Did You Know: Film and Photo Paper Are Made Using Animal Parts

If you’re a vegan film photographer, you might want to think about switching to digital. Why? Because virtually all photographic films and papers are made with animal parts. Most of the thickness in film comes from gelatin, which is used to hold the silver halide crystals in an emulsion. Gelatin is made from animal hides and bones — mainly cows and pigs. People have tried to come up with substitutes, but they haven’t been able to find anything suitable that’s as stable or cheap as gelatin.

  • Anonymous

    Pretty much the only reason I don’t shoot film anymore. I’m not your gun-ho vegan (I’m actually vegetarian by label) but I’ve made a choice to minimize my impact as much as I reasonably can.

  • Pete Boyd

    I heard way back that some of the gelatin comes from people in India(?) subsistently  collecting animal bones that are lying around in the sun. I don’t know how true it is.

    I think if you say “If you’re a vegan film photographer, you might want to think about switching to digital” then you should also discuss any animal products they contain, if any.

  • Craig Damlo

    Even if a vegan goes digital; odds are one of the plastics in the camera are also made from animal byproduct.

  • mike

    Mmmm Beef!

  • John Milleker

    I can’t help to think that instead of telling people (again) that they
    shouldn’t be shooting film – we come up with a solution? After all, some
    people in the Vegan community would rather quit altogether than go to

    Many Vegans have decided to ‘grandfather in’ certain products. Search the many
    discussions online where Vegans are talking about the use of gelatin for
    film and paper products.

    If there is anyone out there that istruly going to ditch film photography for digital – be careful that the digital camera you buy is made of no animal parts and is eco friendly.
    While I have no data on that – I suspect a ‘good luck’ is in order. Be careful of which papers you print on as well.

    Or, try a process that is Vegan friendly. Without much research I can’t
    think of any animal products in Wet Plates or Salt Printing. Liquid
    Light is a maybe. Some people even make their own film.. Check

    While Gelatin is still the best way to mesh an emulsion to a piece of
    plastic – Kosher Gelatin and Agar-Agar may work just fine.

    (Edit: Cut/Paste Word Wrap fail, had to fix)

  • M.B.


    Is there anything they can’t do?

  • Sam Wallace

    Good to hear it’s all going to good use.

  • Spider- Man

    divide by zero

  • Mart
  • Aydensgrace

    At least we use ALL the parts of the cow now

  • TaterATX

    “I heard way back that some of the gelatin comes from people in India(?)
    subsistently  collecting animal bones that are lying around in the sun. I
    don’t know how true it is.”

    Extremely skeptical about this. For one, the longer bones lay around in the sun, the less extractable gelatin will remain in the bones. Also, unless there are huge fields of bones laying around (or a vast number of people to collect bones from across the country), it seems implausible that such a collection method would provide the quantity of bones required to make a consistent commercial product.

  • Veg Andrew

    This is bs. The electronics in your digital camera and the chemicals for its batteries pollute heavily and probably kill more animals and humans than the helatine used in photo films. Be vegans and buy more smartphones, yeah, that will save the planet. 

  • Anonymous

    I would venture to say there is no such thing as a true vegan at all based on this list of things made from JUST a cow. There are many other things made from animals that people use unknowingly every day. Baseball anyone? I am not putting down the convictions of wanna-be vegans, but it just seems a bit far fetched to think that you can have NO impact in that way. I feel that embracing the uses of products in a humane and responsible way is more prudent and logical. To be fair, plants are living as well, are they not?

  • Spider- Man

    Hmmm who’s deleting comments…

  • Anonymous

    I’d agree however the image above is misleading since it generalizes products and it doesn’t assume the fact that there are non-animal alternatives to some of those items.

  • Infrared


  • Michael Zhang

    No one. What’s missing?

  • Anonymous

    I have to agree to what you say, there are many alternatives–soy,etc… but I will point out the economic burden of such alternatives is many times beyond the realm of practicality IMO. For instance, I saw Bio-Diesel at a station a couple weeks ago, I went to use it and then almost fell over at the price–$7.95/Gallon…OUCH! Still, responsibility and good stewardship is the key, not a religion of “I don’t have an impact using animal products”.

  • Anonymous

    OK then, one cow hypothetically makes how many rolls of film?  As it is, it looks like just the light sensitive layer, which is incredibly thin.  The actual substrate for film is made from plant material or petrochemicals.

  • Spider- Man

    mybad, my browser got wonky again…

  • Erin Wilson

    This seriously bums me out.  :(

  • Jason


  • Spider- Man

    Yeah I was sad when I found out about the zero thing as well. Poor dumb cows…

  • Qgytbsczehhuku

    Also ceramics, anti-freeze (used in heat exchangers), nitrogen, etc, etc

  • knp

    Now this obviously depends on the reason why people are vegan (cute animals, or save the planet), but I know a few vegans that shoot film still. The reason being that sure, a small portion of a cow is taken for the film, but an old SLR can be repaired over and over again. The disposable nature of electronics nowadays pretty much guarantees that shooting digital will inevitably be worse for the planet, if only for the energy going into buying a new one every once in a while due to malfunction, or regular upgrade. Nothing nowadays is user serviceable, and often it costs more to fix than to throw out.

  • Herpderp

    Go down stairs

  • Cochese

    Wow… Old picture is old. Also, being vegan is less about abstaining from all products that us animal-based ingredients and more about avoiding as much of it as possibe and never consuming it.

    If there were any 1 vegan that wanted to fully abstain from ALL products made using anything from an animal, they’d better get out there and start hand farming all of their food and walking every where either barefoot or with shoes made of rubber that doesn’t have an animal base.

    I’ve been a vegan for 4 years and know many other vegans. The type of vegan who I cannot stand are the self-rightous ones who preach their gospel and then hop in their car or on their bike, generally ignorant to the fact that half of their cars/ bikes have an animal-based origin.

  • Cochese

    The type of “living” is much different between a plant and a cow. That said, there is such a thing as a true “vegan” as veganism isn’t just word written in stone such as vegetarianism, but more of a philosophy of life. One in which you avoid using animal-based products as much as possible. There are far more hardcore people about it than vegans and they really do adhere to a very strict definition of what they are.

    If you want more information on the subject, check author Peter Singer.

  • Cochese

    As a vegan who stopped shooting film years ago, I didn’t do it for my veganism, I did it because it’s more of a pain to deal with and once you send your photos to a pro print shop, you’d never tell the difference. Outside of that, most plastics and rubber products use an animal base in them. That includes the tires on your car and/ or bike. Vegan is a philosophy of life. Something you do to minimize, as you say, the impact you have on the Earth. Philosophy as it be, animal products are still out, but in some circles, you can still be a vegan and eat eggs/ dring milk if the cow is yours and the hen has a nice home in your backyard. There is zero harm in obtaining an egg from a hen as they ovulate just like female humans do.
    Get what I’m saying?

  • John R

    ‘almost fell over at the price–$7.95/Gallon…OUCH!’

    You could try filling up in the UK $9.70/(US)Gallon for the non bio stuff.  Mind you I believe the non-bio is far worse for the planet than the normal muck.  Burning oil always was and always will be the dumbest thing to do with it.

  • Sam Wallace

    Yeah I saw I was the first one yesterday. Thought that was odd as I’m never the first

  • Anonymous

    Self proclaimed worst-vegan-ever. Honestly very few of the products mentioned I actually use / many can easily be avoided if you’re aware. Kodak portra is not one of them.

  • patrick wilken

    No vegan is pure. I am a vegan. I avoid animal products in food, clothing and cosmetics/toiletries, and where ever else is possible. But animals products are too ubiquitous to avoid – car tires anyone? In the case of medicine I just accept that there aren’t good alternatives.

    Most animals are killed for meat. The other products are used because animals byproducts are so cheap (we kill a lot of animals). If people moved towards a plant based diet a lot of other options would probably open up.

    But frankly I think this is a bit of a non-issue. You try your best. No one is pure.

  • David

    wolfram alpha can

  • Divadoof

    You are truly the master of…the obvious.

  • divad

    so can the candy man..the candy man can..the candyman can. once again..thanks for letting us all know the obvious.

  • divad

    thanks once again for letting us all know about..the obvious.

  • divad

    no, DUH.

  • Peter

    This is preposterous … Even when everyone used film, the percentage of total gelatin consumption by the photo industry was relatively small.  You consumer for more gelatin everyday when you consume gum, margarine, all vitamins and medications (capsules and tablets), shampoo, moisturizer and sunscreen.  I am sure most vegans consumer as much or more gelatin than non vegans.  Maybe we should not fart …. the methane may ruin the atmosphere … there are a lot more humans generating methane than cows.  The real problem here are humans … we are a virus on this planet.  We consume and destroy way too much.  Gelatin is a joke in the big scheme of things.  Get some perspective.

  • Luka Starr

    It’s all about recognizing the horrendous use of animal products & changing your life to eliminate whatever you can from being used. Saying because everything has animal products in it means you can’t be Vegan is a weak excuse. We as a species have to start somewhere & make HUGE changes – this requires both the consumer & the manufacturer to work together for the benefit of all Earthlings & Mother Earth alike – the ecosystem is precious & not to be treated like a toy.

  • smackmeister

    I wouldn’t say zero harm, as you likely purchased that chicken from somewhere that killed any male chicks (since they have no value to the producer). But all in all, I agree with your sentiment.

  • Skanoza

    If anything, this diagram shows what a terribly animal-exploitative and difficult lifestyle/economy/world we’ve created for vegans.
    Veganism is only a step forward on the right journey, it’s not a destination.

  • Moofie

    The economic impact of growing soy is much greater if you use animal products, since cows live 3-5 years eating huge quantities of soy, wheat, cereals, etc. So you’re still getting the impact of the soy (deforestation, transport, etc.), plus the gases the animal releases, plus the water it drinks, plus the land it uses. So really, plant-based products are much more efficient; we could just eat the plants directly.

  • Moofie

    Oh, Peter Singer isn’t great; most vegans disagree with his arguments. For a more realistic look at what most vegans I know believe, try Gary L. Francione.

  • Alex

    You cannot have a cow produce milk without purposely getting it pregnant, then what will you do with the calf, and how will you keep the cow producing milk? Even Amish milk has it’s downside for the animal. And as for the pet hen, she still has to work to produce that egg. It uses up energy to make the egg. Crack the egg and give it back to her so she has some energy intake back.