Veganissimo is also the basis for the book “Veganissimo A to Z: A Comprehensive Guide to Identifying and Avoiding Ingredients of Animal Origin in Everyday Products,” by vegan authors Lars Thomsen and Reuben Proctor.
The book has information on animal-derived ingredients contained in food and other products—such as diet supplements, medicine, cosmetics, cleaning products, clothes, sporting goods, art supplies and electronics.
Going meatless is one thing, but a true vegetarian or vegan is someone who eats no animal or dairy products at all and who avoids using animal products entirely.
If you’re striving for a 100 percent vegan lifestyle, this guide reveals the sources, production and uses of over 2,500 ingredients.
NPR’s Eliza Barclay claims the book’s authors reveal the surprising amount of animal in many of those pills in your medicine cabinet. And that can present vegans with a serious dilemma, staking their health up against lofty ideals.
“Medicine is one of the more difficult products for vegans to avoid, especially if something is life-threatening,” Proctor tells Shots, the online channel for health stories from the NPR Science Desk.
“How far are you prepared to go for your own convictions?”
Proctor claims the most common animal derivative in the medicine cabinet is lactose, which is used as a carrier, stabilizer or to add bulk. And gelatin, derived from the skin and bone of cattle and pigs, is contained in many capsules, pills and tablets.
“Your pills might also be bound with insect-based shellac or magnesium stearate, a substance based on fatty acids that can come from animals. And if pills have a pinkish or reddish tint, it could be from cochineal, or carmine, a red dye made from crushed insects.”
According to Proctor, vegans should also be concerned about active ingredients in other drugs like insulin, anticoagulents like heparin, amino acid infusions, and hormone preparations.
“Finding vegan alternatives to such products can sometimes be very difficult, or even entirely unsuccessful,” he writes.
Barclay notes Proctor’s cunning when he had to go into surgery last year; because when he learned that he would need heparin, an anticoagulant made from the intestinal mucous membranes of pigs, he asked whether he could use fondaparinux, a synthetic substitute, instead.
His doctor told him the substitution was technically possible, but it would also increase the risk of hemorrhage.
“So I had to make a compromise and use the animal anticoagulant for 24 hours,” he says. “I did not like it all, but it was a question of life or death.”
Though Proctor says there are many more vegan food and cosmetics products on the market these days, selling companies on vegan medicine is a real challenge.
“I doubt the pharmaceutical industry is interested,” he says. “They have a totally different paradigm. They don’t have qualms about using animals for testing or in products.”