Monthly Archives: March 2012

Which Sugar is Vegan?

What to do about the sugar?
Some granulated cane sugar is filtered and whitened using bone charcoal. It doesn’t contain an animal product, but an animal product has been used in its making. In the view of some, this means it’s not vegan. And that’s technically correct.

It’s often suggested that organic sugars of various kinds be used instead of conventionally grown cane sugar. However, I don’t think this is any more vegan than sugar filtered through bone. Organic growing uses massive amounts of animal products, including blood meal, fish emulsion, various manures, ground up feathers, and, yes, even bone meal … which is, as the name suggests, ground up bones. I don’t believe a product grown with bones is any more vegan than one filtered through bones. In many ways, I’d say it’s less vegan.

Beet sugar, made from sugar beets, is also often suggested as a vegan sugar alternative. In recent years, 95% of beets grown for sugar have been genetically modified (GMO). Litigation this year that attempted to prohibit the growing of GMO beets was struck down. I currently live in Michigan, where lots of sugar beets and other GMO crops are grown. The fields, and any animals living there, are decimated by this kind of farming … not to mention the damage it does to the surrounding land and water. So, I don’t think beet sugar is all that “vegan” either, although it probably comes the closest.
When it comes down to the details, there really is no granulated or powdered sugar that’s entirely vegan. Each of them contributes to the death of animals in their own way, and none are substantially better than the others.
So, my feeling on sugar is like my feeling on books and magazines with pages sized with gelatin; I wish they were vegan, but they’re not. None of them are. So, I read many books and magazines, and occasionally, I buy a box of Oreos. Not often, but I don’t think doing so is any “less vegan” than buying another form of granulated sugar.
The best strategy, I think, is to simply avoid processed sugar as much as possible and use it as an occasional food. Not only is it unhealthy for us, but it’s also not healthy for ~ or kind to ~ our fellow earthlings, in a myriad of ways.
When a less processed sweetener is desired, dates and date paste are fabulous, as are bananas. Coconut aminos,  date palm sugar, turbinado, etc., are also wonderful. Stevia works well in some cases, as does agave.

Next year, I’m going to grow some veganic sugar beets and see if I can make my own sugar with them. That should be an interesting project! If it turns out, I’ll let you know!