Note to self: Kroger's "Simple Truth" brand of dark chocolate covered raisins now includes milk in the ingredients. The front of the package even includes a small blurb "NEW FORMULA INCLUDES MILK".
Sometimes I intend to look up an answer a question I've had in my mind. Then after reading a bunch of webpages, I still may not have a clear answer, but have found a lot of interesting information. So I decide to put some links in a post, along with some text to explain why I'm linking it. And then what I thought would take a few minutes ends up taking hours and hours to finish...
I'm vegan as I want to minimize the suffering involved in the production of the food I eat, and as I don't feel it is right to raise animals in order to kill them. I don't believe that animals exist mainly to serve humans, or that humans have an inherent right to exploit them.
With meat, it's pretty obvious that meat production involves the killing of animals, and that the raising and slaughtering of these animals often includes suffering. With dairy products and eggs, it's also fairly obvious that large-scale productions involve non-ideal living conditions for animals and suffering. The dairy and egg industries are also closely tied in with the meat industry. On a small private farm, a farmer might choose to allow a chicken or cow to live until it dies of old age. But with large-scale production, that would be impractical. Female animals are slaughtered after their milk or egg production declines. Male offspring are either killed outright or raised for meat and/or for their sperm.
But the potential suffering involved in harvesting insect by-products is less obvious to me. I've never heard an insect squeal in pain, but to err on the side of compassion, I assume that they can feel pain and/or suffer in other ways.
In the case of honey, I've decided not to completely abstain from eating anything that has honey as an ingredient, but in general I avoid it. I could be wrong, but I think that beekeeping in general doesn't involve much suffering for the bees, and that the bees involved are still able to live a fairly normal life - living in their beehives with their normal social structure intact, and being able freely fly out to collect pollen. That the bees are robbed of their honey and given an inferior substitute in its place is troublesome to me, but I'm not sure that this causes them much suffering. However, what sticks in my mind is a long-ago news report where a truck carrying honeybee hives had an accident and overturned, letting loose the bees. Local authorities were called in to kill the bees.
Searching on honeybee hives truck overturned
shows that those kind of truck accidents are surprisingly common.Sep 29, 2015
- "Beekeepers and officers gathered as many bees as they could before 7:30 p.m., officials said. After dark, the bees became aggressive, so officials decided to burn the beehives."Jun 28, 2015
- "A semi-truck carrying 400 beehives overturned on a busy freeway near the IRONMAN Triathlon course in North Idaho." "A similar truck wreck just two days ago released more than 20 million bees on State Highway 33 in the eastern Idaho desert."Apr 17, 2015
- "As temperatures warmed and the bees became more agitated, firefighters sprayed a mixture of foam and water on the hives to slow down or kill some of the bees." "The overturned truck held 448 hives with as many as 14 million bees".Why do trucks keep spilling swarms of honeybees onto US highways?
While there were only 387 beekeeping establishments in the US in 2012, commercial beekeeping is a multi-million dollar business, the US Department of Agriculture noted in a 2014 report. Many beekeepers – who work on a contract basis – live a semi-nomadic lifestyle, often transporting the bees long distances to reach farmers.
Each truckload of bees contains about 400 to 500 hives, with each hive containing a single queen and between 10,000 and 30,000 worker bees.
It is next to impossible to recapture escaped bees following such an accident. In most cases, emergency personnel have to kill the swarms to prevent them from attacking people.
So, while honey production doesn't intentionally involve the killing of bees, it does happen, and when it does, it often involves millions of bees in a single incident.
(This brings up another interesting question/moral dilemma: Why do I avoid honey because of the above, but not the fruit and nuts which are pollinated by the transported bees? And are the honey industry and the honeybee pollinating industry one and the same, or not?)
I also avoid items made with silk. Silk cocoons are usually boiled in order to kill the silk worms inside before the silk threads are extracted. There's been some research on how to get the silk without killing the worm
, but that particular alternative - semi-paralyzing the silkworm and slowly unreeling the silk at the same pace as the worm produces it, doesn't sound so great to me either. I don't think a silkworm could have a very normal or pleasant life under those conditions.
All that was a prelude to the actual topic of this post: Lac, also known as shellac.
I had read in the past that "pure food glaze" or "confectioner's glaze" in food ingredient lists could represent various substances including shellac.
Shellac is a resin exuded by the lac insect in southeast Asia. I haven't been certain whether the harvesting of shellac involves killing the insect or not.
I've assumed that similar vegetable or mineral-based products were also available, and that surely these other sources were cheaper and more widely available than an insect byproduct from southeast Asia. So I thought that items containing "pure food glaze" and "confectioner's glaze" were only partially likely to contain shellac, and therefore haven't avoided them.
Today, I tried to find some more definite answers. How likely is "pure food glaze" to be shellac, and does shellac harvesting kill the bugs?
Almost all the sources I've found today indicate that "pure food glaze" and "confectioner's glaze" only comes from shellac. I only found 2 pages contradicting that:
On a message board, someone wrote that it could be palm-derived
: "About confectioner's glaze or pure food glaze, I do have some good news for you all. While it should be assumed to not be vegan unless otherwise told, I contacted Sunridge Farms the other day and they confirmed for me their confectioner's or pure food glaze is indeed vegan. I believe they said it's palm derived (which may be something people try to avoid for other reasons), but they said it's for sure vegan."
This page indicates that it can be contain corn-based zein or beeswax
: "Is there a vegan alternative to shellac? Of course! Zein, a corn protein, is a competitive non-animal-based product. Pure zein is clear, odorless, tasteless, hard, water-insoluble, and edible. It is already used as a coating for candy, nuts, fruit, pills, and other encapsulated foods and drugs. In the United States, it may also be labeled as ‘confectioner’s glaze’. NOTE: As well as sometimes being made from shellac, confectioner’s glaze can also contain beeswax."
So it still sounds like the item labelled as pure food glaze or confectioner's glaze can come from various sources, but I'm still unclear as to what percentage of it actually does.
Regarding the harvesting of shellac, from what I've read (more details in the links below):
The female insects attach themselves to tree twigs, and start sucking out tree sap. The sap gets converted into lac and exuded from their bodies, forming a thick coating over them and their eggs. The females die, and the larvae break out of their eggs and somehow migrate to new twigs, to begin the cycle all over again. The twigs are harvested, and then the shellac is scraped off and processed.
Now, if the harvesting happens after the encased females are all dead and the larvae have all hatched and left, I'd be ok with using shellac. But I'm not sure if that is the case. (And even if it were true in most cases, there'd doubtless be some percentage of insects that hadn't yet died or hatched when the twigs are harvested.)The Story of ShellacNew World Encyclopedia's entry on Shellac
In Kerra lacca, the insect starts as a nymph that is only about 0.6 millimeters (3/128 inches) long (ASB 2008). It settles on a host plant gregariously and there may be on average 150 such larvae per square inch of twig (ASB 2008). The insects project protrusions into the tree, penetrating the bark, and suck up the sap, which is chemically altered in the insects' bodies (Bryk 2002). When exuded onto the tree branch, this secretion forms a hard covering. Larvae begin secreting this lac after a day or two of settlement. As the insects are in close proximity, the lac secretions from adjacent cells coalesce with each other and form a shell-like covering over the entire swarm (ASB 2008; Bryk 2002).Orange Shellac Technical Evaluation Report (2014)
After the first molt, the male and female larvae lose their legs, antennae, and eyes, and after the third molt, the mouthparts in the male larvae become atrophied, the males stop feeding, and they fertilize with the female (ASB 2008). The females' lac output increases greatly after fertilization (Bryk 2002). The female may lay 1000 eggs before dying; after hatching, the new larva break through the crust and swarm out (Bryk 2002).
Young larvae of lac insects are red and measure about half a millimeter in length and half as much in width. After emergence, they settle down on the lac host and attach themselves to the host by piercing its bark. They suck the sap of the host and start secreting lac. Under this coating the larvae grow while they continue the secretion of lac from the inside. After eight to fourteen weeks, the male insect emerges out of its lac cover, fertilizes the female and dies soon after. The female continues growing and increases lac secretion until the egg laying period (Bose and Sankaranarayan 1963).Lac Insect
There are primarily four different non-synthetic substances that may be used in place of orange shellac as a component of citrus fruit waxes: wood rosin, carnauba wax, beeswax and candelilla wax.
A number of other non-synthetic and agricultural substances have been briefly studied as alternatives to or in combination with the four primary waxes, including corn zein, xanthan gum, grain sorghum wax, casein, soy protein, and chitosan.(Hagenmaier 1998; Krochta, Baldwin and Nisperos-Carriedo 1994)
Life Cycle of Lac-insect (with pictures)
Large number of tiny red larvae of about 0.5 mm. long come out of each mother cell and settle on the tender portions of fresh twigs of certain trees called lac hosts. The larva is sufficiently mobile to crawl along the branches of trees to find fresh succulent twigs. When it has fixed its position and inserted its probocis into the trees it secretes a protective coating consisting of a dark red chitinous scale and a yellow to reddish resin called the lac resin. The insects mature under the protective covering of the resin which becomes hard. Wax glands near the vital pores - the oval region, the breathing pores and the anal pore keep them open by secreting wax filaments.
The larvae mould [molt] thrice inside the cell and becomes sexually mature male and female insects in about eight weeks. The female cell is roundish and the insect remains fixed to the twig. The male cell is somewhat longer with a round trap door through which the insect, sometimes winged, comes out, walks over the females, fertilising several of them and dies. Their direct contribution to resin production is insignificant.
The female insect increases in size to accommodate her large number of growing eggs. The secretion of the resin and wax now proceed at a faster rate and a continuous layer is formed by coalescence and coatings. in another 14 weeks, when the female insect is about to lay eggs, she begins to contract, allowing light into the cell which shows up as yellow spots. When hatched, the larve emerge to begin a new life cycle of about six months.
So, am I okay with eating items containing pure food glaze, confectioner's glaze, and/or shellac? Answer: still undecided.