World’s First 'Vegan Violin' Crafted From Animal-Free Products

The craftsman who made it says the materials provide 'acoustical improvement.'

violin closeup

Mayumi Hashi / Getty Images

Whether you’re a long-time vegan or someone dipping their toes into the scene as part of this month’s popular “Veganuary” campaign, this next bit of news should be sweet music to your ears. 

Padraig O'Dubhlaoidh, an Irish master violin luthier, has created the world’s first set of vegan violin bodies (excluding the string and bow) ever to be certified and registered with The Vegan Society’s iconic Vegan Trademark. The passion project, undertaken when the world went into lockdown during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, is a culmination of Padraig’s 40 years of experience and efforts to weave more sustainable elements into his instruments. 

“With our planet facing crises on almost every front, the collective voice of people wanting a fairer future grows stronger every day,” he said in a statement. “Ethical musicians are part of this movement and have long wished for a violin that is fully vegan yet retains all the qualities of the classic instrument.”

Instruments and Animals

Despite their deceptive appearance of harmless wood and strings, traditional instruments feature a past tightly bound to animal products. Like other wood-based instruments, violins utilize hoof and hide glue—a product derived from the skin, bone, and tendons of slaughtered animals—as a primary adhesive for both assembly and repair work. Horse hair, another byproduct of the slaughter industry, is generally used for the bow hair, ivory or mastodon bone sometimes grace the bow tip, and components such as leather or mother-of-pearl cover thumb grips and bow frogs and embellish tuning pegs.

While animal-friendly alternatives have helped to replace many of the products above (including gut strings from intestines, which have given way to synthetics), Padraig’s creation is notably the first to be 100% animal-free. For the back, neck, ribs, and scroll, he used a purfling inlay (the decorative edge on the front and back of a violin) made from steamed pear wood dyed black with wild berries. His custom adhesive, composed in part from spring water gathered from the hills behind his home, is 100% natural.

A Vegan Advantage

More than just an ethical step in the right direction, Padraig says his natural adhesives imbue acoustical advantages over traditional animal-based glues. 

“I learned a lot about my craft during years of research and ultimately, it was the science of conservation that brought about a series of breakthroughs leading to success,” he said. “During my experiments, I also discovered that there are unforeseen advantages to a vegan violin. Apart from the benefit to animals, society, and our environment, it has become very clear that animal-based glues have harmful effects on violins, inducing powerful tensions on wooden components. The adhesive used in my vegan violins, however, has no such effect. Irrespective of ethics, this is an acoustic improvement.”

Speaking with the BBC, Padraig said his playing of the instrument has also led to some unexpected surprises. 

“I’ve learned that there are a lot of advantages of the vegan violin to the extent that I now play a vegan violin. And for the first time in many years,” he joked, “I’ve been complimented on my playing.” 

To learn more about the instrument or place an order for your own (with an estimated cost near $11K US), visit Padraig’s official website here. To have a listen, click the video in the tweet below: