Why Would a Vegan Boycott Earth Balance?
A year and a half ago I wrote a post about palm oil. It was a post I delayed writing, an issue I delayed researching, because I feared the answer. Vegans love to love Earth Balance, which means we hate to hate palm oil. (But we must.) I have since become the palm oil (and “pretty please help me find a way to still have my Earth Balance”) expert to vegans, or so people seem to think. (I am not an expert, and I look to RAN for a lot of my information. They are the rainforest experts, for me!)
I continue to do research based on the latest hopeful solution that people come up with and ask me about in the comments on that old thread. (So far, no good news.) I also recently got my hands on a fairly candid email between an Earth Balance exec and a friend of a friend. In the end all that is worth sharing from that email is that EB sources their organic palm from AgraPalma, and that EB would love to source all of their palm from AgraPalma but that the finances aren’t there to do so, and neither are the logistics (whatever that means).
For more detailed information on the questions regarding EB’s canned reply to inquiries (“our palm is okay because we use peninsular Malaysian palm, which has no orangutan habitats”) or the source of their organic palm, AgraPalma, please go to my original post and read through the post and the comments. There is more to both questions than I can possibly recap here, in this already-too-long post!
Today Mary pointed me to an article on the fight indigenous people have been losing for decades on this and related issues. The article is worth reading in its entirety, but here are a few snippets to ponder:
The case, known to some as the ‘Amazon Chernobyl’, involves 30,000 indigenous Ecuadorian plaintiffs. The toxic spill impacted six indigenous tribes, one of which has vanished entirely. The court has found that over 1,400 people have suffered untimely deaths from cancer due to contamination from the oil spill.
Despite these facts, Chevron has gone to great lengths to avoid reparations for environmental damage. In 2008 it was revealed that Chevron hired key political players, including former Senate majority leader Trent Lott and John McCain fund-raiser Wayne Berman to lobby United States Trade Representative Susan Schwab, members of Congress, and Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte to threaten suspending US trade preferences with Ecuador until the lawsuit was dropped. But the corporation’s attempt to use US political power to disenfranchise 30,000 indigenous people failed.
Then this September Chevron released a video that it said proved Ecuadorian officials, including the presiding judge, were taking bribes on the case. However, the video turned out to be a fake: the business man in the video is in fact a convicted drug felon and another person in the video is an Ecuadorian contractor who has received payments from Chevron. Both the bribe and the bribers in the video were faked and others appearing in the video say the footage was heavily edited. Chevron denies that they were in any way involved in making the video.
The lawsuit has been ongoing since 2003 and a ruling has not yet been made. But Chevron has stated publically that even if it loses the case it won’t pay any damages.
“We’re not paying and we’re going to fight this for years if not decades into the future,” according to Chevron spokesman Don Campbell.
I’m going to be keeping this in mind on the days I wonder why I bother bike commuting.
Across the world, another people are fighting to save their homes from corporate exploitation. The Penan people of Malaysian Borneo have suffered greatly from industrial loggers entering their ancestral home: not only has the tribe lost forest land and important tribal sites, including burial grounds, to bulldozers and chainsaws, but the Penan people have faced violence, rape, and even alleged murder.
The struggle began when industrial logging first appeared in the area in the 1980s and today shows no sign of abatement or resolution. In fact, a new threat has risen in recent decades as logged forests are swiftly turned into industrial oil palm plantations, excluding any chance of the natural forest returning after logging or of natives receiving their land back.
Palm oil strikes again. And though this story is specific to Malaysia, the rainforest in South America is still being cut at alarming rates, with the same devastating impact to the people, animals and environment, and palm oil is one of the culprits. Of course, the world’s beef addiction shares a large part of the blame as well.
The mongabay article concludes (in part):
Despite the repeated unjustness, rarely do these stories reach the mainstream media in the industrial world. Companies act with impunity, devastating forests and homes in part to feed the insatiable appetites of developed and emerging economies for furniture, oil palm, gas, and crude oil.
And the sad reality is that it is not just these products, or the issues mentioned in this post, that are the issues. Environmental, social, and animal issues usually go hand in hand, and that’s something I find incredibly important to keep in mind, no matter what I am researching. These issues bleed together, literally, until it is hard to see where one ends and the other begins.
To answer the question posed in the title of this post: I boycott Earth Balance (and all products using palm oil) because I can easily live without it. It is a luxury item that uses a devastating ingredient and that puts it on the wrong side of the line my ethics draw in the sand.