Vegan beer?

I heart vegan beer -- Herbivore Clothing CompanyI went to an amazing vegan beer and food festival a couple weeks ago. I’ve found that people get the food part. No meat: check. No eggs: check. No dairy: check. But beer? How can you have beer that isn’t vegan?

The fact is, there are many non-vegan products and ingredients that are often used in the production of beer. And wine — but that’s a separate post; we’ll stick with beer. A few of the most common?

  1. Fish bladder
  2. Gelatin, from the skin, connective tissue, and bones of animals
  3. Charcoal, a portion of which is usually produced from animal bones
  4. Insects, made into dyes and used for coloring
  5. Pepsin, used to control foam and sometimes derived from pork
  6. White sugar, often whitened using animal bone charcoal
  7. Water soluble protein; the most common type in brewing is serum albumin, which is taken from animal blood
  8. Lactose – Beers labeled as sweet, milk, or cream stouts may or may not contain lactose. Sometimes the description refers to the texture and not the ingredient. It’s best to double check these to be sure.

See more at:

Social justice + ethical eating and living

The following is adapted from an email I sent to a friend in an exchange this week around veganism and its relationship to other forms of social justice work.


My partner and I have had a lot of conversations about the many considerations when it comes to diet, food justice, culture, social justice, etc. I’ll admit, it’s very hard for me to talk about it without my passion for the cause and my impatience in the face of the unfathomable numbers of animals killed every day coming into play.

For me, veganism is no more a diet than abstaining from other forms of violence and oppression should be considered a personal preference or hobby.

It’s also hard to talk about it without making comparisons that make a lot of people very uncomfortable. Which is why I try to take my cues from Vegans of Color, Sistah Vegan, Christopher Sebastian McJetters and other people of color. As well as from food justice groups and groups like Vegans United Against ALL Oppression. I know these are folks who have either lived it or studied and thought long and hard about it. Right now I’m reading the book Circles of Compassion: Connecting Issues of Justice. It’s at once beautiful, inspiring — and terribly depressing.

I’ve lost all ability to overlook and privilege one form of oppression and violence by one group against another — no matter what the reason. And no matter how long it’s been going on and no matter how deeply it may have become embedded in a culture. Even in cases where that oppression and violence is considered core to that culture. There are stories in the news everyday about atrocities committed against marginalized populations around the world (including in the US) in the name of culture, tradition, religion, fear, security, etc. In some ways, I find it even more reprehensible when it comes to animals because they can’t speak up, they can’t organize and they usually can’t escape. And the sheer scale of it and the fact it’s largely an accepted practice makes it that much more horrifying for me.

All that said, I spent most of my life eating animals, as well as eating / using the products of animal suffering (eggs, dairy, leather, products tested on animals, etc.). I’ve been eating a mostly plants-based diet since mid-2012, but only awakened to what it truly means to be vegan — and committed to that, no exceptions — in the fall of 2014. It’s a journey for everyone and I want to respect that. But it’s hard as hell sometimes given what I now know the “average American diet” is doing to our health, our healthsickcare system, our economy and the planet. And, as is always the case, the poor and the marginalized suffer the worst of the devastation caused by the gluttony of those more privileged.

Take the Veganuary challenge!

Have you heard about the Veganuary challenge? My partner’s mom and brother have already taken the challenge and we’re hoping to get a few more friends and family to take up the challenge, as well.

Their site is beautiful and features one of the most elegant, comprehensive resources I’ve seen debunking myths about veganism.  I’m going to bookmark it as a reference.

From the site:

Veganism is the biggest social justice movement in the world today. With the aim of reducing the suffering of animals, Veganuary seeks to inspire people from across the globe to try vegan for the month of January. Be part of something that crosses borders and unites hearts. Our participants come from all over the world, so use this website to connect with like minds, and find support regardless of where you call home.

It would be nice if a slick website and well-packaged messaging weren’t necessary to help people understand why imprisoning, torturing, using and slaughtering animls is wrong, but I’m all for it if it helps to get the message out more broadly and inspires more people to give cruelty-free, healthy living a try.

Vegan Wine and John Salley

I was surprised to learn more than a year after upgrading to veganism that not all wine is vegan. In fact, a lot of it isn’t. And much of it isn’t even vegetarian! Just because a wine is organic doesn’t mean it’s vegan — and vice versa.

Many winemakers use animal products for a process called fining — capturing sediment from the wine. Some ingredients used for this purpose include (from

  • Isinglass (from fish bladders)
  • Gelatin (from boiled cow or pig body parts)
  • Albumin (egg whites)
  • Casein (animal milk protein)

I know, right? I was pretty blown away. Another ingredient sometimes used is chitin (lobster and crab shells). More shockingly, an article in says that “while it’s illegal in both France and the United States, some wine producers will even use bull’s blood to fine their wines.”

Since winemakers fail to disclose their ingredients and the materials used in the making of their wines, we have to turn to other resources to find out which wines are truly vegan. Fortunately, there are a couple good options:


Please let me know if you find any others!

On a side note, on the page where I found this information, there is a video featuring John Salley, who has invested in a vegan wine producer. He’s a retired NBA player and has appeared in several TV shows and movies. And he’s a vegan badass. In August 2013, ESPN featured an interview with him, talking with him about being vegan in the NBA.

The Fetishization of Animal Abuse & Killing

What does it say about our society that there seems to be, at least in Portland, Oregon, an increasingly visible and accepted fetishization of the torture, killing and eating of animals?

Portland Monthly magazine published a piece in November on how to eat your way through Portland’s restaurant scene in seven days. One sentence sums it up — and yes, these are the actual words Kelly Clarke, the author of the piece, chose:

Savor the bloody, beating heart of Portland’s food renaissance: Le Pigeon, where Gabriel Rucker wows neighbors and James Beard judges alike with wildly imaginative, no-holds-barred flavor assaults on the animal kingdom.

I wonder if it even occurred to Clarke — or the Portland Monthly editors — how utterly horrific and disgusting that sentiment is? However poorly written and devoid of taste, there’s some truth to her point that recent growth in the Portland culinary scene seems to have a strong theme of animal exploitation, abuse and killing.

Many chefs in Portland seem to be trying to distract from their lack of creativity (not to mention ethics and concern for their customers’ health) by turning their restaurants into little more than grisly circus side shows. Finding new ways to slaughter, slice up and get people to eat either exotic animals or exotic parts of the same types of animals they’ve been slaughtering for years passes as innovation. In the current era where we know the damage that eating meat and dairy does to our health, not to mention the environment and the animals, it’s a professional cop out and a morally reprehensible thing to do. But apparently the public is still voting for more of it.

In many cases, the name says it all: Lardo. Ox. Le Pigeon. Roe. Little Bird Bistro. Roost. Beast. Aviary. Le Pigeon alone manages to serve up dead cows, crabs, ducks, mackerals, foie gras, baby cows, baby sheep, and pigs. And that’s just this week. And hey, if you want to sell your soul and turn your own kitchen into a circus slaughterhouse, you can get their cookbook: le pigeon: cooking at the dirty bird.

The science is in: humans do not require meat to be healthy, let alone to survive. In fact, consuming meat, dairy and eggs is one of the top contributors to chronic diseases that dramatically reduce our quality of life and eventually kill us. So that means we’re needlessly torturing and killing more than 56 billion farmed animals every year for the sheer pleasure of doing so. (See:

More than 3,000 animals die every second in slaughterhouses around the world. I don’t even know if I can process the blood-soaked reality of that. Think of every pet you’ve ever had. Now think of every other animal you’ve ever known in your life. In the time it took you to do that (assuming five seconds), 15,000 animals no more deserving of death than those pets or anyone else, were killed. For no reason. These shocking figures do not even include fish and other sea creatures whose deaths are so great they are only measured in tonnes. (Source:

There are many different minsconceptions and deceptions that lead people to eat meat. It’s not realistic to think the entire world can become vegan overnight — as desperately as our healthcare system, the environment and, most importantly, the animals themselves need us to. For those who choose to eat meet for whatever reason, doing so mindfully and as sparingly as possible will help minimize the damage it does to your body. Avoiding the flesh and secretions of factory farmed animals will lower the damage you’ll be doing to the environment and will reduce the pain and suffering of these animals before they’re slaughtered.

Vegetarians & Vegans: Allies with an Ethical Divide

I want to tread carefully here in attempting to shed more light on a durable and damaging myth. It is the myth that vegetarianism and veganism are similar. I often hear people talk about vegetarians and vegans in the same breath, as though they’re almost one and the same, with only trifling differences. I even hear the terms occasionally used interchangeably. While neither vegetarians nor vegans eat meat, that’s typically where the similarity ends. Beyond that, they’re worlds apart in terms of ethics and their impact on the environment. I didn’t educate myself on this until relatively recently — it’s not an easy reality to face — but the myth of humane animal milk, eggs and flesh is one of the most persistent and successful lies told by the animal exploitation industries.

I’ve tried various diets, from pescatarian to vegetarian to vegan. While I’m now fully vegan for ethical reasons, as well as for the environment and my health, I’ve spent far more years of my life consuming animal flesh and animal secretions than not doing so. I grew up in a small agricultural town in a home with very little means. My dad grew up on a farm, milking cows and taking eggs from the chickens, all for his family’s own consumption. I believe he slaughtered chickens, as well; I know he was at least present because he told stories about what he saw. Growing up on a rural farm, I doubt he or his family ever met a vegetarian, let alone a vegan. I don’t think it would have occurred to them to not turn animals into units of production and consume them and their secretions.

In his excellent book, The World Peace Diet, Will Tuttle, PhD has the following to say about the world we’re born into:

“None of us ever consciously and freely chose to eat animals. We have all inherited this from our culture and upbringing. Going into the baby food department of any grocery store today, we see it immediately: beef-flavored baby food, chicken, veal, and lamb baby food, and even cheese lasagna baby food. Well-meaning parents, grandparents, friends, and neighbors have forced the flesh and secretions of animals upon us from before we can remember. As infants, we have no idea what “veal,” “turkey,” “egg,” or “beef” actually are, or where they come from. We don’t know what horror is visited upon helpless creatures in order to create the easily available concoctions being spooned into our little teething mouths. We find out slowly, and by the time we do, the cruelty and perversity involved seem natural and normal to us…” Will Tuttle PhD. The World Peace Diet (pp. 10-11). Lantern Books. Kindle Edition (2008-01-29)

When I ate a vegetarian diet for six months or so, I consumed only organic, free range eggs and organic milk, yogurt and cheese from “happy” cows. I believed that by doing this and removing animal flesh from my diet, I was no longer participating in the exploitation, torture and killing of animals. I now know that, in fact, I was simply buying into the endless and highly effective propaganda put out by the animal exploitation and killing industries and the government agencies and officials they own.

The truth is that, even on the smallest of dairy and poultry farms, even so-called free-range chickens, cows, goats and their offspring suffer horrible cruelty, lead miserable lives and die early and often painful deaths.

Even those with the best of intentions who have given up meat for ethical reasons may continue to unknowingly participate in the horrific treatment of cows and poultry by consuming dairy and eggs.

The following is a summary of a presentation on the realities of dairy from

In order to maintain uninterrupted milk production, cows are forced year after year to go through an endless cycle of pregnancy and birth, only to have their calves immediately taken from them. Cows and calves cry out for each other as they are separated.

All forms of dairy farming involve forcibly impregnating cows. This involves a person inserting his arm far into the cow’s rectum in order to position the uterus, and then forcing an instrument into her vagina. The restraining apparatus used is commonly called a “rape rack.”

Half of all calves born are male. Of no use in milk production, they are sent to veal-producing operations or directly to auctions where they are sold and slaughtered when they are just a few days old. Male calves used for veal production suffer a crude castration process and are killed after 4 months spent in small crates or pens.

After just 4 to 6 years, dairy cows are “spent” from being forced to continuously produce milk. Often weak and ill, they endure transport to auction and slaughter, both of which are traumatic for these gentle animals. If allowed to exist free of exploitation and slaughter, cows can live 25 years or more.

What about cage-free, happy chickens?

Hens used for egg production come from hatcheries, where male chicks (none of which can lay eggs) are killed immediately after hatching. Each year, hundreds of millions of these vulnerable beings are suffocated or ground up alive to produce fertilizer or feed.

Chickens used to produce eggs, including eggs labeled “cage-free,” have their beaks forcibly mutilated to minimize the damage they cause each other when crowded together.

At all farms, large-scale and small-scale, laying hens are killed when their production declines, typically within two years, as feeding these worn-out individuals cuts directly into profits. Often the bodies of “spent” hens are so ravaged that no one will buy them, and they are ground into fertilizer or just sent to a landfill.

If allowed to live free of exploitation and slaughter, chickens can live ten years or more. They protect, feed, and nurture their young, just like other animals.

What the author doesn’t even mention is the gruesome ways in which the male chicks are “killed immediately after hatching.” They’re often either thrown like so much garbage into large garbage sacks where they are crushed, suffocated or both — or they’re dumped straight into a grinder while still alive.

Worth noting here is the fact that a common condition of “spent” hens is a prolapsed uterus, where the incredibly painful result of unnaturally high volume of egg production results in the uterus collapsing into their vagina.

I know that being vegetarian is more difficult than being an omnivore in our society. And that being vegetarian is easier than being vegan. But if you’re looking to avoid participating in animal cruelty, exploitation and killing — not to mention dramatically reduce your contribution to global warming — a vegan diet is the only way to go.

I have a vegan coming for dinner. Help!

Human Supremacist: A friend is dating a vegan and they’re coming for dinner. I looked up what that means and it has me channeling Jackson Pollock in my pants. Is it really possible to make something to eat that doesn’t include animal flesh or animal secretions? Do I need to have a second entree that’s vegan or is it okay to have one or two of the sides be vegan, knowing that’s all they’ll be able to eat? This person is the only one suffering the affliction of not being able to needlessly exploit, kill and eat innocent animals.

Steve: I can’t blame you for blowing butt nuggets, H.S.

Given the aggressive marketing by and government collusion with the animal exploitation, torture and slaughter industries, it’s not hard to feel like putting a bite of anything in your mouth without bacon wrapped around it is an act of microterrorism and a threat to US national security.

But believe it or not, you probably already enjoy a lot of vegan yum without even realizing it. If you don’t, you’re probably on the fast track to an exciting cardiovascular event or string of more subtle deleterious health gremlins slowly chipping away at your quality of life.

Given that this seems to be a rare event, my first recommendation would be to consider doing a solid for your friend’s date, the environment, the animals and your own karmic bank account and just go all vegan this one time. (Or forever.) There’s never been an easier time to do that. If the thought of eating vegetables, fruits, tubers, grains and legumes leaves you feeling vexed and perplexed, you can now find an embarassingly rich assortment of plant-based vegan cheesesproteins and other snacks that will leave you wondering if you ever want to eat tendons, skin, cartilage, fat, blood, organs, and muscle ever again.

What if I told you you could make an amazing dish that even your most carnivorous guests would salivate over — while also satisfying not only your vegan friend, but the most difficult dinner guest ever? That link takes you to five meals that will do just that.

Need more options? Follow this link for an entire lifetime worth of easy vegan recipes.

If you still come up empty, hit me up and I’ll give you my recipe for brown rice and beans.:-)