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Ethically-Sourced: Why You Should Choose Vegan CBD Products

01/04/2021 14 MIN. READ Alyssha Bal
01/04/2021 14 MIN. READ Alyssha Bal

By merely being declared 'vegan', some products can automatically inherit a squeaky-clean reputation and an impressive marketing boost. But are we too quick to trust? While public consciousness towards green living is changing positively, not all plant-based wellness items deserve our praise. As popular and potentially beneficial derivatives of the cannabis plant, vegan CBD products are in high demand. However, if you care about sustainability, the environment, and ethical-sourcing, you shouldn't settle for just any product. This article will show you how to choose the right vegan CBD products and honour your values. We've even made you a handy checklist to make the process as fuss-free as possible. Let's get started!

 

Content Overview

  1. Conscious Consumerism<
  2. Not All Vegan Products are Ethical
  3. CBD: Answering Your Questions
  4. Hemp: A Sustainable Supply Chain
  5. Cruelty-Free Vegan CBD
  6. Safe Ingredients With No Hidden “Nasties”
  7. Ethical Marketing Practices
  8. Your Quick Vegan CBD Product Checklist
  9. Conclusion

 

Conscious Consumerism

We've all felt that familiar pang of guilt when we arrive at the supermarket checkout and realise that we need to buy some plastic bags. The UK government introduced the 5p carrier bag charge in 2015 in an attempt to reduce plastic waste and encourage us to make more planet-friendly choices. Here in Germany, we are preparing for a complete ban on single-use plastic bags from 2022 onwards. However, conscious consumption is about much more than remembering to take your fabric tote bag to the grocery store. It's about ethics: choosing what's best for you, humanity, and the environment. It's about living consciously and thinking about the consequences of your actions. Let's explore these trending ideas in closer detail. 

What Do We Mean By 'Ethical'?

Since we'll be engaging with vegan CBD products' ethics throughout this article, it's essential to start with a core definition. The Cambridge Dictionary offers us a helpful interpretation of the word 'ethical', as it pertains to 'beliefs about what is morally right and wrong'. These ideas can extend to matters of the law, and even more nuanced questions of principles, ideals, and standards of behaviour - what is acceptable and proper. 

As a 'controversial' cannabis-derived extract, CBD is fascinating to consider in light of its ethical prospects. If you're not familiar with CBD, don't worry! By the time you've finished reading this article, you'll have a sound knowledge base - and a handy vegan CBD product checklist. First, let's take a quick moment to appreciate the power of ethical consumption.

What We Buy, We Are Supporting

Did you know that consumers today have more choices than at any other point in history? While widespread trends for recreational shopping surged to popularity in the post-war boom of the 1950s, online audiences can now access millions of products at the click of a button. According to a recent report from multinational consulting firm Deloitte, many modern consumers are empowered by self-conducted research, and often associate mega corporations with moral compromise. 

In contemporary life, the fact that we continuously face marketing campaigns is no secret! As a result, many of us possess a desire to gather the necessary facts and make informed decisions for ourselves. Unfortunately, we're also aware of the destructive practices that have become normalised in some industries: hyper-production, exploitation, pollution, and other forms of horrendous environmental damage. Whether you're donating to a worthy cause or purchasing a new product, you have a right to be confident in the business practices that you are supporting - both publicly and behind-the-scenes. 

Should You Care About Where Your Products Come From? 

Absolutely! If you don't care about sourcing, you are at the mercy of advertising, which can often feature misleading claims. Brands offering supplements (such as CBD oil) are worth particular scrutiny, since some profiteering wellness companies operate in contradiction to the 'wellbeing' values they claim to support. 

Ethical sourcing is a practice that ensures that products (and the ingredients used to make them) are acquired as sustainably and responsibly as possible. As you can imagine, this also affects the output quality, as developers maintain high standards throughout the entire production process. By showing care for both nature and the workforce, ethical sourcing appreciates social and environmental impact. These values strike a particular resonance with "compassion-led" vegan lifestyles. However, 'vegan' and 'ethical' products are not always mutually exclusive.

Not All Vegan Products are Ethical

Recently, 'vegan' has become a buzzword that many manufacturers are clambering to claim in relation to their products. Often, vegan products are presumed to occupy an exclusive moral 'high-ground' - perhaps partially because they can sometimes be quite expensive and luxurious. However, it's important to remember that the absence of animal-derived ingredients does not automatically tick all the right moral boxes. 

The Benefits of the Plant-Based Movement

In true German fashion, we're avid supporters of the vegan lifestyle, and you can find several in-depth articles on this theme in our free VAAY CBD magazine. Thanks to emerging scientific research, an open-minded population, and a star-studded crowd of A-list supporters (including Will.I.Am), the practice of eating a strict plant-based diet has become increasingly popular. Currently, research suggests that avoiding consumption of meat, dairy, and eggs may help to: 

  • Fight climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions
  • Increase your intake of cell-protecting antioxidants and gut-healthy bacteria
  • Decrease your risk of obesity and type-two diabetes
  • Support normal heart functioning
  • Prevent some forms of industrial animal cruelty

  • You're probably heard about these potential benefits before, through firsthand experience, word-of-mouth, or top trending documentaries. In principle, it is hard to object to the environmental and diet-based morals that motivate most people to go vegan. However, as the movement has become increasingly industrialised and highly profitable, it has also attracted some negative press. 

    The Dark Side of the Vegan Marketplace

    A surge in demand for certain products can often propel farmers and manufacturing companies to overwork the land and resources for the sole purpose of boosting productivity and sales. The vegan marketplace is no exception to this pattern. Did you know that the World Wildlife Fund has linked soy (a popular source of plant-based protein) with deforestation and threats to endangered animal species? For these reasons, many consumers have blacklisted tropical products, such as palm oil. Professor Erik Maijaard argues that widely-cited vegan products, such as coconut oil, may do five times more environmental damage than their counterparts. 


    The Best Vegan Products

    While plant-based foods are primarily concerned with the absence of animal-derived ingredients, products that take vegan morals to heart often also demonstrate:

  • A value for the lives of animals and people
  • An ecologically sustainable approach
  • Organic ingredients
  • Cruelty-free status
  • A desire to provide high-quality and accessible goods

  • Let's look at how premium vegan CBD products can meet these goals and more!

    CBD: Answering Your Questions

    If you are new to CBD, your mind may be full of question marks regarding this substance and its usefulness. While the international sales (£300 million for CBD oil in 2020) and raving customer reviews seem to speak for themselves, it's essential to consider the objective facts.

    What is CBD?

    Unique to the cannabis plant family, CBD (cannabidiol) is a botanical substance (or 'cannabinoid') naturally present in the leaves, stems, and flowers of the hemp crop. At ground level, hemp has an eco-friendly growing style that makes it favourable among both farmers and environmentalists. The early study of native hemp crops in the United States was key to identifying and extracting the CBD compound in the 1940s by American Chemist Roger Adams. 

    An essential supplement in the trending world of cannabis-inspired wellbeing, CBD is often infused in an assortment of popular products to create CBD oil (a mixture of extract and base oils), capsules, skincare, and more. When you examine the packaging labels, you'll most likely see the term 'spectrum' featured - let's briefly explain what this industry buzzword means.

    What are CBD' Spectrums'?

    'Spectrums' are general categories that manufacturers use to differentiate between CBD extract's three core blends. We've summarised their basic properties below.

    Full Spectrum CBD refers to an extract that contains a diverse variety of natural plant molecules - including terpenes, CBD, and other cannabinoids (such as trace amounts of THC). According to the "entourage effect" theory, these molecules may potentially work together synergistically. 

    Broad Spectrum CBD represents a similar medley of compounds, though extra laboratory processes are in place to remove any traces of THC. 

    CBD Isolate is the most chemically distilled type of CBD. Here, the goal is to develop a "pure" version of CBD and discard any of the other naturally-occurring (and potentially beneficial) plant compounds that are present. 

    Is CBD Legal and Safe to Use?  

    Regarding safety, most experts maintain that CBD is a low-risk substance. So far, there is no evidence connecting it with any significant adverse side effects. Here's another vote of confidence: the World Health Organisation has even stated on record that CBD has a 'good safety profile’. Of course, it is wise to speak with your doctor before adding any new food supplements to your routine - especially if you have any underlying medical conditions.

    The legality of cannabis is a complicated matter, and debates regarding its categorisation as an illegal drug rage on in several different countries. Thankfully, the legal status of CBD is a little more straightforward - provided that it conforms with the necessary criteria for where you live. Among these determining factors is the extent to which THC (a psychotropic, “high”-creating cannabis compound) is present. British and EU policies currently maintain that CBD products containing no more than 0.2% THC are legal and classified as food supplements, or ‘novel foods’. 

    We recommend exploring the CBD regulations that your local authorities uphold before making any large purchases.

    Is CBD Vegan?

    When it emerges straight from the hemp plant, CBD extract is 100% vegan. However, this extract is rarely sold in its ‘naked’ form. Instead, companies choose to use it as an active ingredient to support themed products ranging from CBD oil to CBD gummies. While CBD extract is a vegan ingredient, this doesn’t guarantee that any associated products will be vegan-friendly. Furthermore, many of the laboratories involved in processing CBD may test on animals - which most vegans see as an unattractive moral compromise. More on this later! 

    What is CBD Oil Good For? 

    There are two ways to interpret this question. In terms of the potential effects of CBD products, many users claim to experience relief from a wide range of wellbeing complaints - including some common symptoms connected with insomnia, discomfort, and inflammation. So far, researchers indicate that we do not have enough evidence to make any definitive claims about any possible CBD benefits. However, studies suggest that products such as CBD oil may potentially help to:

  • Improve your sleep and impact some signs of insomnia
  • Reduce some symptoms of anxiety and trigger self-perceived feelings of calm
  • Influence how you experience muscle cramps and spasms
  • Mediate some of the sensations associated with headaches 
  • Reduce some signs of inflammation 

  • From an ethical standpoint, there are many different factors to keep in mind when judging whether a CBD product is ‘good’. Often, this involves thinking outside the box and considering how a particular product came to be. Throughout the remainder of this article, we’ll take you from the soil to the shelves to examine vegan CBD at its finest. We’ll explore farming practices, cruelty-free lab methods, plant-based ingredients, and ethical marketing. Let’s start by reviewing the unique potential agricultural benefits of hemp crops. 

    Hemp: A Sustainable Supply Chain

    While hemp has just one syllable, it opens up a world of possibilities. As we briefly mentioned earlier, hemp is a member of the cannabis Sativa family characterised by its low-THC and high-CBD chemistry. For many years, global communities have prized hemp as a source of food (nutritious hemp seeds), lubricant (rich hemp seed oil) and structural fibre (used to create everything from clothes to car textiles). As a plant, hemp can grow in many different soil types, as long as the right moisture levels are present - making it an accessible crop for many farmers throughout Europe, and indeed the rest of the world. 

    Before reviewing some of the critical factors that make hemp ethical and desirable, let’s explore some common environmental complaints associated with modern industrial farming.

    Seeds of Destruction

    We know what you’re thinking: aren’t all plants eco-friendly? Technically, this is true. However, when we’re talking about arable crops (those cultivated by humans for farming purposes), not all plants are equal. Some of the most nutritionally-celebrated plants we know of can threaten the environment when farmed on a mass scale. Current research indicates that the amount of water required to produce a single almond is 5 litres! Similarly, a recent WWF report suggests that global rice production may use over one-third of the freshwater resources on the planet each year. Water wastage is just the beginning of the problem.

    In the absence of sustainable farming practices, the same plant crops that we are encouraged to incorporate into our lifestyles can negatively impact surrounding wildlife - causing an imbalance in the ecosystem. 

    Researchers have expressed the following fundamental concerns about modern agriculture: 

  • Mass-cultivation uses up fossil fuels, water, and soil nutrients unsustainably.
  • Exposure to commonly used pesticides may cause genetic damage to workers.
  • Some crops are bioengineered - which may pose some health risks to consumers.
  • Mass soil erosion is incredibly costly - since soil is a non-renewable resource.
  • Unsustainable agriculture causes habitat loss and may endanger animals.

  • While plant crops can offer us many rich dietary resources (including meat substitutes, such as tofu and seitan), recent statistics suggest that up to 78% of vegans are deeply concerned with protecting the natural world. As a result, many people in the vegan community seek out more sustainable plant products. Drumroll, please!

    Why Hemp is the King of Ethical Crops

    Did you know that King Henry VIII once forced 16th-century farmers to grow hemp crops as a matter of law? While few people would describe England’s most notorious royal as a vegan trailblazer or ethical icon, his appreciation for hemp as a sustainable resource may have been well-placed! Nowadays, most experts agree that hemp crops’ ecological impact is worth getting excited about - particularly in light of the current climate crisis, and the future of sustainable farming. Let’s explore some of the main agricultural factors listed by the National Hemp Association (NHA).

    Space-Efficient Growing Style

    Hemp crops naturally grow in a tightly-packed formation - making it possible to cultivate large quantities of hemp within limited geographical territories. While other crops require the dramatic clearing of land (further contributing to deforestation), hemp is very space-efficient and has a reasonably quick harvest cycle.

    ‘Healing’ the Soil, Cleansing the Air

    This may sound like a far-fetched claim, but it’s backed up by research. Through a biological process called ‘phytoremediation’ (i.e. the plant-enabled correction of environmental soil-based damage), hemp extracts pollutants such as CO2 and toxins from its environment. Between growth cycles, hemp enriches the surrounding soil with nutrients, while its deep roots may help to prevent the earth from being worn away prematurely. Impressive, right? It gets even better!

    Natural Resilience and Minimal Wast

    Hemp is a hardy plant with a natural resistance to many different pests and diseases. This robustness means that it does not require artificial protection from the kinds of harmful pesticides that are often commonplace in apples, wheat grains, and many other food crops. Furthermore, hemp crops are a versatile choice for farmers - particularly with the rise of CBD and other hemp-inspired food trends. Did you know that harvesters can put virtually every part of the hemp plant to good use? If you’re inspired to lead a zero-waste lifestyle, hemp may be the perfect resource. However, before you’re tempted to grow it yourself (which would be illegal), let’s consider some of the policies that make hemp crops safe and fit for consumption in Germany. 

    Setting High Standards For Hemp in Germany

    Here in Germany, we maintain high standards for hemp by following national policies and the European Commission. As you may know, law-abiding hemp crops have been permissible since the late 1990s. However, Germany authorities maintain strict standards regarding hemp production - particularly in light of the national Narcotics Act. Here, farmers are legally required to engage with the Federal Office for Agriculture and Food (FOAF) and obtain an official licence before growing hemp. As part of this process, farmers must explain their commercial intentions and disclose any of the locations they plan to cultivate. Like the UK, it is against the law to grow hemp for private or personal use. 

    Some additional FOAF quality-control measures include: 

  • Inspecting hemp crops for contaminants (such as excess THC)
  • Monitoring different stages of the cultivation process
  • Assessing whether the hemp is fit for harvesting and consumption
  • Suffice it to say, we take growing hemp very seriously in Germany. We’re committed to maintaining practices that are as low-risk as possible: both for the environment and consumers. Local facilities extract our VAAY CBD, and all of our products are proudly made in Germany - providing opportunities for people within our community.

    Cruelty-Free Vegan CBD

    If you’re vegan, animal welfare will most likely be extremely important to you. It may have even motivated your original decision to switch to a wholly plant-based diet. While products lacking in animal-derived ingredients may meet the minimum requirements for ‘vegan’ status, this doesn’t mean that they represent vegan values. Many popular snack items contain ingredients that make them ‘accidentally vegan’, but the brands they are connected with show no signs of being conscious about animals, health, or the environment. What does cruelty-free mean? It means that a product contains no ingredients or components that involve animal testing. The leaping bunny logo on many applicable products often symbolises these values.

    As we know, CBD is a relatively new product that has been on the rise since 2016. At present, a considerable amount of emerging research regarding its possible clinical and therapeutic effects involves experimenting on animals (ranging from mice to pigs). Beyond these comprehensive scientific studies, individual brands can decide what kinds of tests they wish to conduct. Here at VAAY, we believe that products directly involving animal cruelty should not be promoted as ‘vegan’ - even if they contain only plant-based ingredients. When it comes to animal testing, we’re proud to be a cruelty-free brand.

    Safe Ingredients With No Hidden “Nasties”

    When we’re consuming products, we put a lot of trust in the manufacturers: especially if we are on a restricted diet or suffer from allergies. If the ingredients and warnings on a product label prove inaccurate, it may put our wellbeing at risk and leave us feeling betrayed. You wouldn’t expect to find animal products listed in ‘vegan’ ingredients - in the same way; you shouldn’t tolerate CBD products with ambiguous chemistry and unclear components.

    According to recent industry research, many popular CBD products available on the British high-street contain illegal amounts of THC and potentially toxic ingredients! Their packaging may state one thing, but emerging lab results might suggest the opposite. As a result, it’s best to prioritise products that are both safe and plant-based. Reputable CBD brands take a lot of pride in their lab results, so it should be straightforward to access these records.

    When browsing vegan CBD products, try to look for evidence of the following:


  • Vegan-friendly flavourings and colouring
  • No animal-derived gelatines or additives
  • No excess THC
  • No heavy metals or other toxins

  • Ethical Marketing Practices

    Most of us would agree that false advertising is morally wrong and potentially dangerous. Within the ever-expanding CBD market, there are always a few fraudulent companies seeking to make money by any means possible. Some have offered ‘free CBD’ in exchange for sensitive data. In contrast, others have misled audiences into believing that CBD oil is a magical cure-all that can make serious illnesses (such as cancer) disappear. Of course, health claims like these are entirely unfounded. 

    According to the Food Standards Agency (FSA), commercial CBD products are ‘novel foods’ that must cooperate with food law - which forbids hazardous ingredients and misleading marketing. Remember the old saying, “you can’t judge a book by its cover”? It’s vital to be critical of CBD products. While they may claim to be vegan, you should always investigate things further to make sure the brand in question is honest. You can find out how to do this below.

    Your Quick Vegan CBD Product Checklist

    Qualities of the Best Vegan CBD Products

    How to Spot Them

    Vegan status

    Refer to ingredients and marketing

    A cruelty-free pledge

    Visit the brand’s website

    Eco-friendly packaging

    Check for materials marked as recyclable

    Dedication to the environment

    Visit the brand’s blog and ‘about us’ page

    Appreciation for natural ingredients  

    100% natural ingredients disclaimer

    Cooperation with relevant laws

    Check the website for statements

    Proven third-party lab results

    Look for a Certificate of Analysis (COA)

    Good brand reputation

    Look for outstanding customer reviews


    Suppose, for some reason, you cannot access important information relating to a vegan CBD product (such as the ingredient list or COA). In that case, you may wish to contact the brand directly and exercise caution before buying. Never be afraid to ask questions!

    Conclusion

    While we associate plant-based lifestyles with strong moral values and environmental consciousness, we’ve learned that not all vegan products are ‘good’ from an ethical perspective. As a sustainable and environmentally-friendly crop, hemp is a great resource that may provide more opportunities for farmers to support themselves, the land, and possibly even our wellbeing. By association, hemp-derived CBD extract is a 100% plant-sourced substance that does not organically contain anything that would conflict with a vegan diet. 

    However, some of the additional substances that manufacturers commonly use to create CBD products may come from animals, so it’s essential to check the labels before purchasing. Regrettably, animal-testing is a fairly standard practice within the CBD industry, and many people are challenging this approach. Thankfully, there are many vegan CBD brands out there who choose to adopt truly animal-friendly practices and high moral standards. Here at VAAY, we’re committed to ethical sourcing and responsible practices from the soil to the shelf. Whether you’re vegan or not, you can have full confidence in our vegan and wholly planet-conscious products.

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