Is it possible to be vegan in a world which is now totally dependent on truly useless things made from animals? I asked myself this question when handed a toothpick on an airline meal. To think that a living, breathing, magnificent tree, lord of the rain, home to thousands of other beings, has been chopped to gouge out waste from my teeth, makes me very sick.
Every vegetarian is careful about checking that their food does not contain any animal products. Some will not even eat in restaurants where meat is served. However, we fail to look at the other ways in which we are eating and using animal products in our daily lives.
For instance, the company Vanras has100 per cent vegetarian stamped below its plates (as against bone china plates made from bone)! Ever thought about checking a shampoo bottle for a ‘100 per cent vegetarian’ stamp?
Animal glands and organs are frequently found in daily-use products. These include endocrine glands, brains, livers, lungs, pituitary glands, pancreas, stomachs, kidneys, ovaries.
Brains, nervous systems and spinal cords are a source of cholesterol. These are used as emulsifiers in cosmetics and for the synthesis of vitamin D3. Duodenum substances, taken from the digestive tracts of cows and pigs, are added to vitamin tablets and some medicines.
The ovaries of pregnant sows are a source of extracting progesterone and estrogen to treat reproduction related problems in women. Heparin, which is used to thin blood and delay clotting during surgery or transplants, is extracted from the liver, lungs and lining of the small intestines of pigs and cattle. Insulin, used for diabetes injections, is taken from the pancreas of pigs and cows.
According to the Diabetes Forecast magazine more than two tonnes of pig pancreas were needed to extract eight ounces of purified insulin. Prednisone and cortisone are extracted from animal bile produced by the gall bladder.
Ground liver from cows, pigs is mixed with acidified hot water and turned into liver extract which is used by the pharmaceutical industry as a source of Vitamin B 12 and a nutritional supplement. Glucogen, extracted from the pancreas, is used to increase blood sugar in alcoholics.
Melatonin, extracted from animal pineal glands, is being evaluated for the treatment of insomnia. Bile, from cattle and pigs, is sold either dry or in liquid form and is used for the treatment of indigestion, constipation and liver disorders. The list is endless. Adrenaline is made from the adrenal glands of pigs, cattle and sheep. Hyaluronic, acid used in cosmetics, comes from the fluids round animal joints.
Even the perfume industry uses animal organs. Musk, which forms the essence of high end perfumes, is made from the musk pouch of the Himalayan Musk Deer. The deer is killed and the dried gland is cut into small pieces and soaked in alcohol.
Castoreum is a paste that is taken from a gland found between the pelvis and tail of a killed beaver. In perfumery, castoreum has been used as the leather scent, evocative of fine leather upholstery, or in classic leather-themed perfumes. So, when the upholstery of your new Mercedes smells of leather, it may be a dead beaver’s glands.
The anal glands of the African civet cat give out a rich smelling secretion when it is beaten, so the animals are caged and brutalised for years by perfume manufacturers. These days civet paste from farmed animals in Ethiopia is imported into Europe and the United States, traditionally shipped in the horns of zebu cattle.
Each dried horn holds about five hundred grams of paste, the amount one civet can produce over a period of about four years. In India, I caught the priests of Tirupati temple holding civets illegally in cages, beating them to extract paste which was sold to devotees for more than Rs 500 to put on the Devi. Ambergris comes from the digestive system of the sperm whale and is used as a fixative for perfumes. Though it is illegal, many whales are murdered for it.
Many moisturisers contain cerebrosides and arachidonic acid. Cerebrosides are fatty acids and sugars found in the covering of nerves and brain tissue of animals. Arachidonic acid is found in the liver, brain, glands and fat, of animals and used in skin creams. Lecithin, from animal tissues, is used in lipsticks, eye creams, hand creams, lotions, soaps, shampoos and other cosmetics.
Oleic Acid, taken from animal fats and oils, is used in the production of nail polish, soap, creams, lipsticks, permanent wave solutions and a number of skin products. You may have read/heard the names keratin and provitamin B-5 in a number of shampoo and conditioner advertisements – both come from animals. Keratin is a protein that comes from the ground-up horns, hooves, feathers, quills and hair of various animals. Oleyl alcohol is extracted from fish and used for softening fabrics and as a detergent,
Shark liver oil, known as squalene, is used in lubricating cream, lotion, lip balm, sunscreen and hair dye. Collagen, taken from the cells of fish, is used in a number of anti-aging creams and masks. Even animal placenta is widely used to make skin creams, shampoos and face masks.
Chitosan, extracted from shrimp and crabs, has a wide range of applications in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries as a preservative. Rennet, which is extracted from the inside of a goat, calf or sheep’s stomach, is used to make cheese. Lipase, from the tongue glands of calves, kids and lambs, is used for the same thing and in cosmetics. So is pepsin which comes from a pig’s stomach.
Knowledge is needed before one can stop being a predator on this planet. When something is advertised as “natural sources” it usually means animal sources.
To join the animal welfare movement contact [email protected], www.peopleforanimalsindia.org