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Progressively Vegan

July 4, 2008 by Victoria

So why did you become vegan? Or even vegetarian? I’d like that my path from vegetarian and inevitably vegan  stemmed from a deep moral belief in saving animal lives, or other earthlings as they’ve been called. Even that I could  have seen the wider benefit that such a diet would lend a more positive climate and social cognition. I had friends who were vegetarian back when I was an omnivore, and yet, I never stopped to think. I never really considered where this lifestyle choice came from. Originally I gave up meats, out of a dislike for anything but processed meat. It seemed pointless, so I decided to stop. Still, I would have been classified as a pescitarian, but an inquisitive pescitarian. Wanting to learn everything about vegetarianism, I began to research, and quickly learned that fish could indeed feel. That they could feel themselves drowning, how in the past did I convince myself otherwise? It seems so obvious now.

The path to veganism started with leather, and a nagging (also recently vegetarian) boyfriend. How, in good conscience did we continue to buy a product that results directly in the death of an animal. After watching those videos, Meat your Meat, Earthlings, we ate up all the information we could get, a further side to the picture emerged. Factory farming, egg laying chickens that were sold for stock, male chicks culled at birth, veal, milk cows sold for cheap meats, and all that waste that comes from animal farming. It was time to start thinking about and make a personal change. We both decided to go vegan, and I’m glad I’ve had his support, it’s made the experience more of an adventure that a test. I do have  a silly belief that things in Ireland aren’t so bad as those shocking videos. That the farming must be on a smaller scale, and of course there are those organic free-range options. If the entire system is to change, we have to make a statement in how we live. Slowly, my boyfriend and I are seeing that for us, that is not enough, that the exploitation of another species  is unnecessary. We have been living healthy and happy lives, and I have found something more in myself because of it.

I have found with time, that it gets so much easier. Once you know where you can buy alternatives, and go out for a meal with friends, you wonder what took you so long to make the change. Nick and I still get a buzz out of finding a new vegan option. We’re currently looking into some of the internet information supporting and against the fact that Tesco donuts may be vegan. How great that would be, how little it would have mattered back when we were omni. That brings me to an interesting comment that I received  on my Spud Snacks blog where I talked about Tescos vegan margarine Pure.

I have to say, it gave me a jolt to see that they had began catering for vegans (or at least lactose intolerant people, but it was win win). I read the ingredients, everything checked out, and we’ve been using it ever since. What I did not know was that the cultivation of one of the ingredients, Palm Oil is has been hailed as one of the largest threats to the endangered species, the orangutan. Not only that, the Rain-forest Action Network have got people to go out into their local supermarkets to spot products with Palm Oil. Over 500 so have been registered with www.theproblemwithpalmoil.org

Here’s a wee video describing in better words that I can the trouble with Palm Oil

.

Some of the highlights include the deforestation leading to the loss of habitat for plants, animals and indigenous communities; global warming; basic human rights have been neglected, with locals losing their land or working for those large corporations that run the plantations. Workers are apparently often forced into “debt peonage,” which has been considered by the Rainforest Action Network as modern-day slavery. More information can be found on their site.According to the Pure company:

As a company, we are very aware of environmental concerns such as those you highlighted. Palm oil is an important food ingredient, however, there is much concern that not all palm oil is being produced in a sustainable way. We are keen to understand and to keep abreast of the situation and are affiliate members of the ‘Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil’ (RSPO) through the Margarines and Spreads Association (MSA). In 2004, the RSPO was established to address these issues and promote sustainable production and the use of palm oil. Members of the RSPO, who are involved in all aspects of palm oil production and usage, are actively promoting the use of sustainable palm oil and endorsing the principles and criteria of the RSPO.

Our oil suppliers estimate that we should be able to buy palm oil that is traceable to a sustainable source to RPSO criteria within two years. So at this stage we are unable to make any guarantees about the source of our palm oil.

At least they are honest. They are indeed tackeling one of the main trouble with the crop, but to what extent will that solve the bigger picture. I honestly can’t answer. As yet, there are still two years to go before they can even vouch for where their Palm Oil came from. So what do we do? Or, rather what do I do? My first thought when I read the comment alerting me to this issue was. Oh no, I need my buttery spread. Pretty soon after, this seemed quite funny. Like an omni stating they couldn’t give up their steak, or a vegetarians addiction to cheese. I’ve managed to do both, so far. Why can’t I give up Pure? Unfortunately, that does leave me with another problem. The email from Pure also stated:

We do not have an alternative to palm oil currently. When making a spread, a hard oil must be combined with a soft oil to produce a solid product. The hard oil can either be a soft oil which is then hydrogenated to make it hard (also known as a hydrogenated oil) or a naturally hard oil. The only hard oils available are palm and coconut. We choose not to use hydrogenated oils in any of the Pure range, as these are undesirable in the diet. Instead, we use palm oil in the smallest possible quantities in order to produce a solid spread. Most, if not all, other spreads contain palm oil and this is labelled as ‘vegetable oils’.

Vegetable oil may actually mean palm oil, and in fact often does. I will have to start emailing the sources of products we use that contain vegtable oil. I am aprehensive of finding out the results. So what if the baking margarine I use that contains palm oil? Can I go without, should I? I don’t know yet. After Palm Oil, what about the other large corporations are responsible for environmental and social destruction, or the other ingrediants that are indirectly not vegan? I am tackeling a small part direct injustices as I can. My thoughts at the moment are that it is those indirect ones that will be more difficult to tackle, espically when the reward is not as present or immediate. I am glad however, that I have been made more aware of something that would have slipped right past.


2 Comments »

  1. Seb says:

    Yay! Fingers crossed, hopefully the consumer pressure will continue to rise and lead to the availability of real sustainable palm oil!

    I also read somewhere that palm oil is one of the most efficient sources of energy (for eating, I hope biofuels keep away), so *if* grown sustainably it could actually help reduce our footprint, in theory…

    It’s worth remembering that palm oil is used not just in food but also in cosmetics. One good news is that Lush, the most vegan-friendly cosmetics company that I know of, has moved to replace palm oil in all their products: http://info.lush.co.uk/palmoil

  2. joyce major says:

    HI,
    There are problems with the question of sustainability. One plantation may be sustainable but the company is getting larger by destroying more rainforest. This co. does NOT deserve sustainable status and yet unless the RSPO takes this step, it’s going to be difficult to figure out what’s what. Meanwhile critically endangered orangutans, tigers, elephants and rhinos along with all the flora, butterflies and bugs will be gone. If nothing changes NOW, in 15 years at the rate of deforestation in Indonesia, 98% of the rainforest will be gone.
    It’s time for some strong stands from consumers. It is the only thing that can stop the billion dollar industry to stop the destruction. It is only palm oil….compare that to an entire species….that is depending on you and me to make conscious decisions.

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