Sugar…it seems to be found in everything. People of all ages and backgrounds can be brought together by something sweet; in the kitchen and around the table. We can all remember the floury hands, huge messes, and wonderful smells created along with loved ones in the hope of sharing a smile over some scrumptious confection. We regard it as a treasure to be used somewhat sparingly, and even call each other sweet to show our affection.
In the midst of our enjoyment however, we often forget to wonder through what process this magical substance comes to appear in our bowl, cup, or pastry. The words sugar¯ and cruelty do not seem to mix. Yet sadly, since 1812, sugar has been, quite literally, mixed with cruelty every day.Sugar seems vegan at a glance; it comes from a plant after all. But when the natural sugars from the plant are refined in a factory, they are often filtered through bone char. When you hear the words bone char, this is exactly as disturbing as you may think, as it is indeed charred animal bones, mostly pelvic bones from cows; ground and burned at 400 to 500 degrees Celsius.
Cane sugar, in its liquid form, is filtered through columns made from the ground bones, which absorb colorants and impurities. Up to 70 thousand pounds of bone char (the product of about 78 hundred cows) can be found in each one of the huge filtering vats used in industrial sugar production.
As explained by the Vegetarian Resource Group:
(Sugar companies purchase large quantities of bone char for several reasons, the first being the sheer size of their operations. Large commercial filter columns often measure 10 to 40 feet high and five to 20 feet wide. Each column, which can filter 30 gallons of sugar per minute for 120 hours at a time, may hold 70,000 pounds of char. If nine pounds of char is produced by one cow and 70,000 pounds are needed to fill a column, a simple math calculation reveals that the bones of almost 7,800 cattle are needed to produce the bone char for one commercial sugar filter. (We did not receive a verification of this estimate from another source.) Furthermore, each refining plant may have several large filter columns.)