Vegans and Vaccines — A Measured View

by Greg Lawson, MVLCE

posted Dec 29, 2020

I recently read a post on Facebook that said “You can’t be vegan and pro-vaccine.” I immediately felt that the person who posted that message misunderstood the meaning of veganism. For me being vegan isn’t about being perfect; it’s about living so as to prevent the suffering of animals to the best of my ability. Then, an even more disturbing post appeared on my Facebook timeline from a friend who is prominent in the vegan movement. He posted that taking the vaccine meant you weren’t vegan. His post was replied to by many people who advanced conspiracy theories about vaccines that were only marginally related to reality.

Image credit: Greg Lawson

Neither the COVID vaccine produced by Pfizer nor the one produced by Moderna contains human fetal tissue, nor was fetal tissue used in the development of those vaccines. Cell lines derived from elective abortions performed decades ago have been used in the manufacture of vaccines, including current vaccines against rubella, chickenpox, hepatitis A, and shingles. At least five of the 130 candidate COVID-19 vaccines in development use one of two human fetal cell lines: HEK-293, a kidney cell line widely used in research that comes from a fetus aborted in 1972; and PER.C6, a cell line owned by Johnson & Johnson, developed from cells from an 18-week-old fetus aborted in 1985. Pfizer and Moderna did not use fetal cell lines.

Conspiracy theories that appear on social media allege that aborted fetal material is one of the ingredients in COVID vaccines which is a misrepresentation.

Photo credit: Unsplash.com

Testing of COVID vaccines was performed on animals, including mice, monkeys, ferrets and pigs. Therefore, in the strict sense, the COVID vaccines are not vegan products. But does that mean that vegans should not take them?

The definition of veganism put forth by the Vegan Society is “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

Image credit: vegansociety.com

any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.”

The phrase “as far as is possible and practicable” is important. Living in society means it’s not always possible or practicable to avoid animal products. Unless you live in a mud house, then chances are your wall is made of drywall or sheetrock. Drywall, sheetrock and paint contain animal by-products. Many municipal water supplies use animal bone charcoal filters, just like the dreaded white sugar. Cars were once tested on animals before crash test dummies. Tires and the asphalt of roads contain animal products…and on and on.

There is a moral imperative for us to do our best to end the coronavirus pandemic and if that means taking a vaccine that was tested on animals then, in my opinion, that’s what we should do.

Anyone who says “You’re not a real vegan unless you do this and that and avoid this and that” is an annoying member of the ‘Vegan Police” who doesn’t understand the phrase “possible and practicable.” This hardline stance does not advance our movement.

We shouldn’t be making veganism look difficult to those who aren’t with us yet. Vegans should exhibit compassion and empathy, and be helpful not judgmental towards other vegans. At least that’s my judgment.


Photo credit: Greg Lawson

Greg Lawson is a retired National Park Service ranger and a Main Street Vegan Academy Master Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator. He was lead journalist for the newsletter Animal Rights Online for eight years and is vice president of the Veg Society of El Paso. Greg is co-host of a vegan radio show, Animal Concerns of Texas, in its eighteenth year on KTEP-FM, National Public Radio for the Southwest.

28 thoughts on “Vegans and Vaccines — A Measured View”

    1. Yes, the vaccine package insert.

      You can go directly to Pfizer or moderna.

      Both vaccines are still experimental and extremely dangerous. Yes, they contain MRC-5 an aborted fetal line. Vaccines are unavoidably unsafe, this was stated in the 1986 Act. The 1986 Act is a legal document used to exempt manufacturers from liability. Is not about veganism is about being moral.

      1. How true, I can’t understand how it can even be stated that the covid vaccine (in the uK) is 95% effective. This is fake news and a marketing technique that provides a false sense of security. A regular flu shot is less than 50% effective, so what makes this one any different?Pharmaceutical companies are using humans as the Guinea pigs to determine what the negative side affects are and they could make trillions of dollars doing so. . I’m not advocating testing on animals but rather a society that builds a healthy immune system by following a healthy diet and lifestyle. Social isolation should be reserved for only the 10% of society that is immuno-compromised.

      2. [Link deleted]

        Most of the COVID-19 vaccines in development do not use human cell lines in their production. For example, Pfizer and Moderna use mRNA technology.

  1. Well said Greg! As a naturally imperfect human your words ring so true for me. Thank you for sharing this point of view to let many vegans like myself know they are not alone. Personally, I am often more distressed by the judgement of an angry vegan than “those who aren’t with us yet”. Here’s to continuing to incite compassion and empathy for everyone in order to bring change for the suffering animals.

  2. Thank you Greg. I appreciate your perspective, as well as your key point, which is that we shouldn’t make veganism look rigid, difficult or unachievable. And yes please, more compassion towards ALL people.

  3. A very thoughtful and thought-provoking posting.

    The last time I was vaccinated was around 50 years ago, a tetanus shot administered after I stepped on a rusty nail that penetrated my Converse sneakers (vegan – except for the glue?) and that impaled my foot (at that time all-vegan for around half a year).

    I remain undecided about taking the pandemic pandemonium vaccine but, for the sake of argument, let’s say that when my opportunity arises in maybe half a year that I indeed will be inoculated. What, a teeny tiny fraction of a single cc ingested into my body is going to expunge my record of more than 50 years of eating a vegan diet? Maybe in the eyes of the vegan police, but not in the eyes I spy in the mirror.

    Some 41 years ago, when Vegetarian Times was still a print publication, I stood outside a vegetarian café distributing free copies of the magazine. My gift was a come-on for a survey I was taking, asking diners if they were vegetarian. (Back then, not even vegetarians knew the word “vegan” or its tenets.) The answers I received ranged from the comic “No, but I eat lots of vegetables” to the perplexing “Yes, except when I eat meat.” In the same spirit, in theory I might answer this blog’s question with “Yes, except when just once in my lifetime I ingest a teeny tiny fraction of a single cc of vaccine.”

    1. It’s been decades since I had a vaccine as well. I never get a flu shot and I think I’ve had a mild case of the flu a couple of times. My whole foods vegan diet has protected me by giving me a strong immune system.

  4. I’m so grateful for this article. I have friends rushing to sign up for the vaccine. I, too, haven’t had a flu shot in probably 40 years because the only one I had made me so ill. Maybe I’ll get a covid shot one day in the distant future. I’ve been vegan for about 35 years but that’s not what stops me from getting the shot. Time will tell just how safe it is. Vegan police do more harm than good.

  5. I am very torn about vaccines, absolutely because of the suffering of the animals on which it ( and so many other things) has been tested. I have and will continue to support PCRM ( Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine) which has been strongly working to stop the practice of using animals in medical research. They have successfully had many medical schools stop using animals in their outdated horrible teaching practices. Hopefully, PCRMs educational movement can spread. The facts given by doctors and scientists can shed light and convince other scientists that there are non animal alternatives to test medicines and vaccines. In the meantime, I will get the vaccine and as long as I am able will continue to support the end of using animals in research. I hope this helps!

  6. Life is complicated, and I am thrilled when anyone aspires to live vegan, and am not interested in judging their efforts at being vegan, nor shaming them for choices. But I do think it matters to point out perspectives or misrepresentations of facts that may serve to reinforce the property-status of other beings, or play into their continued exploitation.

    I would not fault a vegan, who believes their health is at risk, and so makes a choice to use a medicine or technology that is not vegan — for example a type-I diabetic using pig insulin — or someone who has fallen under the fear-porn spell and so decides to get a COVID vaccine.

    But I will do my very best to share the compelling evidence I have found suggesting that the COVID vaccine is ill-advised for everyone, and is made by highly corrupted industry that has taken control of our government and that far safer options, likely to be more life-saving, with better risk/benefit profiles and known safety records, which also happen to not require harming animals do exist.

    For a great deconstruction of the Pfizer vaccine safety trial — explaining how most of what people believe about this vaccine is not actually supported by the published science read this:
    [Link deleted]

    A growing body of science now suggests that possibly 9 of 10 COVID deaths could be prevented by addressing rampant vitamin D deficiency — and a BMJ letter even says:

    “Thus, there is every reason to ‘D’ test hospitalised COVID-19 patients. Arguably, not to do so, in light of
    study outcomes to date, risks negligence. Judges, if asked, may take a broad-view in weighing evidence.”
    [Link deleted]

    Zinc deficiency has also been implicated in bad outcomes from COVID:
    [Link deleted]

    Flu shots are another factor that appear to increase both incidence and mortality from COVID:
    [Link deleted]
    [Link deleted]
    [Link deleted]
    [Link deleted]

    Tylenol (which depletes glutathione) is still being recommended widely by public health officials — Yet is probably also contributing to many bad outcomes from COVID. Many lives could be saved if people were informed of this published science as well:

    [Link deleted]

    [Link deleted]

    It is clear to me that most COVID deaths are really the result of a few key deficiencies and Iatrogenic factors. We don’t need a vaccine with completely unknown long term harms, and disabling systemic adverse reactions in many who get the shot, (in addition to the animal exploitation that goes into its production) We simply need medical recommendations based upon the good science we already have.

    For Donald Watson and Jay Dinshah — Veganism was holistic and they both understood that vaccines were contrary to the vegan values of not exploiting other animals AND maximizing our own personal health.

    For a quick 13 minute introduction into some of the science that most doctors have probably never heard of — watch this fabulous MD give his testimony recently:
    [Link deleted]

    For me, veganism is not only about not exploiting other beings, it is also about taking care of my own health. I have been reading a lot of science related to COVID and the vaccine trials, and

    1. JoAnn ~ Your links were removed by the protective software on my site. My web guy was unclear as to whether it was because of their content or simply because spammers use a lot of links and when the software detected so many, it deleted them all. I believe there is a lot of misinformation out there on the anti-vaccine side, but I do not believe in censorship so I was trying to get these deletions restored. Then you wrote to me personally asking why I hadn’t yet published your comment, so here it is, as is.

      1. Victoria:

        Thank you for posting this. Thank you also for supporting free speech.

        I have been censored so many times over the past few years — simply for trying to raise awareness of legitimate published science. I first experienced it trying to educate people about the harms of meat and dairy — but I am experiencing far more today as I try to educate people about the harms of vaccines.

        If people wish to see the links — I reposted my comment to my blog — where I also have many other articles on vaccine science and veganism.

        If this link gets removed– clicking on my name will take you directly to my blog as well.

        [Link deleted]

    2. JoAnn, I can tell your post took a lot of research and time.

      I hate that despite of the fact that vaccines are unavoidably unsafe, and dangerous, we are being censored for speaking the truth.

      The post above is full of lies, and it makes me sad, How Many people are torn and undecided but are changing their mind on disinformation.

      Vaccines are bad news, and is sad that all your links have been deleted by software. I don’t need them because to me this is old news since I became first ex-vaccine due to safety, than anti-vaccine because they are truly useless. If only people would read more, they would see the truth. They act on emotional because they don’t want to accept that they have been fooled.

  7. Thanks very much to Greg and Victoria for this important and well-reasoned piece.

    It’s a shame that some well known vegans are spreading misinformation about this crucial topic. They are not only harming individuals, but the whole community. (Giving vegans a bad name.)

  8. Thanks for publishing this thought-provoking piece. I will be getting the vaccine as soon as it is available to me, because I want to help protect *all* of us — and the vaccine, if widely taken, will help us reach “herd immunity” with far fewer deaths. I also believe that I can do much more to help the cause of animals if I am still alive rather than potentially dead from COVID. And while I hope that my immune system is strong because of my vegan lifestyle, there are no guarantees, plus I have the risk factor of being in my 60’s.

    I also believe that none of us are perfect, and my intent is always to do my very best to avoid harming other beings and the Earth. So I strive to have the lowest footprint possible, yet I also know that beating myself (or anyone else) up for living imperfect lives does not help at all.

    I agree with other comments regarding the need to get animals out of medical testing, and I applaud PCRM’s efforts and successes in that area. But in my opinion, foregoing potentially life-saving medical treatments because the medical community has not reached the goal of no animal involvement is like throwing the baby out with the bath water. I am grateful to all of the medical professionals and researchers who have worked tirelessly to help the rest of us beat down this pandemic. And I will do my best to help — by wearing a mask, avoiding large gatherings, washing my hands, and yes, taking the vaccine.

  9. Sue Sullivan, MVLCE

    I am so grateful for your blog, Greg! I agree wholeheartedly that we have to do the best which will never be perfect. I feel so passionate about lowering the curve as much as I can to save lives from this pandemic, I will wear a mask whenever I am outside of my house, and I will absolutely get a vaccine as soon as it becomes available to me .Because I trust the science. Thanks for affirming that I can know this in my heart and still be vegan.

  10. Thanks for the liberating blog. I felt so validated reading it. I was stressing out and feeling like either a “stupid brainwashed sucker” or else a phony hypocrite betraying my deeply cherished vegan sensibilities simply because I really DO trust the science, and want to wear a mask and receive m y vaccination as soon as it’s my turn to do so. So I guess I don’t have to either a supporter of flattening the curve as much as I can, or a vegan. I think I DO get to be both. As you so exquisitely wrote, our species has established species privilege e to such a degree that we all have to VEGAN THE BEST WE CAN while realizing that it is not going to be perfect, and that does not make us hypocrites.

  11. Thanks for the liberating blog. I felt so validated reading it. I was stressing out and feeling like either a “stupid brainwashed sucker” or else a phony hypocrite betraying my deeply cherished vegan sensibilities simply because I really DO trust the science, and want to wear a mask and receive m y vaccination as soon as it’s my turn to do so. So I guess I don’t have to either a supporter of flattening the curve as much as I can, or a vegan. I think I DO get to be both. As you so exquisitely wrote, our species has established species privilege e to such a degree that we all have to VEGAN THE BEST WE CAN while realizing that it is not going to be perfect, and that does not make us hypocrites.

  12. Thank you so much, JoAnn Farb, for your outstanding contribution to this discussion. You are a breath of fresh exhilarating air. And a timely wake up call to all who are sleepwalking into an horrendous future of obscene vaccines and ever-stricter state control.
    All the other “I trust the science” stuff is just stuffy stuff and nonsense to me. Why would I as a vegan ever trust any of these corrupt pharmaceutical giants, who have been lying and trying to cover up their wicked cruelty towards animals for so long, putting drugs on the market which are safe on animals but have harmful, even deadly side-effects on humans. Trust them? Not likely!
    Those who believe mask-wearing to be helpful need to think again – countless studies have clearly established they do more harm than good.
    Wake up! Vegan community. Please! Before it is too late. Please do as JoAnn Farb very kindly suggested and check out those links which were deleted. This information is dynamite – it blasts the lies away and opens up a new road to the truth.
    You must be true to your inner selves, of course, but ask if your inner-selves have been polluted by so much despicable propoganda and deceitful fear-mongering.
    Do as your conscience dictates – but mine would never let that filthy cruel vile vaccine into this happy healthy vegan body. No way!

    1. Hello, reading about the masks doing more harm than good, I’ve heard alot of things about mask wearing. one breathing your own air is harmful so wearing a mask all day is not good, The one issue I have with that idea is the doctors who wear them most all day and have never heard of the risks taken in doing so, I’m been a vegan since the 70’s ,vegetarian fir about the first year, not wearing or using any animal for my benefit, I’m onthe fence with this vaccine and reading about abortions from the 70’s and using that stem cells has never entered my mind only thinking of animals being in the vegan world , Using human parts as not vegan wow , what about after the person dies is it not vegan to use the heart lung or any part? But back to this virus and the vaccines do we believe the pharmaceutical companies and the government knowing what those companies will do for the dollar and the government wanting to weed out society thinking the less people age 65 and older the less money taken out of the money pot……

  13. Greg, I agree with you that being vegan should not mean being rigid and judgmental and thank you for your caring and activism for the animals. Victoria, thank you for your articles, which I have been admiring since the eighties and your boundless compassion for all and your wisdom.
    It is precisely because I feel compassion for all our friends here and beyond, no matter what your position may be on medical or research issues, that I urge you to be more informed about vaccines especially in the context of this “pandemic,” which is being used as a tool to change the world according to a tiny minority’s agenda of total global control. (You may also see that some of these injections are not vaccines but more like gene chemotherapy, but are called vaccines so as to take advantage of vaccine immunity from liability (per 1986 law, taxpayers have to pay the damages).
    There are so many doctors and scientists speaking out against these experimental cover injections and about the available safe and effective cures, but the mainstream media keeps them out or denigrates them with ad hominem attacks. MSM propaganda is a waste of time.

    To get an insight into our current debacle, I recommend a sampling of doctors and informative websites, such as
    Carrie Madej, D.O. (on the specifics of Covid vaccines); Dr. Sucharit Bakhti; The Covid Operation (book by Dr. Pamela Popper); Del Bigtree’s Highwire; Sayer Ji’s GreenMedInfo.com and a related blog link: QuestioningCovid on Telegram app — and most importantly:
    StopWorldControl.com and
    The 10 Stages of Genocide (a 28 minute talk by Henna Maria from Spain — the parallels with our current situation are an urgent warning.
    Cherish your freedom to choose what medical procedure may or may not be done to your body, and
    please share with anyone you care to share — you could be saving lives. Every day counts; some things are irreversible.
    Hope the names listed above don’t get censored by the artificial intelligence of the server…

    1. Hi, AJ – I approved your comment because I believe in freedom of speech and recognize that just because I hold an opinion based on my own best judgment, I am not in any way an expert on pharmaceuticals and I cannot make a judgement for someone else. I recognize that there may well be issues with a new type of vaccine, especially one produced as rapidly as the ones currently available to protect against COVID-19. However, many of the ideas put forth online are not rational questions about these vaccines, but rather beyond-science-fiction theories that I cannot support. I personally intend to get the vaccination. I hope that these differences of opinion will no causes great riffs among vegans.

      1. Hi Victoria,
        Thank you for being open minded and not censoring. There is so much censorship nowadays, and it is refreshing to find forums where people can freely share their thoughts.
        I still urge you to take a look at what dissenting doctors are saying before allowing an irreversible procedure on your body.
        See my above suggestions.
        We are being carried into a medical totalitarian system, where the agendas of the less than 1% are being implemented in lockstep (social, economic, medical, political changes, e.g. see “The Great Reset” by Karl Schwab of the World Economic Forum), while the People are kept distracted with political strife, social chaos, identity politics, etc.
        Acting based only on a fear of an invisible virus or illness (that has a lethality rate comparable to a light to heavy flu) defined as “deadly” by the Medical-Pharmaceutical Stakeholders (not all doctors!) — without looking at the interconnected financial, historical, social, political, psychological, and long-term health aspects of this entire scenario, is very dangerous in my opinion.
        May you be guided by your innate wisdom and curiosity, and always be in good health.

        1. Wishing you the same. I have listened to the people cited and I am not in agreement with them. If it were 1941, I’d plant a victory garden. It’s 2021: I’m getting vaccinated, in the honor and memory of my dear friend and writing mentor, Jerrold Mundis, who died of COVID-19 last spring. Having had a personal loss like this makes it much less “invisible.”

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