Why Everyone, Including Vegans, Should Consume Palm Oil

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From Louise Mead on Facebook, a great perspective on the continuing Palm Oil controversy:

There is a lot of discussion about whether palm oil is vegan. The TL:DR is – palm oil is a plant, it is definitely vegan and if we genuinely want animal liberation, campaigning against it is actually counter-productive to our aims.

A lot of people argue that because of the environmental destruction palm oil causes, often with particular mentions of orangutans, that it is not vegan to use or consume palm oil. But aside from being incorrect – because palm oil is vegan – this is a huge oversimplification of an incredibly complex issue. To start with, the sheer size of the human population is such that no matter what we eat, it’s pretty much impossible to avoid some sort of environmental impact. So we have to look at the most effective ways to reduce that impact – and singling out specific plants is not the answer. There are a number of reasons for this:

1. The biggest cause of environmental destruction and species extinction in terms of food production is without a doubt, animal agriculture – by a long shot. So our priority should be on ending animal agriculture. If we focus on palm oil or any other specific useful crops rather than ending animal use then we create an extra pressure for new and potential vegans that might make them think twice about ditching their use of animals. We also give nonvegans yet another excuse (not like they need any more of those!) as to why they should avoid making a change to veganism. Not only that but if animal agriculture was to come to an end, there’d be a vast amount of land freed up for planting palm and other crops because as we know, it takes many times more land to produce a pound of animal protein than it does to produce a pound of plant protein.

2. Out of all the plant oils, palm oil has by far the highest yield out of any of them (more than double most other oils). This means it takes up less land to produce the same amount. Unless humans stop using oils – which is unlikely – then palm oil is actually one of the lesser evils. It also requires less chemicals and pesticides in its production – which is also a positive in terms of environmental impact compared to other oils. This article goes into more detail about this particular topic:

http://thebreakthrough.org/index.php/programs/conservation-and-development/can-palm-oil-deforestation-be-stopped

3. A lot of palm oil is planted on land that has already been cleared for another purpose – such as illegal logging, or narcotics. So when the palm oil industry is singled out as the cause, it’s not entirely accurate and is actually a distraction from a number of very serious environmental problems.

4. Palm oil is a single issue campaign. Whilst our initial instinct is that single issue campaigns may raise awareness of the plight of some animals, what they invariably end up doing is promoting speciesism and as we know, speciesism leads to people making distinctions between animals they want to protect and animals who they see no problem in harming. Take for example the narrative of palm oil being associated with orangutans. There are few people who wouldn’t be moved by heart-breaking images of homeless and orphaned orangutans. However, by promoting the cause of orangutans in relation to palm oil, we reinforce the idea – particularly in the eyes of nonvegans – that some animals are more important than others. For starters, not all palm oil is produced in locations where orangutans are a native species but because people are speciesist, orangutans have been adopted as the poster ‘child’ of the campaign to emotionally manipulate people – there are far more species who are affected by habitat destruction caused by animal agriculture than by a single plant product. Further, the nonvegan alternatives to palm oil come from a number of farmed animals – butter, lard, dripping etc. Who are we to say that orangutans are more important than cows, geese, pigs, or ducks? How can we honestly say that an orangutans value their lives any more than other animals? We can’t.

(Editor’s note: I would seriously recommend that you listen to this podcast for an excellent and comprehensive explanation as to why single issue campaigns are actually counter-productive for animal rights:
https://www.abolitionistapproach.com/media/podcast/20100326-araa-commentary-16.mp3)

5. If you’re going to object to palm oil then to be consistent you should probably be objecting to bananas, coconuts, mangoes, sugar, and all other crops that come from tropical plantations. When we put it like that, doesn’t it seem a bit crackers to say things like bananas and coconuts aren’t vegan? More on this here:

http://eatingconsciously.tumblr.com/post/30330216488/palm-oil-is-vegan

So to sum up – palm oil comes from a plant, so it’s definitely vegan. Palm oil has its merits, environmentally speaking, compared to other oils. Palm oil is a single issue campaign that promotes speciesism and can actually distract from or give some people the excuse they were looking for not to become vegan. Veganism is the best chance we have of solving the issues of environmental destruction and species extinction, and therefore we must recognise that no matter how much our heartstrings are pulled, we must be rational and focus on promoting veganism – nothing less will do.

I’ve written extensively on Facebook and this blog about why we should never engage in single-issue campaigns for animal causes and why CNOVA is the only morally justifiable form of activism that is effective. If you think animals matter morally, please study the links embedded in this sentence.

If you’re not already Vegan, and you think animals matter morally, then please go Vegan. It’s easy and great for you, incredible for the animals, and wonderful for the planet. If you’re already Vegan, please educate non-Vegans about why they should go Vegan. Please rescue, volunteer, adopt, foster, spay, and neuter the nonhuman refugees of domestication whenever you can. Please feed your nonhuman family Vegan where you can. These things are the most important, morally responsible things to do and are desperately needed by everyone.

To learn more about Abolitionist Veganism and the issues I’ve outlined in this post, check out The Master List Of Vegan Info:
https://legacyofpythagoras.wordpress.com/2014/04/10/master-list-of-vegan-info

Disclaimer: My only goal with this list is to produce as comprehensive a resource for Vegan information as possible. I am 100% Abolitionist Vegan and 100% against exploitation of nonhuman or human animals, any type of violence against human or nonhuman persons or property, welfare regulation, any form of speciesism, ethnic bigotry, genderism, ableism, heterosexism, etc., any of the large governmental or non-governmental nonhuman animal organizations, “happy meat,” vegetarianism, veg*nism, Meat-Free Mondays, or other forms of reductionism and anything else that makes it seem like any form of violence or exploitation of animals is ok. If any of those positions are endorsed on any site in this list, or any language is used to imply that, it’s not that I included that link because I agree, but simply because I don’t control every bit of information on all of these sites.

Dealing with the nightmare

Perfectly captures the reasons we need to stop using graphic imagery in advocacy… a must read.

If you’re not already Vegan, and you think animals matter morally, then please go Vegan. It’s easy and great for you, incredible for the animals, and wonderful for the planet. If you’re already Vegan, please educate non-Vegans about why they should go Vegan. Please rescue, volunteer, adopt, foster, spay, and neuter the nonhuman refugees of domestication whenever you can. Please feed your nonhuman family Vegan where you can. These things are the most important, morally responsible things to do and are desperately needed by everyone.

To learn more about Abolitionist Veganism and the issues I’ve outlined in this post, check out The Master List Of Vegan Info:
https://legacyofpythagoras.wordpress.com/2014/04/10/master-list-of-vegan-info

Disclaimer: My only goal with this list is to produce as comprehensive a resource for Vegan information as possible. I am 100% Abolitionist Vegan and 100% against exploitation of nonhuman or human animals, any type of violence against human or nonhuman persons or property, welfare regulation, any form of speciesism, ethnic bigotry, genderism, ableism, heterosexism, etc., any of the large governmental or non-governmental nonhuman animal organizations, “happy meat,” vegetarianism, veg*nism, Meat-Free Mondays, or other forms of reductionism and anything else that makes it seem like any form of violence or exploitation of animals is ok. If any of those positions are endorsed on any site in this list, or any language is used to imply that, it’s not that I included that link because I agree, but simply because I don’t control every bit of information on all of these sites.

There's an Elephant in the Room blog

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I was first introduced to images of animal suffering through mail drops by animal welfare organisations. They use such images as a tool to trigger a vague and unresolved sense of guilt in order to gather donations and the word vegan is never mentioned as a necessity. Why would it be? For any business that makes their income from the exploitation of nonhuman individuals, of course they don’t mention veganism. Why? Because veganism marks the end of their business venture.

The unspoken dialogue that the images suggest, and this is true not only of animal welfare groups, but of other charities too, goes along the lines of, ‘ Look at this. Isn’t it shocking? Give us money and then leave it with us to make it stop.’ Really, if we examine that concept a bit more closely, it begs far too many questions. But it’s very effective. I know it is because before I was…

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Why We Need Less Compassion In The Animal Rights Movement And Why Decreasing Cruelty And Suffering Is Not The Point Of Veganism

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I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard “I’m Vegan because I have compassion for animals,” “We should be Vegan to stop cruelty to animals,” or “I’m Vegan because it’s the right thing to do for people, animals and the planet.”

All three of these statements are counter-productive to the cause of Animal Rights, and hence will cause the amount of suffering we inflict on both nonhuman animals and human animals to increase.

Both “compassion” and “cruelty” are concepts related to kindness. All three terms are about what kind of emotional responses we have and are related more to our own perception of our need to feel a certain way than whether we are meeting our moral obligations. Kindness is also essentially an act of charity from a position of advantage. Animal Rights and Veganism are not about being kind to someone who needs our charity. Animal Rights is about justice, which is born from a basic notion of decency, fairness, and respect. It’s a “Social Justice Movement,” not a “Social Kindness Movement.”

Living Vegan is not an act of kindness that we grant to nonhumans, it’s a moral baseline, a moral responsibility that we must observe if we want to claim to be morally consistent or to deserve to not have our claims of our rights dismissed without due consideration. Veganism is the absolute minimum of decency we need to enact to call ourselves morally consistent. It’s not about granting someone rights that they don’t already have, they already had those rights – we’ve simply been violating them all this time.

Veganism is about ceasing to violate those rights – it’s about a commitment to nonviolence in order to help end the massive, systemic, intentional violence that we are already constantly perpetrating on all sentient beings. Not just “other people” have a responsibility to cease committing these wrongs, but each one of us. Nonhuman animals don’t need primarily for us to have compassion for them, they need for us to be just and stop committing these massive and ongoing violations of their rights.

Using the term compassion to drive a theory of Animal Rights is seriously flawed. Promoting the idea that anything except justice for nonhumans is the driving force behind animal rights diverts attention from the truth. Compassion also can be seen as a way to achieve forgiveness for a rights violation someone has committed. Since we are the ones committing the violations on them, nonhumans don’t need our compassion anywhere near as much as they need our empathy, our reason, our fairness, respect, and justice. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have any compassion at all, or that cruelty is a good thing. Indeed, having compassion towards humans – who can understand human moral codes and still commonly break those codes – for their transgressions is a very important way of setting an example for people who would otherwise have no reason to believe that they should have compassion nor forgiveness for anyone, human or nonhuman.

As most non-Vegans will tell you, anyone can feel compassion for someone and still inflict suffering and death on nonhumans merely for their own selfish interests. They will argue ’til they’re blue in the face that they don’t lack compassion, merely because they strive to give nonhumans a good life before “humanely” slaughtering them for “food.” In fact, the very notion that this is not the case is insulting to most people. This is because they irrationally see themselves as the ones who should decide whether the “inferior beings” that they exploit should get to live or die at all in the first place.

The reason it makes more sense to use the idea of justice to drive Animal Rights is because you can’t have justice and still inflict unnecessary suffering and death. It can’t be coherently argued that it’s Just to inflict suffering on nonhumans when there is no necessity.

Another aspect of this issue is that when we say we’re Vegan to decrease or avoid “cruelty” then non-Vegans will argue that it’s not cruel to exploit nonhuman animals, as long as you do it “nicely.” They will argue that breeding animals is not cruel because the animals “have a good life” and “get to have a family” and other such nonsense. It’s much harder to argue against this than arguing that we have a moral responsibility to not exploit anyone, whether human or nonhuman, because humans are not morally superior to nonhumans. Another word that is implicitly tied to “cruelty” is the word “abuse.” Animals rights, at its core, is not about the immorality of abuse, it’s about the immorality of use. The abuse of nonhumans is not what we need to focus on, what we need to focus on is educating people on why it’s wrong to use nonhumans as replaceable resources for human interests in the first place.

Indeed, Veganism is not merely about a reduction in cruelty, abuse or even in overall suffering. It’s about not intentionally causing any suffering at all through exploitation, but that is really only a result of the fact that Veganism is a fundamental rejection of speciesism, which is an irrational, harmful moral double-standard that stems from the Myth Of Human Supremacy. Living Vegan does reduce the overall suffering in the world, but the reason we live Vegan is because it’s the only morally justifiable way to live.

If Utilitarian concerns of suffering were the main issue, we could justify harming some number of sentient beings, as long as it helped a greater number of sentient beings, or even just reduced a greater amount of suffering. But Veganism is about Rights, not Utilitarian concerns. In order to call yourself Vegan you must, as a Rights matter, reject the very idea that any being who can feel pain should be considered the chattel property of a human being, or used for human interests. Fortunately for everyone, when it comes to the issue of the infliction of unnecessary suffering, Utilitarian concerns are already addressed through Rights solutions.

Basically, if we always keep in mind that it’s a notion of justice that must include both nonhuman animals and human animals if for no other reason than to be sure that it’s rationally and morally consistent, then we can see that arguing about compassion and cruelty are counter-productive to a truly coherent dialogue on the idea of Animal Rights. Making such claims are speciesist, since we don’t argue that we’re being compassionate by not violating humans rights, and speciesism reinforces and perpetuates speciesism, which ensures that even more sentient beings will be harmed.

If we convince enough people of the moral argument for Veganism we won’t have to worry about systemic human cruelty, systemic human-caused suffering or widespread human compassion. A decrease in cruelty and an increase in compassion are natural results of Veganism, just like a decrease in the sum total of nonhuman suffering is a natural result of humans observing nonhumans rights. Only by arguing for justice can we convince people to be Just.

Also, Veganism is not about humans first. Veganism is a human rights issue as well as a nonhuman rights issue, since it’s true that human animals are sentient being just as nonhuman animals are sentient beings, and thus it makes no sense at all to say that it’s wrong to oppress nonhumans but ok to oppress humans. But the facts are that the exploitation of nonhumans by humans is, by a gigantic margin, the most massive and at the same time the most ignored social justice issue in existence. Also, since the myth that humans are morally superior to nonhumans is fundamentally ingrained into the worldview of almost every human practically from birth, we can get to a world free from systemic human rights violations by observing, and educating on, Animal Rights, but we can never get to a world free from systemic nonhuman rights violations or human rights violations merely by observing, and educating on, human rights.

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Update – On the terms we use to describe how we unjustly use nonhumans: The term “meat” is really a euphemism, created by our speciesist society, that’s meant to divert attention from the real issue, which is that we’re talking about the flesh of an innocent being who could feel pain, fear and other sensations, just as much as humans can. A being who had an interest in their own survival and freedoms just as much as humans do. The reality is that it’s impossible to obtain the flesh of those beings without inflicting unnecessary suffering and death on them. Every nonhuman whose flesh we consume was immorally slaughtered using violence, and it was completely unnecessary. Let’s call it what it really is: animal flesh. Let’s point out with every sentence we utter that we’re talking about actual animals, not some morally neutral “product” that was somehow obtained in a “compassionate” way.

Using nonhuman animals for their flesh is also morally not distinguishable from using any sentient being merely as a replaceable resource for any other human purpose either. All forms of exploitation of any animal, nonhuman or human, are morally equal. Furthermore, to distinguish between different kinds of exploitation ensures that the people observing our arguments will inflict even more unnecessary suffering and death on nonhumans (and humans) than before.

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If you’re not already Vegan, and you think animals matter morally, then please go Vegan. It’s incredible for the animals, easy and great for you, and wonderful for the planet. If you’re already Vegan, please educate non-Vegans about why they should go Vegan. Please rescue, volunteer, adopt, foster, spay, and neuter the nonhuman refugees of domestication whenever you can. Please feed your nonhuman family Vegan where you can. These things are the most important, morally responsible things to do and are desperately needed by everyone.

To learn more about Abolitionist Veganism and the issues I’ve outlined in this post, check out The Master List Of Vegan Info:
https://legacyofpythagoras.wordpress.com/2014/04/10/master-list-of-vegan-info