by Matt Ball of Vegan Outreach
When I first got involved in animal rights around 1990, "How vegan?" had a simple answer – either something is vegan or it isn't. The way to tell was to compare all of the ingredients on every product against lists of all animal products. This list eventually became a book, Animal Ingredients A to Z, which for years was the best-selling book at Vegan.com.
This simple means of defining "good" and "bad" attracted many of us because it was so straightforward. But even before the list began to grow into an encyclopedia, it was inconsistent. The production of honey kills some insects, but so does driving (and sometimes even walking). Many soaps contain stearates, but the tires on cars and bicycles contain similar animal products. Some sugar is processed with bone char, but so is much municipal water. And adding "not tested on animals" to the definition of vegan added a whole new level of complexity.