April 18, 2011
Vegan Promoter Uses Photos of Meat and Dairy Items, and Fury Follows
By JOHN COLLINS RUDOLF
VegNews, a “vegetarian lifestyle” magazine and Web site based in San Francisco, is eating a little crow.
The publication is reeling after revelations last week that its editorial staff regularly used images of meat and dairy-filled foods to accompany vegan-themed articles and recipes.
The gastronomical subterfuge was revealed in an April 13 post by Quarrygirl.com, a vegan blog, which found that images of conventional foods from a free online stock-photo service were identical to images accompanying supposedly vegan dishes in the magazine and on its Web site.
In one case, an ordinary slab of grilled ribs was made to appear meatless after the bones were digitally airbrushed out of the picture. In other instances, images of hamburgers, hot dogs, macaroni and cheese and ice cream were featured so as to appear meat and dairy-free.
Irate vegans took to blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other online forums to vent their fury.
Angry at being taken in by the images, one reader commented on the magazine’s Web site how awful it felt “to have craved any of the foods featured here, because now I feel I was craving animals.”
Other commenters criticized the editors as contributing to public perceptions of vegan food as bland and unappealing.
“Any omnivore who catches wind of this will be left with the impression that vegan food must turn out so unappetizing that even the leading vegan magazine will not show legitimate photos of it,” a commenter said.
VegNews has 210,000 subscribers to its bimonthly magazine and receives more than one million monthly online visitors to its Web properties.
In an interview, Joseph Connelly, VegNews’s publisher, apologized for using nonvegan images and said the practice would be discontinued. An earlier statement by the magazine acknowledged using stock images of meat and dairy but said it was necessary for budgetary reasons and would continue.
“We were shellshocked by the response,” Mr. Connelly said. “We underestimated our responsibility, and we’re taking steps to correct it.”
“I do want to apologize to the vegetarian and vegan community for our oversight,” he added. “We’re going to make an effort to publish nothing but vegan photography.”
Mr. Connelly rejected an earlier statement that using the stock images was necessary to maintain the magazine’s quality.
“I don’t think quality will suffer,” he said. “We may have to work a little harder.”
He said he hoped the magazine’s readership would “stand up and help us” in providing vegan photography.
A writer for Quarrygirl.com, who declined to be identified by name, said in an e-mail message that the magazine’s change of heart was “good news” but that its initial response revealed a “chasm of empathy between them and their readership.”
“The way they have handled this so far has lost them a lot of friends,” she said.
The bloggers at Quarrygirl.com, based in Hollywood, added that they would be returning an award they had received in 2009 from VegNews for an investigative article that uncovered nonvegan ingredients’ being served regularly at vegan restaurants in the Los Angeles area.
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