Is Sugar Vegan? Your Complete Guide to Sugar as a Vegan

Is sugar vegan or not? A complete guide to sugar for vegans.Is sugar vegan?

This question has been popping up a lot recently, especially thanks to articles like this one, titled “Your Sugar Might Be Made With Animal Bones. Sorry, Vegans.”

Contrary to the article’s title, sugar is not made with animal bones.

But the article does hold some truth: refined sugars are indeed filtered through charcoal filters made from bone char, charred bones of cattle from Argentina, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. 1

So then, is sugar vegan or not?

Yes, and no.

It all comes down to how you want to define veganism.

“[Veganism is] a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.” — The Vegan Society

Why is sugar vegan for some people and not for others?

From a strict dietary standpoint, refined sugar is vegan as it is not “derived wholly or partly from animals.”

Refined sugar doesn’t contain bone char; it is only processed through filters that contain bone char. The filtration process it used to remove color, minerals, and impurities from the sugar. 2

However, from a vegan lifestyle perspective, refined sugar is not vegan because it is processed through bone char filters created through animal exploitation.

Conclusion: Is sugar vegan? If you’re simply following a plant-based vegan diet, refined sugar is vegan. If you’re living an ethical vegan lifestyle, refined sugar is not vegan due to its connection to animal exploitation.

Does that mean vegans can’t eat sugar?

Thankfully, no.

Vegans can enjoy sugar too!

Only refined sugars processed through bone char are not vegan; pure unrefined sugars and sweeteners are completely vegan and involve zero animal exploitation.

So what types of sugar can vegans actually eat then?

Here’s a list of different types of sugar you’ll see listed as ingredients on a variety of foods. Read through them all to familiarize yourself with which ones are and aren’t vegan based on the ethical definition.

And remember, if you’re only following a vegan diet for non-ethical reasons, you’re free to eat any type of sugar you want. Though, from a health perspective, you really should avoid it.

What about brown sugar, isn't it vegan?
Is sugar vegan when it’s brown or granulated?

Is white sugar vegan?

No. White sugar, or refined sugar, becomes white when it is processed through bone char filters, therefore it is not vegan.

Is granulated sugar vegan?

No. Granulated sugar, table sugar, and sugar cubes are essentially the same thing as refined white sugar, which is not vegan.

Is brown sugar vegan?

No. Brown sugar is just refined white sugar colored brown with molasses. 3

Organic Cane SugarOrganic Dark Brown SugarOrganic Sugar & Stevia Mix

Is organic sugar vegan?

Yes. USDA certified organic sugar will always be vegan.

Why is sugar vegan if it’s organic?

Organic sugar doesn’t go the refinery to get filtered by bone char filters after being milled. 4

Even if it did, certified USDA organic sugar cannot be filtered through filters made from bone char as they are not on the National Organic Program’s National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances. 5

Is cane sugar vegan?

Sugar beets.No. Cane sugar comes from sugar cane.

Sugar cane is vegan, but cane sugar isn’t.

One of the first steps in processing cane sugar is taking it to the refinery to be where it’s filtered through bone char filters.

The bone char is used to remove the sugar’s color by filtering out colorants such as amino acids, phenols, ash, and carboxylic acids. 6

After processing, cane sugar becomes refined white sugar.

Is beet sugar vegan?

Yes. Pure beet sugar is never refined through bone char filtering and is therefore 100% vegan. 7

Is powdered sugar vegan?

No. Powdered sugar, or confectioners sugar, is not vegan because it is just refined sugar with cornstarch mixed in. 8

Is Sugar in the Raw vegan?

Yes. Sugar in the Raw is not processed with bone char and does not come into contact with any animal byproducts, therefore it is completely vegan. 9

Is maple syrup vegan?

Yes! Pure maple syrup is completely vegan.

Pure maple syrup is package straight from trees and doesn’t go through any animal-laced filtration processed.

Just make sure you’re buying pure maple syrup, not processed syrup like Aunt Jemima.

Is honey vegan?

Bees work hard to make honey, don't steal it!
Although not a sugar, many people use honey in place of it.

But is honey vegan? Unfortunately, no, honey is not vegan. Here’s why:

Honey is made by bees as their single source of food.

Honey bees will travel and collect nectar from up to 1,500 flowers before returning to their hive. 10

Once bees return the nectar to the hive, house bees then regurgitate and chew on it to produce honey.

A single bee can visit up to 10,000 flowers a day and will only produce a teaspoon of honey in its entire lifetime. 11 Because of this, millions of bees are needed to produce ample amounts of honey.

The honey industry will also clip the wings of queen bees, kill and replace old queens, and confine queens who try to separate bees from the hive by creating a swarm. 12 13

Stealing honey and killing bees to manipulate into producing honey for humans is highly unethical and against what veganism stands for, therefore honey is not vegan.

Conclusion: The only sugars that are vegan are USDA certified organic sugar, beet sugar, and Sugar in the Raw. Everything else is filtered with bone char.

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