Why Everyone, Including Vegans, Should Consume Palm Oil

Oilpalm_malaysia

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.

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14 thoughts on “Why Everyone, Including Vegans, Should Consume Palm Oil

  1. Pingback: Master List Of Vegan Info | The Legacy Of Pythagoras

  2. What is the majority of habitat destruction by humans for? Razed to grow crops to feed nonhumans destined for slaughter, whether they be dairy cows or others. That is the VAST majority of nonhumans killed through deforestation. Palm oil is a Vegan food, and is not more damaging to the environment than any massively monocropped commercial plant oil, grain, legume, seed, etc. wherein trillions of insects, rodents and other such small animals are killed to obtain them.

    However, those animals do not have more human-like cognition as do orangutans and elephants, which is why the people who advocate against palm oil are acting in a speciesist manner. Palm oil is a Vegan food. It does not cause as much death to individual nonhumans as some other Vegan foods, and singling it out because of orangutans and elephants takes the focus off of where it should be: Vegan Education; https://legacyofpythagoras.wordpress.com/2014/06/17/welfare-watch. This is done intentionally by some, and then others fall for the dupe, perpetuating it unwittingly by all welfare-supporters as a perfect foil for Vegan education.

    If we want to truly help animals, we should be advocating for Veganic Permaculture in regards to all plant crops of any kind, because they are intrinsically Vegan, and against the use of nonhumans for any reason. In short, we need to stop all SICs and educate solely on Veganism as the moral baseline. This eliminates ALL problems regarding all single issues at once:

    https://legacyofpythagoras.wordpress.com/2014/07/01/create-new-vegans

  3. I agree with this article, and I may have missed this being said somewhere but the one biggest thing that seems worth mentioning is that I’ve heard that the majority of palm oil is used as feed for animal agriculture. I am having trouble finding a source that makes a claim of what percentage amount that is, if anyone has any info that clearly makes a claim for what that percentage is I would be dying to know! But yes all good points, understandably people’s emotions get in the way of them understanding this stuff and seeing it objectively so I really appreciate the logical points made.

  4. Thanks for the comments. Good point about the animal feed. I found this, which seems to bear out what you’re saying about how prevalent palm oil is in that arena:

    http://www.fao.org/ag/AGA/AGAP/FRG/conf96.htm/jalaludi.htm

    If you want further info I can ask some more knowledgeable friends of mine on Facebook if they know of any good resources.

    And you’re absolutely right; people get all hyped up about doing *anything* for animals and they are often ready to believe anything someone tells them as long as it seems like they’re being “active.” Instead of thinking things through so they can figure out the most logical way to help. It’s very frustrating because even when we know better and try to explain it to them, they often dismiss what we’re saying without actually even trying to understand, under the guise that it’s just our opinions.

    I guess I should be thankful that the situation is now changing, but it’s happening so slowly. There are so many animals being used and slaughtered while people blunder around, as if they’re slowly waking up from a deep sleep…

  5. Pingback: A List of (Some) Things that Don’t Make You Less of a Vegan | Everyone Deserves Justice

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