Saturday, April 16, 2011

Complete Disappointment, So Long VegNews

I was very disturbed to discover an article yesterday about VegNews using photos containing animal products in their magazine and online while passing them as vegan.  I'm am outraged!  I feel like one of my best friends stabbed me in the back.  Like many vegans who subscribe to this magazine, I eagerly await my copy and I quickly flip through and drool over the photos of supposedly vegan food.  Apparently I've been drooling over photos of food laden with animal flesh and secretions.  Disgusting!  What's worse is that they knowingly deceived us.  Here is an excerpt of their response:

"Yes, from time to time, after exhausting all options, we have resorted to using stock
photography that may or may not be vegan. 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. 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."

You can find the full response here.  I think this is a sorry excuse.  I understand that magazines don't have a lot of money, but they release 6 issues a year.  Only 6.  They say from "time to time" they use non-vegan photos, but I find this incredibly hard to swallow.  Just judging by what QuarryGirl showed us here, it would appear that they use these photos more often than not.  There's nothing wrong with using stockpile photos when it's the best option available, but in a vegan publication there is something seriously wrong with using non-vegan food photographs to pass off as vegan.  Linda Holmes from NPR wrote an article that says:

"Unfortunately, when you use pictures of non-vegan food in a vegan publication, you're playing a whole different kettle of...well, not fish, obviously...It can seem like you're disrespecting vegan food in a magazine for vegans.  It's tought to thnk of a better way to anger your reader, other than including a ham hock with every issue."

I couldn't agree more.

The main issue here is that they were not transparent about this.  We had no clue!  I can guarantee that vegans do NOT want to stare at pictures laden with animal products and we would rather take a low quality picture of vegan food than a high quality picture of a burger of cow flesh dripping with fat.  No thank-you!

Often these stockpile photos are also accompanied by a recipe.  So when you make a recipe for a "Peanut Butter, Chocolate, Vanilla Cheesecake" like I did, you'll find that the result doesn't look like the photograph.  I can't wrap my head around this one.  These recipes are provided by some great cook-book authors or food bloggers, who often take pictures of their creations.  Wouldn't it make more sense for them to send in a picture of their food, of the actual recipe when they submit their recipes for print?  Who care if it's a lower quality, at least it's a picture of the food you'll be making!

What's more, is that when a concerned reader recognized one of the photographs as being a non-vegan food from the stockpile site, he commented on their site and sent them a friendly letter trying to help them realize this mistake.  Well, shortly after he posted his comment, it was deleted.  So he left another comment.  That one was deleted as well.  Then, he receives a response saying:

"Thank you for your interest in VegNews.  However, your inappropriate and mean-spirited commenting has violated the policy of VegNews, and we have and will continue to remove any future comments.  Please know that we welcome constructive criticism from all viewpoints, and rarely unpublish comments from readers...Should you have any constructive feedback, feel free to email me directly.  I'd love to hear from you."

Say what?  Isn't that exactly what this reader provided...constructive feedback?  I would certainly say so.  QuarryGirl investigated the policy from a link on the VegNews home page, here.  There is no reference to comments calling out meat pictures, so QuarryGirl left a comment: "just want to let you know that this burger is not vegan.  It's a stock photo of a real beef burger."  Twenty minutes later their comment was deleted.  This is incredibly disturbing.  As QuarryGirl rightly points out, we can only conclude that their is something serious integrity issues at VegNews and they can no longer be trusted. 

Grant Butler of the Oregonian also has a great article on the subject here.  He gives some examples of the counter-arguments, which have been represented by blogger Babe in Soyland and also Ecorazzi.  Again it comes down to a cost issue in both cases.  I don't buy it.  As Grant Butler points out there were more than 250 people who commented on the letter that VegNews released, a number of which were vegan photographers.  "[They] noted that there are many stock images of vegan hamburgers available that could have been used in place of the meat version that VegNews used.  And other comments notes that many vegan bloggers shoot beautiful digital images of the food they write about, so how hard could it be for VegNews to do the same when it tests its recipes."  

My favorite comment: "You're calling it vegan.  Selling it to vegans.  It better be vegan, or you're a cheat and a liar.  Period."  

Case and point.

I have already drafted up my letter to the editor expressing my concern about this.  I want an apology.  Not a poor response like they've dished out, but an actual apology.  I want a promise that they will not use stockpile photos of non-vegan food in the future, or that they will at least disclose this if they do.  AND I want this to come from the actual editor and not the "VegNews Team."  They better fix this fast or they certainly have a shitstorm to deal with.  If they don't do these things I am discontinuing my subscription, which is set to relapse in 2 months.  If you are angry about this, write them up!  Magazine are supposed to listen to their readers, so let your voice be heard.  

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