When you start to unravel the ethics of eating, it rapidly becomes impossible to exist with a clean conscience.
Take chocolate for example – amazing stuff, I love it to bits. But the closer you look, the more problematic its very existence is to anyone with a bit moral fibre.
Before we get anywhere near the evils of palm oil, we have to look at cocoa itself. The cocoa tree is what is known botanically as an ultra-tropical species – this means that it simply cannot grow outside of the tropics without seriously impractical assistance. Worse still, it’s a rainforest tree, requiring the high humidity and relatively poor soils of its natural habitat – the Amazon basin… you see where I’m going here?
Now just imagine how many cocoa trees are needed to keep the entire planet supplied with chocolate. Millions upon millions of trees. And for each and every one, a little patch of rainforest has been obliterated – trees, monkeys, bugs and bacteria. All gone. Now because cocoa is a commodity, its prices are constantly fluctuating. When the value drops, farmers abandon the trees and move on. When the prices rise, they cut down more forest and start again.
And then (as another Foodlover pointed out), there is the sugar. Ever visited the cane fields of Northern Queensland? Thousands of hectares of once-lush lowland rainforest wiped clean. At least Australia has environmental protection laws. Most sugar, cocoa, coffee, vanilla and other delicacies we hold near and dear are grown in countries where the environment is treated like a latrine.
And as for palm oil… well frankly, Cadbury are just the tip of the iceberg. This stuff has quietly snuck into a vast array of foods, cosmetics and many quite unlikely places over the past several decades. I too am mightily pissed off with Cadbury for adding it to their chocolate-like products, but only because companies of their size usually make superficial efforts to appear environmentally responsible. Trying to boycott palm oil is like trying to boycott soy protein or carob gum – it’s in practically everything, so good luck!
So my point is, I no longer know whether I shop ethically or just smugly. For every evil I avoid, there are a hundred other things I tacitly support that are slowly tearing the world apart.
How am I supposed to enjoy anything anymore?