Meat Photography Uncovered in Vegan Magazine

Holy Seitan! There’s been some serious muckraking going on in the ultra-ethical land of veganism. The vegan blog Quarrygirl uncovered doctored photos from VegNews, a San Francisco-based vegetarian magazine.

To illustrate its recipe for vegan spare ribs, the magazine apparently used stock photography of the real meat kind of spare rib, then scrubbed out the bones to make it look faux.

Quarrygirl posted numerous examples of the fraud, deciding that “VegNews has serious editorial integrity issues, and cannot be trusted.”

On Thursday, VegNews published a formal response, acknowledging the real meat in the photo, but explaining their reasoning as financial:

Yes, from time to time, after exhausting all options, we have resorted to using stock photography that may or may not be vegan. In an ideal world we would use custom-shot photography for every spread, but it is simply not financially feasible for VegNews at this time. In those rare times that we use an image that isn’t vegan, our entire (vegan) staff weighs in on whether or not it’s appropriate. It is industry standard to use stock photography in magazines—and, sadly, there are very few specifically vegan images offered by stock companies.

In a phone interview, VegNews publisher Joseph Connelly, continued the mea culpa, well, sort-of, “I apologize that our readers and supporters are upset. I’m shocked with the reaction. I wish the time and energy being devoted [to this controversy] would actually save animals and not potentially harm a vegan business.”

VegNews quickly changed its way, publishing a new policy that all photos on the web and in the magazine will be vegan.

While the strict vegan lifestyle is often vilified for its militant stances, the comments on VegNews and Quarrygirl prove otherwise. It seems like most readers understand the expenses of running a magazine and would rather have a flawed source of vegan and vegetarian news, than none at all. Of course, not everyone is so forgiving.

ES emailed with Quarrygirl about what it would take to excuse this anti-animal act.

Would you rather there be a flawed vegan magazine which uses meat in its photographs than no magazine at all?
I don’t think it’s an “either or” type of situation. I’d rather see VegNews learn from this situation and change their ways, than to see them go out of business. As long as they do feature pictures of flesh masquerading as vegan dishes, though, I can’t support them.

Can VegNews regain your trust? If so, what would they have to do?
Regaining our trust would be pretty simple. All VegNews would need to do is apologize for deceiving readers, and not use any photographs of animal products in the future. I think this would be a great opportunity for them to team up with talented vegan photographers who want to help, and make their site and magazine even better. Stock photos are boring anyways!

What was your gut reaction when you saw the tip from the reader about the burger photo?
When I first saw the email from the reader about VegNews using photos of real meat on their site, I thought, “This can’t be right. No way.” Sure enough, almost every photo I spot checked from my old issues of the publication had matching istock entries made with real animal products. I felt so angry—like I’d been lied to and misled for years! To think I’d been ogling photos of flesh made me sick.

Do you plan on investigating other vegan magazines and their photographs?
Not at the moment! If I see something in a vegan magazine that looks shady though, I’ll probably look into it out of curiosity.


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  • BS April 19, 2011  

    WOW this is SO scandalous. Using stock photos is one thing but how can you possibly argue that stock photos of meat when you’re writing about a vegan dish is OK? It is literally the opposite of what it’s supposed to be.

  • Jen April 20, 2011  

    I think this story is ridiculous. I’ve been a vegetarian for over 16 years, and I’m not offended at all that this magazine uses pictures of real meat. It would be one thing if they were cooking meat and taking pictures of it; I think that goes against the morals of the magazine. But using stock photographs? I would rather them do that then to have a magazine that’s void of picutres or to have to pay several extra dollars a magazine so they can pay for the photographer/studio/etc that would be necessary for taking pictures of vegan food. I think that people who get riled up over stuff like this need to get over themselves. Why don’t you take all that animal rights outrage and do something productive with it, instead of attacking a magazine that PROMOTES your ideals? Geesh, no wonder so many people dislike vegetarians!

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