OK, they weren't quite this obvious... Image credit: Isaac Wedin, used under Creative Commons license.
From the sustainability of goat meat to the viability of a vegan world, debate around meat eating vs veganism can get pretty heated. But one thing I would hope that vegans, vegetarians and meat eaters alike can agree on—if you claim something is vegan, make sure it is vegan. Unfortunately America's premier vegan magazine has fallen well short of that ideal—and has just been exposed for using photoshopped photos of meat, and passing them off as vegan for years. The vegan world is pissed. Photoshopped Images of Meat Passed Off as Fake
Writing over at Quarry Girl, Mr Meaner reports how VegNews magazine has been using photos of spare ribs, burgers, stews, hotdogs and mac and cheese—all made with animal products—and passing them off as vegan. In some cases, the photos have been doctored to remove bones and other telltale signs.
Readers Attempts to Alert Magazine Stifled?
All this came to light when a reader recognized a photograph of a burger from a popular stock photography website. Having left a comment for the magazine—assuming they would correct the mistake—the same reader claims they suddenly found their comment deleted. So they repeated. And the same thing happened. Suspicious, the vegan network kicked into gear and folks started searching through old photographs. To their surprise, it seems this has been common practice at the magazine for years—and further examples of offending photos are being brought up in the comment thread all the time.
Vegan Activists Furious
Judging by the comments at Quarry Girl, many vegans are furious at this news. Not only is this an issue of inadvertently supporting the meat and dairy industries (someone had to buy the meat to photograph it) but it is, they say, also a base example of dishonesty. It's not like these were random illustrative photos of "a stew" either—one example of spare ribs that have been photoshopped to omit bones boasts the following caption:
"Here at the VNHQ, we devour these savoury, sauce covered ribs as often as possible. VN Assistant to the publisher."
Why Does it Matter?
While some who thought my post on how vegans and vegetarians can avoid animal-based fertilizers went too far will no doubt also argue that demanding vegan photos is a little unrealistic, there is also a direct usability issue for the magazine here. Many readers, myself included, use photography of recipes to judge what an end product might look like. In fact, as a non-vegan I too might get a little annoyed if I am convinced I can create a beautiful, oozing pizza with vegan cheese, only to discover that the end result is nothing like it. (And if curious meat and dairy eaters are put off vegan cuisine due to false promises, that does no favors to the movement either.)
To be fair, after apparent initial attempts to delete readers' comments, the VegNews editorial staff have responded to the photograph controversy. They point out (rightly) that custom photography is incredibly expensive, that publishing a print magazine is financially tricky, and tracking down vegan stock photography is next to impossible:
"It is industry standard to use stock photography in magazines--and, sadly, there are very few specifically vegan images offered by stock companies. In addition, it's exceedingly challenging to find non-stock imagery that meets the standard necessary for publication. We would love nothing more than to use only vegan photography shot by vegan photographers, and we hope to be there soon."
All this may be true, but at very least it would have made sense to publish a policy statement that some photography may not depict the recipes being described.
But then, hindsight is a beautiful thing.
More on Veganism, Vegetarianism and Meat Eating
What Does a Vegan World Actually Look Like?
Why Vegans Are Welcome to Call Me a Murderer
I Don't Feel Bad for Eating Meat So Why Do I apologize For It?
Even Anthony Bourdain Says Eat Less Meat
Why Eating Guts, Brains, Feet and Genitalia is Green (Video)
The Offal Truth: Would You Eat Guts, Brains and Genitalia?
Why Graham Hill is a Weekday Vegetarian, and You Should Be Too
Vegetarian Diet Could Cut Climate Change Mitigation Costs by 70 Percent