Dr. Craig Meyers of Pennsylvania State University uses organotypic raft cultures of simulated human skin to study contact dermatitis. His research, sponsored in part by AAVS' Scientific Affiliate, the Alternatives Research & Development Foundation, is designed to provide a replacement for the tens of thousands of animals currently killed in such dermatitis testing and to provide an in vitro approach to examining treatments for the problem.

Phototoxicity / Photoirritation

This is a prime example of regulatory necessity producing new in vitro methods. Because some cosmetic preparations are exposed to sunlight, their potential toxic responses need to be identified. The European Union recently announced the formal acceptance of a cell-culture test (3T3 NRU PT) as the officially accepted standard for determining phototoxicity. It was accepted for all types of products, not just cosmetics.

This test uses cells in cultures that are exposed to new substances and UVA light, which simulates sunlight. It was easily reproducible in different laboratories and consistently distinguished between 30 photoirritants and non-irritants. What is even more significant is the effort that produced this alternative also identified five additional in vitro methods that showed significant promise in validation protocols.

Because the 3T3 cell method does not allow for direct application of test materials, as is the case with human skin, researchers in Germany also studied the Epiderm full-skin reconstructed human epidermis as a potential indicator of phototoxicity. Successful tests of 12 chemicals established this as a second reliable in vitro alternative that has the advantage of testing formulations not suitable for use in normal cell culture environments. In combination with the 3T3 cell culture method, these alternatives have eliminated the need for further animal testing of phototoxicity.

Percutaneous Absorptiona

A substance's ability to penetrate the skin is important, since failure to do so would obviate the need for some further types of toxicity testing, either in vivo or in vitro.

The OECD is currently considering guidelines for in vitro tests of percutaneous absorption. This is based on the long-term experience of European chemical, cosmetic, and pesticide manufacturers and has the support of most of the OECD member countries. Unfortunately, as often happens, the United States is on the wrong side of this issue, being opposed to the proposed alternatives.

Non-animal alternatives are available to determine the percutaneous absorption of cosmetics and other compounds. There is no need to continue animal-based procedures for this purpose.


With all commercial products, especially those intended for deliberate, direct contact with human tissues (i.e., skin), there is a concern about potential carcinogenicity. For this reason, tests to determine a compound's ability to produce mutations are conducted. For several years, in vitro replacement alternatives have been available to measure such mutagenicity. No animal-based methods are needed. In particular, a tri-partite group of in vitro tests are now, or should be, routinely used: 1) reverse mutation assay using bacteria; 2) chromosomal aberration test; and 3) gene mutation assay.


Traditional animal-based toxicity tests were never necessary for cosmetic and personal care products, as tacitly acknowledged in U.S. regulations. Their use has been optional, but widespread. As stated, for seven of the eight types of tests considered, in vitro replacement alternatives are available and should be adopted by manufacturers and regulatory agencies. The final test, the Draize Eye Irritancy test, may already have adequate in vitro substitutions, but problems inherent in the validation process have thus far excluded them. That situation should change in the very near future.

There are no compelling scientific reasons why the new millennium cannot begin with widespread use of cruelty-free, humane, in vitro approaches to toxicity testing of cosmetics, in particular, and other substances, in general.

(article by John McArdle, Ph.D., AAVS' Science Advisor)

lease visit the following links related to animal testing for cosmetics - you will learn about the many alternatives that a compassionate consumer have, and with choosing cruelty-free products you are going to actively help many innocente animals - Thank You!

- Leaping Bunny
- Choose Cruelty Free
- Compassionate Consumer
P&G Kills
- Uncaged - Boycott Procter & Gamble

+ Animal Tests / Vivisection links database

A Short History of Animal Tests

Millions of animals suffer and die each year in the testing of cosmetic, personal care, and household products. Companies poison them to death. They shave the animals' skin and expose it to corrosive substances. They place powerful chemicals in animals' eyes. All of this is done just for a "new and improved" cologne, dish-washing detergent, or toothpaste.

While thousands of animals are killed every year in the United States in product tests, there is no law that requires these tests to be done. Many large and small companies have announced moratoriums or an outright end to product tests. However, there are still a few companies that refuse to end the practice. This is surprising because most scientists have come to the conclusion that animal testing is totally inadequate for protecting humans from harmful products.

In the history of biomedical experiments with animals no single subject has created more controversy than that of product testing. The use of animals to test shampoos, soaps, hair sprays, oven cleaners, and laundry detergents has been the focal point of protest from consumers and criticism from the scientific community. Rightly so, as the tests used to "determine safety" are extremely cruel and wildly inaccurate, leaving the public with no assurance that a product is safe and the scientific community with loads of useless data.

The primary tests used to test products for safety are the Lethal Dose 50 (LD50) test and the Draize eye and skin irritancy tests. These methods have comprised the standard set of safety tests for consumer products for more than six decades. In that time little has been achieved in refining the tests or replacing them with appropriate alternatives. This is not because refinements have not been suggested nor alternatives developed. It is because there has been complacency on the part of the scientific community-other than when they have been pressed by those interested in animal protection to make changes.

This article will explain each test and outline a brief history of their development, the development of refinements and alternatives to their use, and some major events in the history of protest against these tests.

The LD50 Test

The LD50 test consists of giving a group of animals a particular substance until half of the group dies. The animals are forced to ingest a substance either by being tube fed, being placed in an inhalation chamber where they must breathe it in, or by having the substance applied to their skin. The procedure can cause severe distress including convulsions, shock, paralysis, and bleeding from their mouths, noses, and anuses.

Originally developed in 1927 by J.W. Trevan the LD50 test was used to determine the potency of digitalis extracts, insulin, and diphtheria antitoxin. Scientists soon developed other methods for determining potency but the LD50 caught on as a "scientific" measure of toxicity. The ease of performing an LD50, as well as the appeal of getting concrete numbers quickly, has made results of the test a standard in toxicology studies. Governments also liked the numerical results that the LD50's provided and quickly mandated the test for assessing the toxic effects of products ranging from pesticides to industrial solvents.

However, the down side to the LD50 test (outside of its extreme cruelty) is that it was considered inadequate for assessing toxicity by a large body of the toxicology community.

Major criticisms of the LD50 test appeared within a decade of its development (both on scientific and ethical grounds), and alternatives to the test were suggested within 5 years of that.

Although there was great displeasure with LD50 test results by the scientific community, no significant changes were made to the tests until the early 1990s. Refinements to LD50 tests, which used fewer animals, were suggested as early as the 1940s. More significant suggestions for change came in the 1950s and 70s. However, little was done, as the scientific community was not significantly challenged to make necessary changes to the test.

While the animal welfare community first criticized the LD50 in the 1960s, few coordinated activities against it were undertaken until the 1980s. In 1980, an activist named Henry Spira coordinated a coalition of more than 400 animal protection groups to call for an end to product testing on animals. The campaign, which first focused on Revlon, created a firestorm of public outcry. It was shortly after this period of action against product tests that the scientific community started to seriously look at methods of improving, and possibly eliminating, the LD50.

Probably the most exciting breakthrough in the development of alternatives to the LD50 test occurred just last month when the results of the Multi-Center Evaluation of In Vitro Cytotocity (MEIC) project were released, and validated alternatives to the LD50 were presented to government regulators and scientists. The alternatives identified by this major project, paid for primarily through government grants and animal welfare organization contributions, hold the possibility that the LD50 may soon become a memory.

The Draize Tests

The Draize tests consist of placing a substance into the eyes or onto the skin of animals (usually a rabbit or rodent). In the eye test, the animals eyes are examined at varying intervals for signs of opacity, hemorrhage, ulceration, redness, swelling, and discharge for up to 7 days. The skin irritancy test consists of placing a product on the shaved or abraded skin of an animal and examining the area for signs of allergic reaction for up to 3 days. Tests may result in anything from minor irritation to severe burning and ulceration.

In the early 1940s the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioned a scientist named John Draize and a number of his colleagues to develop tests to determine dermal (skin) and ocular (eye) irritancy of products. The FDA liked the tests Draize developed because, as in the case of the LD50, numerical scores could be given to products tested. As a result, the Draize tests were accepted as the standard testing method for irritancy under the authority provided by the U.S. Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938.

Just as the LD50 test had been criticized for its crude methodology and inaccurate results, the Draize tests suffered the same fate.

From the 1940s until today the Draize tests have been repeatedly criticized by the scientific community. Refinements to the tests have been promoted for decades and alternatives to the test have been suggested for the last 15 years. One of the most comprehensive critiques of the Draize eye irritancy test came from scientists at Proctor & Gamble in 1979. The scientists criticized government regulators for being unresponsive to the great displeasure with the Draize that was held by the scientific community.

Despite all the criticism, very little occurred until the animal advocacy community started pressing for change. As was the case with the LD50, even though a large body of scientists thought the Draize tests were inadequate, those at corporations and in government who determined what tests should be used to safeguard against irritancy maintained the status quo until they were pressured into making change.

The campaign that aimed to end product testing on animals (mentioned earlier in this article) was kicked off with a full-page ad in the New York Times depicting a rabbit who was subjected to the Draize eye irritancy test. The rabbit, half lying on her side and looking miserable, had band-aids covering her eyes. The headline that accompanied the picture read, "How many rabbits does Revlon blind for Beauty's sake?" As stated earlier, this campaign made companies (and eventually regulators) get the massage that the time for alternatives had come.

In the subsequent 17 years since the launch of the campaign, which marked the beginning of the end for the Draize test, dozens of companies and hundreds of scientists have been working on alternatives. Many feel that current test systems adequately address irritancy in a more accurate fashion than the Draize. Others, however, feel that more needs to be done before validated alternatives to the Draize tests become a reality. Either way, we are not far away from the day when these cruel tests get relegated to the dustbin of history.

The story of the Draize and LD50 tests is important for animal activists to know and understand. Even though there were voices in the scientific community that complained about the inaccuracy of the tests for decades, it wasn't until those concerned with animal welfare/rights garnered public support to end the tests that alternatives were given the consideration they deserved. Today, we are on the threshold of having viable alternatives for laboratory procedures that kill millions of animals each year. It is up to us to keep the pressure on, and to get government regulators and the public to support the alternatives, which in reality is support for not only humane but better science.

Have a look at how a Research Laboratory looks like....

Click the following link for more sources of information:

VEGAN - The Compassionate Way

What is a vegan?

A vegan is a strict vegetarian who eliminates, as much as possible, all forms of cruelty to animals in the diet and in daily life. Vegans avoid eggs, dairy products, leather, wool, fur, honey, and silk, as well as personal care and household items that contain animal products or are tested on animals. Vegans are against the killing or use of any animal for food, clothing, by-products, scientific experimentation, or entertainment. Vegans differ from vegetarians in that they are also against the cruel practices used in raising animals for eggs, milk and milk products, wool, silk, honey, and scientific experimentation.

Why be a vegan?

The methods of raising livestock have changed in the last few decades. No longer is the majority of the meat and animal products sold in developed countries raised on small farms by farming families. Today's meat, eggs, and dairy products are produced by large agribusinesses in large facilities called factory farms. Tens of thousands of animals are raised at one facility from birth until they are shipped to slaughter. On factory farms, the welfare of individual animals matters little: the profit margin takes into account that some animals will perish during their lives or in transit to the slaughterhouse. This disregard for the welfare of individuals results in gross mistreatment and cruelty to animals. Animals are bred to grow quickly, and they are slaughtered young. They are raised intensively in confined conditions, regardless of how this affects their natural instincts or growth patterns. At the slaughterhouse, animals are treated roughly and inhumanely and killed the same way. Vegans believe that animals are sentient beings whose lives are worth more than just what the market will pay. The idea of sanctity for life also applies to laboratory animals and other animals that are used for human benefit.

How do you pronounce vegan?

Vegan is usually pronounced "vee-gun". The word was invented by Donald Watson in the 1940s.

The vegan diet

Is a vegan diet safe for infants and children?

The American Dietetic Association position paper on the vegetarian diet states that a vegetarian diet can meet all amino acid requirements for growth. To be on the safe side, a vegan diet should be as well planned as any other diet. Because vegan diets are generally lower in fat than the Standard American Diet, parents must be sure that children are getting adequate amounts of fatty acids. Fatty acids are obtained by including in the diet nuts, seeds, olive oil, avocados, and full-fat soy milk.

Like all vegans, infants and children should receive adequate vitamin B12. Meeting the daily need for B12 is especially important for vegan children because they do not have the stores of B12 to draw from that former non-vegans have. Babies should receive their mother's milk for as long as possible and soya milk should be used for very young babies only if they can't be breast fed for some reason.

Will a vegan diet give me enough protein?

Yes; dietary studies have shown that plant foods can easily provide enough protein for vegans of all ages. Some good sources of plant protein are nuts, lentils, beans, peas, grains, and seeds. Virtually all foods, however, contain some protein. The only cases of protein deficiency ever documented in the field of medicine have been cases caused by severe undernourishment and malnutrition (starvation).

Do proteins need to be combined in a vegan diet?

In its 1997 position paper on vegetarian diets, The American Dietetic Association stated that because amino acids from food combine with amino acids made in the human body, it is not necessary to combine proteins at every meal or even every day. If you eat a varied vegan diet containing nuts, vegetables, seeds, legumes, and grains, you will get adequate protein and the necessary amino acids.

What about calcium?

Obtaining enough calcium is not difficult on a vegan diet. There is still a question of just how much calcium is enough for a vegan. Vegan sources of calcium include dark green leafy vegetables, such as kale, collards, mustard greens, and broccoli. Other good sources include okra, cabbage, flax seed, brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pistachios, almonds, soybeans, oats, tofu, rhubarb, papaya, carrots, cauliflower, figs, cassava, parsley, molasses, fortified orange juice, and fortified soy and rice milks. These vegan sources of calcium are as good as or better than dairy products.

What about iron?

In 1997 The American Dietetic Association position paper on vegetarian diets reportedthat vegetarians do not have a higher incidence of iron deficiency than do non-vegetarians. Vegan sources of iron include legumes, dark leafy greens, dried figs, prunes, black strap molasses, nuts, millet, certain whole grains such as quinoa, and acidic foods cooked in cast-iron pans.

Do vegans need to take vitamin B12 supplements?

Vitamin B12 is of special concern to vegans because it is not reliably found in plant sources. Vitamin-enriched foods in a vegan diet can provide enough vitamin B12 to meet daily needs. Vegans can also obtain adequate B12 by taking a supplement. Vitamin B12 is important for correct neurological function; therefore it is important for all vegans - especially vegan infants and children (who do not have stores of B12), pregnant and lactating women, and elderly individuals - to include good sources of B12 in their diets. The body requires only small amounts of B12 and stores this vitamin for slow release, so the signs of deficiency may not become evident for several years in individuals who formerly ate meat or dairy. The best sources are fortified soy/rice milks, fortified nutritional yeast such as Red Star Vegetarian Support Formula (formerly T6635+), fortified cereals, fortified meat analogs, and vegan vitamin supplements.

What about vitamin A?

Vegans do not need to take vitamin A supplements because the body can synthesize the amount necessary to meet daily needs.. Some good sources of vitamin A are green leafy vegetables, red and yellow vegetables, and yellow fruits.

What about vitamin D?

Vitamin D supplementation is not necessary in a vegan diet because the body synthesizes it through exposure to sunlight. Many foods are also fortified with vitamin D. Vitamin D is crucial for calcium absorption, so it is an important part of the diet. If vegans do supplement their diets with vitamin D, they should look for vitamin D2 supplements, which are more likely to be vegan than are vitamin D3 supplements, which may be derived from fish or wool (lanolin). Daily exposure of the face and arms to sunlight, however, will enable vegans to meet their daily needs of vitamin D.

Vegan foods

What is tofu?

Tofu is a solid precipitate of soy milk that is a good source of protein and calcium. The texture of tofu varies from silken to extra firm. There are many recipes that use tofu. The flavor of tofu is very mild and is ideal for absorbing the flavor of other ingredients. Tofu can be an excellent substitute for meat in recipes, and it can be cooked in a variety of forms. It can also be baked, boiled, frozen and thawed (for a chewier texture), and stir fried.

What is tempeh?

Tempeh is a fermented soy product with a chewy texture that is firm and granular. It works well with sauces and condiments, and it is frequently used in recipes to replace meat. Tempeh should be cooked for 15-20 minutes to make it properly digestible. It is a good source of protein.

What is miso?

Miso is a salty, flavorful paste made from fermented soybeans. It is used to make stock for soups and as a flavoring in other foods. The flavor of miso varies--light miso has a less intense flavor than that of dark miso. Dark miso is a perfect substitute for anchovy paste or fish sauce in Caesar salad dressing and Thai recipes. It is best to add miso at the end of cooking, and heat gently without boiling. Miso lasts almost indefinitely if kept refrigerated. When purchasing miso, be sure to check the label: some brands may contain fish stock.

What is TVP?

TVP stands for texturized vegetable protein, a low-fat meat substitute made using soybean flour. The raw dehydrated form can be found in health food stores. Fully rehydrated, ready to eat TVP is also available but must be kept refrigerated or frozen. TVP can be used in sloppy joes, tacos, pasta sauces, and chili, among other things.

What is seitan?

Seitan is a form of wheat gluten made from whole wheat flour that is mixed with water and kneaded. After rinsing and mixing, the starch and some bran is removed, leaving the gluten behind. From this point it can be processed in many ways. The glutinous dough is called kofu after it is boiled in water. Kofu becomes seitan when it is simmered in a stock of tamari soy sauce, kombu sea vegetable, and water. Seitan is often available in "mock meat" flavors. Similar to tofu and tempeh, it is high in protein and low in fat and cholesterol. Seitan is brown and sometimes comes in strips or submerged in liquid in small tubs. It is an excellent meat substitute and can be used in sandwiches, stir fry, sweet and sour seitan, Salisbury seitan, roasts, and barbecue. Vegans can purchase vital wheat gluten and make seitan themselves.

Why meat analogs?

If vegans do not eat meat then why eat something that looks and tastes like it? Vegans eat meat analogs for many reasons. Analogs enable vegans to eat foods that appear similar to those that were familiar to them before they became vegan. Analogs also offer convenient options for meal preparation, are a good source of protein, and are also low in calories, fat, and cholesterol. Meat analogs also help vegans in making the switch from a meat-centered diet to one that is based on plant foods.

Is yeast vegan?

Yeasts are part of the fungi kingdom. They are not animals. Nutritional yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) is different from torula, or brewer's yeast. It is grown on a molasses solution and comes in the form of flakes or powder. It has a cheese-like flavor and can be sprinkled on baked potatoes, popcorn, vegetables, and other foods.

Is imitation cheese vegan?

Most imitation cheeses are not vegan because they contain casein, which is derived from milk. "VeganRella" and "Soymage" are both vegan. When a product label states that a food product is "lactose free," it does not necessarily mean that it is free of dairy by-products. Similarly, if a label says "non-dairy," the food may still contain dairy by-products. Some coffee creamers and whipped toppings, for example, are marked "non-dairy" but contain casein.

Is gelatin vegan?

Gelatin is made from the bones, hooves, and dried skin of horses, cows, and pigs. Most gelatins, including Kosher gelatins, are not vegan. According to Kosher law, gelatin is not considered "meat" because it is too "derivative". Some vegan replacements for gelatin are carrageenan, guar gum, and agar-agar. There are also companies that produce vegan fruit-flavored gelatin substitutes that are sold in natural food stores.

Is honey vegan?

This question is one that causes disagreement among vegans. Honey is a regurgitated syrup processed by a living being for its own nutritional needs and that of its young. Because it is produced by bees, which are living beings, many vegans consider honey an animal product and will not consume it. Another issue for vegans is the production of honey. Bees are almost always killed accidentally during the harvest of honey, and sometimes queens are killed intentionally during honey production. Beekeepers remove the honey from the hives and replace it with a sugar and water mixture, so the emerging young bees have to eat a substitute, in much the same way as do calves , which are given a substitute for cow's milk so that humans can drink it instead.

Is sugar vegan?

The two major types of refined sugar are cane sugar and beet sugar. Some vegans do not use refined sugar because it may be bleached using animal bone charcoal at the end of processing. Beet sugar producers do not use bones in the refining process because dark coloration does not occur. Ion exchange or pressure lead filters are used instead. If you want beet sugar then look for the words "Granulated Sugar" on the label. Bone charcoal is not used in processing all cane sugars but its use is very common. Since the bones are heated to a very high temperature (to change them into carbon), there is a physical change in its structure, leaving no actual bone particles, so it is certified as kosher. The bone charcoal is used to filter the sugar; it does not become a part of the sugar. Florida Crystal and Jack Frost are two cane sugars available in the USA that do not use bone charcoal for processing.

"Raw" sugar, also called turbinado sugar, is vegan. Although it undergoes some refining, it is not bleached. True raw sugars cannot be bought in most countries. Brown sugar is refined sugar with molasses added. If beets are used to obtain the raw sugar, it is vegan; if cane sugar is used, then bone charcoal filters may have been used in the processing. Powdered sugar (sugar mixed with corn starch) may or may not have been produced using bone charcoal.

The major source of the bones used to make bone charcoal filters comes from cattle from Afghanistan, Argentina, India, and Pakistan. After the marrow is scraped from the bones to make gelatin, the bones are used in the bleaching of sugar.

Is molasses vegan?

Molasses is a by-product of the sugar industry. It is made exclusively using cane sugar that has not been treated with a bone charcoal filter, because the manufacturers want to keep the brown color.

Is maple syrup vegan?

Maple syrup is another sweetener whose manufacture is of concern to vegans. In order to reduce the foam on the syrup during its production, a small amount of fat (approximately 1 teaspoon per 35 gallons of syrup) is added to the liquid. A small amount of fat may remain in the end product. The fat may be animal derived, but it can also come from vegetable oil. Synthetic defoamers that are animal derived are also in use. It is not easy to determine which brands are made using animal fat. If they are Kosher certified they are probably made without animal defoamers. Contact the manufacturer to be sure about the processing.

Fruits and vegetables are vegan, right?

Some fruits and vegetables are not vegan because they are coated with shellac, a resin made using the bodies of insects. Other vegetables are coated with a wax that may or may not be vegan. Many vegetable suppliers use methods other than waxing to get a shiny look. The most reliable way to be sure of buying a fruit or vegetable has not been coated with wax or resin is to purchase organic produce.

Are breakfast cereals vegan?

Vegans should check the labels on breakfast cereals before purchasing them. Ingredients to look for include vitamin D3, which is often derived from fish or wool (lanolin). Many cereals contain gelatin and whey. Sugar is also a common ingredient in cereals. Many vegan cereals contain only grains and bran. These can be livened up using fresh or dried fruit or vegan sweeteners.

Is bread vegan?

Commercial breads can contain non-vegan ingredients, including whey, honey, shortening (some labels specify vegetable shortening, which is vegan), milk, and eggs. Sodium stearyl lactylate, glycerides, emulsifiers, natural flavor, mono- and diglycerides, glycerides, emulsifiers, artificial flavor, and lactase are just a few of the ingredients that, although not in every case necessarily animal-derived, should be considered non-vegan. Some bakeries grease the bread pans with animal fat. Be sure to ask before purchasing. Many vegans make their own bread from scratch, sometimes using a bread machine. This allows vegans to make vegan bread for a fraction of the cost of commercial brands.

Are potato chips, corn chips, and tortilla chips vegan?

Most of the plain chips are vegan, whereas most flavored types are not. Check the list of ingredients carefully before purchasing.

Are wines and liquors vegan?

To clear wine after fermentation, some of these ingredients are used: casein and potassium caseinate (milk proteins), edible gelatins (made from bones), animal albumin (egg albumin and dried blood powder). Isinglass (from fish) is commonly used to clarify wine. There are some vegan wines on the market. It is difficult to tell which liquors are vegan and which are not.

What is cochineal/carmine?

Cochineal/carmine is a food coloring used in a variety of foods, including juice. It is also used in red cosmetics, for example, lipsticks. The dried bodies of the female Mexican beetles called Dactylopius cossus are what gives cochineal its color. Billions of these insects are raised and killed each year for their coloring. Cochineal/carmine is frequently listed only as "natural color."

Is breast-feeding vegan?

Yes. No animal is exploited, killed, or harmed during breast-feeding, and nature intends for all animals to consume their mother's milk. If breast-feeding is not possible or if weaning is necessary before age two years, a vegan baby formula should be used. After age two, fortified full-fat soy milk is fine. At that time, rice milk is okay as an occasional change, but it does not contain enough protein and fat to meet a toddler's requirements.

Animal rights issues and veganism

What is wrong with eggs?

Vegans avoid eggs because egg production results in inhumane conditions in which laying hens live, the eventual deaths of laying hens after their egg production declines, and the deaths of millions of male chicks each year because they are useless to the industry.

The majority of eggs produced in the developed countries are laId by hens confined in small cages called battery cages, which are usually stacked in sheds holding tens of thousands of chickens, usually four to six to a cage. The hens' instincts are thoroughly thwarted, and because they are unable to build nests or establish a pecking order, their beaks are severely trimmed soon after birth, a painful procedure called debeaking, to prevent them from killing each other and to save costs (since debeaked birds fling less food as they eat). Debeaking cuts the birds' beaks off close to the face. A hot machine blade cuts through the horn and bone of the beak, also severing a layer of sensitive tissue between the horn and the bone. This layer of tissue resembles the quick of a human fingernail. Debeaking causes severe and chronic pain in chickens that resembles the phantom limb pain of amputees. Many birds have difficulty eating and drinking as a result of debeaking; many do not survive the procedure.

Laying hens are forced to spend their entire lives in these small cages without any exercise and they are slaughtered when their production declines. Light is the signal to the hen to begin the process of egg production, so factory farms keep the lights on for approximately 16 hours each day to increase egg production. The high level of production drains the hens' bodies of calcium, making their skeletons fragile and causing many broken bones when they are manually removed from their cages and trucked to slaughter.

The male chicks (excluding a very few kept for reproduction purposes) are separated from the females soon after birth. They do not lay eggs but are not engineered to be useful for meat: they are essentially useless to the industry. Therefore, they are placed into plastic bags and left to suffocate or thrown alive into a mulcher to be made into fertilizer or food for chickens and other farm animals.

Although chickens do not need to be killed to obtain eggs, all chickens are eventually killed when their production declines and they are no longer profitable to feed and shelter. There are no humane standards for the slaughter of poultry in the USA -- they live inhumanely, and their deaths are excruciating and agonizing.

Are free-range eggs an alternative for vegans?

Many of the problems of battery-farmed eggs are shared by free-range (also called cage-free) eggs. The male chicks are killed just as they are in the intensive egg industry. Male birds that are allowed to live are slaughtered when they reach a certain size. Hens are also slaughtered when their production declines. The USDA definition of "free-range" is so wide and vague that many free-range eggs are still produced under conditions just as crowded and stressful as battery cages. Free-range eggs are not an alternative for vegans: their production causes as much death and often the same amount of suffering as does that of battery eggs.

What is wrong with dairy products?

The problem with dairy products is threefold:

First, cows must now produce more and more milk each year to meet demand, requiring the use of hormones in some cases and high-production feed (instead of grazing). Second, once production declines, all female cows are slaughtered for meat; and third, calves are separated from their mothers soon after birth and kept in intensively confined conditions for veal production.

Without human intervention calf would suckle for close to a year. The unhealthy calves are sent to market to be slaughtered for veal, for pet food, or rennet (the fourth lining of the stomachs of an unweaned baby calf) which is used to coagulate milk into cheese. Some are at market at less then two weeks of age for rearing as beef in small pens to be fattened up and slaughtered around eleven months. Most never see a pasture in their short lives. Most beef production is a by-product of the dairy industry and not the other way around. Many calves die before they are three months old, largely due to neglect and to the treatment they receive at market. Some females are reared on milk substitutes so that they can become milk cows to replace those that slow down on their milk production. The males do not fare any better. The majority will be reared for veal and many will spend their brief, tortured lives in two foot by five foot pens without anything on the floor except wooden slats. They do not even have straw to lie on. They are unable to turn around or to groom themselves. Instead of getting their mothers' milk, they receive a milk substitute gruel which is calculated to make them anemic in order to give their flesh its light color. The lack of exercise contributes to the tenderness of veal.

Many cows are kept indoors for their entire lives, fed food to induce high production, and milked by machine. These conditions often cause infections and mastitis. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) standards for milk allow a certain amount of blood and pus to be present in milk. With their calves taken away from them after only a few days and their bodies pushed to the limit by repeated pregnancies and the production of far more milk than they would need to feed their young, female cows suffer on factory farms. After their production declines (usually after less than 6 years, or less than a quarter of their normal life span), they are sent to slaughter. Much of the ground beef sold in markets comes from "spent" dairy cows.

Like chickens, dairy cows do not need to be killed to harvest their bodily products. The male offspring, however, are killed prematurely and suffer intensely during their short lives. Eventually, the milk producers are also killed, so acquiring dairy is not a process that is free of the death associated with meat. Dairy production is at least as harmful to animals as is the production of meat.

What is wrong with leather?

One of the byproducts of slaughterhouses is leather. Even though there is not a direct contribution to the killing of animals, there is still the increased revenue to the slaughterhouses, and leather sales are a significant part of their annual profits. Some leather is from animals that are grown for the specific purpose of using their skins. From an ecological standpoint, turning hides into leather is energy intensive and polluting to the environment. It involves soaking, tanning, dyeing, drying, and finishing. Most leather produced in the USA is chrome tanned. All waste containing chromium is considered hazardous by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Other pollutants result from the processing of leather goods. Health risks are associated with these pollutants.

What is wrong with down?

Countries such as China, Hungary, and Poland use a process known as live-plucking to get more than half of their yearly supply of feathers. With this process, geese that are being raised for meat are lifted by their necks, have their legs tied, and have their feathers ripped out. Often the terrified birds are injured. This process starts at around eight weeks of age and continues about every eight weeks until the geese are slaughtered for meat. Some geese are killed before they are plucked. The purchase of down causes extreme pain to the birds and is also a profitable by-product of meat production.

What is wrong with silk?

Silk is produced by silkworms. Silk is a monofilament that can be reeled off as one continuous thread if the cocoon is not damaged by the emerging moth. Silk can also be produced by spinning the threads from the empty cocoons after the moths have emerged, but this produces a coarser grade of silk. To get the longer silk threads, cocoons are boiled with the living moth larvae inside. When silkworms are boiled alive they show signs of pain by twisting and turning while recoiling. Many vegans do not wear silk because it is a fabric produced by living beings.

What is wrong with wool?

Sheep in nature grow just enough wool to protect themselves from the cold weather. Sheep raised for wool in Australia, however, are bred to have huge wrinkles so they produce more wool. The additional weight from the wool causes misery during the summer months. Many die from heat exhaustion. In the winter about one million sheep die in Australia each year from exposure if the temperatures drop after shearing. The wrinkles in the skin also make sheep susceptible to fly strikes on certain parts of the body. To prevent this, the coat and skin are cut away from around the sheep's anus without anesthesia, a procedure called mulesing. Another painful procedure is castration, which is also performed on male sheep without anesthesia.

Another problem is mass production requirements. Sheep shearers are paid by the sheep, not by the hour, so they shear at a fast pace. Many sheep emerge from shearing with painful and severe cuts and abrasions. Some die as a result of their injuries because they do not receive individual attention for infection and illness at large-scale facilities. They are also handled roughly if they do not cooperate during shearing.

What about insects and sea animals?

The ability of insects and some sea animals to suffer and feel pain is highly debated. Some crustaceans, for example lobsters, have highly developed nervous systems and it is likely that they can feel painful stimulus. Insects and smaller crustaceans may not, but if we do not have to kill insects and sea animals to eat, then we should refrain from doing so. This is not to suggest that we allow our homes or gardens to be over-run by insects, but vegans try to be as humane as possible and lessen the pain that these animals may in fact feel.

Alternatives to coloring derived from insects are already in use. Many of these colorings come from non-animal or vegetable sources. There are many safe vegetable-based dyes and food colorings. Henna is an example of a vegetable-based hair dye.

Vegan living

What do vegans do about cleaning and personal hygiene items?

Many cleaning and personal hygiene products contain animal ingredients or are tested on animals for "safety". Products that are made without animal by-products but are tested on animals are avoided by vegans because of the pain and suffering involved in the testing. Many companies are now producing animal-free products that are not tested on animals. These products can be found in natural food stores. Some mainstream companies are also signing agreements to stop testing on animals, and the UK recently outlawed cosmetic testing on animals, so it is likely that low-priced alternatives to animal-tested cosmetics will soon be available. Vegans do their part in reducing these practices by purchasing cleaning and personal hygiene items whose manufacturers state that they are free from animal derivatives and not tested on animals. It is important that a product states that neither the product nor its ingredients have been tested on animals, and, ideally, vegans should purchase products from companies which have stopped using new ingredients - their labels may give the cut-off date - because the majority of animal testing takes place for newly developed ingredients.

Can a companion cat or dog live on a vegan diet?

Yes. A vegan diet is a desirable way for companion cats and dogs to be fed: it is a healthier diet for them just as it is for humans. Furthermore, the "pet" food industry creates the same environmental damage, cruelty, waste, exploitation, and killing that is created by the meat, egg, and dairy industries. Animals that are sent for rendering (processing into cat and dog food) suffer even more than those which are slaughtered for human consumption. Their value is so low that humane treatment is more costly than the industry deems worthy.

Switching cats and dogs to a vegan diet is questioned by many who consider it unfair to remove an animal from its "natural" carnivorous diet. In truth, dogs are omnivores which can switch to a vegan diet without any additional supplementation. Cats, although natural carnivores, can also thrive on a vegan diet if supplemented by pre-formed vitamin A, arachidonic acid, and taurine, an amino acid that cats derive from meat. All vegan cat foods must contain these three ingredients.

It is no more unnatural for your companion animal to eat a vegan diet than it is for it to eat any other food. Commercial dog and cat foods are nothing like what dogs and cats would eat in the wild. In addition, domesticated dogs or cats are nothing like their wild cousins, so already we have developed an artificial environment. Feeding companion animals from cans is just as unnatural as feeding them vegan food. Vegans do not want to kill many animals so one other animal can live.

Are vegan egg substitutes available?

Any of the following can be substituted for an egg:

* one-half of a banana, mashed;
* two ounces of mashed potatoes;
* two ounces of nut butters;
* two ounces of mashed beans;
* one-fourth cup of applesauce;
* one-fourth cup of pureed fruit;
* two ounces of soft tofu blended with some water;
* one teaspoon of soy flour mixed with one tablespoon of water;
* one tablespoon of flax seeds blended well with three tablespoons of water. (This mixture can also be boiled until it develops the desired consistency). Flax seeds should be stored in the freezer, as they can become rancid at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

Another egg substitute is Ener-G Egg Replacer, a commercial egg replacer made of potato starch, tapioca flour, leavening agents (calcium lactate [vegan], calcium carbonate, and citric acid) and a gum derived from cottonseed.

Different egg replacers work well for different recipes. You just need to experiment a bit, read vegan recipes books (lots of material also available online) and ask other vegans what works in a particular recipe.

Are vegan milk and dairy alternatives available?

Vegans have a wide selection of alternatives to dairy products. Soy and rice milks can be substituted cup for cup for milk in recipes. Frozen non dairy desserts are also available and new vegan cheeses are being developed and perfected.

Closing thoughts

Becoming vegan may seem frustrating after reading this long list but no one says that a vegan has to be 100 per cent vegan. A person whose diet is 95 per cent vegan is doing much more for the animals than someone who continues to eat meat and dairy. If you read labels and avoid obvious non-vegan ingredients, you have gone a long way towards eliminating the suffering of animals.

Many vegans were once meat-eaters. Some people become vegan overnight and others make a more gradual transition, but all are doing their best and inevitably there will be some areas that give rise to controversy and to disagreement; but the most important thing is that everyone who takes even one step, however small, to avoid using animal products is helping to prevent animal suffering.

Not buying wool, silk, honey, commercial cat and dog foods, and especially leather, makes a significant difference. Reading the fine print for minor ingredients does something, but less, to eliminate the suffering of animals. All those minor ingredients would change to non-animal if there was no animal industry. The sale of those ingredients does not support the animal industry. They are simply available as cheap ingredients because animals are already being slaughtered on a large scale for meat. Most of the people who do not consume those ingredients simply cannot bear to consume anything of animal origin.

If at all possible, help those companies that make a commitment to veganism by purchasing their goods whenever you have a choice.
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