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What ‘Bugs’ Me About Being Vegan

Bugs are not cuddly or cute (well, at least to most people they aren’t).  In fact, they are often scary or creepy looking.  Think about it.  When was the last time you cooed over a spider or hugged a beetle?  So, when I tell people that, as a vegan, I do not wear silk or use lipstick with carmine in it they shake their heads.  What’s the big deal?

Like most people I grew up with a fly swatter in the house and my first apartment after college had cockroaches which we regularly exterminated.  So, who would think that today I would get all riled up about what happens to bugs!

To be honest, I never really thought about bugs as living beings in terms of their capacity for suffering.  Bugs were bugs and they didn’t take up much space in my head (or heart).  The more I have learned, however, the more respect I have for who they are and what they do – and, most importantly, for their right to live free from our interference and abuse.

Let’s look briefly at three of the most commonly farmed insects.

Silk worms create their cocoons out of raw silk – actually, one long continuous thread (from 1000 to 3000 feet long).  When ready, the silk worm will eat its way out of the cocoon but, guess what…that action breaks the threads rendering the silk useless (for our use).  So, what do we do (in most cases)?  We throw the unbroken cocoons (with the silk worm still alive) into boiling water.  This kills the silkworm and leaves the thread intact.

Carmine (Cochineal) Beetles
It comes as a surprise to many to learn that the carmine (or cochineal) beetle is one of the primary sources of the red dyes in cosmetics (it is also used in food and by the pharmaceutical industry to color pills).  Since the fact that it comes from a beetle is left off the label, most people don’t give it much thought.  These beetles (like the silkworm) are harvested or farmed and then boiled alive before being dried to produce the sought-after dye.  You can learn more here

Bees are the most well-known farmed insect.  This is a huge topic – way too big for this article.  You can read more here:

As you can imagine, so many people do not want to acknowledge what we do to cuddly animals in the name of fashion, so it comes as no surprise that it’s a lot harder to garner sympathy for creepy, crawly bugs.  My purpose here is to raise awareness on a topic that most people have never even considered.  I cannot help but encourage you to bring as much awareness and compassion as possible to the clothing and personal care choices you make.  I promise it’s easy to do and getting easier every day.  In fact, as I write this I am on my way to support a woman who has designed absolutely gorgeous, warm, cruelty-free winter coats.  I couldn’t have said that just a year ago!

Want to know more about being a vegan?  Listen to my new Vegan radio show:

Join me, Ginger Burr, a long-time self-described health nut and image consultant, and Marion Davis, a former serious meat eater and self-esteem guru as we explore the ins and outs of being a vegan on our talk radio show “Vegan and the Living Is Easy.”


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Ginger Burr is a fashion stylist and personal shopper serving clients worldwide from metro Boston.