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Glossary of animal substances: a reference guide

Glossary of animal substances: a reference guide

Also see the “hidden ingredients” page for a guide to common animal ingredients to watch out for when food shopping.

Below is a list of substances used in food, clothing, cosmetics and other products which are or can be taken from animals.

Not all the substances listed below will always be animal-derived, the * symbol indicates that non-animal (synthetic, vegetable or plant/mineral-derived) versions/sources by the same name are known to exist.

If you are unsure whether or not an ingredient in a particular product is suitable for vegans, do contact the company to ask or check their website for information. 

  • Some companies specify which of their products are suitable for vegans on their website.  If they don’t, they can often provide a list of vegan products or advise you on whether a specific product is suitable if you get in touch with them.
  • If you do contact a company for information, politely ask them to label their vegan-suitable products.  Contacting companies to ask about vegan-suitable products shows demand for vegan products and better vegan labelling.

Animal-derived or possibly animal-derived substances

* = possibly animal-derived, non-animal versions also exist

albumen/albumin egg white Use/s: food binder
alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs)* naturally occurring chemicals derived from fruit or milk Use/s: cosmetics
ambergris morbid concretion obtained from the intestine of the sperm whale used in perfumes and cigarettes
amino acids* ‘building blocks’ of proteins
amniotic fluid fluid surrounding the foetus within the placenta Use/s: cosmetics
amylase* enzyme in saliva and pancreatic juice
anchovy small fish of the herring family, often an ingredient of Worcester sauce and pizza toppings Use/s: flavour enhancer
angora fibre obtained from rabbits or goats Use/s: clothing
aspic savoury jelly derived from meat and fish Use/s: glazing agent
astrakhan skin of stillborn or very young lambs from a breed originating in Astrakhan, Russia Use/s: clothing
beeswax* (E901) secreted by bees to produce combs Use/s: furniture- and floor-polishes, candles, cosmetics
bone/bonemeal animal bone Use/s: horticultural fertiliser, bone-china ornaments, crockery, supplements
brawn boiled meat, ears and tongue of pig Use/s: foodstuff
bristle* stiff animal hair, usually from pigs Use/s: brushes
calcium mesoinositol hexaphosphate Use/s: baked goods, soft drinks, processed vegetables
capiz shell Use/s: lampshades
carmine/carminic acid (E120) red pigment obtained from cochineal Use/s: food and drink dyes
casein milk protein Use/s: cheese
cashmere fine wool from the cashmere goat and wild goat of Tibet Use/s: clothing
castoreum obtained from the anal sex gland of the beaver Use/s: fixative in perfumes
catgut dried and twisted intestines of the sheep or horse Use/s: stringed musical instruments, surgical stitching
caviar(e) roe of the sturgeon and other fish Use/s: a relish
charcoal* charred bone or wood Uses: clarifying agent
chitin organic base of the hard parts of insects and crustaceans e.g. shrimps, crabs Use/s: conditioners and skin-care products, thickener and moisturiser in shampoos
chamois soft leather from the skin of the chamois antelope, sheep, goats, deer etc. Use/s: cleaning cloth
cholecalciferol see vitamin D3
cholic acid (E1000) extracted from the bile of cows Use/s: emulsifier
civet substance scraped from glands in the anal pouch of the civet cat Use/s: fixative in perfumes
cochineal (E120) dye-stuff consisting of the dried bodies of scale insects, used for making carmine Use/s: red food and drink colouring
cod-liver oil oil extracted from the liver of cod and related fish Use/s: food supplement
collagen constituent of connective tissue which yields gelatin(e) on boiling Use/s: cosmetics, sausage skins, supplements
coral hard calcareous substance consisting of the continuous skeleton secreted by coelenterate polyps for their support and habitation Use/s: jewellery, ornaments
deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA)* controls protein synthesis/stores genetic information. Found in all animal and plant cells Use/s: cosmetics, genetically modified organisms, shampoos
down underplumage of fowls (especially duck and goose) Use/s: filling quilts, pillows, sleeping bags, padded clothing
dripping melted animal fat Use/s: frying
eider down small, soft feathers from the breast of the eider duck Use/s: filling quilts
elastin protein uniting muscle fibres in meat Use/s: moisturiser in cosmetics
fatty acids* organic compounds: saturated, polyunsaturated and unsaturated
feather epidermal appendage of a bird Uses: fashion accessory, feather dusters
felt* cloth made of wool, or of wool and fur or hair Use/s: clothing
gelatin(e) jelly obtained by boiling animal tissues (skin, tendons, ligaments etc.) or bones Use/s: confectionery, biscuits, capsules, jellies, photographic film, match heads
glycerin(e)/glycerol (E422)* clear, colourless liquid which may be derived from animal fats, synthesised from propylene or from fermentation of sugars Use/s: solvent for flavours, texture improver, humectant
hide animal skin (raw or tanned) Use/s: clothing and footwear, clothing accessories, upholstery
insulin* pancreas of cattle, sheep or pigs Uses: managing diabetes
isinglass very pure form of gelatin(e) obtained from the air bladders of some freshwater fish, especially the sturgeon Use/s: clarifying alcoholic drinks, jellies
keratin protein found in hair, horns, hooves and feathers Use/s: shampoos and conditioners, fertiliser
L’cysteine hydrochloride (E920)* manufactured from animal hair and poultry feathers or synthetically from coal tar Use/s: shampoo, improving agent for white flour
lactitol (E966) produced from milk sugar Use/s: sweetener
lactose milk sugar Use/s: tablet filler, sweetener, carrier for flavouring agents, especially in crisps
lanolin(e)* fat extracted from sheep’s wool and hide Use/s: cleaning products, an emollient and emulsifier used in cosmetics, especially lipsticks
lard fat surrounding the stomach and kidneys of pigs, sheep and cattle Use/s: culinary
leather tanned hide (mostly from cattle but also sheep, pigs, goats etc.) Use/s: clothing and footwear, clothing accessories, upholstery
lecithin (E322)* fatty substance found in nerve tissues, egg yolk, blood and other tissues, mainly obtained commercially from soya bean, peanut and corn Use/s: emulsifier in baked goods and confectionery
lutein (E161(b))* deep-yellow substance found in egg yolk, obtained commercially from marigold Use/s: food colouring
lysozyme (E1105)* enzyme which may be derived from eggs Use/s: preservative
mohair cloth or yarn made from the hair of the angora goat Use/s: clothing
musk* substance secreted by glands of the male musk deer Use/s: perfume
oleic acid* fatty acid occurring in animal and vegetable fats Use/s: soaps, cosmetics, ointments
oleoic oil liquid obtained from pressed tallow Use/s: margarines
oleostearin solid obtained from pressed tallow Use/s: soap and candles
oestrogen* female sex hormone from cow ovaries or pregnant mares’ urine Use/s: cosmetics, body-building supplements, hormone creams
parchment* skin of the calf, sheep or goat, dressed and prepared for writing etc.
pearl (‘Mother of’, or ‘cultured’) concretion of layers of pain-dulling nacre formed around a foreign particle within the shell of various bivalve molluscs, principally the oyster Use/s: jewellery and decorative
pepsin enzyme found in gastric juices Use/s: cheese making
placenta organ by which the foetus is attached to the umbilical cord Use/s: cosmetics
progesterone* sex hormone Use/s: hormone creams
propolis bee glue, used by bees to stop up crevices and fix combs to the hive Use/s: toiletries and cosmetics
rennet* extract of calf stomach containing the enzyme rennin which clots milk Use/s: cheese, junkets
reticulin one of the structural elements (together with elastin and collagen) of skeletal muscle
ribonucleic acid (RNA) * see deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA)
• roe eggs obtained from the abdomen of female fish Use/s: a relish
royal jelly food on which bee larvae are fed and which causes them to develop into queen bees Use/s: food supplement
sable fur from the sable marten, a small carnivorous mammal Use/s: clothing, artists’ brushes
shellac (E904) insect secretion Use/s: hair spray, lip sealer, polishes, glazing agent
silk cloth made from the fibre produced by the larvae (silk worm) of certain bombycine moths, the harvesting of which entails killing the insect Use/s: clothing, cosmetics
sodium 5′-inosinate occurs naturally in muscle, prepared from fish waste Use/s: flavour enhancer
sperm oil oil found in the head of various species of whale Use/s: candles
spermaceti wax fatty substance found mainly in the head of whales and dolphins Use/s: medicines, candles, cosmetics
sponge* aquatic animal or colony of animals, characterised by a tough elastic skeleton of interlaced fibres Use/s: bathing aid
squalene/squalane* found in the liver of the shark (and rats) Use/s: toiletries and cosmetics
stearate* salt of stearic acid Use/s: body-building supplements
stearic acid (E570)* organic acid prepared from stearin
stearin(e)* general name for the three glycerides (monostearin, distearin, tristearin), formed by the combination of stearic acid and glycerin; chiefly applied to tristearin, which is the main constituent of tallow and suet Use/s: medicines, skin softener in toiletries and cosmetics
suede* kid-, pig- or calf-skin, tanned Use/s: clothing and footwear
suet* solid fat prepared from the kidneys of cattle and sheep Use/s: cooking
tallow hard animal fat, especially that obtained from the parts around the kidneys of ruminants Use/s: soap, candles
taurine* amino acid
testosterone* male hormone Use/s: body-building supplements
urea* nitrogenous waste formed in the liver and excreted by the kidneys Use/s: toiletries and cosmetics
vellum* fine parchment prepared from the skins of calves, lambs or kids Use/s: writing material
vitamin A* (retinol) derived from fish-liver oil or egg yolk Use/s: cosmetics, food supplement
vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol)*(D3 is usually animal-derived) vitamin usually derived from lanolin or fish oil Use/s: vitamin and food supplements
velvet* fabric made of silk, cotton, rayon or nylon Use/s: clothing
volaise ostrich meat
whey residue from milk after the removal of the casein and most of the fat, by-product of cheese making Use/s: margarines, biscuits, crisps, cleaning products
wool hair forming the fleecy coat of the domesticated sheep and similar animals Use/s: clothing including felt, mattresses.


Animal-derived additives

E120 (CI75470) carmine/cochineal
E542 edible bone phosphate
E901 beeswax
E904 shellac
E913 Lanolin
E966 Lactitol
E1000 Cholic Acid
E1105 Lysozyme
calcium mesoinositol hexaphosphate
sperm oil

Possibly animal-derived

E101 riboflavin, lactoflavin, vitamin B2
E101a riboflavin 5′-phosphate
E153 (believed animal-free version only may be used in food) carbon black, vegetable carbon
E161(b) lutein
E161(g) canthaxanthin
E236 formic acid
E237 sodium formate
E238 calcium formate
E304 Fatty acid esters of ascorbic acid, ascorbyl palmitate and ascorbyl stearate
E322 lecithin
E325 sodium lactate
E326 potassium lactate
E327 calcium lactate
E304 fatty acid esters of ascorbic acid, ascorbyl palmitate and ascorbyl stearate
E422 glycerol (glycerine)
E430 polyoxyethylene (8) stearate, polyoxyl (8) stearate
E431 polyoxyethylene (40) stearate, polyoxyl (40) stearate
E432 polyoxyethylene sorbitan monolaurate, polysorbate 20, tween 20
E433 polyoxyethylene sorbitan mono-oleate, polysorbate 80, tween 80
E434 polyoxyethylene sorbitan monopalmitate, polysorbate 40, tween 40
E435 polyoxyethylene sorbitan monostearate, polysorbate 60, tween 60
E436 polyoxyethylene sorbitan tristearate, polysorbate 65, tween 65
E442 glycerol
E470(a) sodium, potassium and calcium salts of fatty acids
E470(b) magnesium salts of fatty acids
E471 glycerides of fatty acids, glyceryl monostearate, glyceryl distearate
E472(a) acetic acid esters of glycerides of fatty acids, acetoglycerides, glycerol esters
E472(b) lactic acid esters of glycerides of fatty acids, lactylated glycerides, lactoglycerides
E472(c) citric acid esters of glycerides of fatty acids
E472(d)  tartaric acid esters of glycerides of fatty acids
E472(e) mono and diacetyltartaric acid esters of glycerides of fatty acids
E472(f) mixed acetic and tartaric acid esters of mono- and di-glycerides of fatty acids
E473 sucrose esters of fatty acids
E474 sucroglycerides
E475 polyglycerol esters of fatty acids
E476 polyglycerol esters of polycondensed fatty acids of castor oil, polyglycerol polyricinoleate; polyglycerol esters of dimerised fatty acids of soya bean oil
E477 propylene glycol esters of fatty acids; propane-1,2-diol esters of fatty acids
E478 lactylated fatty acid esters of glycerol and propane-1,2-diol
E479(b) thermally oxidised soya bean oil interacted with mono- and di-glycerides of fatty acids
E481 sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate
E482 calcium stearoyl-2-lactylate
E483 stearyl tartrate
E491 sorbitan monostearate
E492 sorbitan tristearate, span 65
E493 sorbitan monolaurate, span 20
E494 sorbitan mono-oleate, span 80
E495 sorbitan monopalmitate, span 40
E570 fatty acids (including myristic, stearic, palmitic and oleic), butyl stearate
E572 magnesium salts of fatty acids (including magnesium stearate); calcium stearate
E585 ferrous lactate
E626 guanylic acid
E627 guanosine 5′-disodium phosphate, sodium guanylate, disodium guanylate
E628 dipotassium guanylate
E628 calcium guanylate
E631 inosine 5’-disodium phosphate, sodium 5′-inosinate
E632 dipotassium inosinate
E633 calcium inosinate
E634 calcium 5’-ribonucleotides
E635 disodium 5’-ribonucleotides
E635 sodium 5′-ribonucleotide
E640 glycine and its sodium salt
E631 disodium 5’-inosinate (IMP)
E920 L-cysteine hydrochloride
E921 L-cystine
E1518 glyceryl mono-, di- and tri-acetate (triacetin)
calcium heptonate
calcium phytate
• and any unspecified flavourings.

Lactic acid as an additive is highly unlikely to be derived from dairy (in general commercial terms, 100% of the commercial market is from vegan sources) but if you want to be positive, you should contact the manufacturer.

The website has a list of all e-numbers and details of whether or not they are suitable for vegans.

Animal-derived carriers

Some additives that are not animal derived may involve the use of gelatine as a carrier.  These include E104 quinoline yellow, E160a(i) mixed carotenes and E160a(ii) β-carotene.

Reg. Charity No: 279228 Company Reg. No: 1468880


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