Vegan magazine in a stew over meaty stock photos
Vegan blog quarrygirl.com accused VegNews.com of using photos of meat from iStockphoto to depict vegan dishes.
April 15th, 2011
10:19 PM ET

Vegan magazine in a stew over meaty stock photos

Many salivate over the mere image of a juicy hamburger or a glistening rack of ribs, but vegetarians aren't usually among them.

But apparently, that's what the readers of VegNews, the nation's leading vegan magazine, have been doing for years without their knowledge.

With the help of an anonymous reader tip, the author of the vegan blog, quarrygirl.com, accused VegNews of using food images of meat in its magazine and website and passing them off as meatless. The allegation prompted the San Francisco-based publication to confess that it had, "from time to time," used stock images that turned out not to be totally animal-free.

"The pictures we've been drooling over for years are actually of MEAT!" she charged.

To support the allegation, the irate post compared pictures of recipes on VegNews.com with photographs from royalty-free image service, iStockphoto. One example shows an image of a "veganized" Brunswick stew recipe from VegNews.com and an identical image from iStockphoto titled "chicken breast-soup-stew-pepper."

"Get your barf bags ready!" quarrygirl.com editorialized.

In perhaps the most egregious example, the post compared pictures of "Vegan Spare Ribs" and "Barbecue Ribs Dinner," pointing out where the bones were apparently edited out of the image.

"Veg News has written tens (possibly hundreds) of articles extolling the virtues of a vegan lifestyle, while purchasing rock-bottom priced stock photos of MEAT, EGGS, DAIRY and other completely non-vegan things," the post said.

In response, the magazine admitted that "Yes, from time to time, after exhausting all options, we have resorted to using stock photography that may or may not be vegan," in a plaintive letter addressing the controversy.

The VegNews team pointed out in its defense that the magazine has been privately owned and independently funded for 12 years, no small feat in the expensive world of publishing.

"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," the VegNews team said.

"It is industry standard to use stock photography in magazines and, sadly, there are very few specifically vegan images offered by stock companies. In addition, it's exceedingly challenging to find non-stock imagery that meets the standard necessary for publication. We would love nothing more than to use only vegan photography shot by vegan photographers, and we hope to be there soon."

The controversy set off intense debate as to whether VegNews' actions can ever be justified, with many prominent voices in the vegan world vowing to cancel their subscriptions to the magazine and ban the site.

But others came to VegNews' defense.

"As a privately owned publication with no outside funding, VegNews has done the near impossible by lasting 11 years and securing prime real estate in bookstores across the country. Currently, the popular magazine reaches over 1 million readers each month, including herbivores and omnivores alike," wrote Michael Parrish DuDell, senior editor of Ecorazzi.com, a self-described  "green gossip blog."

"While some online critics have suggested VegNews source user submitted photos, anybody who’s ever worked in publishing knows this suggestion isn't logistically possible. With time-sensitive deadlines, detailed specs, and other provisions to consider, sourcing photos would be more trouble than it's worth. Ideally, VegNews would have an in-house photographer, but being an independently owned company on a conservative budget prohibits that option. These are only some of the challenges the outspoken naysayers don't seem to be considering."

Another prominent vegan blogger said the end justifies the means and urged readers to continue supporting VegNews.

"All that really matters is that the reader associates the image with vegan food in a positive way, ultimately leading them to support vegan things," wrote Kayla, the blogger behind Babe in Soyland.

"Hurting VegNews over this would be sad and would mean the loss of an important resource and a way for vegans to reach out to their own kind as well as people who are NOT vegan but interested in veganism...It would be an unfortunate take-down of one of the vegan community’s greatest accomplishments by their own people and I just don’t think that’s what being vegan should be about."

But in this wired world, where action and reaction is instant, the kerfuffle has already sparked discussion of solutions.

"A good day to draw attention to vegan food photographers: @susanffvk @tofu666 @bittersweet_ @ohsheglows and I'm ok, too," tweeted Isa Chandra, a best-selling vegan cookbook author.

"Let's take a positive spin on the @VegNews photo controversy: create a vegan stock site! I would submit in a heartbeat. Problem-solved?" tweeted artsparrow.

What do you think? Leave your comment below.

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Filed under: Food
soundoff (708 Responses)
  1. baman

    Totally un-newsworthy!

    April 16, 2011 at 9:47 am | Report abuse |
  2. syntaxerror

    Animals eat other animals..why can't people just accept that....

    April 16, 2011 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Diane

      Yes raw.... torn apart with their teeth, do you?

      April 16, 2011 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
  3. Vexableman

    Ha Ha

    April 16, 2011 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
  4. baman

    What is a vegan? Are they aliens from the brightest star in the constellation Lyra or owners of the obsolete chevy subcompact wagon?

    April 16, 2011 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
  5. Alcomo

    I dont know about the rest of you, but even if the Vegans in some strange universe are right about there beliefs in meat being 'bad', id much rather take 10 years of my average 80 year life span to enjoy a nice big burger,steak or rack of ribs with a big glass of milk everyday then deal with some piece of lettuce with a glass of water.

    April 16, 2011 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Diane

      Say those words when you are 79...bet your opinion would change

      April 16, 2011 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Diane

      I meant to say 69 years...

      April 16, 2011 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
  6. Reason & Logic

    Who cares what the pictures look like if the recipes were vegan!!!!!

    April 16, 2011 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
  7. Drake

    I love all the vegan-haters. Feeling overwhelmed by your insecurity? Ashamed, but too weak to act? Accept that you're cavemen and go on about your life.

    As to the article, it comes down to what too many people simply don't understand – integrity.

    April 16, 2011 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
  8. Brian DeRouen

    Reading this thread I found it interesting to read the beliefs that some hold about vegans and vegetarians being weak or about how raising children with a vegan/vegetarian diet is anything but healthy. Here is a very short list of some folks you may have heard of, who stick to (or stuck to) and cruelty free diet. Athletes: Carl Lewis (9 Olympic golds, 1 silver in Track and field), Mac Danzig (Mixed martial arts world champion), Rob Bigwood (Arm wrestler, ranked top 5 in US), Joe Namath, Hank Aaron, the list goes on and on. In regards to mental capacity here are a few interesting names:Albert Einstein, Henry Ford,Vincent Van Gogh,Benjamin Franklin, Sir Isaac Newton, Martin Luther, Leonardo Da Vinci. Find me some stronger or smarter folks than the ones listed here and you can continue to believe that you or your kids need to eat meat to be strong or smart.

    April 16, 2011 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |
    • really?

      you r a genious. U figured out how to google "famous people" and then posted a comment with all of them. That list is B.S.

      April 16, 2011 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
    • um????

      how about Michael Phelps, George Washington, Jerry Rice (hardest workout routine in the world.) And also Van Gogh? He was not exactly a genious as you described. Plus every other athlete/genious/leader that has ever lived.

      April 16, 2011 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
    • rick

      I didn't look up everyone on your list, but Benjamin Franklin became vegetarian later in life, after he ate a meat filled diet during his "Growing" years. he did it for Financial reasons(meat was very expensive at the time). Einstein became a vegetarian approximately 1 year before he died. Isaac Newton became a vegetarian in his last 5 years of life. I am not knocking the lifestyle, i support it, just don't alter/bend the facts for your benefit.

      April 16, 2011 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Brian DeRouen

      really? I am not claiming in anyway to be a genius (though I do know how to spell the word). I am however convinced that many people who are very strong and very smart have stuck to an animal free diet. Of course there are many meat eaters out there, I was neither condemning or attacking them. I was merely pointing out that people who believe you cannot be strong on a vegan diet are incorrect. Which of the names on my list is BS?

      Ummm? I don't know if questioning Van Gogh's genius was the best way to further your argument. Nowhere did I say that Jerry Rice was not the best wide receiver ever or that Franklin was smarter than Washington. If your point is that many great athletes and politicians have been meat eaters, I agree completely. Do you recognize that vegans/vegetarians have also done amazing things?

      Rick, I did not state that any of the people on my list were lifelong vegetarians and if I implied that by mentioning that children can develop fully and completely on a meat-free diet, that was not my intention. The point I was trying to make is a simple one, vegans/vegetarians are not stupid, weak, idiots, or any of the other things which they have been called by people in this thread. In his autobiography Franklin stated that he stopped eating meat when he was 16 years old. I don't know if he remained a vegetarian for his entire life, but I do not think that I was altering or bending facts. Are you claiming that Newton, Einstein, etc died from their change of diet or that they were not longer intelligent individuals by the time they changed their diet.

      I guess what I am asking is did any of you have any real refutation of my post or are you just annoyed that people eat different things than you do?

      April 16, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Bubba

    This is a tempest in a stewpot. Just don't eat the photos.

    April 16, 2011 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
  10. got milk?

    I see why you don't want to eat meat, but why would you not eat dairy. Dairy is an important part of life that has been a part of the human races food intake for thousands of years.

    April 16, 2011 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Amber

      Actually, dairy is horrible for the human body. Dairy causes excess mucus production, heart disease, osteoporosis, fuels cancer, and many many other things. Not to mention why on earth would you want to drink something that was designed for a baby cow? Cow's milk is no more intended for human's than human breast milk is intended for cows.

      April 16, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  11. lefty avenger

    Stock Photos stink, they've put all the photographers out of business. You know how america is already: Republicans fascists eat tons and tons of red meat. Left wing progressive liberals think that killing animals is wrong, so they eat Tofu. Perhaps we should set up a new battle: red meat eaters vs. tofu people. Red states for red meat eaters and blue states for vegetarians.

    April 16, 2011 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
  12. Diane

    Why are all meat eaters so angry and hostile? Guess it is the injected hormones and stress chemicals the animals have at the time of their "humane" murder.

    April 16, 2011 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
  13. got milk?

    I see why you don't want to eat meat, but why would you not eat dairy. Dairy is an important part of life that has been a part of the human races food intake for thousands of years!

    April 16, 2011 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |
  14. veganinoc

    The use of those photos in a magazine that touts itself as meatless and animal-friendly makes me ill and is a misleading form of advertisement.

    April 16, 2011 at 10:23 am | Report abuse |
  15. Grob Hahn

    How does anyone know what was REALLY in the stock photo to begin with? Could have been pork. Could have been textured vegetable protein. The stock photo company merely stuck a label on it. To make a buck (which are green and meatless).
    Grobbbbbbbbbbb

    April 16, 2011 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Diane

      Yes, exactly... what a big deal they are making.. It does look like seitan ( a meat lookalike). This girl who owns the blog knew what she was doing and is getting alot of publicity also. The recipe is vegan so that is fine. Vegans are not the ones getting angry, it is the meat eaters.. Go vegan for the planet

      April 16, 2011 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
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