|Image via Quarrygirl.com. 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.