The Christmas trees are surfacing and the very last Halloween candy rejects are being picked over or tossed, so, I’ve begun to think about the “trick” that lasts well into the holiday season, you know, that one that is certainly no “treat”: animal products masquerading as harmless sweet confections. So many holiday foods are non-obvious sources of animal products—ones that are derived from processes and conditions that are just as harmful to the animals as meat-eating itself. Conscious vegetarians stay away from the obvious animal foods, but: gummy bears? Jell-o molds? Marshmallow topped sweet potatoes? What do they all have in common? Gelatin.
Gelatin: noun; green wiggly goo with a slight tang of lime—usually eaten at grandma’s or when sick. If only it were that innocent.
Whenever I have talked to friends or family about gelatin they swear that the ingredients are a myth. They absolutely refuse to accept the true origin of the product: boiled skin and bones… Doesn’t exactly go with dessert.
“Gelatin is protein obtained by boiling skin, tendons, ligaments, and/or bones with water. It is usually obtained from cows or pigs. Gelatin is used in shampoos, face masks, and other cosmetics; as a thickener for fruit gelatins and puddings (such as Jell-O); in candies, marshmallows, cakes, ice cream, and yogurts; on photographic film; in vitamins as a coating and as capsules; and it is sometimes used to assist in “clearing” wines. Gelatin is not vegan.”
I guess my question is, “why continue using gelatin at all?”
With vegetarian substitutes being rather simply derived, it makes little sense to me why we rely on gelatin, and, why it is hidden in so many everyday products that most people would never consider being non-vegetarian or non-vegan. Most disconcerting to me are the seemingly unavoidable sources like medicine capsules, shampoo and cosmetics. While I truly am bothered—and routinely pass over the marshmallows and toss the Halloween gummies—I have my dilemma: it would take ALL of my energy to learn which products are okay and which are not—gelatin is not always so neatly listed. I have already spent so much time advocating for cosmetics that are not tested on animals and keeping a strictly vegetarian diet, even PETA tells us the energy can be a waste.
In essence, I guess these are battles that we need to do our best with—the war is much bigger. If you yourself are making a jello-type recipe do your best to work with the vegetarian alternatives such as Agar or Caragean or others listed here.
But, as Peta recommends, it makes sense to just try out darndest to lead by example. Fretting over ingredients could make vegetarianism seem like too much work and deter those around us to start making strides in the right direction. So, skip the gummies, substitute in this Thanksgiving’s jell-o mold, but keep don’t sweat the small stuff. We can make a greater impact empowering others to take animal rights seriously by not sweating ALL of the small stuff.