Vegan-Friendly Guinness: Does No Mean Yes?

Jason Doucette of Barnivore.com responds to today’s post, in which a Guinness representative emailed me that their beers aren’t vegan-friendly:

At this moment (May 2011) our best information is telling us that Guinness Extra Stout, in the Canadian and US markets, is vegan friendly.  It’s possible that other products and other markets also have good news, but we’re still gathering data.  The brewing process for global brands is often outsourced to different companies for different markets, and in the case of Guinness, Moosehead Breweries handles all of the production for Extra Stout in North America, and in March 2011 they told one of our readers that they don’t use isinglass in any of their brewing processes.

This fits with some earlier claims from Guinness itself about Extra Stout in North America, but the company also says, quite regularly, that they don’t make vegan products.  So what gives?  After dealing with thousands of inquiries, we’ve found that "no" is often the default answer for questions about veganism, and we think that’s partly because the answer is complicated sometimes (for Guinness it depends what and where you drink,) people don’t want to get sued for giving the wrong answer, and even in 2011, some people still don’t really understand what vegan means, so they play it safe, and frankly, I’d rather have an incorrect "no" than an incorrect "yes." The only way we know to deal with this is to keep asking specific questions, even – or especially – after you get the answer you wanted to hear, and that’s one of the reasons for the double check system on Barnivore.

Based on our best interpretation of what we’ve been sent by the company and by our readers, we’re listing Guinness Extra Stout as vegan friendly in North America, but that might change, so it’s always a good idea to check in from time to time, and your interpretation may differ, which is why we include as much of the relevant response information as we can on each company page so you can make up your own mind or contact the company for more information as needed.

And in the meantime, we’re actively trying to get more details from both Moosehead and Guinness, because we really want to know but also because every time a company receives a question about veganism, it tells them that they’re losing customers by not using different filtration techniques.  It’s a subtle form of activism, but money is a powerful motivator.  We’ve seen a number of companies become vegan friendly over the years and we’re confident that this will continue as veganism gets more prominent in the media.

Here’s Barnivore’s Guinness listing.

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