A lot of vegans I know use Earth Balance for their vegan butter. I stopped using Earth Balance awhile ago, after I wrote my dissertation and discovered that, at least for me, they are not as ‘ethical’ as they market themselves to be. The sourcing of their coconut and palm oil was not transparent. I did not know if the human laborers harvesting their ingredients were being treated fairly (actually, I don’t like the word ‘fairly’ so much. I like the words ‘mindfully’, ‘lovingly’ ,and ‘compassionately’ when describing the conditions in which human beings should be entitled to work/exist within.)
At the market, I saw that the company Nutiva is offering a vegan butter spread that is organic, more sustainably sourced, and “Fair For Life” certified. I have been enjoying Nutiva’s products for years, as they offer healthy, organic, vegan and sustainably sourced items for quite a while. Their hemp products have been consumed by my family, for years. I have blogged about how I grew all my babies on Nutiva brands of hempseed oil, hemp seeds, and chia seeds. I found this new buttery product by Nutiva to be quite good and not nearly as salty as Earth Balance ( I personally do not like salty butter spreads). I’m also grateful to see that the packaging is non-BPA (however, people are so focused on BPA-free I am wondering about other potentially harmful chemicals in packaging that not only effect the consumer, but also those who must make it in factories and the environment it usually ends up polluting). I’m just hoping that eventually these containers can be compostable. One of my biggest gripes about vegan products that tout themselves to be ‘so ethical’, is that the packaging is obnoxiously wasteful. I know a lot of resources are used to even make compostable packaging, however, I’d argue that this is far less cruel to the environment than the current packaging options used by many companies making food products, vegan or not.
(But, this post isn’t really directly about Nutiva’s buttery spreads, is it Breeze?)
It is safe to say that many of us privileged vegan consumers need to understand that MOSTLY everything we eat( unless otherwise noted via fair labor/trade practices) is mostly likely sourced via CRUEL methods. Yes, a non-human animal may not have been directly harmed in many our favorite snacks, drinks, meals, etc., but what about the human animals? There has been a lot of focus on fair trade and organic cocoa and coffee for years, but one must understand that this is just the tip of the iceberg. We live in a globalized capitalist world economy. By default, capitalism = exploitation of non-human animals, human animals, and what human beings (at least here in the global North) call natural resources (i.e. water, land, minerals, etc). I get a lot of people arguing with me about my definition of capitalism = exploitation as being just plain pessimistic. For the record, I draw my understanding and definitions from Henri Lefebvre, Neil Smith and Angela Davis to name a few; critical thinkers who have written and researched extensively about how capitalism is the anti-thesis of cruelty-free. Capitalism CANNOT exist without exploitation and abuse. Hence, if you are buying vegan certified products, because they are within the globalized system of capitalist economies/commodity chains, there is a very small chance that they are actually ‘cruelty-free’ beyond ‘no non-human animal was directly killed for this product to be in existence.’ I talk about this in my blog post from a few months ago, in which I critique a pro-vegan meme that suggests strawberry harvesting and ‘cruelty-free’ in comparison to watching videos of slaughterhouse animals.
Anyway, I just wanted to leave you with a few of the things that were going through my head while testing this new Nutiva product out. I really have no answers about how to create cruelty-free products that really encompass my definition of ‘fair’. I perhaps am pessimistic, but it would seem that is is capitalism that is the problem. Even with ‘green capitalism’, it is unclear to me that that is ‘fair’, as there are many communities that are forced to sell their resources even under ‘fair’ and ‘green’ practices when they’d rather just not be part of any economy based on capitalist logic; however, because it may mean poverty or not, many of these communities must become part of ‘green capitalism’ in order to survive versus just doing their own thing outside of capitalist logic.
I would love to hear what people think about this. I know comments may already be heavily biased towards the consumer-privileged end, as it’s rare that I have any posting as the person who harvests vegan resources (because I’d imagine that would be a completely differently embodied knowledge about the commodity chain that is not romanticized through the eyes of neoliberal capitalism).
Anyway, I just wanted to give a shout out to Nutiva brands anyway. They may not be perfect, but I think so far, they are a better example of ethically sourced and produce vegan products. But, unless you are the person working on that plantation in which these ingredients are sourced, you will never know how cruelty-free and ‘fair’ it is. And I think that is what a lot of people on the ‘privileged’ end of vegan consumerism need to ALWAYS REMEMBER. Just because a company’s label claims it is ‘fair’ or ‘cruelty-free’, doesn’t mean you should accept it without thinking more deeply about it. I know I probably won’t be buying this product again, but wanted to check it out and let people know about it. I use local sourced olive oil for our family’s ‘buttery’ needs. What is the likelihood that people working on these plantations have access to using social media to constantly tweet and Facebook about the conditions in which they work and live? Thus far, all the ‘information’ I receive about new ‘ethical’ products come from the consumer/company end and not the end of the actual people harvesting and living there. I do not want to imply that Nutiva is dishonest– I just wanted to put it out there that you just don’t know if you aren’t there where the resources come from.
(IF YOU SEE ANY TYPOS IN THIS POST, FEEL FREE TO POINT THEM OUT. MY COMPUTER SCREEN IS BROKEN. I NEED TO SEE THROUGH PINK AND PURPLES LINES IN ORDER TO TYPE. )