Is olive oil always vegan?

As producers of olive oil, we are very aware of our dependence on nature. The climate, the soil, the olive trees and the way we treat them largely determine the quality of the olives, the olive harvest and ultimately the olive oil. More and more consumers are asking questions about the origin and quality of their food and are taking a closer look at their eating habits. We were asked whether olive oil is always vegan.

This question surprised us at first. Olive oil is a purely plant-based product and vegan by definition. So we set out to find the reason for this question. It soon became clear to us why this was being questioned. To understand this properly, it is useful to first know what vegan actually means.

olive oil vegan

What exactly does “vegan” mean?

Food and products are vegan or veganist if:

  • they do not contain ingredients of animal origin, and
  • the use of animals in production or other stages of processing is avoided (1).

Unlike vegetarians, vegans not only abstain from eating meat, but also from consuming products such as milk or honey, as these are products of animal origin. For the same reason, vegans do not buy products such as leather jackets or leather shoes. Furthermore, vegans also pay attention to whether products have been tested on animals, for example cosmetics or body care products.
Nowadays, vegans are no longer the exception. By 2020, around 80 million people worldwide led a completely vegan lifestyle. And this number continues to rise (2). For the vast majority of vegans, animal welfare is the reason for choosing this lifestyle.

And for those who are still wondering what exactly is meant by the terms vegetarian, vegan, pollotarian and pescetarian, here is an overview:

Is olive oil always vegan?

The question of whether olive oil is vegan stems from the fact that it has become known that in Andalusia, Spain about 2.6 million birds die every year because they are sucked up by the harvesters. This is a peculiarity of the olive groves where the automatic harvesters harvest at night. This is done to optimise the harvest, save costs and use the coolness of the night to reduce the oxidation of the olives, thus preserving the flavour and aroma.

What exactly happens? During harvest time – between October and March – the Mediterranean olive trees provide shelter for insects and migratory birds moving from the northern regions of Europe to the warm south. They are particularly popular as a roosting place for birds – from robins to wagtails. The birds that rest in the trees at night stiffen up due to the bright light and loud noise of the combine harvesters and then cannot react quickly enough, so they get sucked up. So much unnecessary animal suffering is abhorrent. It is therefore not surprising that this machine-harvested olive oil is not perceived as vegan.

However, it is not helpful to dismiss a product or a producer as vegan or non-vegan. Rather, it is about recognising and addressing the general problem of unnecessary bird deaths during the olive harvest. In Spain, a petition succeeded in putting the issue on the political agenda, resulting in a bill banning machine harvesting at night. (3)

And you too have a bigger impact than you might think with your purchasing behaviour. If enough consumers make a conscious decision to buy or not to buy a certain product, at some point a producer can no longer escape this. So by buying il circolo olive oil, you are making it clear that you value high-quality, organic, CO2-negative and fair olive oil. In small olive oil farms like il circolo, the olives are still harvested by hand and caught with nets. We do not have the problem of birds dying during the harvest.

Buy Sicilian vegan olive oil

Curious about vegan olive oil? Then you’ve come to the right place. You can find vegan extra virgin olive oil and deliciously flavoured olive oil in our webshop.

We import the olive oil ourselves from Sicily and can therefore guarantee the best quality. Take a look at our webshop and get to know our products!


  3. → this website uses data of the Spanish government

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