When shopping for all things cruelty-free, many of us can easily recognize the “Certified Vegan” logo that is stamped on many vegan products. According to “Vegan Action”, the group who administers this certification process, the logo certifies that the products are free of animal products or byproducts and have not been tested on animals. While this logo can be very helpful for identifying products free of these undeniably “un-vegan” things, what about ingredients that are obtained from plant sources but in unsustainable methods that directly result in the destroying of the habitats of endangered animals? Could those ingredients possibly be considered “vegan”?
This is the case with palm oil. With increasing demand, palm oil plantations are quickly replacing the rainforests that orangutans once called home. Orangutans, who are already an endangered species, are often killed (an estimated 9 per day) in the deforestation of rainforests. They are subject to cruel and inhumane practices, such as being smoked out of trees and left for dead. Often the ones who task it is to “dispose” of these poor creatures are unable to afford guns, so the orangutans are often instead beat to death, set on fire, buried alive, etc. All of this cruelty is the result of the demand for palm oil, which makes an appearance in many “Certified Vegan” products (such as Earth Balance, certain variations of Daiya ”cheese” wedges, etc.).
In Indonesian, the word “Orangutan” means person of the jungle, and science will agree that they are closely related to human animals in the physical and developmental sense. With a species so close to home being exploited, how can vegans, most simply being unaware, continue to give their support? It can be speculated that if one truly respects and advocates for all life, all products containing palm oil will be boycotted…for the orangutans and the environment.