Irish violin-maker Padraig O’Dubhlaoidh has developed the first ever Vegan Society certified violin. The instrument has all the qualities of a classic Italian violin, but is entirely free of animal products.
O’Dubhlaoidh has long been a campaigner for sustainable and ethical violin-making, working to conserve the endangered Amazonian Pernambuco forests used to make violin bows. During lockdown, he decided to use his time to develop an entirely animal-free instrument.
Currently, the vast majority of violins contain glues made from animal hooves and hides, and many violin bows are also not vegan as they are made with horsehair. But now, vegan players finally have an alternative.
Glues made from animal hooves and hides are not only used in the making of musical instruments — they are also widespread in the footwear and clothing industries, even in some products that are labelled as vegan. But recently, awareness of this issue has increased, with companies such as Vans taking steps to ensure their vegan shoes are really animal-free. Tests have also been developed to verify that vegan-labelled products are free of animal derivatives.
O’Dubhlaoidh argues that by replacing animal glues with a vegan alternative, he has not just made his violins more ethical but also improved their quality.
“I learned a lot about my craft during years of research and ultimately, it was the science of conservation that brought about a series of breakthroughs leading to success,” said O’Dubhlaoidh. “During my experiments, I also discovered that there are unforeseen advantages to a vegan violin. Apart from the benefit to animals, society, and our environment, it has become very clear that animal-based glues have harmful effects on violins, inducing powerful tensions on wooden components. The adhesive used in my vegan violins, however, has no such effect. Irrespective of ethics, this is an acoustic improvement.”