Like honey, the moral stance of palm oil seems highly debatable; but when we refer to the philosophy of veganism that “seeks to avoid animal abuse, death, and exploitation as much as possible” neither fit the description.
While honey is a clearly not vegan, palm oil is technically plant based. Like plastic, smoking, and other necessary activities and commodities that cause unnecessary pain to animals- palm oil can easily be rationalized as vegan. I just don’t feel it is.
What is palm oil? It is the oil derived from the palm fruit grown on the African palm tree. It’s cheap and makes up not only 30% of all oil production, but appears in over half of all foods.
So how does palm oil hurt animals? It creates large-scale deforestation, specifically in their habitat. They’re not even the only animals affected. Tigers, rhinos, bears, elephants, leopards, and moneys are all killed due to deforestation for palm oil. 300 football fields of forest are destroyed every hour for it to be used in food, cosmetics, and cleaning agents. Around 1,000-5,000 orangutans alone a year are left burned to death for this resource. Studies show that not only the orangutan, but the Sumatran tiger could be extinct in 5-10 years because of deforestation.
Even vegan brands like Earth Balance, Follow Your Heart, Gardein, etc. use palm oil. Most of these companies claim that their sources are sustainable which means:
Certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) is palm oil that has been grown on a plantation that has been managed and certified according to the principles and criteria of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil
Personally, I don’t trust it, but unfortunately sustainable palm oil may be our only hope. According to an article on The Guardian, boycotting palm oil won’t help.
They should boycott unsustainable palm oil. McCoy says: “Palm oil is an incredibly high-yielding vegetable oil, which means that anything replacing it will have to use more land – that does not solve the issue of deforestation and associated land use change. Better to get palm oil production ‘right’ to avoid leaking the issue elsewhere to another commodity.”
I guess they’re right, but I still don’t trust them. For products like Earth Balance that are supposed to be animal friendly and vegan, their statement proudly boasting their use of “30% sustainable palm oil” is more than a little disappointing. In my opinion, we wouldn’t have to replace palm oil, we can just stop using it.