The Hamilton Spectator

Cashing in on an appetite for vegan options


Recently, Hershey announced it will be introducin­g plantbased Reese’s peanut butter cups across the U.S.

The plant-based version of the popular peanut butter filled chocolate cup is made with oats instead of milk. It will be less expensive to produce, as only a small fraction of the land and energy is required for growing oats. However, Rite Aid lists the price as $2.49 (U.S.) for the plant-based version, which is 35 per cent higher than the $1.85 for the dairy version.

I find it appalling that Hershey, like many other food companies, grocery stores and restaurant­s, is charging more for non-dairy alternativ­es. It seems to me that they are taking advantage of the reasons people have for ditching dairy.

People might be lactose intolerant, which is the case in at least three-quarters of people of Black or Asian descent.

People might not want to have dairy because they are concerned about the suffering of cows. After a cow gives birth, their babies taken are away, and rather than feeding their milk to their newborn, their milk is taken by a machine.

Others might be skeptical of the idea that humans need to drink milk of another species after they have been weaned off of their own mother’s milk.

Other people may want to purchase plant-based products because they are concerned about the devastatin­g impacts of animal agricultur­e, which include deforestat­ion, water pollution, and methane, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide emissions. The Oxford food study found animal agricultur­e (including farmed fish), uses over 83 per cent of agricultur­al land while only providing 18 per cent of our calories.

The continued expansion of animal agricultur­e is the leading driver of deforestat­ion. Deforestat­ion, which is often done by clear cutting and burning, not only decimates wildlife, it also releases much of the carbon that was previously stored.

If we farmed fewer animals, vast amounts of agricultur­al land could be re-wilded, which would store carbon, and give much needed habitat to wildlife.

We can’t meet our commitment­s to limiting warming to 1.5 degrees (or even the weaker target of two degrees), without drastic cuts to our production of animal products.

Another reason one might want avoid dairy is to reduce exposure to dioxins. Dioxins are persistent toxic substances that originate in chemical fertilizer­s, get taken up by plants, and then bioaccumul­ate in animal fat.

The reasons people have for wanting to purchase animal-free products are all valid, but unfortunat­ely, we seem to live in a system where corporatio­ns are all about profit maximizati­on.

I think that it is time for citizens to ask their government­s to change the rules, so that corporatio­ns act not only to accumulate wealth, but to facilitate universal access to human needs, such as clean air, clean water, nutritious food, shelter, rest, belonging, love and a sense of wonder and gratitude for the natural world.

Otherwise, we might find rather too much truth in this observatio­n made by Alanis Obomsawin over 50 years ago:

“Canada, the most affluent of countries, operates on a depletion economy which leaves destructio­n in its wake. Your people are driven by a terrible sense of deficiency. When the last tree is cut, the last fish is caught, and the last river is polluted; when to breathe the air is sickening, you will realize, too late, that wealth is not in bank accounts and that you can’t eat money.”

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