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Keeping Animal Cruelty Out of Sugar

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Keeping Animal Cruelty Out of Sugar

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.)

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Laura Shults

Laura Shults is working to spread peace through veganism, and is devoted to finding the truth through love and harmony.


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3:11AM PDT on Mar 14, 2013

Keep animal cruelty out of everything. I use stevia, just a little in my lemon myrtle green tea.

2:40PM PST on Dec 4, 2012

thank you

6:36AM PST on Mar 8, 2012

Thank you so much. I really learned a lot.

4:57AM PST on Mar 8, 2012

Not so fast! Beet sugar is genetically-modified (GMO) and you'd be supporting the likes of Monsanto if you go with beet sugar. God Bless!

10:54AM PST on Feb 29, 2012

While I do prefer to use organic sugars that avoid this process, I became a bit less gung ho on the whole thing when I had it pointed out to me that the water we drink also goes through bone char as part of its filtration process. It is impossible for anyone, no matter how vegan, to live in the US, survive, and not accept a certain degree of animal contamination and use in their consumption.

5:48AM PST on Feb 26, 2012

Thanks for this very useful post - I have jus discovered xylitol :-)

11:46PM PST on Feb 25, 2012

Wow, thank you for info and article!

1:28AM PST on Feb 24, 2012

Luckily, this isn't done in Germany, where I live. But I still avoid refined sugars because they seem just unnatural to me. I mostly use untreated organic fair trade whole cane sugar.

8:26PM PST on Feb 23, 2012

I avoid refined sugars. I opt for the more healthful sweeteners mentioned on the last page.

2:24PM PST on Feb 22, 2012

I'm always really wary of using white sugar (I didn't know that brown sugar is also often filtered!). Thank you for the list of brands that don't use bone char! I was just thinking about this yesterday and wondering where I could find a list like this.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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