Well, it turns out that casein (the principal protein in milk and a highly profitable byproduct of dairy farming) finds its way into all sorts of places one would never expect, and condoms are a case in point.
As explained on the website of Glyde Condoms:
“To make condoms from raw latex, various processes are required, which in turn consist of several different steps. And one of the ‘helping hands’ during rubber-making is casein… As most manufacturers use it to make the rubber smooth and fine, most condoms cannot be called ‘vegan’ at all.”
Quite right, Glyde! As we know from issues such as the refining of sugar and alcohol, the use of ingredients such as bones, gelatin and casein in processing is another way the animal industry makes money from their “waste,” contributing to the profitability of animal-using businesses.
Thankfully, just as with many other traditionally non-vegan items, there is an abundance of animal-free alternatives available.
Glyde is a company that proudly describes its product as “the vegan condom,” and is certified vegan by The Vegan Society.
“GLYDE condoms are made with a proprietary plant-based formula of thistle extract and natural rubber latex, free of additives including petro-chemicals, parabens, casein and spermicides… Our pure ingredients and ethical principals make GLYDE the perfect choice for vegans, people with dairy allergies, and even mild latex allergies, which may stem from exposure to casein used by conventional condom brands.”
Glyde products may be hard to find in stores, but they’re easily available online. In some countries they even offer a door-to-door delivery service! GLYDE is an Australian company that partners with distributors around the world, including the USA, Canada, South America, New Zealand, Europe, the Middle East, Japan and China.
In the US, (at least in places where retail outlets recognize the need for vegan contraceptives) a more readily-available vegan condom is Sir Richard’s.
“Sir Richard’s Condom Company is the leading manufacturer of premium condoms that are free of harmful chemicals (parabens, spermicide, or glycerin) and Vegan-certified… And for every condom purchased, the founders [are] committed to donating a condom to communities in need.”
Sir Richard’s condoms are available online, and at retailers nationwide, including CVS, Krogers, Whole Foods and other natural products stores. There is also a store locator on their website.
RFSU luxury condoms (from Sweden) are certified vegan by Vegan Action. One presumes they might be more readily accessible to European consumers than other brands, but I can’t say. (Let us know if you’re reading this from Europe!) They can be difficult to find in the US, but they are available in various vegan online stores:
“RFSU condoms are imported from Sweden, and are ‘vegan safe.’ This means there aren’t any animal byproducts used in the manufacturing or testing of RFSU condoms. The elasticity in RFSU is made using only latex, thus, creating a high quality, pure latex, ‘vegan’ condom.”
RFSU’s brands (Profil, Mamba, Okeido and Birds ‘n Bees) exceed international condom safety standards, yet are described as being “unbelievably soft and sensual.” (I read something similar in several reviews, which makes you wonder who on earth decided condom manufacture requires casein for smoothness.)
RFSU is also a non-profit educational organization dedicated to raising awareness about safe sex and other issues to do with sexuality: “Through sex information, education and advocacy, we can overcome prejudices, bridge the knowledge gap and improve sexual health.”
For our readers in the UK (or those able to pay extra for shipping), French Letter boasts that their condoms are not only vegan and made from fair-trade rubber, but are also carbon neutral. Way to go!
“The natural latex used in every French Letter condom is harvested under sustainable and Fair Trade conditions. That means the rubber producers are paid a royalty to help improve their lives.”
French Letter ships within the UK and Europe, as well as the rest of the world for a reasonable cost. They also have an assortment of vegan skin products and lip balms.
B Condoms, “America’s #1 Urban Condom Brand,” are completely vegan and free from casein, spermicides, glycerin or parabens. The company also supports STI prevention campaigns in underserved communities.
“Our condoms are crafted with premium quality latex, undergoing rigorous testing to maximize both pleasure and safety. Experience the Platinum standard for quality and feel good knowing that part of your purchase went into providing access to education, testing and prevention campaigns.”
As well as being sold on their website, B Condoms are available at Walmart, Kmart, Walgreens, Whole Foods and Amazon.
Next in the alphabet, L Condoms is a company founded by Talia Frenkel, a photojournalist inspired by her coverage of the effects of HIV/AIDS on women and girls in Africa. The company is Green America Approved, with some impressive standards for environmental and social responsibility.
“L. condoms are made with sustainably tapped high grade natural latex: providing advanced durability and comfort, barrier protection and elasticity. All of our condoms are uniquely formulated of purified low scent latex, which is extremely low in proteins. All L. condoms are formulated to optimize protection while being Vegan-friendly.”
L. condoms are made without harmful additives. For every condom you purchase, one is distributed in a developing country in need. They offer free shipping for orders over $10, and offer $5 one-hour delivery in San Francisco, New York City and LA. Now that’s convenient if you forget to plan ahead!
For vegans who prefer an alternative to latex, Unique Condoms are made from a synthetic polyethylene resin called At-10, which is approximately three times stronger than latex and can be manufactured to one third the thickness. In the reviews I read, people were raving about them!
According to the webstore Roots of Compassion:
“The condoms are not certified vegan, but the producer assures us that they’re vegan. They never came in touch with animal products and have not been tested on animals.”
FAIR SQUARED is an alternative trade organization, focused on creating fair dealings with producers from the world’s poorest countries, and offering high quality alternatives to conventionally-produced products. Their condoms are manufactured in Germany, made from fairtrade natural latex, and are certified vegan by The Vegan Society.
For those in Europe, be aware that there are conflicting reports about Condomi condoms, which were once recognized as vegan by the Vegan Society. Some sources say they are no longer vegan, even though the website states that the product contains no animal ingredients. As explained above, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the condoms aren’t produced using casein.
There are also condoms made from Polyisoprene, which contain no casein because they contain no latex. If you have no other alternative, Pasante, Lifestyles SKYN and Durex Avanti Bare RealFeel* are probably easier to find in stores than the brands listed above. There also appear to be other “accidentally vegan” brands, especially in the UK. However, these companies do not necessarily make any claims about being vegan, and may include other ingredients or be involved with animal testing.
*Not to be confused with Durex Avanti Bare Latex.