Horrifying vegans everywhere it was recently uncovered that VegNews Magazine has been using stock pictures of meat and passing them off as vegan dishes. Quarrygirl.com a vegan blog with the tag line “meat is murder” posted the side-by-side comparisons (here) between VegNews images appearing online and in print and the istockphoto original found on the stock site.

The magazine responded in a letter to their readers by saying that although they are “an ethical vegan magazine, owned-and-operated by vegans since its inception, VegNews is a labor of love, totally motivated by our dedication to ending animal suffering” it is not “financially feasible for VegNews” to “use custom-shot photography for every spread” and there are “very few specifically vegan images offered by stock companies” so they have “resorted to using stock photography that may or may not be vegan.” Letter (here).


The uproar continued after their non-apologetic statement so they finally issued a real apology (here): “We screwed up. With regard to our use of symbolic imagery in VegNews, our readers got it right. We wholeheartedly apologize. We assure you that we will never again use non-vegan photographs in VegNews.” And, there’s a new Vegan Stock photo agency: http://veganstockphoto.com that formed after the controversy.

Using stock can be convenient and cheap, but magazines need to maintain the trust of their readers, so a little fact checking will keep you from getting burned down the road. Obviously Veg News knew they were deceiving their readers so that’s different than not checking to make sure an image is accurate, but if I was forced to buy cheap stock for a magazine I would at least use TinEye to see where else the image was being used.

thx, Matt

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  1. I don’t think it’s a good idea to stock photos to illustrate recipes in the first place. I cook and then photograph a lot of recipes. Different recipes for the same dish look really different… and people use the photos as a guide as to what the finished recipe should look like.

    • @Jackie Alpers,

      The whole vegan/non-vegan issue seems like a sidebar to the point Jackie just made.

      If we care about this issue, it should be that they’re ‘art-ing’ recipes with pictures that are of similar dishes made with entirely different recipes.

      This is like Sports Illustrated running a microstock picture of some random dude wearing a Heat jersey instead of hiring someone to shoot LeBron at the Garden.

      This is $h!7 and if I were a VegNews reader, i’d be upset about that as much as the fact that the stand-in photos were of meat items.

  2. Hahhahahhahahhahahhahhahahhahahhaha




  3. I am vegan and pretty outraged. Definitely ending my subscription.

  4. Hahah this is such a ridiculous non story. I wish I had the time on my hands to care about such bullshit stuff as this.

    • @Mike,

      And yet here you are, spending time to comment on a story that you don’t have time to care about.

      irony much?

      • @Leonard Bayard, HA! good on ya Leonard!

  5. A vegan magazine . Who knew? So much for the moral high ground…

  6. Wow, and I thought the Photoshopping they did to *models* was horrifying. Really? You smudged the ribs out?

  7. tip of the iceberg, they just got caught…

    There’s a culture of businesspeople who think that photoshop + iStock is the only way to make a budget/deadline and that “truth in photos” is an “outdated mindset” …. or that was the phrase I once heard a non-client say when he told me why he used stock for everything….

  8. I never knew a magazine which has advertisers paying for space upwards of $6K was a “labor of love”. I thought the goal is to make a profit, that is what the purpose in selling ad space is, then with that money they can commission real photo shoots.

    At what point will publishers of any kind realize consumers don’t buy magazines for ads, they buy magazines for content. This is yet another publication with the age-old ads first, content second mentality. Consumers realize it and will seek other paths with due time.

  9. What I’ll never understand about those “moral” vegans and vegetarians is why the heck do they need to make food that looks like meat?? If meat is murder then what are vegan spare ribs? Murder reenactment?

    • @Tim, They’re trying to lure you to their side with ever tasty looking tofurky.

    • @Tim,

      You make a good point. I have been a “moral” vegetarian since I was 7, and I have never understand all this processed faux meat myself. I don’t like meat, I don’t want to eat meat, and I sure don’t want to eat soy mush packaged to look like meat. I think it is weird. Perhaps it comes from some people wanting to be able to bring their own version of hamburgers to a bbq, but it has really gone bonkers in my opinion. But to each their own or whatever!

  10. I always hate it when the dish doesn’t smell like the printed page too.

  11. Now they won’t have to buy meaty stock photos anymore. Now they have a stock company called Vegan Stock Photo that offers Vegan photographs for free.

    Free stock photos.

    Now they won’t ever hire a photographer for their food needs.

    Looks like being a cheap unethical magazine has paid off.

    Now they can be cheaper and ethical.

  12. What I don’t get with the “meat is murder” mentality crowd, what are they doing to help eradicate famine, starvation, bad water, disease and many other things that are probably more important that kill people than worrying about trying to reverse tens of thousands of years of humans eating animal meat.

    Pacifists or in-denialists are sometimes the worst activists.

    • @JS,

      What are YOU doing to help eradicate famine, starvation, bad water, disease, et al? Or is that only the job of vegetarians for some reason?

      I mean, come on. I think you have the reason a lot of people have opted out of eating meat all wrong. People who have stopped eating meat because they love animals or because of health reasons are not necessarily activists and aren’t always judging you.

      • @Kristiina, I’m directing my comment at the extremists “meat is murder” crowd. Hence what I said. They are the activists so I stated what I intended to already. I am not lumping into that crowd all the normal veg/vegan eaters. I have many of them as friends, eat dinners with them regularly, and have a one-on-one understanding of why they choose that food direction. Even I am finding more ways to put effort towards a heavier veggie regimen. But I do like the taste of meat, so that’s not going away for me.

        As to how do I help, well the only means I have regularly is sending money to our local food banks, local rescue which feeds hundreds of families, annual American Red Cross donation, water charities that help the international dirty water epidemic. With a job and family, that’s the only way I find I can help. My “boots on the ground” in some other country won’t help my family. I also shoot for non-profits, charities and specifically the Red Cross and provide work at a discount to better their message. That’s all this one person contributes. I know it could be more, but if everyone did that little bit, then massive improvements would be conquered.

        • @JS,

          I get what you are saying, but I am a bit unclear as to what water charities have to do with animal rights/vegetarians? There are so many good causes to help and individuals that are suffering (and I am someone that would include factory farm animals as some of those individuals) that we all have to pick and choose our priorities in terms of where to help out. That was the longest run on sentence ever!

          I think it’s great people can do something positive that isn’t for themselves. If they want to help out the Red Cross, great! If they want to do animal rights stuff, fine! I think we’ve lost so much of the concept of giving back in our daily lives that we shouldn’t harp on those that do it, even in their own small ways, even if we think the cause is silly.

          • @Kristiina,
            Thank you Kristiina! Took the words out of my mouth. I wish that every meat eater would actually do some research on where their “food” came from and how it got to their plate before they start in a debate on why vegans don’t choose a different cause. The whole bit about clean water and famine (for humans) actually made me laugh out loud. Factory farms and the miles and miles of farm land required to feed the animals being inhumanely slaughtered just because people “like the taste”, are some of the biggest polluters to our drinking water. Do some research, get educated! Why am I vegan and why do I speak on behalf of the animals….because animals can not speak for themselves! And because people like JS are far to quick to mindlessly run their mouth and cast judgment without knowing the facts! I love all animals! Not just the cute ones they sell at the mall. And to every meat eater out there shaking their heads as they read this, all I ask is that you know the facts. Do the just a small amount of research on this topic and I promise you it will change your life. Or are you too lazy. Sorry – I know that this was way off topic but I just can’t sit by and say nothing. Hopefully one person got something out of my rant.

  13. absolutely hilarious. they didnt just use a picture of an animal that was killed to be eaten, no, it was killed to be photographed. and then very likely thrown into the trash, because if the stockphotographer was doing his job serious he shot food all day long and none of that was cooked to eat, but just prepared. snap. trash.

    best vegan story ever. =)

    PS: i honour food of all kinds. plants dont need to be molested either. look at the business end of a harvester and tell me if it looks more friendly than your average bolt gun.

  14. I went cruising around veganstockphoto and had to laugh through the pain. The top-rated collection is appallingly bad. Perhaps all vegan food photographers capable of making good images have adopted sound business practices?

    • @Caleb Raney, In regards to the veganstockphoto images I agree with you.

      If the aim of the images is to make you want to eat the food then they miss the mark.

  15. Vegans make me laugh. Silly vegans.

  16. The thing that I really love about vegans is that for all the crying and bitching they do about animal rights and not eating meat etc, is that they try so hard to try and make most of their dishes resemble and taste like the meat they are protesting about.

  17. I think it’s interesting that all most people seem to want to talk about here is whether it’s ok for people to not eat animals. If the subject were war instead of food I wonder if the responses to the topic of misrepresentation through photography would be different.

  18. Eventually these vegan vs meat eater discussions remind me of a college prank a friend pulled…. it was the 90’s, and there was a hunters-rights mailing list, which he cross-subscribed with an animal-rights mailing list, so every post to one went to the other, mayhem ensued till people figured it out… eventually a handful of opposites became friends of a sort….

  19. Photographers subsidize many magazines with their micro stock photographs.

    Tim McGuire

  20. I heard an interview with the editor on NPR and thought it was quite an interesting story.

    One thing Rob didn’t bring up is that the editor said, in moving forward, they were going to develop a stock database of vegan food from reader photos to solve that dilemma for themselves and the larger media – i.e. he mentioned that if NPR were looking for a vegan spread they could go to the VegNews stock library and find something.

    They didn’t go into the details of how it would function, but I think that is a logical move from the editors point of view, but also another example of a non-professional encroaching into the profession.

    But then again, I doubt there are any photographers who build their business around vegan food photography – though it appears like an open niche (just no money).

  21. So now we have a new business model that goes beyond Royalty Free microstock. I contribute to a RF stock agency, and I know many successful professionals that supplement income with this. I’ve struggled with RF since the beginning and often felt odd about contributing.

    But this?! FREE ROYALTY FREE STOCK?! This must be driving all kinds of business out of the doors of photographers. So, now nobody has to pay for anything, ever, and a magazine that already…Okay, this is silly.

    Anyway, I feel bad for the people contributing to veganstock, regardless of the quality of images, they are still being screwed. What is 30% of zero?

  22. Nice to see that a simple “photoshopping” story turns into an all out battle of peoples rants and raves…

    Will the magazine now be hiring photographers to get them “vegan” only shots???

    And will the photographers have to be vegans???

    How many other moral groups are having to make sure they don’t get caught “faking it”???

  23. So, using non-vegan photos is deceiving, then maybe they should stop calling it “rib” and call it gluten, seitan, tempeh, or tofu for what it really is.

  24. Good thing photographers aren’t limited to using gelatin/silver emulsion photographic film anymore! Imagine the howls of derisive irony over that one…

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