When I stopped consuming animal products, the last thing I was thinking about was checking which alcoholic drinks I could consume.
I was focused on avoiding eggs, dairy, honey, even gelatine, but the thought that bits of animals’ bodies could be used to manufacture my glass of wine was not even on my radar. I’d heard that that kind of thing had gone on once upon a time, but assumed it would be something that had died out years ago.
But just like so many of the cruel, unnecessary practices we inflict upon animals, this one still goes on.
What are they putting in our drinks?
Obviously, there are drinks like Bailey’s Irish Cream that use dairy products or eggs. They’re pretty obvious, so it’s not too hard to tell the animal products are there, but there could be other animal products lurking in the bottle.
Apparently isinglass, which is made from the bladders of fish (WTF!) can be used to clarify some beers and wines.
Winemakers and brewers may also use:
- egg albumen
- modified casein (from milk)
- chitin (from the shells of crustaceans).
These are all supposed to be filtered out during the process, so you probably won’t actually ingest them, but they are used in the process (which, to most of us would mean they’re not vegan), and why would anyone want to support that anyway?
How do we tell what to buy?
So, if we’re voting with our dollar, how do we know which products to support, and which to boycott?
Luckily for us, others have done some of the hard work of checking which of our favourite drinks are animal-product-free.
First of all, in Australia, our labelling laws mean that if dairy or egg products are used, they have to put it on the label. Unfortunately, they don’t have to warn us about gelatine or the others, as they only have to warn about common allergens, so we still have to be careful.
Vegetarian Network Victoria
The people at Vegetarian Network Victoria have put together 2 lists: one organised by the name of the drinks, and the other organised by the producers/distributor, and they’re available free, on their website. Check out the VNV alcohol lists.
That’s great, but if you’re out and about, the website is not optimised for mobile viewing, so it can be a bit tricky to read the lists.
Luckily there’s an alternative for your mobile phone. The US website, Barnivore, is a directory of over 10,000 beers, wines and spirits.
Being based in the US, I assumed they wouldn’t include our local producers, but happily I found both Cooper’s and Mountain Goat beers – although I didn’t find Pizzini, which is my favourite wine, but they’re not on the Victorian list either. I’ve actually contacted them myself (with my fingers crossed) to find out*. Find out more about Barnivore.
*I heard back from Pizzini yesterday, and unfortunately most of their wines aren’t suitable for vegans, although I was told, “unfortunately our wines are not very friendly for vegans. It is a something that I am working towards to providing a ranges of wines that are vegan friendly”.
It was probably worth asking them anyway, because the more producers get requests like this, the more aware they’ll be of the market for vegan wines that they’re missing out on.
While Barnivore itself hasn’t produced an app, they have made their database available for developers to do the job for them. As a result we can now choose from:
- Vgan/Vgan Free (Android)
- VegeTipple/VegeTipple Free(Android)
- Green Vegan (iPhone/iPod/iPad)
- Vegan Drinks (Windows).
I have tried Vgan Free on my phone and Green Vegan on my iPad, and they work really well. The free Android app includes ads, but I just ignore them. Find out more about the Barnivore apps.
Finally, there is another way of helping animals while you’re having a drink.
Goodwill Wines produces a range of fundraising wines for charities, including Humane Research Australia. Their label tells the story of Leo, formerly a cat used for animal research. No animal products were used in the production of these wines, and 50% of the sales profits go to Humane Research Australia. The ones I’ve tasted are really good and make great gifts. Order Humane Research Australia fund raising wine.