4 Foods That Harm Animals and The Environment
1. Palm oil – Orangutans
Palm oil is used in many types of products, as well as in cosmetics and household chemicals. Unfortunately, palm oil is the secret killer of orangutans and other animals, as well as a major contributor to global deforestation.
The palm oil production process destroys many animal habitats and ecosystems. A 2018 study found that over 100,000 orangutans died in Borneo over a 16-year period. The terrifying figure, isn’t it?
Not only animals suffer from palm oil production: monkeys, rhinos, tigers, leopards, elephants, bears, and others. The loss of habitat is catastrophic, and the degradation of the ecosystems in which these animals live is accelerating.
Palm oil producers were found to be responsible for various violations of women’s rights, including the use of child labor, raiding in villages, and mistreatment of plantation workers.
The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) program was designed to raise awareness of sustainable palm oil production practices, but many believe that RSPO has not gone far enough to limit deforestation and reduce harm to people and animals. Skeptics wonder how the program punishes companies that don’t meet standards.
Greenpeace International even recently published a document called “Burning Homes,” which states that RSPO member companies are purchasing palm oil from growers associated with ongoing fires in Indonesia.
It is extremely difficult to completely eliminate palm oil production, given its ubiquity and the number of names behind it. Therefore, we must encourage companies to stop using palm oil and invest in sustainable alternatives.
2. Avocado – Bees
Avocado is a favorite among vegans. Unfortunately, this fruit is associated with various production problems that affect animals, humans, and the environment.
Harvested crops can lead to violence, human rights violations, and cartel activities in Mexico. As the political landscape of Mexico has evolved over the past two decades, cartel activity has grown from a few large cartels to dozens of smaller ones.
The Mexican cartel industry has moved from exporting drugs to a fast-growing international avocado market. Many avocado growers were beaten, intimidated, and even killed by cartels who extorted money from them in exchange for “protection”.
Plus, if we pay attention to categorizing avocados as vegetarian food, then there will be problems with bees.
For some vegans, the practice of “nomadic beekeeping” on large farms may seem unacceptable. Farmers move bees to pollinate various crops.
Displaced bees migrate from farm to farm, contributing to pollination and the cultivation of many crops. It is not entirely correct to consider these crops as vegetarian, as many argue that the movement of bees leads to the over-exploitation of insects.
For some, eating avocados, almonds, walnuts, and other plants is not vegetarian. Others argue that it depends on “ethical reasoning” and the extent to which a self-proclaimed vegetarian wants to follow a completely ethical lifestyle, for example, without harming living beings.
As with many dietary and ethical decisions, it is wise to consider all options and information to make the best decision for yourself. There are dozens of other crops that use “nomadic beekeeping” methods to grow them.
If we banned all beekeeping crops and products, whether they migrate or not, we would restrict the consumption of many fruits, vegetables, and grains. To save bees, try removing honey from your diet (there are great vegan alternatives), planting organic bee gardens, buying organic produce, and don’t use pesticides.
3. Agave – Bats
Sweet agave nectar replaces honey. Vegans around the world are trying to keep bees alive by boycotting honey, but growing agave can be dangerous for bats.
Agave, or rather its nectar, is a common food source for bats. And the production of tequila is carried out by the population of bats.
Unfortunately, due to the large number of agave stalks required to meet the demand for tequila, farmers often cut and clone the plants instead of allowing them to naturally support themselves through pollination. Due to the fact that plants cannot bloom, bats do not consume nectar.
The close relationship of these critical pollinators to agriculture means that commercial agave farming has adverse effects on both plants and bats. In the last decade alone, the number of Mexican long-nosed bats (Saussure’s long-nosed bat) has declined by more than 50%.
The International Organization for the Conservation of Bats has pledged to plant more than 100,000 agave bushes to restore bat populations in migration corridors from Mexico to the southwestern United States.
Many people think that agave is a vegan food and do not mention its effect on bats. As with the production of palm oil and avocado, to better understand the “legitimacy” of agave as a source of vegetarian food, it is best to find out what (and who) is involved in its production.
4. Coconuts – Macaques
Many coconut distributors source their products from unethical sources that degrade the environment and, like the other products listed above, harm animals. If you eat coconut products from Thailand, then monkeys are more likely to be exploited in this process.
Other countries, including Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and India, are following Thailand’s lead in teaching monkeys to work.
At the end of 2020, PETA released a report showing that monkeys are still used to working in the coconut industry. Their investigation revealed that these unfortunate animals were taken from their families in infancy to spend almost their entire lives chained or caged. They were physically abused on farms during training and forced to climb trees to pick coconuts.
Companies, retailers, and the Thai government have been pressured to avoid using monkey labor to harvest coconuts. Some retailers have ditched brands such as Chaokoh, which still employ a monkey workforce, but Walmart and Kroger continue to sell Chaokoh products.
According to NatGeo, Chaokoh’s internal investigations have found no evidence of monkey labor, and Thailand’s animal welfare laws do not apply to wild animals, as the pig-tailed macaques used to harvest coconuts are considered “wild”.