Is Shellac Vegan?
In everyday life, and at every moment when we buy something to eat, we are, in fact (be honest) not aware of what we put in our mouth.
Even when we find out all about the ingredients that are in a certain product, but still there are some that are still unknown.
Many of you never heard of Shellac, at least in some parts of the world, or you have heard about it vaguely, but just because you have not heard about it, do not mean that you have not come in contact with it. Some other claim that they know what it is, but they know it by another name, for example.
And those who have heard about it, and those who are now in contact with it, and use it, and are on their vegan journey are certainly asking themselves is Shellac vegan?
If you know that it is the product that is used in the food industry but also in the beauty industry, it is not necessary to know wherefrom it came, and this is the aspect that is a problem.
In the next couple of sections, we will try to provide you with this answer. For those who are vegans, it will come in handy to know can they consume it.
What is Shellac?
Now, we have come to the maybe most important part of this story, and when you find out what the Shellac is, then you know right away is it vegan for you or not.
This is one product that comes from the bug lac and the secretion that it produces, and right away you are getting the answer you need – it cannot be vegan since this is one bug, a little animal.
Have in mind here that this aspect can be a problem for some vegans, while for others it is not and we understand why, because the amount of the insect part may be extremely small.
This is one bug that lives on trees in Asia, most notably in its Southeast parts, but it can be found in some other parts, and the secretion it produces a protecting casing for their maggots.
The Shellac you come in contact is females because the males fly away, and the one that stays in the trees are collected and used for numerous purposes.
Now, here comes the interesting part – this item is utilized in a variety of ways, just like in the food industry, in some products and in the beauty industry like nail polishes. This is one ingredient that is used to make if you want to say it simply, things shiny, very shine, because it gives items that necessary firm shine.
Now, in the food industry, Shellac is used in the candy industry, when it used as an ingredient that should give shine to sweets – it provides a polished, solid cover (always think of candies that are firm, shiny coat, like for firm bonbons, or candied fruits).
They add some shellac in sweets – candy and chocolate, on pills, or on fruit, but also on tape. In the pharmacy, industry shellac is used in pills that are firm and not tasty, but it is the topcoat that is sweet and shiny. It is the sparkly part of tapes, etc. There are some additional usages of Shellac in other industries.
Having said all of this, there are some things that can’t be denied – the usage of Shellac is abundant, and we can speak some more is this necessary, but the same case is also with other items in every household (we can speak it ok to use or not, and vegans consider this even problematic than some others).
It is true that some vegans say that this is not an issue – because eating insects in ok in this way for them, and we say once again that this is ok; this is the still an individual principle. Some eat them, and others do not, depends on their personal idea of what veganism is.
Is Shellac (then) Vegan?
Let us dig deeper into this idea and concept – what is the basic teaching of veganism? Be respectful of all human beings that live on this planet – regardless of how small or large, they can be. They are still living beings that make an important part of our ecosystem.
First of all, it is mandatory to say that in veganism, if you harm any animal, or eat it, it is considered out of the question – you simply cannot do it, but the problematic part for those who eat them is that insects do not have any mind of their own and that they are similar to plants.
On the other hand, insects are not mammals, but they are beings who can feel pain, and therefore it does not fall under the vegan principles.
Some others say that they can feel the pain, but that they have some negative stimulation that does not do them good.
Vegans say that using Shellac in any shape or form, is not ok, because when you use them (and it is used to make fruits and vegetables look appetizing and shiny) means that people are harming them because we are collecting normal flow of these insects directly harms many of them.
For vegans, an animal does not have to die, so they do not want to eat it; it is about their suffering that is unnecessary.
If you know all of this and you still do not feel comfortable with using any product that has Shellac in it, do not do it.
In this sense, it is recommended not to buy products that are confirmed to use Shellac massively, like supermarket chains- such production is cheaper, for sure.
Is it safe to eat Shellac?
Have you ever eaten bugs, if you live in some modern western countries, you have certainly not, but in some eastern, you have probably, but for many, this is the most disgusting ever? The insects are gross as they are but in the food? No!
Ok, then, have you ever eaten something that is just a part of the insect? Like legs? Or at least some of their parts? Before answering this question, try to remember all the “red” foods you have consumed. Yes, that is right, think of all red food that you love to eat, especially candies, everywhere where you found the red color it belongs (if it is not artificial, of course).
Additive E 120 (a food color that is massively used in the food industry), found in many food products, originates from an insect female that produces red as its own predator protection.
It is extracted from the bodies of female insects or their eggs. There are currently more than sixty products on domestic markets, but even more in the worldwide market, containing this ingredient. For the most part, these are products designed for children, and this is what is even more problematic for vegan families that want to give their kids something “natural”.
These are chocolates, fruit yoghurts, candies, pastries. And there is one more worrying aspect; in many countries in the world this color is banned. It is necessary to emphasize that the extraction of this bright red color uses aluminum which is a carcinogen, which is a very important aspect of the ban on this additive in these countries.
The use of lipstick was known by ancient civilizations (Mayans, Incas and all civilizations that were very creative and progressive at the same time). Industrial carminic acid was used exclusively in the cosmetic industry (lipstick), but due to its method of declaration (natural color, natural origin) and cheap production at the insect farm, it was widely used in the food industry.
Why this color is problematic – because, it causes hyperactivity in children; allergies; allergic reactions; asthma.
Now, you can see that not all that comes from nature and that is utilities for humans, in some industries, healthy.
But, on the other hand, Shellac is not unhealthy in the same way!
Before it was used for purposes that we have mentioned before, was used for art.
Admittedly, this is not a modern varnish, but Shellac that was once used, before the emergence of the modern coatings industry. Artists, primarily painters and sculptors, but also carpenters, still use it.
However, this substance, which is otherwise obtained from the secretions and excrement of females of a special kind of beetle, is widely used in the candy industry – say – colorful candy flavored with various fruits has a nice luster to it. Otherwise, these bugs secrete Shellac on the branches of trees to help their larvae attach better.
So, Shellac is not unhealthy when finding on some product – the product itself is unhealthy, for example, candy.
But, is it vegan? We learn more on the side that it is not vegan! The insect is a living creature! But the choice is yours, in the end.
For vegans out there, it’s not just utilizing Shellac, and it is about harming the ecosystem in Asia.
Try to avoid it, and to make some mindful purchase. You do not eat the bug itself since Shellac is made out of the excreta of a certain bug – that secret is left on the bark of the tree and then it is collected.
As you can see it is vegan – if you find it on the ingredient box then you know that you should or should not use it. This is usually found in candy, as a confectioners glaze.
For many, this is very disgusting.
But, others say that vegans should use Shellac and products that are made out of it – they say that it is very hard to feel bad about insects and treat them as human beings. They are not human beings for them, and in this sense, they are more like plants!
In the end, we are here to inform you not to judge you or tell you what to do – you are the creator of your life, and you are the one who knows what is best for yourself and your “vegan” family.