In recent times, palm oil has become a completely polarizing subject within the vegan movement. Vicious attacks have been unleashed targeting vegan companies, like Earth Balance and Daiya, and some have even gone as far as to claim that you’re not vegan if you eat palm oil because it’s inherently “not vegan.”
On the one hand, it’s first important to point out that the allegations that palm oil farming can be and usually is an incredibly destructive force and something we should be aware of. On the other hand, groups such as Rainforest Action Network have done an excellent job of packaging the issue up into a marketable campaign that has essentially turned this into a completely black and white issue.
Some people seem to have become convinced that there’s absolutely no way to harvest palm oil sustainably and that it all results in the death of orangutans. In reality, this is simply untrue. Of course there are ways of harvesting palm oil sustainably, just as there are better ways of farming practically every type of crop.
What’s fascinating is that those who claim that all palm oil is 100% not vegan will readily continue consuming foods like bananas, coconuts, and sugar that are all mostly grown using methods equally as destructive if not worse than methods used to harvest palm oil. Where is the outrage concerning these crops? Are we going to start claiming that all soy isn’t vegan because most of it is grown unsustainably? Please!
This entire discussion regarding palm oil has escalated to the point where you cannot even engage in meaningful dialogue with anti-palm oil advocates because no matter what you say, you’re wrong and they’re right. Don’t even bother attempting to rationalize with them, they’ll just start screaming at you about how you’re not vegan.
The fact is, until they stop eating bananas, coconuts, sugar and every other crop that has been harvested unsustainably, they’re being pretty hypocritical. See, that’s the problem with turning this into a black and white issue, because once you deduce down the issue ethically, you’d be left with being unable to consume anything except the food you grew in your own yard.
Should we talk about the issues with palm oil? Of course! We should also perhaps limit our intake of it, or seek out products that obtain it from more sustainable sources. The vice president of Earth Balance even discussed on Eating Consciously Podcast about the extensive efforts Earth Balance is pushing forth to ensure they’re palm oil is coming from ethical sources.
We should be commending efforts by these companies instead of attacking them. Vegan companies like Earth Balance and Daiya use less than .001% of the world’s palm oil, so attacking them really makes very little sense from a strategic standpoint as well. Also, commenting on a vegan’s Facebook photo of a Daiya wedge and telling them how they’re not vegan seems like a really counterproductive act.
At the end of the day, palm oil is a completely plant-based food product that is vegan and we should be able to be open and honest about the fact that as vegans, we eat palm oil without being criticized and harassed for it. We should be able to say we used Earth Balance without being attacked by our fellow banana-eating vegans.
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