While made of technically animal-free ingredients, artificial food colors and refined sugar have vegan problems. So does palm oil, and so does chocolate.
First, artificial food dyes are subject to animal testing.
Second, refined sugars can be processed using charred bone fragments from animals. Even bone char-free sugar has ethical issues. Thousands of Haitian laborers are indentured or enslaved on Dominican sugar plantations (often calling themselves “slaves in freedom”) and living in terrible conditions to bring sugar to the United States.
Animals are losing their homes through deforestation for palm oil production.
Finally, a large amount of chocolate comes from child labor, slavery, and trafficking.
Veganism is anti-oppression and intersectional.
Environmental racism, food deserts, poverty, and enslavement are all vegan issues.
Vegan Ethics & Theory in Real Life
When looking at topics like chocolate, artificial food colors, and refined sugar, it’s important to remember the definition of veganism:
“Veganism denotes a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude — as far as is possible and practical — all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals, and the environment.”
The key here is “as far as is possible and practical.”
We live in an imperfect non-vegan world filled with people from all types of circumstances and privileges faced with ethical obstacles at every turn.
What is practical for one may not be possible for another.
In this way, veganism must be flexible.
Veganism and Halloween Candy
What does this have to do with Halloween candy? Well, a lot.
Accessibility and expense are two of the most-often cited reasons people stop being vegan.
Stores are packed with giant bags of cheap Halloween candy, and most of them contain one type of animal product or another. And then there are the technically vegan treats but the chocolate isn’t fair-trade, or the candy contains artificial colors, palm oil, or refined sugar.
Sure, there are plenty of great vegan candies made with natural colors and unrefined sugar also available, it’s true. But many brands come in smaller packages and are pretty expensive, especially if you’re passing them out to strangers.
Cost is certainly an issue, but so is accessibility. Unfortunately, many vegan brands are only available in natural or specialty markets or online, instead of in mainstream or discount stores.
In this way, sometimes vegan candy isn’t possible or practical.
Something I’m fond of saying is, “Don’t give up traditions, change them.”
Halloween is America’s second-favorite holiday of the year. That’s big because it means that a lot of people participate in holiday traditions like trick or treating for candy. Whether passing out candy at home or hitting the neighborhood with a little trick or treater, no one wants to be left out.
As vegans trying to help the most animals, we must find ways to make sure that veganism is accessible to people of all access and privilege.
Buying organic, artificial dye-free candy made with unrefined sugars and fair-trade vegan chocolate is best.
But if you can’t, you can still choose the best option for your circumstances, whatever they may be.
Avoiding chocolate and buying technically vegan candy (that may contain artificial ingredients or refined sugar) is still better than buying non-vegan candy, for example.