Once I became vegan, it was one slippery slope. I started caring about my surroundings more. Caring about every single animal, large and small, cute and hideous, that inhabits this Earth. Caring about where my trash was ending up after the garbage men hauled it away. Caring about lowering my “footprint” by unplugging electronic devices when I’m not using them. Caring about buying local and in-season produce to help my community farmers.
Actually giving a shit about how my diet affects other animals and our shared environment opened my eyes to a whole new set of factors, to which I was blindly contributing, that are just as detrimental. And upon investigating further the impact palm oil has on rain forests and rain forest-dwelling creatures… I knew I had another product to add to my Boycott List.
Palm Oil (palm fruit oil, palm kernel oil) can be found in many processed foods and soaps in our supermarkets and is a very profitable industry. Palm oil is marketed as a “healthy” fat by boasting a lower saturated fat content than coconut oil. But what these popular health claims ignore (as they often do) is the health of the environment from which these plants are mass produced. It is estimated that 1,000 orang-utans, an already endangered primate, are killed yearly in the areas of Malaysia and Indonesia through the systematic deforestation and complete devastation of rain forest areas. Infant orang-utans are orphaned daily by the deplorable and naive actions of plantation workers. If these practices continue, we could see the extinction of this species in the next generation. Another horrifying effect of palm oil production is the environmental impact: peat bogs are cleared for plantation land, releasing carbon into the atmosphere, and contributing 4% to global greenhouse gas emissions.
For us vegans, perhaps we are less likely to unknowingly support these practices, considering many of us eat less processed foods as it is. But there are some companies which cater specifically to vegan diets that are part of the problem:
Earth Balance uses palm oil.
Nabisco Oreos uses palm oil.
Newman’s Own uses palm oil.
Alternative Baking Company uses palm oil.
I have sent e-mails to Earth Balance and Alternative Baking Company to inquire about their palm oil suppliers’ sustainability practices. There is an organization, Pro Forest, which works to establish guidelines for “sustainable management” of many different products. Newman’s Own claims to use suppliers who follow these guidelines in their FAQ’s section (scroll down to the very last question), so, as consumers, we also have the choice to avoid all palm oil products or just the ones which cause the most devastation to the environment and wildlife.
My friend Olivia has been boycotting palm oil for some time now, but when she first told me of her decision I was relatively new to veganism and had just become adjusted to my new dietary possibilities – the thought of further restricting my choices was not something I was ready to embrace. But I am ready now. This means giving up some of my vices (Oreos) and some of the products I depend on for comfort foods (Earth Balance). But I’ve made both of those “sacrifices” before, so I know I’m capable.
And so are you!
P.S. EB isn’t the be all, end all of vegan margarines. Olivia has been using Willow Run soybean margarine and says it’s even better. 🙂