Is Vegan Enough? Food that oppresses people

Since 8 May is both World Fair Trade Day and International Boycott Proctor & Gamble Day, I thought I would take a quick look at an issue that combines both those topics.

Thinking about the people who produce the food we consume, can change the way we look at it. It is not just a one more consumer product, it can be someone’s life.

Taking a look at one product, Coffee, which is vegan, but is it good for people, Third World (* ) communities or the environment. And if it is bad for the environment, it isn’t good for animals.

How does Fair Trade coffee relate to P&G, one of the largest producers of consumer products, cleaning products, personal care products, and pseudo-chip-in-a-can products….?

Four companies – Nestlé, Procter & Gamble, Kraft and Sara Lee purchase over 40% of the world’s coffee beans, which gives them a large control of the industry. Dictating terms and conditions. These companies are also involved in animal experimentation and cruelty to animals via their dairy and meat products. These four big multinationals get to set the prices paid for the raw coffee beans to over 20 million sellers, forcing the prices down, and paying as little as possible.

And when farmers and communities are not getting a living wage from their crops, this leads to an increasing vicious cycle of local poverty, deforestation to grow more crops, habitat and biodiversity destruction and national debt.

Third World poverty – forced by the World Bank to grow crops for exports to pay back exorbitant debts, often racked up by despots but paid back by peasants. Coffee, tea, sugar, cocoa, when many poor countries are producing these “staples” the price for these commodities drops. These countries are making less and less, but growing these crops is often a condition of their loans. For whose benefit is this? These are not crops the local people can live on. Yes they might be vegan, but the human suffering is huge. The environmental devastation via massive land clearing and monoculture crops is also huge.

The leading coffee producers and exporters in order

Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia ,Indonesia, Ethiopia, India, Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, Honduras, Uganda, Ivory Coast, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Papua New Guinea, Ecuador, Thailand, Tanzania, Dominican Republic, Kenya, Venezuela, Cameroon, Philippines, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, Burundi, Madagascar, Haiti, Rwanda, Guinea, Cuba, Togo, Bolivia, Zambia, Angola, Panama, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Ghana, Jamaica, Sri Lanka, Malawi

With some exceptions, such as Brazil and India, these countries are among the poorest in the world. The local populations often live in intense poverty.

Absent from the list are first world countries.

Zimbabwe is the number one poorest country in the world, yet it is one of the worlds largest exporters of coffee. Also in the top 10 poorest countries of the world and the top coffee producers/exports are Democratic Republic of the Congo (2nd), Burundi (3rd), Central African Republic (7th).

Kinder Gentler Nation

51 percent of Guatemalans live in poverty. 15 percent live in extreme poverty, meaning they don’t have enough money to put food on their tables on a daily basis.

The World Bank, does not represent the world, is it dominated by the UK and USA, represents the interests of the richest countries in the world. Third world nations become the farm and quarry of the First world.

This informative article from the conservative think-tank the Cato Institute, point out how the world bank is crushing their world countries – The World Bank Vs. the World Poorby James Bovard

The World Bank is helping Third World governments cripple their economies, maul their environments, and oppress their people. … The bank’s handouts to governments for agricultural projects often work out badly. One of the bank’s West African projects to promote coffee and cacao production failed partly because of “soil unsuitability.” The bank encouraged farmers to grow crops that were unsuited for their soil. With friends like the World Bank, African farmers don’t need enemies.

The pursuit of profits in coffee cultivation is causing catastrophes for local farmers and communities, deforestation, and land degradation. None of which are good for animals.

Then comes the addition of milk and sugar….

* or the more common term today being “developing” countries, but I question whether countries like Zimbabwe are developing or if they are going backwards. the other term favoured is ‘Global South’, meaning the poorest countries of the world – ha! take that Australia and New Zealand



Agri-colonisation is an issue covered here: Sugar Shortage – Marion Nestle and G20 countries practice ‘agri-colonialism’ in developing countries from a different perspective.




Some great articles that touch on these issues:

Futile Democracy: The guinea-pig Nation

According to Waldon Bello, a senior analyst at “Focus on the Global South”, a program of Chulalongkorn University’s Social Research Institute:

“At the time of decolonization in the 1960s, Africa was not just self-sufficient in food but was actually a net food exporter, its exports averaging 1.3 million tons a year between 1966-70. Today, the continent imports 25% of its food, with almost every country being a net food importer. Hunger and famine have become recurrent phenomena, with the last three years alone seeing food emergencies break out in the Horn of Africa, the Sahel, Southern Africa, and Central Africa.

Wat-er Mess (or, Why Society is Once Again Seriously Screwed)The amount of water required to make a single cup of coffee, 140 litres is required.


WORLD FAIR TRADE DAY on 8th May 2010
we will be at Union Square’s Greenmarket! Come & meet us there! Volunteers needed! (Event Website)


Feedback welcome.

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