Vegan cuisine is popular in the mainstream now, vegan shoes are not hard to find either, but do people ever consider vegan condoms? And opposite, do people consider the fact that most condoms are not vegan?
History of condoms
There is no consensus between archaeologists as to whether condoms were used in ancient cultures and what they were made from. There may be some examples of devices from ancient Egypt that are similar to condoms but mainly had a decorative function. Also, there are recorded cases from Japan and China of the use of glans condoms made out of either oiled silk paper, lamb intestines, animal horns or tortoise shells.
The beginning of condoms more familiar to what we know today dates back to the end of 15th century and are related to the outbreak of syphilis in Europe. At that time people started using linen sheath soaked in chemicals with a ribbon attached. During the Renaissance period, condoms made of intestines and bladders were in use. However, it wasn’t until the 18th century that condoms became more popular, and already then they were the target of opposition in some religious circles. In 1912 Julius Fromm, a German inventor of Polish-Jewish origin developed a method of manufacturing condoms from liquefied rubber. This was the beginning of the era of the latex condom.
During the manufacturing process of latex condoms, casein, a milk protein, is used. Casein is a by-product of the dairy industry, but still we should remember that by buying it we are making the dairy industry more profitable.
Companies focused on producing vegan and ethical condoms.
Glyde condoms are made out of natural Fairtrade rubber. Their condoms are free from harmful petro-chemicals, parabens, and spermicides that often cause irritation. French Letter condoms are also made out of Fairtrade rubber and free from harmful additives, but the producer claims that they are carbon neutral as well. For every one of Sir Richard’s condoms sold, one condom is donated to communities in developing countries.
Latex alternatives these days are Polyisoprene, a synthetic polyethylene resin called At-1 or lambskin. Of course lambskin condoms are not vegan. Also, even though they have contraceptive qualities they do not protect from STDs as well as condoms produced of other materials.
Non-latex condoms made of Polyisoprene or At-1 are usually vegan as there is no casein in them. Examples of these ‘accidental’ vegan condoms would be SKYN and Durex Avanti Bare RealFeel or Durex Deluxe. There is also non-latex Unique brand that is distributed independently or by GLYDE company.
Harmful spermicides – nonoxynol-9
The non-presence of animal ingredients is not the only thing we should worry about while buying condoms. The ingredient that should be avoided is also nonoxynol-9, a spermicide that is both irritating and can be related with yeast infections or even decrease the level of HIV protection. More and more brands have been resigning from using it; for example Durex ceased nonoxynol-9 in their products in 2004.
Availability of vegan condoms
The biggest problem with vegan condoms is that most of ethical brands are not widely available and it’s the best to shop for them online. It’s worth remembering that Durex Fetherlite are latex condoms that do not consist casein nor nonoxynol-9, so they appear to be a safe choice whilst shopping at the convenience store. However, veganism is about the avoidance of animal products ‘as far as is practical and possible’ and in case of any doubt, we should consider our health first.