Vegan magazine in a stew over meaty stock photos
Vegan blog accused 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,, 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 with photographs from royalty-free image service, iStockphoto. One example shows an image of a "veganized" Brunswick stew recipe from and an identical image from iStockphoto titled "chicken breast-soup-stew-pepper."

"Get your barf bags ready!" 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, 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. lol

    ROFL! Vegans are so silly.

    April 15, 2011 at 10:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chef

      II agree – plants are people 2!!!!

      funny how people value one living organism over another.

      April 15, 2011 at 11:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Karl

      Spot on! Equal rights for petunias and daisies or bust!

      April 15, 2011 at 11:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rational Person

      "We would love nothing more than to use only vegan photography shot by vegan photographers"

      Pure comedy gold and borderline discrimination if that person was serious.... the vegans are looking more and more like the scientologists

      April 16, 2011 at 12:27 am | Report abuse |
    • guy in boise

      Food looks great to me. I love chicken beef and fish – nummy

      April 16, 2011 at 1:17 am | Report abuse |
    • ha

      so.... anti-biotics... homicide for killing a living organism... or since you are saving yourself, is it self-defense?

      April 16, 2011 at 1:43 am | Report abuse |
    • troy

      we have canine teeth for a reason whether or not you choose them to eat meat....I feel that meat like anything else in moderation is fine. I choose not to eat meat, but i respect those who do, and to those who do not...but not mickey dee's as that is not meat. I am mostly veggie but about once a month my mind tells me i need a fresh cut steak-mid rare and occasionally some raw yellow fish tuna.

      April 16, 2011 at 3:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Mitch

      Lol, find me a non-vegan chef who doesn't HATE vegans, and I'll find both santa claus and the tooth fairy for you.

      April 16, 2011 at 3:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Snall

      Mmmm meat.

      April 16, 2011 at 4:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Peter Raphael

      I love plants therefore I am carnivore.

      April 16, 2011 at 4:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Sand

      "We would love nothing more than to use only vegan photography shot by vegan photographers"

      Sounds pretty discriminatory to me. I say round them all up and put them in happy camps.

      April 16, 2011 at 5:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      People, have a Hamburger and chill.....

      April 16, 2011 at 5:13 am | Report abuse |
    • bozbun

      Chef: Ever kill a bug? Have you owned a pet? Favoritism is common, introspection is not.

      April 16, 2011 at 7:39 am | Report abuse |
    • CalgarySandy

      As far as we know plants do not have a central nervous system and the capacity for emotions and thought. Animals do. Morality is not the only reason people prefer to be vegans. Pigs are smarter than dogs and are very affectionate if happy. I.e. playing with the other pigs in the sunshine. Would you eat your dog under normal conditions. Some do it for the recognized health benefits.

      April 16, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Melinda

    I've been vegan for years, have read veg news off and on for years – and I think this is hilarious! I'm gonna subscribe to it now.

    April 15, 2011 at 10:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Josh

      Why would you subscribe now? Because of the awesome stock photography they purchased from an internet site?

      April 16, 2011 at 8:09 am | Report abuse |
  3. BGko


    April 15, 2011 at 10:58 pm | Report abuse |
  4. David

    Though some vegans are "silly," as you say, the concept itself is quite logical, and ethical.

    April 15, 2011 at 11:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chef

      I It could possibly be considered ethical – but certainly not logical. Everything evolved from the same primordial soup, everything has its role in the balance of earths ecosystem. If every human being tried to get their nutritional value from plants alone, even with all the technology developed for farming technique... it just wouldn't work. If people in developing countries (third world sounds so derogatory).... well lets just say although they are sustainance farmers, often times they are forced to hunt to ensure the survival of their villages. Travel to Africa and tell me I'm wrong. Morals and ethics are all relative, and pretty much everyone considers themselves a moral / ethical person.
      If you wanted to be truly moral and ethical you would advocate only dining on stupid people and criminals for the benefit of our species.... 😀

      April 15, 2011 at 11:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • c0cker

      Uh... we evolved to eat meat, and protein sustains us. Nature is illogical and unethical?

      April 15, 2011 at 11:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • siberwulf

      Nothing about the human physique says "carnivore." No sharp teeth. No brute strength. No keen eyesight. No super-sensitive sense of smell.

      We have our brains. That's about it. We're smart enough to conquer animals...but does that mean we should? It isn't logical.

      April 16, 2011 at 2:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Doug

      Well.. Actually Humans brains evolved from eating fish as well as other small mammals. We also ate bone marrow from dead carcass. The Omega 3 fatty acids help put our brains over the edge to where we are today. If we were like apes we would just eat bananas all day.

      April 16, 2011 at 2:21 am | Report abuse |
    • mockery

      Yes! Because animals taste great! Fried, braised, on a fire or just plain raw .. it just depends on the animal and often how much fat relative to the muscle meat content. Also depends on what they ate and what kind of life they lived while they were alive. Feral pigs raised on a good biotope are good eating, as is grass-fed beef. Chickens are mighty tasty too, especially if you can cook them within a couple hours of killing them.

      April 16, 2011 at 2:27 am | Report abuse |
    • just me

      NO...... It's SILLY!!

      April 16, 2011 at 3:01 am | Report abuse |
    • CW

      We do have canines, siberwulf. We are, in fact, omnivores.

      April 16, 2011 at 3:23 am | Report abuse |
    • David

      Its neither chumpy.

      April 16, 2011 at 6:27 am | Report abuse |
  5. Jayden Harlow

    Looks like both sides of this debate have missed the real point. They're presenting recipes of food with a photo that's supposed to be a picture of what that recipe can do - but it isn't because they have no idea what ingredients went into the food that was in the photo. It also suggests that nobody connected with the magazine ever actually made the recipe before promoting it becuase if they had one would assume they could have taken a picture of it. I doubt the problem would be resolved if there were stock vegan photos available - they'd still be publishing photos of food that wasn't made with the recipe being promoted. So what's the point?

    April 15, 2011 at 11:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nicole

      Exactly. They are cutting corners by not taking food photographs themselves. If I am looking at a magazine the picture of the food is almost as important as the recipe. I'm not currently a vegetarian (I have been in the past, and will likely be in the future) so seeing meat isn't exactly offensive to me. Seeing recipes portrayed by stock photos, which may not even include the ingredients listed, is.

      April 16, 2011 at 12:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Daisy Fernandez

      EXACTLY the point, regardless of whether one is vegan or not, it is clearly misrepresentation!

      April 16, 2011 at 7:07 am | Report abuse |
    • jergn

      Food photographers use a whole slew of tricks to get the food looking its best, vegan and non vegan. Most food pictured in magazines would taste awful and possibly make you sick. They use things like paint, turpentine, shoe polish, glue etc. to make it look the way they want it to look. I don't want to eat shoe polish but I don't get upset because they used it to color a roasted chicken before they photographed it. Almost all professional photographs of food are a misrepresentation of the recipe.

      April 16, 2011 at 7:51 am | Report abuse |
  6. Rhoffman303

    When was the last time you went to a vegan photo gallery?

    April 15, 2011 at 11:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • just me

      I believe it was on a planet orbiting Vega

      April 16, 2011 at 3:02 am | Report abuse |
  7. Tom

    I was a vegetarian for four years and while I'm no longer adhering to the lifestyle, it's done a great part in allowing me to wake up to what I've been eating, and has led to a healthier lifestyle for me and my family. Yeah, we ate tofu and sprouts, and those things are good for you. You'd do yourself a lot of good eating them, too, even if it's accompanied by a juicy steak.

    April 15, 2011 at 11:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Billy

      Well said Tom. Moderation is the key. Don't go crazy with the sprouts, but don't be a 3 hamburger a day person either. I am a happy omnivore but I've found my health and happiness to be better when I treat meat as a side and not main dish.

      April 15, 2011 at 11:27 pm | Report abuse |
  8. wondering

    Are they publishing these stock photos with recipes as if they are photos of what the dishes will look like? That just sounds wrong.

    April 15, 2011 at 11:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • sam

      i agree. if you are too lazy to make the dish and take a photograph of it yourselves, then don't include a photograph. it seems really shady if you are using photographs of completely different dishes to sell recipes, whether the photos include meat or not.

      April 15, 2011 at 11:46 pm | Report abuse |
  9. HotSnax

    Soylent Green is made of PEOPLE!!

    April 15, 2011 at 11:12 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Michael

    I prefer my steak so rare that I want to hear it 'moo' when I cut it.

    April 15, 2011 at 11:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • B

      And this is what the onnis do when a story like this breaks. Stupidity. All around.

      April 15, 2011 at 11:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Leo

      Me too... nice and rare... WHEN I eat steak. However, I can do quite nicely without meat for the majority of my meals. Who needs meat with every meal? I can enjoy a tofu-veggie stir-fry one day, a bleedin'-rare steak the next day, and a vegan lentil-rice curry the day after that! What's wrong with a bit of variety? I've found that I've added a ton of variety to my diet, and enjoyed some amazing culinary experiences, by branching out with vegetarian and vegan options... in addition to some very tasty animals. So... I'd support a vegan magazine. More recipe ideas! Creativity is always useful in the kitchen. Who wants to live on nothing but meat and potatoes their entire life? What a waste of taste buds.

      April 15, 2011 at 11:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Just saying...

      @ Michael: If you like it so rare then next time you go to a restaurant ask them to bring you a rope to take the left over home with you...
      @ the rest: so that's why my recipes never turn out the way magazines makes them look...?? Until now, I thought I can only make my food taste good, but not look good... Now I know why... In my opinion this is just plain cheating...

      April 16, 2011 at 12:09 am | Report abuse |
  11. JeramieH

    The world is ending...

    April 15, 2011 at 11:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • just me

      NO, people are just losing intelligence at record speed.

      April 16, 2011 at 3:03 am | Report abuse |
  12. Erin Elizabeth

    Sadly at least one of the photos is NOT meat and was wrong. She has now changed the photo to another that is allegedly meat but how do we know when we were told the other was definitely meat!? I contacted the photographer of the "homemade" burger myself and found out that not only was the burger vegetarian so was the woman who shot it!!/notes/erin-elizabeth/wheres-the-beef-quarrygirl-accuses-vegnews-of-using-meat-burger-pic-but-it-reall/10150219844160479

    Has the full story...

    April 15, 2011 at 11:16 pm | Report abuse |
  13. NeTMoNGeR

    How are they idiots? Im an omnivore, but you cant argue with the facts: it is a healthier diet in many ways, it is better for the environment, and animals dont have to die. Myself I have no plans to switch to a vegetarian diet any time soon. And I dont want my daughter growing to adulthood without eating meat – I think its essential for her development. But Im not so stubborn (as you obviously are!) to not understand that there are some clear advantages to a vegan diet. Its safe to say that you would be healthier, and the planet would be a nicer place, if you ate a vegan diet.

    April 15, 2011 at 11:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • ladka92

      Don't think the planet would be a nicer place as you state.....three days without a healthy meat filled burger or steak and a lot meat-eaters would be somewhat irritable and probably not very friendly.......besides the growing deer population would be extremely detrimental to our automobile population

      April 16, 2011 at 5:03 am | Report abuse |
    • bozbun

      However, deer populations are controlled by state departments. The same state departments that years ago established deer populations in areas that were previously deer free, for hunting.

      April 16, 2011 at 7:35 am | Report abuse |
    • jorge washinsen

      Send them a bill the next time a deer caves the front of your car in.

      April 16, 2011 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Um, what is a "state department"? You mean 'fish and game department"? No, they do not control deer. Hunters do, in the absence of other predators...

      April 16, 2011 at 10:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      Where's the proof to your contentions? Vegans are just like the gay community. They have to throw it in your face and make it out that they are somehow special and better than you because they don't eat animals. Then they turn around and use leather products and products that resulted in animal torture and deaths from testing, i.e. makeup (unnecessary to maintain life) and even much more hypocritical can one get? I don't care what you eat or don't eat and I really don't want to waste my time hearing about it either...and you are no better of a person for it either.

      April 16, 2011 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
    • M

      If you know a "Vegan" who is wearing leather products and using products tested on animals... they are not vegan. Veganism not a diet, it's a life style – the food is just one small part of it. I've chosen not to eat animal products, but I wear leather shoes and don’t really think too much about animal testing. I wouldn’t call myself vegan. I don't go on about my choices or tell people they shouldn't eat meat. In fact I cook meat for friends and family or serve it at parties. So, that said why do you ignorant, judgemental omnis feel it’s okay to lecture me about my choices? I don’t tell you what to put in your mouth!
      Oh and for the record, my plant based diet does make me a better person – not because I’m saving the world or the poor animals, but because I am happier, thinner and healthier (and have more disposable income, b/c even buying everything I can organic, my grocery bill is about half of what it was).

      April 16, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eileen

      You are wrong, Jeff. Vegans do not use leather. nor use makeup or any product that is tested on animals. Most vegans are totally respectful of animal life. Even though I am not vegan, I admire them and I try my best to help wildlife however I can. We humans think we are superior, but if we were truly a superior species we would use our intelligence to protect others, not kill them and pollute and ruin their habitat. Too many humans lack real empathy.

      April 16, 2011 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • M

      If you know a "Vegan" who is wearing leather products and using products tested on animals... they are not vegan. Veganism not a diet, it's a life style – the food is just one small part of it. I've chosen not to eat animal products, but I wear leather shoes and don’t really think too much about animal testing. I wouldn’t call myself vegan. I don't go on about my choices or tell people they shouldn't eat meat. In fact I cook meat for friends and family or serve it at parties. So, that said why do you ignorant, judgemental omnis feel it’s okay to lecture me about my choices? I don’t tell you what to put in your mouth!
      Oh and for the record, my plant based diet does make me a better person – not because I’m saving the world or the poor animals, but because I am happier, thinner and healthier (and have more disposable income, b/c even buying everything I can organic, my grocery bill is about half of what it was).

      April 16, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • dpljlb

      Yo Jeff – you're an idiot.

      April 16, 2011 at 7:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Missdel

      Oh, dear Jesus, you are moron. You clearly know not of which you speak- any vegan worth his or her salt rejects wearing animals, purchasing products that are made with/ tested on animals, etc. Do you have any IDEA how much research we put into making sure we can live as cruelty-free a life as possible? If your two faltering synapses could fire in sync for half a second, you might actualy think before you spoke.

      April 17, 2011 at 1:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Kyser

      Animal's die regardless if you eat them or not....also the person asking why we have to pluck or skin an animal......because we can't digest the fur or feather, we can eat the fur and feathers, but its not pleasant to pass. Also our digestive tracts are not nearly identical to Gorilla's......(whom also eat meat if need be.). It's alright you guys are Vegan's, but please don't try to pass out what you believe in on others, accept the fact some people enjoy eating meat.

      April 16, 2011 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Jamie

      NeTMonger, I just want to thank you for your open-minded perspective.

      April 16, 2011 at 7:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Beelzebub

      You typed, "animals don't have to die".

      How can you presume to be an omnivore if animals don't have to die?

      Do you just cut the legs off a little at a time and soak them in a stew pot?

      April 16, 2011 at 11:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dr. Know

      Isn't that what you do to a tomato plant?

      April 17, 2011 at 12:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Texas A&M Graduate

      They don't have to die. In College Station we simply use them in the bedroom.

      April 17, 2011 at 3:23 am | Report abuse |
  14. Carnivore

    Stuff is so nasty the true believers can't even find pictures of it, but they want to cram it down the throats of the general populace?

    April 15, 2011 at 11:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gina

      There are LOTS of excellent pictures of vegan food on the internet. There is now a Flickr group devoted to magazine-quality pictures of vegan food.

      April 16, 2011 at 8:30 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Etta

    Just when you think you've seen every form of stupid, CNN tops it again.

    April 15, 2011 at 11:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • just me

      Hey, it's not CNN, it's those crazy vegans!

      April 16, 2011 at 3:05 am | Report abuse |
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