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. Maggi


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

    I am a beef producer – all natural, no hormones or antibiotics – and have heard just about all the vegan arguments against. Just a thought though – The size of my herd is determined by what my land can support 1st and what I can sell 2nd. My steers are usually slaughtered at 18 months to 2 years old. If I can't easily sell the meat, I reduce the size of my herd – which I have done the last 3 years running.... so there are animals that never got to live at all, rather than live a pretty happy couple of years before serving their purpose. That being said, I really don't understand disparaging others for what they choose to eat or not eat (excluding the serial killing cannibals though). Can't we just say that everyone does what works for them and leave it at that?

    April 16, 2011 at 3:00 am | Report abuse |
  3. Dave

    The Vegan Con rolls on & on.

    April 16, 2011 at 3:01 am | Report abuse |
  4. Wicket

    What seems curious is why "vegans" are even looking at things that resemble meat? If you're vegan and you're disgusted by meat, why are you eating things called "burgers" and "spare ribs"? I would think vegetables in the shape of meat would be a tad disturbing.
    Or are y'all just trying to be vegan, realizing it's not natural for most of humanity, and suffering your tofurkey?

    April 16, 2011 at 3:04 am | Report abuse |
  5. believerofpeople

    Allow everyone to live the life that they choose-knowledge is power. The people have more facts now more than ever but that does not make one group better than another. Veg or meat or both-let it ride!

    April 16, 2011 at 3:12 am | Report abuse |
  6. Ajnabee

    So the tofu eater were drooling when they were seeing those meaty pic and they were saying hail vegan diet. LOL
    I cant stop laughing I peed in my pant let me go and wash.

    April 16, 2011 at 3:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Ajnabee

      I am back done washing but still cant stop laughing. I want to clear I thing I dont have a grudge with tofu eater. I was just wondering about the lame excuse given by the vegnews(can I say Veg and nonveg news)

      April 16, 2011 at 3:42 am | Report abuse |
  7. Dieyoung

    I am 100% meatatarian... Vegetarians can keep their salads.

    April 16, 2011 at 3:33 am | Report abuse |
  8. CW

    On a lighter note,

    If vegetarians eat vegetables, what do humanitarians eat?


    April 16, 2011 at 3:42 am | Report abuse |
  9. Greg

    So Vegans need their own special magazine which is "extolling the virtues of a vegan lifestyle"? I guess us Carnivores are just too awesome to need a magazine to validate our lifestyle choices. If Veganism were such a wonderful choice, why are grocery stores filled with fake "Veganized" versions of real food; Vegan-burgers, Vegan Hot-Dogs, etc?

    When was the last time you saw a product made out of meat that tasted just like Vegetables? Silly sickly gassy Vegans.

    April 16, 2011 at 4:27 am | Report abuse |
    • M

      There are pleanty of us who eat plant based diets completely devoid of that processed crap you mention. You are correct, if you think you're healthy, doing something good for the environment or your body by existing on "vegan junk food" like bocca burgers or daiya cheese you're delusional.

      Want to know what a healthy plant based, animal free diet looks like? Google Joel Furhman or "What the hell do vegans eat anyways."

      April 16, 2011 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Armyofoneman

    so the veggians like to look at meat just not taste. what pictures are or are not used are saddly to say solely at the descreggian of the publisher. As a raeder all you can do is stop buying the rag. Call it out for what it is " a selling tool" and get on with your life and quit crying in my all beef soup! BOO WHOO the pics got beef!. So now we truely know "where the beef is"git over it its a recipet and a picture. don't worrie you pretty little veggied out heads even if the photo falls into the soup you still got no actual beef!

    April 16, 2011 at 4:30 am | Report abuse |
  11. hungry

    i just got hungry reading these comments.

    April 16, 2011 at 4:31 am | Report abuse |
  12. JA

    Soylent Green is PEOPLE!!

    April 16, 2011 at 4:43 am | Report abuse |
  13. Al Boo

    LMMFAO !!! Love it when Organic, Green-Friendly, be fair to everybody Liberals are outed for being the hypocrites and idiots they are. F–cking LIARS, about everything it seems as long as it promotes their agenda. Suck The Bone you pasty-skinned idiots and enjoy a huge helping of Hope & Change while you're at it !!!!

    April 16, 2011 at 4:52 am | Report abuse |
  14. ladka92

    Must be part of the non-vegan agenda....subverting their non-meat eating ways

    April 16, 2011 at 4:57 am | Report abuse |
  15. hahahahahaha

    Was quarrygirl actually eating the photos in the magazine, and now she's upset because they been sneaking in photos of dishes containing meat? All kidding aside, if the magazine goes under because of this twits need to nitpick, that's one less resource for vegans to utilize. Good job, rock thrower!

    April 16, 2011 at 5:02 am | Report abuse |
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