If you are assuming that animal-free purity is the criteria for ascertaining whether or not something is vegan, then are there any truly vegan foods? In the commercial arena, probably not.
Regardless of how they are grown or processed, most foods eventually come in contact with animal products, directly or indirectly. Insects and worms land on or burrow through fruits, vegetables, and grains as they are grown, occasionally ending up inside them, ground up with them, or packaged with them. Organically grown produce is often fertilized with dried blood, bone meal, and/or animal manure. Most fruits, vegetables, grains, and beans are flown or trucked in from different parts of the country or world in carriers that may have recently ferried meat and various other animal products. Trucks, trains, and airplanes use tires, lubricants, and plastic parts that most likely contain animal by-products, and they all utilize roads, rails, or runways that displaced animals and destroyed habitat when they were constructed. These vehicles also emit environmentally damaging fumes and pollutants and often inadvertently kill innocent wildlife. Most plant foods are distributed to stores where they will be sold side by side with meat, eggs, and dairy products, handled by nonvegan produce workers, placed on a checkout counter that may have deposits from previous customers' animal-based purchases, and packed by a nonvegan checker into plastic bags that probably contain animal by-products or paper bags that, even if made from recycled paper, are sealed with animal-based glue.
So where do vegans draw the line? The most clear-cut and practical approach is the following: If a plant-based food (unadulterated or processed) contains no overt animal products or by-products, it is deemed vegan.
From an ethical standpoint, this is the most realistic and constructive way to view not only food but also other commodities. Modern methods of processing and transporting are so pervasively tainted with animal components that it is counterproductive and futile for vegans to be concerned about technicalities. In addition, preoccupation with minutia detracts from the more significant and purposeful aspects of being vegan and makes veganism appear outlandish and onerous to outsiders who might actually be willing to become vegan but are discouraged by such trifling concerns.
Your question is an important one, and it is vital that vegans continue to discuss matters of ethical practice. However, it is equally significant to channel energies into those areas of vegan living that are consequential. If vegans avoid products because they disapprove of certain processing methods, no vegans could ride in a car, drink tap water, live in a house, or wear manufactured clothing.
So, are food and other items that don't contain overt animal products vegan? From every reasonable perspective, yes.
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