Why Vegan?

Ethical consistency is complicated - our mental accounting is not always rational - the same individuals who eat meat are animals are often also equally concerned that animals are not subjected to wanton cruelty. It is for this reason that animal-testing that is generally regarded as abhorrent but animal-derived ingredients are examined with curiosity. 

To be cruelty-free, it is sufficient for an establishment to not perform animal testing - something difficult for larger brands that would like to sell in China as animal-testing is mandatory on all cosmetic products sold in China. But brutality aside, animal ingredients are not met with the same instinctive repulsion. Humans are after all an omnivorous species and so many animal-derived ingredients - honey for example just "feels" vegetarian. Cheese likewise.  

So it's difficult to be vegan no matter how ethically consistent you would like to be because food preferences are imprinted in youth and hard to change without profound personal effort because of inertia and the easy availability and desirability of animal products that form the basis of childhood memories and traditions. But as we have evolved to know more there is a drive toward the ethical treatment of animals as long as they are alive before they are killed for food - this drives the appeal for free-range chicken for example because of empathy. 

It is however harder to feel the same empathy for animal-derived ingredients like snails and bee venom.  Zooplankton which are microorganisms are difficult to distinguish from phytoplankton that are plants. The line becomes murkier when they involve equine plasma from horses that are part of most vaccines. So it is difficult and possibly hypocritical to assume we as a species can truly be fully vegan and so we may consider withholding judgement on the subject of animal-derived ingredients in cosmetics. 

The case however for vegan cosmetics and botanical actives over animal-derived ingredients is more nuanced. Vegan cosmetics can have chemicals made in labs that mimic natural ingredients. Botanical actives' advantage over animal-derived ingredients is that plants are more likely to be better for the ecosystem, leave a lower carbon footprint and be more sustainable simply because there are more plants than animals. But there is also a question of safety - now poison ivy is not going to be better than honey or yoghurt on your skin but in terms of ingredients like bee venom or jellyfish there is just inadequate safety date and clinical trials.

So on balance if ethics were not viewed as total and veganism even partially beneficial  cosmetics might be an area to begin a vegan lifestyle choice without the burden of legacy of food since we try so many new products it might be worth favouring vegan products and insisting on higher standards of safety and efficacy for all cosmetics.