Vegan and vegetarian traditional shaving

A couple of months ago I was putting together a traditional shaving starter kit for a friend who has high moral scruples concerning the impact that his existence has on other animals. So perhaps I can share with you the issues involved.

With the razor and blade there are no big issues, obviously. These are made of metal. The only possibility for concern would be waxes and glues used in the packaging of blades, but the same applies to the packaging of just about everything in our lives.

The real problem is in making a lather, many of the best shaving soaps are made from tallow, which is animal fat and the best brushes are made from the hair of badgers that have been killed as vermin, mainly in China.

The tallow can be avoided by using creams, which are mainly made of plant oils such as palm oil. Maca Root cream from The Body Shop is a prime example.

Another way of retaining the high moral ground is to use tallow soaps where the tallow was produced without harming animals, such as the wool fat extracted from sheep wool shearing. On Mitchell’s Wool Fat soap’s packet it says “No animal suffers in the preparation of this bio-degradable product”.

And finally you can buy your soaps and creams from artisan makers who have their own high ethical standards. Nanny’s Silly Soap Company say: “I provide a range of soaps all of which are vegetarian, and most of which are vegan. The non vegan ingredients used in some of my products are honey, goat’s milk and tussah silk (wild harvested after the moth has emerged).”

With brushes badger hair is recognised as being by far the best. The first way to avoid harming animals is to use a brush with a synthetic knot, where the hairs are made of plastics derived from petrochemicals, but they are nowhere near as good as badger hair brushes. There are a number of different models of these available. Luckily “Siv” on one of the forums has done a full analysis of ten different offerings. The best value for money is the Body Shop brush and this is what I bought my friend. The best overall is the Taylor’s of Old Bond Street brush. If you have a close look at one of these you will see that the individual hairs have been mechanically flattened to vastly increase their surface area.

A better way to have a good shaving brush without harming animals is to use a horse hair brush, these are made from hairs that come from grooming live animals. The resultant brushes are really excellent and have been described as being 85% badger and 85% boar in their properties. They are common in some countries such as Turkey and Spain. I have one of these which I cannot fault. And they offer a big range of brushes made from horse hair.

So there we have it you can enjoy the luxury and pampering of real, traditional shaving whilst retaining the self satisfaction of retaining your moral superiority. But you will never get to enjoy the supreme excellence of a Simpson’s Chubby 2 in Best Badger.


  1. Livestock is not “harvested” for tallow, tallow is a byproduct of butchering. Substituting palm oil for tallow and then claiming the moral high ground is hypocritical because palm oil comes from (suprise) palm trees which have to be cut down causing Gaia to cry and polar bears to drown. Badgers are harvested in China for meat as well as their hair. Moral superiority can be exposed as hypocritical superficial smugness you know.

  2. It’s not about moral superiority. It’s about compassion for other living things. Other living things that feel pain and suffer just like you do. Would you like it if someone killed and skinned you?

    1. Some people, usually for moral scruples, choose not to eat animals that have been killed for food. As has been pointed out our success as a species comes from our ability to survive on just about any food, so it is eminently possible to do this. But we are omnivores, for millions of generations our ancestors have been very good at killing other animals and eating them, this is a part how they survived to breed and pass their genes on whilst most around them didn’t. We are highly evolved killers with a thin veneer of civilisation, this is why our society suffers from homicides and goes to war. If we were more civilised these things would not happen.
      So we aren’t designed to be vegetarians and those who choose to be such pay a high price for their moral scruples. Already we have seen how it is incredibly difficult for them to eat adequate quantities of iron, which is why they tend to look so pallid. Top athletes when put on a vegetarian diet show a marked reduction in performance. Vegetarians given creatine (a chemical found in meat) showed a significant improvement in mental ability. There is much more.

  3. If someone is a vegetarian just by “not eating meat” and without any preparation on how to replace the nutrients needed, he or she is a utter fool. But please don’t make a rule that all vegetarians “pay high price”, “tend to look so pallid” and other bollocks like this.

    Anyway, you should remove MWF soap from the list, tallow comes only from slaughtered animals. “Wool fat” isn’t actually fat per se, it’s wax, so it can’t be saponified. Lanolin is only an additive – primary ingredient of MWF is sodium tallowate.

    I would suggest making some more thorough investigation before committing an article on things about which you apparently have limited, or even mistaken knowledge.

  4. I’m with Matt. MWF is a great soap, but it’s waved as “animal friendly” until you notice that it’s made from animal fat. Now I have to finish it, but I’m planning to turn to “l’occitane” made from cade and vegetable oils. I already use a VieLong horse brush.

    That thing around badger brushes is quite confusing, and knowing how chinese people works, I tend to think all they say is B.S. Some say the harvest badgers for meat, others say badgers are actually a plague in China so they hunt them down, and others say they have “green” farms where they grow the badgers to humanly shave their hair each summer. Too many versions, and I suspect they simple hunt down any badgers they find to sell the hair and throw the meat. They already do that with rhinos or sharks, why not with badgers?

  5. there is more usable iron in dark green leafy veg than in animal products… just because something contains a mineral, it does not mean its the most absorb-able form of it bruce

  6. where do you think the animals you eat get their iron? the answer: from plants. a plant based, whole foods diet is perfectly suited to human life. ask any nutritionist. i have been vegetarian my whole life and vegan for the last few years and am healthy, strong, youthful and happy. some of the top athletes in their fields are vegan these days. educate yourself before you share misinformation.

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