Saturday, April 04, 2009

But, like, they're different words though.

So, there's this problem on Etsy involving the word "vegan". It's basically the fact that people are constantly (and I mean constantly) tagging items as vegan that, um, aren't. Now, honey is one thing, and we could get into that debate all day and night, but I really don't feel like it and it doesn't pertain (all that much) to what I'm about to share.

Let's talk about tonight's experience, shall we? I was having a slow evening, avoiding packing, and was doing a lil' Etsy window shopping, as I like to do. And I did a search for the "vegan" tag. As usual, a billion soaps came up. But one in particular caught my eye - because it was called "Buttermilk and Honey". Intrigued - thinking that perhaps it was actually a vegan soap that was scented to smell like these obviously animal-derived components - I investigated the items. Sure enough, the soap features real buttermilk and real honey.

Now, honestly honey I'll let slide. For people who aren't vegan it doesn't even occur to them that it might be a problem. (Although, if you're selling a product and you're going to use that kind of tag, I personally think you should look more closely into the meaning of the word before using it, but anyway.) But buttermilk? Come on now. Anyone who even has a vague notion of what vegan means should be able to realize that buttermilk ain't it.

So I did something that I don't often do - I sent a "convo" (what they call a message on Etsy - don't ask me why) to the shop owner about the soap. I did my best not to come off as a self-righteous bitch. It went like this:
Hello. I'm really not trying to be a jerk here, but I'm wondering why you've tagged this item "vegan"? Vegan means that something contains no animal products, and this item clearly features both buttermilk and honey. While the honey point is often debated, there's really no budging on something like buttermilk. Perhaps the tag was accidental?
See? I really tried, to give her the benefit of the doubt, even. I don't like getting all "vegan police" on people. But I just take issue with something that's really false advertising, and, by another term, a bald faced lie. I got a response back rather quickly. It said the following (and please note that this was copied and pasted directly, poor grammar and all):
No, it wasnt accidental. And your right. Some people I know that are vegans still drink and eat dairy items, and some do not. As well as with the honey.

This is where the consumer would make the decision if they would like to purchase the item. All the oils in the soap is in fact vegetable. Some people are partial vegans and some are not. But this is noted to let people know that it contains no Lard, or Tallow.

Thank you for your concern
Ohhhhkayyyy.... so what you're saying here is that you're tagging it vegan because it's vegetarian. Sure, that makes sense. As much sense as tagging something "kosher" because it's not made of bacon.

I could write her back. I could argue the point with her, explain to her why she is obviously and blatantly wrong, merely making a fool of herself, and begging to be chewed out by any actual vegan who stumbles upon her product. But would it do any good? No, probably not. She knows what she knows, and she obviously doesn't want to hear any different from the likes of me. After all, she knows vegans who still eat dairy products! As she said, "Some people are partial vegans". Because, you know, they're definitely actually vegan and not just people who are completely misusing a well defined term.


Dear readers, I don't give a damn if you're vegan, vegetarian, or omni. I believe that everyone should be conscious of how his or her food and other purchases impact health, environment, society, and other creatures - once that's addressed the path can be different for each person. We all know where it's taken me, but I'm not going to sit here and tell you that my way is the only way. BUT. If you eat milk and eggs you're not vegan, you're vegetarian. And if you eat seafood or chicken, you're not vegetarian at all - pescitarian if anything.

Words have definitions. If you're not sure which one applies to you, you can look them up on wikipedia. And if you can't use the proper word for the diet you've chosen (or for the ingredients in your products), maybe you need to consider whether or not you're actually comfortable with the choices you're making? Just a little something to ponder.


veganessa said...

I hear ya on this. it happens so often. sellers can't even claim ignorance if someone is pointing the mistake out to the. There's no such thing as semi-vegan, partly vegan- or whatever, either vegan or not, either vegetarian or not, piscetarian or not, meat eater or not, and meat eating does include white as well as red meat! I convo'd one seller (politely) about something similar, ond she apologised and said she would remove the tag, this was quite some time ago, and the tag is still there.I might buy a genuine vegan product from a non vegan shop or seller, but I will never buy anything from a greedy liar, who can't be trusted. It's a real turn off, and I'll never go back to that shop again. Maybe a name and shame board would be useful! Honey is definately not vegan, I don't allow for debate, it comes from a living bee.

melissa bastian. said...

Oh, I totally get the "honey isn't vegan" thing. I was just saying that I understand that some omnis might be confused by it because it's a very different type of product and many people don't understand how it comes into being. But milk? I'll give you a dollar if you can show me a person from the western hemisphere over the age of three who can't tell you where milk comes from!