Vegan Issues: where do we stand?
The Vegan Society Aotearoa has the same end goal as the abolitionist vegan movement, namely a world without animal use, not just a reduction in animal use or better animal welfare. There are different strategies to reach a world without animal use. In practice there are projects that focus on aspects of veganism, such as dairy consumption. This does not detract from the fact that we believe that all animal use is unethical. We will always applaud all steps taken towards this end. Baby steps are better than no steps and are seen as encouragement to do better.
At this point in time, all countries, including New Zealand, have a law that states that all pharmaceutical products are tested on animals. To that end, vaccinations are no different. The point of being vegan is to cause the least harm possible and at this moment, we do not have a choice regarding medications. We would never suggest that a person refuses medical treatment because it is not vegan. This is a decision that each individual must make for themselves. If you need a particular medication, we suggest that you follow your doctor’s advice. It is always worth getting a second opinion, doing some research for yourself etc. Many diseases are the result of eating animal products or other lifestyle factors and we would encourage a person to seek these changes first. We do not agree with animal testing and fully support the New Zealand Anti-Vivisectionist Society in their mission to put an end to animal testing.
Laboratory or “clean” meat policy
What is laboratory produced meat? Cultured meat is meat produced by in vitro cell culture of animal cells, instead of from slaughtered animals. It is a form of cellular agriculture. Cultured meat is produced using many of the same tissue engineering techniques traditionally used in regenerative medicine. The “world’s first commercial sale of cell-cultured meat” occurred in December 2020 at the Singapore restaurant “1880”, where cultured meat manufactured by the US firm, Eat Just was sold.
Is it vegan? The short answer is no.
Is it better for the animals than raising and slaughtering livestock? Yes. The benefits for the animals is that they are not being bred into existence for a few months to be ruthlessly slaughtered for our taste buds. Research is ongoing to produce dairy products in the same way, so this will continue to be a subject to keep an eye on.
Is it better for the environment than using animals for food? Yes. The environment will benefit from the lack of pollution and lower resource usage that these laboratory meats will provide. Growing plants will always be preferable in our eyes and to grow using the least resources, including artificial fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides. Growing plants can help build up the soil humus and the use of humanure would enhance their ability to grow, plus make use of a constant supply of waste material.
Is it better for your health than the original animal? Research has yet to be done to prove this one way or the other. It is unlikely though, as it is designed to mimic the actual animal proteins etc. The cultured cells require a medium to grow in. Typically growth factors are added to the culture media through the integration of Fetal Bovine Serum (FBS) or another animal based serum or by recombinant protein production. So it is not vegan. It is still animal proteins, Cellulose and chitin are also used in the process and these are (or can be) vegan in origin.
As part of our commitment to reducing animal use and harm, we welcome the part that lab meat is playing. We do not endorse it as such and would always suggest that people choose 100% plant-based foods. Wholefoods are the best for human health and we look forward to a time when animals are no longer raised for the sole purpose of humans eating them.
Agriculture disrupts the habitat and life of animals. Consuming plant based food has less impact on animal life than consuming animal based food. Animal products always require more plant food and therefore more land to feed these animals than if we directly consume plant food ourselves. In agriculture too, an effort should be made to minimize the impact on animal life. We strive for vegan agriculture. Although mass production of plants can result in animal deaths from farm machinery, there will be less animals killed than in raising animals to eat.
Products that are organic are not always better or worse for animal life. We do support the use of organic farming where applicable. It is worth noting that currently most organic produce uses animal manure as fertiliser and thus is not in keeping with our basic desire for a Vegan World. Veganic gardening is becoming more acceptable and the use of human manure in this context would be a good option. We do not know of any organic food in New Zealand currently produced in this way. (Other than what people may be growing for themselves)
Palm oil is made from plants and is 100% plant based but is it vegan? It is well known that the orangutans of Borneo (they live nowhere else) face massive habitat destruction due to palm oil plantations encroaching on their habitat. We cannot say the same with this certainty about any other crop. Whilst habitat loss may occur with other crops, it is only with Indonesian palm oil that we can absolutely link the two at all times.
Many people, including vegans, avoid palm oil use where they can and there are now a number of Palm Oil Free certifications (POF) and also Sustainable Palm Oil certifications (SPO). This shows the level of problem and the general outrage amongst the public about it. The SPO certification is particularly problematic and to the vegan mind, should only be used if the palm oil was grown outside of Borneo.
The Vegan Society Aotearoa New Zealand is of the opinion that this strong focus on palm oil is not related to the animal suffering caused by the cultivation of other crops. When palm oil is replaced by other types of oil such as rapeseed oil, more land is needed, and many animals may die there because of production. Replacement with soy oil or coconut oil could even speed up deforestation in these areas.
At the moment we don’t include free from palm oil in the criteria. However, a company which uses palm oil submitted sustainable palm oil use certificates etc. to our certification body without asking. At the moment, it is not possible to get commercially available vegan pastry that does not contain palm oil. We need either POF or SPO certification to be added to our certification in the future.
That animals die in stable fires is the terrible consequence of locking up animals to be able to exploit them. The keeping and use of animals must come to an end. Safety measures to improve animal welfare are not sufficient.
Animals in movies
We reject the use of animals. We are hopeful about the enormous progress in the field of animations that make it possible to abandon animal use on the silver screen. We condemn the glorification of the use of animals in all cases. In this day there is little need for the use of real animals. Special effects and CGI is now so advanced that this must happen very soon.
World Vegan Alliance
We are part of the World Vegan Alliance which comprises 5 countries (at the moment) united to increase veganism on an international level.
We are a registered charity in New Zealand, charity number: CC 45333