Palm oil: is it vegan?

Palm oil is the hot topic in vegan circles at the moment.

Why might it not be vegan?

Technically it is a vegan ingredient and it is a prominent feature in so many vegan products, from margarine to dairy free ice cream. It is entirely plant based.

However, any ethical vegan will tell you that the whole goal of veganism is to avoid animal exploitation and abuse. And I don’t think anyone could argue that palm oil is innocent when it comes to those charges.

Palm oil production is responsible for deforestation on a massive scale. In Borneo and Sumatra, Orang-utans are losing their habitat at an alarming rate. With nowhere left to go, they are forced into local villages to find food for their children. Mothers are killed, tortured, burnt alive and even used for prostitution (yes, really). Their babies are prized away from their still warm bodies become victims of the exotic animal trade. It is predicted that within 10 years these ‘men of the forest’, these animals who are so like us, who share around 97% of our DNA, will be extinct.

Surely no ethical vegan could be ok with this? Surely no person with an ounce of compassion in their body could be ok with this?

It’s everywhere!

Often labelled simply as vegetable oil, it’s hard to know when you might be buying palm oil.

So what is the answer?

A boycott of products containing palm oil (yes, even those marked vegan) is one option. I’m in two minds over how useful this will actually prove; vegans are such a small minority, those who care about palm oil even more so.

By all means boycott these products. I’m heading that way – trying to gradually reduce the palm oil we eat as a family. Fussy kids and a tight budget make it harder than it might be if I was living alone and catering only for me.

A far more useful activity, I believe, is to take a few minutes out of your day and email or write to companies who use palm oil in their vegan products. Highlight your concern and ask them to reconsider their use of this highly unethical ingredient.

UK high street store Lush have already stopped using palm oil in their products so it can be done.

It’s time for some armchair activism!


3 responses to “Palm oil: is it vegan?

  1. Thanks for sharing this important issue that is so easily overlooked. Palm oil is everyehere – even the so called “sustainably produced” palm oil is very suspect. Best to avoid it and yes, highlight concerns with companies that use it. Really helpful – thanks for caring and making a difference.

  2. Are we lookng to change this definition? Vegan= “a person who refrains from using any animal product whatever for food, clothing, or any other purpose” ( Collins English Dictionary). Palm oil may be unethical, but it is not an “animal product” in the sense we usually mean it.

    • As I said in the post Gregory, palm oil is vegan in the sense that it is a plant product. However, if one is vegan due to concerns over animal rights, then due to current production methods, surely the use of palm oil is as much of a vegan concern as is dairy or meat?

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