Just before the holidays, Oreos came up in a discussion on Twitter. Was it true? Were they vegan? For some time, PETA's listed them in the snacks section of its "I Can't Believe It's Vegan!" lists of so-called "accidentally" vegan foods on its website. Surely, PETA would have verified this, no?
Or rather, PETA's got a definition of veganism that it keeps flexible enough to include animal products and thinks that your definition should be that flexible, too. The disclaimer on the main page of its "I Can't Believe It's Vegan!" website reads:
Items listed may contain trace amounts of animal-derived ingredients. While PETA supports a strict adherence to veganism, we put the task of vigorously reducing animal suffering ahead of personal purity. Boycotting products that are 99.9 percent vegan sends the message to manufacturers that there is no market for this food, which ends up hurting more animals. For a more detailed explanation of PETA’s position, please visit http://www.caringconsumer.com/labels.html.Basically, PETA says that fussing over ensuring things you put into your mouth are actually vegan is nitpicking and becomes an obsession over "personal purity". How far PETA takes this was recently reflected in a press release back in May to promote The Animal Activists' Handbook, co-written by its Vice-President Bruce Friedrich and Vegan (?) Outreach's Matt Ball. In it, Friedrich was described as arguing "against questioning waiters in restaurants about the ingredients in menu items". I mean, if PETA thinks you should even ask if any ingredients are animal-derived at all, then one really has to wonder about the work it put into assessing or ascertaining whether anything in its list of purportedly accidentally vegan processed foods is, actually, vegan.
It's one thing to acknowledge that in a world where animal exploitation is rampant that it's impossible to always avoid consuming foods whose ingredients or processing have involved some sort of animal exploitation; it's another matter, however, to fall into the practice of deliberately turning a blind eye where a simple question or two can provide that information and allow you to choose and act accordingly. So? I wrote to Nabisco and asked if its Oreos are animal-free. Specifically, I asked if the sugar used in them is processed with bone char. The response on December 23:
Hi Mylene,Enzymes. I hadn't even considered those when first writing to Nabisco (some enzymes used to condition dough in processed based goods are animal-derived). Not having received a response to my question concerning the sugar itself, I asked again and this time received this information in the following response on December 28:
Thank you for visiting http://www.nabiscoworld.com and for your interest in our OREO product.I understand that knowing what ingredients are in the food products you eat directly affect how you practice your lifestyle, and Kraft Foods does all that it can to assist its consumers in making educated food decisions.I apologize but unfortunately this ingredient information is not currently available.As you can imagine our products change frequently, and maintaining a list of products that contain enzymes would be virtually impossible.Kim McMiller Associate Director, Consumer Relations
Thank you for contacting us and please add our site to your favourites and visit us again soon!
Kraft has several sugar suppliers. Sugar in our products can come from either sugar cane or sugar beets, depending on availability.Some of our suppliers DO use the animal-derived natural charcoal (also known as "bone char") in their cane sugar refining process and some suppliers DO NOT use this process.Since we may use any of the sugar suppliers at any given time in production, we cannot give a definite answer as to whether or not bone char was used in the sugar refining process of a particular product.
Spread the word that PETA's information on what is or isn't vegan should be examined critically by all vegans. While you're at it, maybe ask yourself something I've been asking myself since the Oreo discussion came up: Why support a company that ordinarily profits off the massive exploitation of animals anyway when other options are available? Better yet, do a Google search or three for vegan cookie recipes and go nuts while ensuring that no animals were used to satisfy your sweet tooth. Feel free to post any links you find to recipes yielding particularly scrumptious results in the comments below!