Thursday, April 14, 2011

My 2 Cents on the VegNews Scandal...

Image via This image is of real meat ribs - the bones have been photoshopped out to appear vegan.
 I woke up this morning to see my Twitter feed aflurry with outraged people talking about what will surely be dubbed Meatgate. Quarrygirl, one of my favorite vegan blogs, has yet again exposed a vegan scandal - this time, our beloved VegNews has been found to be using real meat photos to illustrate their all-vegan magazine.

Like pretty much everyone else, I am shocked. Purchasing stock photos of meat dishes then passing them off as vegan is not only dishonest, but it directly contributes to the exploitation of animals by supporting monetarily those who make their money by shooting images of dead meat. And as others have pointed out, it sets up unreal expectations in the readers whose recipes never turn out looking quite as good as the images in VegNews. Of course their vegan ribs didn't turn out as juicy and succulent-looking... they were never going to compare to the picture of the "real" thing.

But my shock and disappointment is coupled by some confusion. Very recently, I was approached by VegNews because they are doing a feature on the NY vegan chocolate shop, Cocoa V. About a year ago, I posted some photos from a visit to Cocoa V, and VegNews requested my photos to accompany their piece. The two people I communicated with from the magazine were both incredibly warm and friendly, enthusiastic about my photos, and I was honored and impressed that they had sought out images from a vegan blogger to publish in their magazine. There was no offer of compensation, but I was more than excited to contribute to what has long been my favorite magazine and, of course, be able to claim that my photos had been published. It certainly gave me an impression of integrity, and I simply assumed that all their images were not only of vegan products, but had been procured by vegan photographers as well.

So I'm sad to learn that this is apparently not the case. I know that a lot of people are justifiably angry and are immediately rushing to cancel their subscriptions, but I am patiently awaiting an explanation (an apology?) from VegNews about this disturbing issue. They have done so many great things for the vegan cause and I would like to think that they would want to remedy this situation and truly give us the all-vegan magazine that we have come to know and love.

UPDATE: VegNews has issued their response to the controversy here.

It is pretty much exactly what I expected - professional photo shoots are incredibly expensive, and it is industry standard to rely on stock photos to reduce expenses. HOWEVER, there are a wide number of vegan images available, even on iStockphoto, the outlet they were using for their images. Moreover, there are many talented vegan photographers out there - both professional and amateur - who would be more than willing to work for free or for nominal fees, just in order to support a magazine that they greatly admire. The site Finding Vegan, where many of my photos have appeared, is a veritable treasure trove of incredible photos of vegan food. There are many options available and I do hope and have faith that VegNews will make better use of these vegan resources in the future.

I have participated in several all-vegan photo shoots with my husband, who is a professional photographer and a vegan, having shot for Vaute Couture and Pinnacle magazine. We've had all-vegan models, vegan make-up artists, vegan stylists, a vegan photographer, vegan catering on set, and of course, all vegan products in the shoot. It can be done. And it is amazing how people will pitch in and help out for the good of the cause. I think this is a great opportunity for VegNews to reach out and rely on the vegan community at large, there are so many people who love this magazine and would be thrilled at the chance to contribute, and to ensure the integrity of this publication.


  1. I completely agree with you. It's very dishonest and does give off the impression that they must think vegan food doesn't look as appetizing as meat.

    There are so many bloggers out there who have amazing photos shot unprofessionally in their homes with their digital cameras. Why not feature those photos instead! The whole thing is so disappointing.

  2. Well said. I'm confused by all of this too. I wrote an online feature for them and provided photos (shot by my husband), and neither of us were compensated. Like you, I was happy to be published by a respected vegan publication.

    There are so many amazing vegan photographers out there who would gladly provide content for little or no money (as we did, and as I can only assume others have done as well). Why they would pay for stock images of non-vegan when that's the case is beyond me... I too hope for an explanation and apology.

  3. I completely agree with you, too. I love VegNews and I feel they deserve the opportunity to go beyond stock photos and reach out to the very community that supports them.

  4. love it! And Meatgate is genius. Thanks for including findingVegan in this post!! I certainly hope VN listens to us all... ~Kathy

  5. I just found out about this and I think it's totally ridiculous. I take photos for my blog in my poorly-lit kitchen with a basic digital camera and amateur food-styling skills - and I think my photos are decent and print-worthy. I can only imagine what someone with a few more resources (and training) could do!

    Yes, using stock photography is standard in the print and web publishing world. But if you're selling something very niche (or with a strong ethical stance), then you've got to factor-in the cost of custom photography. I'm pretty sure other ethically-slanted organizations do that (greenpeace, unicef, etc)...

  6. I agree - there are so many wonderful photos of vegan food, and Finding Vegan gets wonderful images daily. So I'm not sure why VegNews would resort to featuring meat. I thought your perspective was very eloquent, and I appreciate learning the thoughts of a fellow vegan blogger on the controversy. Thanks!

  7. It's the dishonesty that upsets me. Quite clearly Veg News editors made a choice, despite having used photos before, taken by vegans who were not renumerated and who were proud to give their work to further the cause. Shame on them for excusing themselves by saying it was a question of expense. I feel betrayed.

  8. it's shocking, and distasteful (pun intended!)

  9. There are vegan bloggers galore online and really brilliant ones, if they had searched around and asked for photographs like they did with you i'm sure people would have loved to provide them. The situation they chose to settle for was very unethical and goes against every grain of what being a Vegan means, I hope they sort themselves out very soon.

  10. I understand what they're talking about with expenses, but who says the photoshoot has to be professional? Most of us bloggers are not professionals are our pictures look damn good!