Everyday Products Made From Dead Animals

6 min read
Everyday Products

Some of us carnivores just love to give vegetarians and vegans a hard time. It’s not meant to be personal. And you don’t have to be a hardcore vegan or vegetarian to be unnerved that there are dead animal bits in innocent-looking stuff.

There are products you expect to be made out of animals, like meat or milk. In fact, you’d probably feel ripped off if you bought a regular burger and they gave you a tofu patty with twig cheese and compost bacon. As it turns out, you’re much more likely to be in the opposite situation – enjoying some everyday item, well, every day, completely unaware that it’s actually made from formerly alive creatures.

Beer, Wine, And Orange Juice Can Be A Little Fishy

Beer Wine

There’s no other way to put it: You might find the following information a tad crappy. Specifically, we’re talking about isinglass, a gelatinous substance made from the swim bladders of freshwater fish (like sturgeons). It’s traditionally used in beer and wine-making as a filter to make the finished products look clearer, thus giving our brewskis that alluring, piss-like look we’ve grown accustomed to.

Tossed in with other ingredients, isinglass collects floating particles and congeals into a lump in the bottom of the vat or barrel, where it’s easy to remove. Plenty of breweries big and small have eliminated this fish byproduct from their manufacturing, but others can’t be bothered (Guinness said it would go vegan in 2015, but apparently hasn’t gotten around to it yet). Admittedly, since the isinglass is removed from the beer or wine before bottling, only minute quantities of fish bladder could ever make it into your actual beverage. But still, it was once there and now (thanks to us) you’ll never be able to forget it.

Another favorite drink that incorporates fish is Tropicana’s “Healthy Heart” orange juice, which contains omega-3 acids … as well as sardines, anchovies, and tilapia. The idea is to give consumers the benefits of fish without them actually having to eat any. This is fine and good, unless you happen to be allergic to fish or a vegetarian who didn’t stop to check whether their glass of OJ contained something other than, you know, orange juice.

Most Tattoo Ink Is Made Of Incinerated Animal Bones

Tattoo Ink

You only need to browse the veggie section at your local supermarket for a few minutes to notice that the Venn diagram between “avid vegetarian” and “tattoo enthusiast” is pretty close to a circle. Well, if you’re against harming animals and never gave much thought to where that ink adorning your body came from, prepare to hate us, and yourself. Or, if you’re just the queasy type, just stop here.

Unless you went out of your way to get a vegan tattoo, that ink almost certainly contains the charred bones of dead animals. That’s what gives it that crisp, appropriately death-metal-esque blackness. Also, animal fat is commonly used as an ink stabilizer, while gelatin made out of animal hooves serves as a binding agent. We’re guessing those hooves weren’t volunteered by their original owners.

Some inks use resin from shellac beetles for binding, which might be less horrible in the vegan/vegetarian sense, but is still skin-crawlingly gross. Fortunately, vegan tattoo inks do exist, but according to The Atlantic, “outside veggie hotspots like New York City, Portland, and Los Angeles, they can be hard to find.” We’re gonna assume all the cool kids with vegan tattoos knew this and carefully vetted their ink, lest they become a living, breathing example of irony.

Chewing Gum Is Loaded with Sheep Grease

Bubble Gum

Cosmetics contain a particularly gross substance called lanolin. Worse, it’s not just an ingredient in stuff you rub on your skin. It’s also in chewing gum. Just to be safe, you should probably spit out any gum you happen to be chewing before we continue.

What could possibly be so gross? Lanolin is gunk that’s “naturally produced by the sebaceous glands in sheep’s skin” and ends up all over their wool, “coating the fibers with a protective, waxy sheath.” Translation: it’s sheep sweat, and it’s pretty gnarly.

To get lanolin from wool the old-school way, you boil it and wait for the fat to rise to the top. More modern methods include pressing the oil out with rollers or spinning it in a centrifuge. Regardless of the extraction method, the end result is a nice tub of “wool fat” that you’ll want to pop straight into your mouth and chew, right?

Most gum brands don’t list lanolin as an ingredient by name, because it’s one of several that comprise the innocuous-sounding “gum base.” Also, note that while some companies claim that lanolin is “cruelty free,” many vegans and vegetarians consider it unethical because it supports the “inherently cruel” wool farming industry. You know, in case the “chewing on a sheep’s body oil” part wasn’t enough for you.

Your Laundry Is Filled With Silky Soft Animal Fat

Fabric Softener

What possible beef could we possibly have with fabric softener? It’s funny you ask, because it probably contains some.

Dryer sheets and fabric softeners work by coating laundry with a film that makes it soft to the touch, static-free, and springtime fresh. A crucial but rarely advertised component in the softening process is tallow, which is made from “rendered fat from cattle, sheep, and horses.” So your dryer sheet is more like dryer sheep.

This coating continues to build up on your laundry over time, slowly covering your undies, towels, and everything else in particles of animal fat. In fact, that’s exactly what makes the fabric so soft. When you squeeze a freshly dried towel, you’re basically grabbing onto some Frankenstein-ey, multi-animal love handles. But hey, at least now you know why your cat is so obsessed with clean laundry.

So what are your non-animal choices for softening clothes? In several articles whose publishing dates we double-checked to make sure it wasn’t April 1st, experts recommend doing your laundry with vinegar. Just remember to add it as the water is filling or already full, or you’ll go from repulsing your salad-loving friends to risking being eaten by them.

In Some Countries, Money Is Lubed Up With Animal Fat

Currency Notes

You know all that hard-earned money you’re spending on vegan and cruelty-free products? Well, uh, might wanna start looking up places that still use the barter system. Turns out, quite a few countries’ money now contains tallow, which, again, is a type of rendered animal fat. You may never hold a fat wad of bills, but on the bright side, a wad of fat bills is probably doable.

The culprits are polymer banknotes, which are more durable than other types of foldable currency and are much harder to counterfeit. On the one hand, polymer notes should have a lesser environmental impact in the long term, since they last longer than paper bills. On the other hand, those with ethical or religious reasons for avoiding animal products are kinda stuck.

So, which countries have embraced this type of pork barrel spending? Lots. The UK, Canada, Australia, Mexico, Malaysia, Nigeria, Chile, and at least 17 other nations have opted for plastic over paper. Since Britain unveiled their five-pound polymer note in 2016, some 135,000 people have signed an online petition demanding the removal of all animal products from currency. A representative from the company that supplies the polymer said they only recently found out about the issue and are trying to find a non-murder alternative, but “that will take time.” In the meantime, we can only assume that British credit card companies are having their best year ever thanks to Whole Foods’ UK branch alone.

There May Be Dairy In Your Condoms

Given their wholly un-creative name, it’s not a surprise that lambskin condoms are made of sheep intestines. Consequently, we’re guessing they don’t make their way into the beds of many vegetarians. What they probably don’t know is that the latex love gloves they’re using aren’t exactly cruelty-free.

Most latex condoms contain something called casein – a dairy protein commonly added to items as diverse as cheese, toothpaste, glue, and paint. Since the feeling of raw rubber on your skin wouldn’t be very sensual, casein and other substances are used to make the latex more smooth and thing-friendly. Some condom manufacturers also throw in some milk powder for good measure.

Fortunately, there are some condoms on the market that are free from all animal-derived substances, so vegans can breathe easy knowing that the only “biological material” in their genital raincoats is their own. But what if you’re one of those people who avoid milk products for less humanitarian, more “not getting the runs” reasons? Well, according to one doctor, there’s a very small chance that the casein could trigger an allergic reaction in someone who is lactose intolerant (but she’s never seen it). So if your partner doesn’t have an orgasm, feel free to tell yourself that that’s totally the reason why.