My journey to veganism (World Vegan Day)

As long as I  can remember, I’ve eaten meat.  From steak to sausages and fast food burgers, meat was an integral part of my life as a child, teenager and young adult who was never a big fan of vegetables.

Moreover, I’ve always lived in the city so while a huge animal lover since my early childhood, I had never made the connection between this cute cow I was seeing during the summer holidays in the french countryside and the steak in my plate, nor between this baby rabbit I held in my hand during school field trips and the meal I was ordering in restaurants at night.

At the same time, I was totally appalled by animal cruelty on cats and dogs and went to  Thailand to volunteer  the year of my 18th birthday with animals rescued from the illegal wildlife trade or used as tourists entertainment. All of this while still eating meat. Talk about cognitive dissonance here !

Summer 2011, Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand

Summer 2011, Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand

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So what changed? Well, I first considered vegetarianism and later veganism under the lens of the meat industry’s environmental impacts.  As someone who is deeply affected by the impacts of human activity on the planet, I decided to pursue my Masters degree in Environmental Science and Management. The program included classes on agriculture, climate change and other multidisciplinary subjects but the connection between the meat industry and climate change was never clearly pointed out. Nevertheless, there were hints here and there on the deforestation happening in the Amazon to make room for soy fields to feed the animals we’re then eating or on the over fishing that is emptying our oceans each day.

Those newly discovered environmental impacts led me to going vegetarian with sometimes a small deviation for a sushi night or an oven made salmon with the family. Because « you have to keep on living » you know and otherwise « you can’t eat anything anymore ».

And I was fine like that until I watched Cowspiracy.

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This extremely well done documentary highlights exactly the contribution of animal farming on the environment such as the fact that it is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation (FAO) or that animal agriculture uses 20-33% of all fresh water consumption in the world today and finally that livestock covers 45% of the Earth total land.  That’s when I went vegan, about a  year and a half ago. I couldn't keep on supporting an industry that literally consumes all of our natural resources at an alarming rate while participating in starving millions of people around the world. NO FUCKING WAY.

And then came the ethics. In France, an amazing NGO called L214 started releasing at the exact same time videos of slaughterhouses to national media, causing a the animal cause to finally become part of the public debate. The videos are just so terrible that they’re almost impossible to watch, yet they are necessary to show consumers where the products they’re eating truly come from. Bye bye dreams of green fields and free range cows, hello overcrowded filthy warehouses and forced insemination. That is what the meat, fish, egg and dairy industries look like. To me, and I hope for any human being, there’s just no way of not feeling deeply shocked and touched in our humanity by these images and these facts about the daily exploitation of sentient beings with whom we share feelings like hope, love, fear and moreover the fundamental will to live. Only for human's consumption, pleasure or entertainment.

I’m not a perfect vegan. While traveling, I sometimes eat cheese if there really isn’t anything else to eat or if my refusal might offense my host. I do my best but sometimes I miss the small line that says « might contain eggs or milk » on products at the supermarket.

But this is where I am now. Trying to live a conscious and emphatic lifestyle that respects other living beings that share this wonderful earth with us. To live everyday without harming any conscious souls for my own entertainment or pleasure. And now, I’m trying to spread the message,because hurting animals when we could perfectly not to and still have a perfectly enjoyable life is simply wrong, on every level, and it just has to stop. I’m full of hope for the future when I see how veganism is spreading and becoming more and more mainstream. But there’s still so much to do so if you’re still reading, why don’t you try veganism? Get out here, find out about what you’re eating, get educated and if you feel like it, give it a try ?  For the animals, the planet, your health and basically everything else.

Thanks for reading,

Happy World Vegan Day,

Chloé

What's the deal with palm oil and what can you do about it?

What is palm oil?

Palm oil is an edible oil coming from palm fruit grown on the African palm oil tree. While these originate from Western Africa,they can grow in most tropical environmental where heat and rainfall are abundant. Hence, you can nowadays find palm oil trees in most part of the world though 85% of worldwide production originates from Indonesia and Malaysia. In total, tens of millions of palm oil enter markers around the world each year and account for over 30% of the world’s vegetable oil production, making it the world’s most popular oil!

 

Palm oil is everywhere

Thanks to its high versatility and low production cost, palm oil can be found in most of transformed products. From chocolate paste to pre-prepared micro wave meals to shampoos and fragrances, it can be found in around over 50% of household products and is also increasingly used as a biofuel.The reason it’s so widely used is because it

·      Uses 10 times less land than other major vegetable oils

·      Is highly productive per hectare (up to 4,000kg of palm oil)

·      Requires less fertiliser, fewer pesticides and stores more carbon than other oil crops and is GM free

All of this added to low production cost makes it the ideal raw materials for agri businesses, cosmetics brands and other industrial companies.

Palm oil controversies

However, despite its business qualitites, palm oil production has a HUGE impact on the environment and the local communities in its production countries (mostly Indonesia and Malaysia such as:

  1. On the Environment:

·      To make room for palm oil plantations, agri business companies are clearing tropical forests at an alarming rate, even though it might be illegal in some cases. According to a report by the European Commission, palm oil production is responsible for 8%% of deforestation worldwide and 40% in Indonesia alone, which is home to one of the three greatest and oldest rain forests on earth (the other two being the Amazon and the Congo Bassin)

·      Moreover, vast areas of peatlands (carbon-rich swamps) are being cleared to make way for palm oil plantations, something through burning. This releases huge amounts of carbon dioxyde into the atmosphere which is responsible for climate change. This has made Indonesia the third largest global emitter of greenhouse gases.

2. On biodiversity: 

·      The large scale deforestation to make room of plantations are causing loss of habitat for sometimes critically endangered species including the orang outan, sumatran elephants and tigers but also dozens of others

·      In the past 10 years, the orang outan population has decreased by 50% as the result of habitat loss

·      The replacement of dense tropical forests with plantations increases the accessibility of animals to poachers and human-wildlife conflicts with local villagers. Thousands are killed each year and the killing of adults often leads to babies being sold as pets or used for entertainment in neighboring countries

3. On local communities:

·      Some companies have been ceizing the land of indigenous communities with sometimes the complicity of local government to turn them into palm oil concessions

·      Moreover, the industry has been linked to major human rights violations such as child labor, exposure to hazardous chemicals, unpaid overtime, pressure on employees etc.

·      The Free, Prior and Informed Consent policy possesses by many companies is often non applied and dozens of land disputes are ongoing throughout Malaysia and Indonesia

The sector’s unconvincing solution

To tackle those issues, the WWF partnered up with major actors from the sectors and created in 2004 the Roundatble on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and developed a set of environmental and social criteria which companies must comply with in order to produce Certified Sustainable Palm Oil. Nowadays the RSPO has more than 3,000 members worldwide who represents all links along the palm oil supply chain.

Yet, despite this initiative that unites oil palm producers, processors or traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, NGOs etc, the palm oil industry has suffered considerable scandals in the past year, many including RSPO certified companies.

Reports by Greenpeace: Dirty Bankers & Licence to Kill and Rainforest Action Network: The Human Cost of Conflict Palm Oil

However, I feel it's fundamental to say that boycotting palm oil a 100% is not the solution. Palm oil is more efficient than other alternative oils that require much more land, fertilizers and water to grow. Moreover, it helps millions of smallholders in Indonesia and Malaysia earn a living.

So what can you do?

1.   Find out: an educated consumer will have a mindful consumption and be able to share its knowledge with others.

Here you can find more information:

Say No to Palm Oil Campaign

WWF Palm Oil Campaign

Rainforest Alliance Conflict Palm Oil Campaign

2.  Reduce your consumption (less demand necessarly means less production)

3.  Learn to identify it: Vegetable Oil, Vegetable Fat, Palm Kernel, Palm Kernel Oil, Palm Fruit Oil, Palmate, Palmitate, Palmolein, Glyceryl, Stearate, Stearic Acid, Elaeis Guineensis, Palmitic Acid, Palm Stearine, Palmitoyl Oxostearamide, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-3, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Kernelate, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Sodium Lauryl Lactylate/Sulphate, Hyrated Palm Glycerides, Etyl Palmitate, Octyl Palmitate, Palmityl Alcohol ALL MEAN PALM OIL!

4.   Get political: sign petitions that deal with palm oil and ask your favorite brands to ditch conflict palm oil in favor of sustainable certified palm oil. WWF's scorecard is an excellent resources that scores major brands regarding their palm oil consumption!

·      Spread the word! Share the impacts of palm oil with your entourage and tell them to be mindful of their consumption