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. Richard Allen

    anyone wanna go out for a steak? I could so use a 12oz Sirloin.

    April 15, 2011 at 11:54 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Joey

    "Just meat and potatoes?"
    Who said anything about potatoes?
    I might subscribe to a magazine that advocated an all-meat diet that excluded fruits and vegetables.
    Of course, then why buy a magazine about it? Just do it conceptually.

    April 15, 2011 at 11:55 pm | Report abuse |
  3. romijo

    I will stop eating photos printed in VegNews today!

    April 15, 2011 at 11:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • pumpmar

      u have the funniest comment on here

      April 16, 2011 at 2:40 am | Report abuse |
  4. thomas

    Why is this national news?

    April 15, 2011 at 11:57 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jazzzzzzzz - something fun for everyone

    U still there Thomas

    April 15, 2011 at 11:58 pm | Report abuse |
  6. B.Hall

    @B, you're the first vegan I've seen grasp the humor of your predicament. Kudos to you for seeing the bigger picture, and not adhering to your (admittedly) unflattering stereotype. I'm going to laugh in earnest if this publication dies because its supporters killed it. Funny stuff!

    April 15, 2011 at 11:59 pm | Report abuse |
  7. hungry

    No but, the point is this, your place in the world morally and ethically depends on your life experiences and world view.
    This article also dovetails nicely with the news of 50% staph infected, supermarket, meat.
    Also, bear in mind, as nations develop their people want to eat more and more meat. One reason for higher beef prices. China and India with populations of 1.4 and 1.2 billion respectively add tremendously to demand for beef. And gasoline for that matter.

    April 16, 2011 at 12:00 am | Report abuse |
  8. Tony

    ROFL! Picturing angry mobs of vegan protesters storming the magazine's office over such blasphemy. Oh how will they ever recover? I think this is proof that you can make a scandal out of anything, and people can find almost anything to beach about. LOL

    April 16, 2011 at 12:03 am | Report abuse |
  9. Joey

    One doesn't eat the 100% animal diet for health alone, no matter how good you look when you do that and work out with weights every day.
    It's outright fun to devour animals.

    April 16, 2011 at 12:05 am | Report abuse |
  10. Arick

    Oh no, they offended some self-righteous vegans, the shame!

    No one really cares what vegans think anyway.

    April 16, 2011 at 12:06 am | Report abuse |
  11. lone superpower

    These magazines need to understand that our economy is going 85 MPH. Cutting costs by using stock photos it not acceptable in the current economic environment.
    Hire someone to take the damn photo.

    April 16, 2011 at 12:08 am | Report abuse |
  12. Joey

    I care what they think.
    It gives me something to laugh about.
    I like being happy.

    April 16, 2011 at 12:09 am | Report abuse |
  13. vegans are dumb?

    What's the mean weight of American adults these days? Enjoy your antibiotic, ammonia soaked, hormone riddled flesh. At least when you're all hideous, Wall-E-esque humanoids, unable to wipe your own behinds, let alone walk, people with more common sense might be able to take over the food production systems. Until then, keep on keepin' on the Jimmy Deans. The sooner you're immobilized, the better.

    April 16, 2011 at 12:18 am | Report abuse |
    • pumpmar

      your like the perfect depiction of a self righteous vegan (vegetarians arent as mean). also, antibiotics and hormones arent bad. if did eat animals, would you want it to be a sick one? as for hormones, all living things have walle a robot?

      April 16, 2011 at 2:45 am | Report abuse |
    • CW

      Biologically, everyone's metabolism and genetics are different. I have been an omnivore eating everything in moderation all my life, and I'm perfectly healthy as of my last doctor's visit. What is a healthy diet for one person can be different for another. We all have different amounts of enzymes, bacteria, etc. that predispose us to having healthier or unhealthier bodies than others. Just because a specific lifestyle is suitable for your needs, it doesn't mean it's suitable for others. You shouldn't be forcing your personal opinions onto anyone else.

      April 16, 2011 at 3:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Justbearit

      I'm not going to pretend that I know or understand your personal beliefs, and you do have valid points. I do take issue with your creepy admission of ambition to passive agressively control all humans through their diets. Trying guilt, or scare people into joining you in your beliefs is scary enough but to be perfectly happy with patiently waiting for people to eat themselves into immobility or death so you can take over their lives is pretty sick. I know all vegans don't think the same , but I do take offense to the people who care more for an animal's rights than human beings rights. Educate (not shout at, scorn, belittle, guilt, or force) people about diet and and the impacts of the modern food industry. Ultimately, it is still their choice though.

      April 16, 2011 at 7:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Josh

      Justbearit, it is a common misconception that vegans care more about animals than they do for humans. Most vegans and vegetarians are all about humanitarian causes. And many support charities for them (I am one of them). A single comment on a public post that speaks against animal cruelty does not mean that's the only thing that person cares about. It's just the topic of the day.

      April 16, 2011 at 8:33 am | Report abuse |
    • vegans are dumb?

      Just taking advantage of the anonymity to be as outrageous as so many others on these boards for a change. And obviously I meant the crazy huge cart driving PEOPLEin Wall-E. Not the robots.

      April 16, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sheep Dog

      Or you can buy your meat from good sources. I don't eat Jimmy Deans crap. All of our meat is from something I've hunted , or it's bought from whole foods.
      Also I don't hunt w/ a knife and a loin cloth. I use a .308 and try to shoot them from as far away as possible.

      April 18, 2011 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
  14. banasy

    Hi, I'm Joey, phil, raven, sherri ww, dr mhendi, tom, richard,and harry.
    Thank You.

    April 16, 2011 at 12:20 am | Report abuse |
  15. ICWorld

    Hmm would Jeffery Dohmer eat a Vegan?

    April 16, 2011 at 12:21 am | Report abuse |
    • 20 Year Veggie

      With a fine chianti and some fava beans...

      April 16, 2011 at 2:57 am | Report abuse |
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