T.O.F.U.: 100% meat (photo) free, as we should be


I just wanted to put my two cents in on the new vegan hot issue, which QuarryGirl recently brought to light through some rather determined investigating:

VegNews is putting the MEAT into vegan issues

As someone involved in the publishing business, though not to such an extent as VegNews, I have always battled with several things involving the vegan “purity” of the magazine. The big ones would involve things like booking a tour date in a non-vegan bar, having people involved with the project who are not vegan, promoting companies that are not 100% vegan, and including articles that may not be completely relevant to veganism itself.

However, I can not say I have ever debated whether or not using stock photos of animal products was acceptable.

Furthermore, even though it is not a major issue with T.O.F.U. as of yet, I try to keep an open platform for both praise and criticism with what we do. If I was afraid of a little bit of negative writing, I wouldn’t be vegan, and I certainly would not be promoting the lifestyle with a magazine!

As a business, VegNews has a bottom line. With a large staff working on every issue, the bills have to be paid and corners will be cut. So, to some degree, I can see the trail of decisions that probably led to the use of stock photos. They’re cheap, they’re easily accessible, they’re high quality, and for the most part, the difference goes unnoticed.

Sadly, they’re not vegan.

So, am I saying people should jump from the VegNews ship? No. They have done plenty of good for the veg* community, and I think in a lot of ways that outweighs the use of these photos. What I do think we should be doing is looking for an explanation. If the concern is really about the bottom line, then perhaps VegNews can start looking to the vegan community for pictures? T.O.F.U. magazine has been lucky enough to have amazing contributors (all volunteer!) who offer their writing, photos, music and numerous other talents just to see an issue happen. Maybe VegNews should look a little further online than istockphoto for their (not so vegan) bread and butter?

Regardless of how you feel about the newest scandal in our community, you’re always welcomed to check out our little publication, and you can do so without wondering about what you’re really drooling over.

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  2. Kira wrote: Apr. 15, 2011

    Hi Chris. I didn’t write this post, but I wanted to jump in here anyway. You can probably tell from my rant about VegNews’ lackluster response that I’m mostly with you on this issue. I suspect Ryan will give a more even-keeled response, but personally I feel ridiculously betrayed [side note: one of the best things about T.O.F.U. is that – gasp! – I’m allowed to disagree with the boss *without* being fired!].

    I would have been willing to let this whole thing slide if VegNews had capitulated… Or at least acknowledged that maybe we had a legitimate reason to be upset? But they didn’t. I’ve ranted elsewhere about how important I think apologies are, and I find the fact that they refused to do so especially irritating. How much effort does it take to admit to doing something wrong, or at the very least doing something that upset people? Not much, really. Do I want their lives ruined and their business to collapse? No, but I would like them to grow up and take a critical look at themselves. Ethics isn’t as simple as not eating meat; it sounds like they’re suffering from a whole slew of questionable business decisions. Taking a little responsibility here would have been the best idea, but they chose to get defensive instead, and now there will be more serious consequences to pay. Maybe it’s not fair, but as my four-year-old told me last week, “You know what isn’t fair, Mommy? Life.”

    • Ryan wrote: Apr. 15, 2011

      I think the apology pushed me over the edge as well. Knowing how sensitive things like this can be, especially to a group that uses the Internet as prominently as vegans, VegNews should have really laid it all out. Instead they propped themselves up on past accomplishments and then suggested that their use of stock photos was only as a last resort. On top of this, the whole thing is tucked in a small space on their website, and the actual letter is a link from a very small, very business-y post.

      Attempting to hide the issue is silly and ignorant in 2011. In fact, their decision to use non-vegan stock photos has led to plenty of mainstream media (npr, ecorazzi and slashfood to name a few) jumping onboard the “vegan food is so bad their major publication had to use “real” food” bandwagon. So, what good is it that they’re sitting next to O magazine on a grocery store shelf if it just leads to laughs from omnivores and sneers from herbivores?

      We all screw up, and I’m sure T.O.F.U. has made its own mistakes along the way, but if you’re going to try and represent a whole group of people, or to try and persuade other folks that something is the best way to do things, you better do your best. If you do make a mistake, then step up to the plate and admit it. Take steps to fix it, such as seeking out royalty-free photos from vegans online, and then get back to doing what you are passionate about.

      Personally, I’m still waiting for VegNews to take the first step.

  3. Chris wrote: Apr. 14, 2011

    If you read the comments on Quarry Girl’s site or on VN’s facebook page, you’ll see that VN’s overall integrity is what will really become the bigger issue here. They have been hypocritical and dishonest. On this issue, they have removed comments from their site and threads have also been removed from VegWeb. A former editor who complained about the use of dead-animal photography was ignored and then cleverly “not-fired.” She had to email to ask if she still worked for them. They violated istock’s rules by not printing a credit with the photos. This is theft from the photographers, a violation of a contract (that may now make them susceptible to one or more lawsuits), and an intentional deception of their readers (who would have been able to do the simple math had the credits been placed.) They do not pay their columnists, so their content is provided for free. They have tainted all who are associated with their publication from authors to advertisers. All will suffer now because this will suddenly become an issue they will have to deal with in myriad ways. They have sponsored upcoming vegan events and the attendees of those events may feel their presence is unacceptable. To say they should be let off because of all the good they’ve done is ridiculous. THEY, not anyone else, set up these situations that will be their downfall. They have allowed all their good to be undone by their carelessness and lack of perspective regarding the expectations of this particular audience. Now that the window of opportunity has been provided for discussing the disappointments of VN, more folks with stories about the other ways they disappoint will come forward. They alone are responsible for providing this opportunity for their own undoing.

  4. scott spitz wrote: Apr. 14, 2011

    Thanks for this. I would HATE to see VegNews go under because people are flippantly cancelling their subscriptions. I’ve been trying to get across the point about the publishing industry and the constraints magazines are working under, but there seems to be a veganer-than-thou attitude to all these discussions. Veg News is not some evil multi-national corporation trying to deceive the public…hell, they’re trying to save animal’s lives! To think something like this would close them for good would just be tragic considering the good they do in relation to this perceived “bad”.

    No animals were harmed in the usage of their photos…the magazine going under, however, sure sets back the ability to reach people who might stop contributing to the killing of animals.

    • Ryan wrote: Apr. 14, 2011

      It is scary to think that people are so quick to jump ship, especially since VegNews has yet to make a statement. I don’t agree with the way they’re handling things, or the fact that this happened in the first place, but I think they should be given a little breathing room. Let them hang themselves if that’s where it is headed, but don’t call for their head on a platter because of an incident that pales in comparison to how much time, effort and money they have put into the vegan lifestyle. Unless we’re doing something wrong here at T.O.F.U., there is not a lot of cash to be made in this racket, so I don’t think they’re pure evil incarnate out to rob us of our hard-earned dollars with poorly chosen stock photos.

  5. Megan wrote: Apr. 14, 2011

    Thanks so much for responding to this, T.O.F.U.

    It’s so nice to know that there is a REAL, ethical vegan magazine for those of us who want it. Can’t wait to get my first issue šŸ™‚

    I will say that I have an inside source at VegNews who told me that there are only five full-time employees on staff at VegNews, which totally shocked me. Makes you wonder what they’re doing with all the extra revenue?…

    • Ryan wrote: Apr. 14, 2011

      Hey Megan,
      Thanks for checking us out!
      I would suspect most of VegNews’ money is spent on printing each actual issue, as well as promoting the magazine in other areas. The publishing costs are part of the reason why we went digital, along with feeling like we should avoid using all the resources a print issue requires. We still miss being able to read an actual physical magazine, but we’re slowly getting over it. Plus, it helps that we’ve moved to full colour now, so our recipe photos, as well as other parts of the magazine, look so much better!

      let me know what you think of the mag,

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