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. Mr.Cranky

    HILARIOUS! This article was a real morning pick-me-up.

    April 16, 2011 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
  2. McGuffin

    "Get your barf bags ready!"

    Really? It's one thing if you want to make a lifestyle choice not to eat meat, but taking it to that extreme is just silly. We are omnivores. End of story.

    April 16, 2011 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  3. Deanna

    its not as though they are eatting the pictures? or that the pictures are actually meat or sratch and sniff lol

    April 16, 2011 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
  4. Not Vegan

    I am not a vegetarian, but I still kinda upchuck when I see pics of carcasses, that are shown for human consumption.

    April 16, 2011 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
  5. Doug

    If God didn't want us to eat animals then He wouldn't have put so much meat on them!!

    April 16, 2011 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
    • jodie

      He didn't. That's the work of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).

      April 16, 2011 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Doug

      Jodie: Are you for real? Get on Ebay and bid on a sense of humor!

      April 16, 2011 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Mr.Cranky

      She's right, Doug.

      April 16, 2011 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Doug

      Mr Cranky: Apparently on of the "side effects" of eating a vegan diet must be a lack of humor. I had never realized it but now I can see, "eating just fruits and nuts is making you all fruits and nuts".

      April 16, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
  6. GuestMeatEater

    Meanwhile in other news – millions of children are starving to death in [insert third world country].

    April 16, 2011 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
  7. HotSnax

    MEAT IS MURDER!!!!!!

    tasty, tasty murder

    April 16, 2011 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
    • meatpie

      You sill be sentenced to life in a steakhouse. I will come to visit you once a week.

      April 16, 2011 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
  8. oneSTARman

    I eat Vegan most of the time – even though I sometimes eat some seafood and non-fat dairy. Its mostly for Health reasons. I've lowered my Cholesterol and weight fairly dramatically; since a heart attack a few years ago. There are other good reasons – like Social Justice issues surrounding the disproportionate percent of the World's resources that Carnivores consume – But it is LOONY-PRUNES like these 'Photo-Haters' that STILL makes me shy about telling people about it.

    April 16, 2011 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
  9. Om Nivore

    I personally don't have a problem with Vegans. Cows are vegans and they taste great.

    April 16, 2011 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
    • SixDegrees

      Vegan outrage over this non-story is further proof that it doesn't take much in the way of brains to hunt grass.

      April 16, 2011 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Rich

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

      Deep inside, they love meat !! It just shows....naturally.

      April 16, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bernard

      Cows drink milk. They aren't vegan for they eat dairy products. To be truly vegan one must completely ignore proper nutrition and eat only vegetables, fruits, and some breads. If it weren't for vitamin pills they'd be hospitalized.

      April 16, 2011 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Benny

      April 16, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eric

      "Cows drink milk. They aren't vegan for they eat dairy products"

      Oh good lord, is this what passes for 'conservative thought' these days?

      April 16, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • CalgarySandy

      I do not normally think ill of vegans. I wish I could be one but it is expensive and labor intensive. This woman is an idiot to go ballistic over pictures that are sourced from a collection. What kind of nimrod goes out of their way to discover the source of photos? It strikes me that she already had a beef, so to speak, and went looking for something to beef up her story. The text is the important part and if they use something that looks like tofu but is chicken so what?

      April 16, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • sat

      Cows are vegan but they eat fish.

      April 16, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jennifer

      Actually, cows aren't vegans. 74% of beef is produced in CAFO's (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation), and CAFO's use rendered sheep, chicken, pig, and beef byproduct in the feed (the latter being the cause of mad-cow disease). They also use chicken manure, which is one of the many reasons (in addition to their literally being feces in the beef you eat) E. coli outbreaks are common and food recalls are on the rise.
      So, no... the cows you eat are not vegan.

      April 16, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • CalgarySandy

      It is hogwash that you cannot be a vegan and be healthy. Soybeans (beans, tofu) are a complete protein. You can balance vegetable proteins ( legumes, whole grains, a variety of seeds) to make sure you get the full amount of protein necessary. It may be necessary to supplement Vitamin B12, iron, vitamin D, calcium, iodine, and omega-3 fatty acids or be careful to eat extra of the foods that contain these necessities. It has been known for decades that a vegan diet is very healthy for every part of the body.

      My only issue with it is it is labor intensive and expensive. I do not like beans or grains that have been turned into a meat like substance. I don't like my teeth to bounce off real meat and it is even worse with pseudo meat. Lacto-ovo vegetarians do eat dairy products. The issue with that diet is there is way, way too much fat in food where cheese comes to the rescue for boring food.

      I don't have ignorant friends who would say they are vegans but are still wearing leather and sneaking in a pepperoni pizza. I also don't have much use for people who shovel out nastiness and then say they are a better person. Not! A better person can deliver the information in a polite way. Clearly people are giving you a hard time but it is not the hundreds who read these comments. You give Veganism a bad name: Arrogant and mean. Have a burger, beatch.

      April 16, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ed

      Get a life, eat a cow!

      Join PETA, people for eating tasty animals.

      Why does every vegan have pasty skin and look sick?

      April 16, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • susan

      @Jennifer re: the cow feed being made of sheep, beef byproducts, etc. I know that is disgusting. This sort of feed is not the cow's natural diet, and i feel strongly that such abominations are one of the reasons why people are suffering from the conventional diets in today's society. An animal who is forced to eat itself is a stressed animal, and obviously leads to such cannibalistic phenomena as mad cow disease (or CJD), but also likely is producing much more cortisol than a grass- or grain- fed free range cow is. Cortisol = steroids = what we are eating = weight gain, stress, heart disease, diabetes, etc etc.

      btw i too feel strongly that veganism is very unhealthy, and should only be followed if medically mandated for some reason. But the meat industry should really get reformed to produce healthier and happier animals for human consumption. We really are what we eat.

      April 16, 2011 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • susan

      Oh and even if the cows are made to be naturally vegan as adults doesn't mean humans are designed to be. (as far as I know cows drink milk only when they are babies).

      April 16, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • wayne

      The problem is when vegans try to convert meat eaters like lions and tigers and humans.

      April 16, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Lizzy

    Really??? This is newsworthy??????? Give me a break!!

    April 16, 2011 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
    • John

      Reporting deceptive, false advertising isn't news? Not a very smart little consumer, are you, Liz?

      April 16, 2011 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Ed Sr

      Which arm?

      April 16, 2011 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Shinea

      @John – You come away from this article with "false advertising"? It's a picture of stew, not an animal sacrifice, for Pete's sake. "False advertizing would require that they were ADVERTIZING something! What has this country come to?

      April 16, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Allison

      What about the headline drew you to read the article, Lizzy?

      April 16, 2011 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bernard

      @John, sure deceptive advertising is one thing. But these are vegans, who cares? They lie to evolutionary biology and refuse to acknowledge proper diet which includes dairy and meat, and expect honesty in food?

      April 16, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jennifer

      @ Bernard: I would recommend honing up on your facts. It's not a good idea to regurgitate myths – it just spreads them. There is absolutely nothing natural or evolutionary about humans drinking cow's milk (especially as adults). This is partly why 3 out of 4 people in the U.S. are lactose intolerant, and particularly in individuals with non-European descent. When a child grows past the time that they are supposed to be consuming their mother's (human) milk, they discontinue producing the enzyme lactase – which is responsible for absorption of lactose in the small intestine. It is quite unnatural for humans to be drinking cows milk. But, you seem like a nutrition expert... so perhaps you are right. Lying about what is good and not good for one's body is simply an attempt to boost the pro-vegan agenda, right? There's no possibility that the claims of the increased health rewards could possibly be backed by years of scientific research... open a book, and open your mind.

      April 16, 2011 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Sean Church

    Oh boo hoo, boo hoo. Feeling sick and betrayed because a website used photos of one thing to represent something else, as though it's never happened before on a website. Come complain to me when they break into your house and shove a porterhouse down your gob. Vegetarianism, being vegan, it's all fine. Nothing wrong with that. Being unbelievably petty and immature over inconsequential things? Never fine.

    April 16, 2011 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Colin in Florida

      The magazine committed fraud. Imagine being a reader, trying one of their recipes, and wondering why you efforts look so bad by comparison. You wasted not only time but money as well in making the dish, and yours looks like swill, not the beautiful pics in the magazine.

      April 16, 2011 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Shinea

      If it comes out bad by comparison, it's because YOU'RE a bad cook!

      April 16, 2011 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • dabble53

      @Collin – have to agree, if your results look like swill, it's a problem with the cook. And while it wouldn't look like the picture exactly, it should be far from swill......unless the insinuation is that all vegan dishes inherently look like swill?

      April 16, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Really Collin?

      How often do your recipes ACTUALLY come out looking exactly like the picture in the book/magazine/recipe card? Just like you don't look exactly like that model does in the outfit. This is seriously ridiculous. The magazine used what it could afford/find. Maybe you should apply to create their recipes and take photos of it for them.

      April 16, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • bob

      i am a vegetarian and its a big deal what if they showed meat or something and it was really poo what ya think

      April 16, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nadine

      Yes, but Colin, do you have any idea what "food stylists" do to food to make appetizing photos? For one thing, they spread things like vaseline on the food to make it shiny. The food you see is often quite a fabrication for the camera. So don't get your knickers in a twist over that.

      April 16, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  12. mike

    Anyone with a high school education can write the nonsense articles in this "magazine". The fact of the matter is that they are a scam and I'm utterly suprised that people today support lies and scams. Lies have infiltrated our politics, our social lives and everything that is fed to us through media. When is it time to say no? We dont support this kind of dishonest crap! – Let the magazine fail and hopefully the publisher will actually believe in what they sell. – I don't care what their excuse is. Let them fail!

    April 16, 2011 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Nadine

      My word, you're this overwrought about a picture with the bones airbrushed out? Gosh.

      April 16, 2011 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Diane

    Not only am I an ethical vegan...I am a raw food vegan. You would be amazed the gourmet food I eat made entirely of plant foods.. It is not just salad folks. I am the healthiest I have ever been..

    April 16, 2011 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Popeye

      Have you ever eaten a pine tree?

      April 16, 2011 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Capria30

      What does an ethical vegan mean?

      April 16, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • PSAGuy

      Got news for you Vegans....Humans are CARNIVORES ! Just like many mammals, we don't choose to eat meat....we do it naturally.

      April 16, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chelsea

      Humans are regarded as omnivores, not strictly carnivores.

      April 16, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Pat

    This is worthy of Jon Stewart!

    April 16, 2011 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
  15. Troy

    I agree, vegan's do taste great. I love grass fed cows! After all, meat can't be that bad for you, Jesus ate it. So if it's good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for me! Since I do not proclaim to be better than him because I don't eat meat.

    April 16, 2011 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Justin

      Jesus was just a man. Not the son of god... because there is no such thing as god... because it's a made up fairy tale. So using the logic of, "Well Jesus did it so...," as a way to strengthen your point is useless.

      April 16, 2011 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Justin

      Also, it's been scientifically shown that meat is bad for you. Milk and eggs from animals have been shown to be bad for humans as well. There's a component of animal protein, that's found in meat, eggs, and milk, called casein that has been shown to promote the growth of cancer. There's a book called, "The China Study," that explains it all in depth.

      April 16, 2011 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
    • k

      Jesus if he existed was nothing more then a glorified David Koresh, the fact that he never spoke out against Animal Abuse makes me think he was not as righteous as he claimed to be

      April 16, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • mikey

      Dude, Justin has some stuff you should read. Heh.

      April 16, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Popeye

      Justin – Cannibals have been eating vegans for centuries and to this date they are some of the healthiest and strongest people living today.

      Plants are living creatures too, they are capable of warning others of impedeing danger, capable of defending themselves (to a point), and will even flirt with other species (using scents and colors and fruits). Why do you kill and eat these delicate creatures. Plants are bad for humans because humans can only digest 30% or so of the available plant matter. Why? Because people aren't cows.

      April 16, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Puppet Master

      K- And Mohammad would be another Osama bin Laden wanna be.
      I want to be King and God!

      April 16, 2011 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
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