(Quarry)Girl you know it’s true

The Internet has been ablaze the last few days with heated debate. Vegan-aimed magazine VegNews has been exposed by blogger Quarrygirl for printing digitally-altered photographs of meals made using dead animals and presenting them as visual accompaniments to vegan recipes. The outcry from long-term and casual VegNews readers has been overwhelming, while a substantial amount of readers don’t seem to be offended much at all.

I am outraged as a vegan, but Iโ€™m about to take you on a different journey. My rant is not one simply of distress at having been fooled into looking at murdered animals while being tricked into thinking they look tasty. No, I am approaching the VegNews fiasco from a broader angle of certain misrepresentation and possible deceitful provision of product/services.

Back in the day, the early 90s to be more precise, I was a teenager madly into music. Madonna seductively clung to my bedroom walls, Public Enemy powerfully educated me via my stereo and Morrissey practically insisted I do nothing for days on end but listen to his releases. I knew what made me happy and I always got what I paid for. The same couldn’t be said for some of my friends.

One of my best friends was a guy named Glen Fox. Glen was the one in our gang who somehow always managed to be a bit behind the 8 ball. His taste in music was certainly eclectic. I recall music shopping with Glen on the day he bought a Milli Vanilli CD. I was vile and teased him mercilessly. You can imagine my sheer delight when the entire Milli Vanilli act turned out to be a sham and the two ‘lead singers’ (Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus) hadn’t contributed in any way to their Grammy Award-winning recordings.

I promise this story is going somewhere other than affording me the opportunity of getting another kick into poor Foxy. The Milli Vanilli case turned into a media storm of epic proportions. The band was stripped of its Grammy award, dropped by its label and subjected to ferocious hounding by the press. Class action lawsuits were filed across the US and a rebate scheme was devised wherein consumers were given an opportunity to claim back a percentage of the cost of Milli Vanilli CDs, cassettes, records and concert tickets.

Glen Fox was sad and dejected as he applied for some of his expenditure back. Milli Vanilli‘s management and record label conceded consumers were justified in believing the music videos, album sleeves and promotional appearances showed the two lead singers of the band, when in fact Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus hadn’t sung a note. Some money was returned to consumers because what was presented as a legitimate product was in fact fabricated, untrue and dishonest.

I understand my Milli Vanilli analogy was a tad wordy but I believe it hammers home the message rather clearly. When people are in a video mouthing along to lyrics and posing on album covers, consumers understandably imagine they are the legitimate performers. They have the right to demand an explanation and perhaps compensation when it is proven to be a false representation.

Enter VegNews. When a colour photograph is nestled beside a vegan recipe within a market-leading vegan magazine, readers will assume the photo is free of animal products. The visual and written texts, VegNews’ billing as a vegan magazine and the publishers wish to be known as “the best meat-free reading you’ll find anywhere” all combine to suggest that the paying reader is purchasing photos of cruelty-free meals. With no disclaimer stating otherwise, VegNews has for years presented its content as something it clearly isn’t.

Milli Vanilli were stripped of awards and companies that profited from the deception apologised publicly and profusely before offering partial rebates to disgruntled consumers. VegNews has offered an explanation for their practice but no apology and, so far, no talk of compensation for loyal consumers who have paid money for a product that isn’t what they were led to believe.

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Written by fatgayvegan

36 Comments
  1. A lovely stroll around the houses with you and, in the end, a good point. Well said that man!

  2. I love your writing style, very conversational and easy to read. ๐Ÿ™‚ I agree, the Milli Vanilli situation seems similar to the Veg News incident when it comes to deceiving a fan base. I was shocked to hear about the photos. And the explanation Veg News gave about it being too expensive to take real photos doesn’t sit right with me… I can’t see how they could use meat photos in a vegan magazine, it seems lazy and deceitful to me… On a brighter note, I’m a big fan of Morrissey! Have a great day! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thank you for the comment and for agreeing with my daft Milli Vanilli comparison! Yay for Morrissey, too.

  3. This is exactly right! It’s not just that they used pictures of meat and photoshopped them to “cut costs”, it’s that they lied about it, covered it up, and tried to pass them off as vegan. That is NOT ethical in any way. Great post.

    • Thanks, Laney. There certainly is a lack of integrity at the core of this drama.

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  5. Actually, if anything, I thought that the article ended abruptly. I finished the last paragraph and said, “Wait, that’s it?” Great analogy.

    • Believe me, I could have gone on for days. I had to end sometime hahaha.

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  7. The music was still great fun and wonderful to dance to even if the “image” used was false. What WAS terrible was that one of the Milli Vanilli boys eventually killed himself because of the scandal.
    Let’s be the compassionate beings we claim to be. VegNews aren’t trying to sneak pork into their recipes, they are not trying dupe us into eating meat. We didn’t look at the images they used and subconsciously crave non-animal products. And I imagine they are being told by legal representatives not to apologise or acknowledge they did something wrong because you just know the bloody Americans will try to sue over this too. (I LOVE Americans, just not their litigiousness).

    • I agree. I think the Milli Vanilli story is just tragic and an example how people freaking out over something can be worse than the actual thing they are freaking out over.

  8. ha! I meant we didn’t suddenly crave animal products ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Thanks for the comment. My take on it is rather simple. I would never knowingly buy a magazine that features photos of dead animals served as food. They tricked me into doing it. I won’t buy it again unless they remedy the situation. Other people can do what they like.

      The Milli Vanilli situation was horrendous and tragic. I have been interested to hear news reports lately that a Milli Vanilli movie is in the works!

      • You must not buy many magazines then. Just checked Red, Ideal Home, OK, the ones that come with Sunday papers and they all have photos of dead animals served as food. I just don’t cook any of the recipes…though occasionally I adapt ๐Ÿ™‚

        I DO take your point and it probably makes a difference that I have never actually bought VegNews but let’s hope it doesn’t fold over this.

  9. Hey Christine. You are correct. I do not buy magazines or Sunday papers. I haven’t for many years, possibly more than 10. The closest I get to mainstream printed press is when I pick up a left behind copy of a paper on the Tube. This happens maybe once a fortnight.

    I find it easier to opt out rather than be faced with imagery and content I find abhorrent. Same goes for the gay part of me. So much media is heteronormative and excludes my reality. That’s why I created this blog! Fat, gay vegans now have a place to feel valued… LOL

    • Wow, that’s amazing. What about TV? the internet? Still predominantly straight and animal abusing.
      What about other interests? I’m a vegan, lesbian with a passion for motorbikes…believe me there are NO representative media outlets ๐Ÿ˜€ I just read the bike reviews, skip the clothing ads and ignore all the sexist crap….actually, rubbish example…I hardly ever buy bike mags for that very reason ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Enjoying the debate!

      • Yeah, it is impossible to get away from everything negative or things that you don’t agree with. Some people think I’m a hypocrite for being a massive Prince fan because he espouses the teachings of Jehovah and sings about God (I am an atheist). But we are all on our own path and I opt out of certain things of my own choosing and don’t tell other people what they should or shouldn’t do. That is the best part of being an autonomous thinker… I call the shots and only explain myself if I feel like it. As long as I am reasonably satisfied with my actions, life is good!

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  11. I’ll drink (a fine vegan beverage) to that!
    I’m a huge fan of Lady Gaga. I like to excuse the meat dress for making people realise how disgusting meat is when taken out of it’s usual “accepted” context but I’m not sure she meant it that way and I’d prefer she hadn’t worn it. But I’m not going to stop loving her because of it.

    Oops, sorry this has wandered a bit.

  12. I’m going to pull out another analogy that I came up with. Imagine a prominent LGBT magazine like The Advocate with an article about gay marriage and for an illustration they take stock photos of two male or female models, Photoshop them together, and slap that image in. Their audience would be upset because it just violates their basic principals.

    I think the problem is that the VegNews magazine doesn’t have the same priorities as most serious vegans. Their first priority is to make money just like any other business and that’s pretty understandable. Their second priority is to be a slick, glossy, colorful magazine in line with other food/lifestyle magazines like Rachael Ray, Oprah, and Martha Stewart. Somewhere further down the list of priorities is being vegan and not using animal products. Their aim is to attract as mainstream an audience as possible so the ideals and priorities of serious vegans don’t seem to factor in.

  13. My take on this entire fiasco is that VegNews KNOWINGLY ran pictures of animal products and attempted to pass them off as vegan food pictures.

    I paid money for a magazine that I (in error) thought would honor the vegan lifestyle and instead find they not only didn’t much care to make the effort to honor that same lifestyle and when confronted about it, felt it was necessary to explain and NOT apologize for their actions.

    That alone was enough to cause me to cancel a 3 year subscription, request a full refund of monies paid and THEN donate that money to American Vegan Magazine. Vote with your dollars (and pounds and Euros and Yen, etc etc).

    Lastly, blogs are timely, spot on with discussions and (most) do not need to resort to taking averts to stay alive. Remember that the next time you pick up a magazine or newspaper.

  14. The world has always had and will have those who are dishonest and those who fail to see the dishonesty. That is not new.

    If we all know this, how hard should we hold those accountable for being dishonest? The idea of being hurt or injured in some way turns to wanting revenge or restitution. But if we are aware that dishonesty exist, but still fall victim to the false act, it probably is our ego that wants retaliation vice the seeking of justice.

    • Good point.

      I don’t seek retaliation or revenge. That’s just as bad as deception. I do seek a genuine apology, an admission of wrongdoing, amends to those who feel they bought the magazine under false pretenses, and, of course, a reformed policy and practice.

      Those steps are ones I feel I must take when I mess up in my own life, so I expect no less of a company, which is comprised of individuals no different from me.

      It’s not that I scorn or revile VegNews. We all make mistakes, even seemingly unforgivable ones (which this is not). How we grow from our mistakes is key to our future success, and to our ability to help others.

      Yes, I do expect more of a vegan magazine than of most other magazines. Vegans stand for truth and justice above all. Compassion without truth cannot make lasting changes in the world. Integrity comes from “integer” — which means whole. Animals are wholly good and truthful; they have integrity. Let’s learn from them, and move ahead for them.

      Thanks, fatgayvegan, you wrote a beautiful blog with a valid point, though I’m very sorry to hear of the suicide of one of the Milli Vanilli boys.

      Thinking about them (I wasn’t aware of the scandal until now because I wasn’t and am not to this day a huge music fan), it must be very hard to own up to dishonesty and move beyond it when one is famous.

      Indeed, for anyone, the hardest thing to do is to find that fine line between admitting wrongdoing and condemning oneself mercilessly. It’s helpful to have loved ones in your corner who are willing to nonjudgmentally point to your faults and help you overcome them, assuring you all the while that underneath those concealing flaws lies an original, intact, innocent expression of integrity.

  15. […] Fat Gay Vegan: (Quarry)Girl you know itโ€™sย true […]

  16. Frankly it is much ado about nothing. Every day, I, a vegan animal rescuer, spend my time trying to pull cows, pigs, chickens, and other animals from situations where they are going to go to a gruesome end at a slaughterhouse and trying to turn people vegan so to save more and here everyone is wasting time fussing over pictures. I wish quarry girl would come with me and help and that all of you would too. Oh but then you couldn’t write blog posts or responses carrying on about nothing. This is just how publishing works. If you ever used a textbook in your life then you will have been looking at stock photos used to illustrate things. Photos from insurance companies showing families may show up in a parenting magazine. Blogs and magazines use stock photos that are in no way related to the articles. I once saw a biology textbook use the photo of a crying baby to discuss one topic totally unrelated to the same stock photo’s use in a parenting magazine and then the same photo was used in an ad. Veg News advocates eating vegan. No matter where the photo came from, they are illustrating VEGAN recipes which is what they promote. Quarry girl and some of you really need to get a life if this nonsense is all you have to be concerned about.

    • The fight to save animals from exploitation, harm and death is varied. Some people do hands-on rescuing. Others leaflet and flyer. And a lot of people write blogs. All are valid forms of resistance. Not all vegans agree 100% of the time with each other and that is OK with me.

      I am thankful for all you do for animals, Terri. I am respectful of your views regarding VegNews. As a animal rights campaigner, I believe my views are valid too. Stock photos cost money and buying photos of meat serves to strengthen the demand for them. By speaking out against the use of meat photos, it is my hope that VegNews will change their practice therefore lessening the demand for meat photos and hopefully creating a demand for vegan photos. They have the power to do this!

      I will continue to speak out and blog about matters important to me and I hope you will continue to perform vital rescue work for years to come. I don’t think either of us (or Quarrygirl) should be critcised for being too fussy or precious. Anytime anyone acts up for animals is a good thing.

  17. Mr. BigGayVegan, yours is the best response yet. The folks at MeatNews could learn a lot from you.

    …BUT they are far too busy playing victim and arrogantly assuming that this will all blow over.

    I’ve been a loyal reader for many years, but now they will never see another dime from me, even if they do issue an actual apology and outline an animal friendly plan for the future. At this point, it’s too little, too late, and frankly, too insulting and too damaging to veganism.

    • I am interested in what happens next for VegNews. Where do they go from here and will they continue to use pictures of meat?

  18. I love the Milli Vanilli analogy!

    I’ve been a VegNews reader for 4 years and cancelled my subscription right after I read the quarrygirl blog post. I hope to get a refund and use it to support other magazines like Animals’ Voice (www.animalsvoice.com) and Bite Back (www.directaction.info).

    Now if I could only get all the money back that I spent rather than just my remaining issues…

    • Now there is a mag that’s worth reading. I did read some copies and it’s easy to see it’s not a slick glossy but a mag with substance and integrety.

      @The fat gay vegan, this whole affair keeps me surfing from one blog to another previously didn’t know them. You and the other bloggers are just pure vegan gems. Keep up the good work.
      And for VG ? They finally made a worthwhile apology with an outlined plan for the future. Did it come from the heart ? No, probably it’s the advertisers who forced them to “listen” to the readers and bend over.
      Because that’s “Industry Standards” ๐Ÿ˜‰ to listen to your advertisers and NOT to your readers.

      Great Vanilli comparison, and very funny.
      Great blog, LOVE IT !!!

      • Good to see you on here, herwin. Glad you are reading and thank you for the kind words.

  19. VegNews has now issued an actual apology (as opposed to their earlier rationalization): http://vegnews.com/web/uploads/asset/3183/file/AnApologyfromVegNews.pdf

    I still have concerns over the lack of serious animal advocacy content compared to the amount of advertising and celebrity news in the magazine, but that’s a whole other issue.

    • Thanks for the link Brandon. I’m off to read it now.

  20. Honestly I don’t see how it’s that hard to take a picture of food if you have a recipe of it in your magazine. I expect any magazine that publishes a recipe to test it first, and I want to make what I see in the picture. There are plenty of vegan cookbook authors and bloggers that take pictures of what they make just before they eat it and many of them are quite talented photogs. If other (non vegan) magazines are using stock photos for their recipes, well I think that’s wrong, too.

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