So generally making sure your food is vegan is easy because you can just read the label. By Australian standards food packaging needs to declare if it "contains milk" etc for allergy reasons. Asian food stores won't have the same labelling laws but should have the ingredients in English.
So it should be easy right? Wrong! Many products don't have to list animal ingredients used in production (such as milk used in the production of condoms) and some list the ingredients in a scientific terms so you don't know what it is.
Some products might have vegan ingredients but the companies, parent companies or raw material manufacturers test on animals so it's really everyone's personal definition on what being vegan means. Personally I try to avoid those companies.
Here's some facts that may help you...
Many alcohol manufacturers use eggs, milk and fish in the filtering process. Wine is the main offender, but in Australia we are very lucky indeed because by Australian law all wine sold (whether it's from here or overseas) has to clearly label if they used these methods. Down where it tells you what presevatives have been used it might say "may contain traces of milk, eggs or fish". So if it's not mentioned it's vegan! Yay!
You can usually rely on organic wine but it's not all vegan. Many of the older European wineries use the traditional clay method of filtration so they are fine. However, many of the newer wineries in Australia, New Zealand and the USA use the animal products in their filtration method. Sad I know! But there are some organic Australia wines such as Temple Bruer which are vegan and preservative free! I recently had a beautiful Sauvignon Blanc by Catalina Sounds from New Zealand which was vegan.
Most beers are fine (except Guiness), although still check the label.
Most spirits are fine (except Bailey's - has milk in it, der!).
For a complete list of vegan alcohol please follow the links below...
All alcohol - Banivore (i have this stored in my phone) & Vegan Vanguard
Specifically Australian wines - Vegans From Mars
Apparently French Champagne company Duval-Leroy is in the process of going 100% vegan in 2016 - yay!
Yes, most tattooists use non-vegan ink, cause it's cheaper. It contains animal char bones, lanolin and animal based glycerin....not to mention the products they use on you afterwards!
Vegan Tattoos - has a list of vegan tattooists or just Google one near you.
Brooklyn Grooming - does a vegan tattoo balm
Art & Craft Supplies
You wouldn't think of art supplies as not being vegan but many paints, glues, lacquers, canvases, water colour paper and photo paper contain animal ingredients.
Here is a link to my blog entry on vegan arts & crafts products.
In Australia or New Zealand (and some European countries) all our sugar is vegan - yay!
But if you're from the USA or most other countries your sugar is probably not vegan. It is milled with coal from animal remains - gross! A great substitute is evaporated sugar cane (which is much better for you because it's not processed) or sugar replacer such as "Sucanat" or "Turbinado". You can also buy certified vegan brands such as Florida Crystals and Wholesome Sweetners.
All organic sugar should be vegan.
However if you come across "accidentally vegan" processed foods with sugar, like Oreos, then they are not vegan. :(
Unfortunately palm oil is in many "vegan" process items. Although strictly speaking palm oil is vegan, because it comes from a tree but large areas of tropical forests and other ecosystems with high conservation values have been cleared to make room for vast monoculture oil palm plantations – destroying critical habitat for many endangered species, including rhinos, elephants and tigers. I avoid buying palm oil products.
Hidden Food Ingredients
Here are some other animal ingredients found in food (and cosmetics)...
Rennet - used in cheese, obtained by scrapping the inside of the cows stomach - yummy!
Gelatine - comes from the bone marrow of cows, mainly ground up hooves. Found in jelly, jams, yogurts, ice-creams including gelato.
Albumen - a part of the egg yolk used to bind in ice-creams & sauces etc
Food Colouring - Cochineal - E120 (red), also called cochineal extract, carmine, crimson lake, natural Red 4, C.I. 75470, used in food and make up is basically crushed beetles. (Red 40 is chemical so it's vegan).
According to this website all artificial colourings are tested on animals anyway so they might be vegan but definitely not cruelty free!
Obviously though you can buy your own vegan food dye...link here.
Beeswax & Honey - sometimes labelling doesn't consider beeswax or honey to be an animal by-product. I've mascara that said "no animal by-products" that contained beeswax and a toothpaste that said "no animal ingredients" that contained honey. Agave Syrup is a great substitute for honey.
Animal Ingredients list - Lists all animal ingredients to make it easy.
Animal-Free - is an app for iPhone and Android that has a list of vegan and animal ingredients
Is It Vegan? - a free app for your phone that will scan the item and tell you if it's vegan. It even asks you on the first use if you consider sugar to be vegan before they start - brilliant!
In Australia the food labelling laws are generally quite strict because of allergies.
If it contains dairy it should say "contains milk" etc below the list of ingredients.
If it says "may contain traces of milk" that means that although it doesn't no contain those ingredients the product was made with the same equipment that made products containing milk so traces may be present. You can make your own call on these products.
Believe me, there are animal products in things you never would have imagined (milk products in salt & vinegar chips fooled us a couple of times) so always read the back of the label.