When non-vegans hear of the vegan diet, and begin to comprehend the extent of what it entails, one frequent reaction is, with eyes wide and a scandalised tone of voice, “does that mean you can’t eat chocolate?”
The answer to this question is complicated. Vegan chocolate certainly does exist, but the vast majority of chocolate as general consumers know it is made with milk – especially here in New Zealand, where a strong dairy industry supports an array of non vegan chocolate. However, the fundamental ingredient of chocolate – the cacao bean – is a plant and therefore edible for vegans. The cacao is not particularly chocolate-y by itself however, and it’s the process that turns it into a delicious treat. For many companies, the easiest way to do this is to add animal products such as milk, milk solids and milkfat, a long with a host of other unpleasant additives (including palm oil, which is produced by destroying endangered Orangutang habitats).
Accidentally Vegan Chocolate
There are various companies that seek to create a high quality chocolate without dairy products. A chocolate containing nothing but cocoa, cocoa butter, lecithin and sugar in pure forms is vegan friendly (and is typically more expensive). For this reason, organic chocolate brands often “accidentally” make vegan chocolate, even if they aren’t labelled vegan or dairy-free.
Fair Trade Chocolate
Another consideration in the ethically treacherous waters of chocolate is fair trade. Unfortunately, most chocolate comes from cacao bean plantations that exploit child labour or have unfair working conditions for third world labourers. Many people aren’t aware of these widespread industry practices – behind that dazzling chocolate bar commercial, there are some very sad truths. The only way to avoid supporting these practices is to buy fair trade and consider emailing/Facebooking your favourite chocolate company to enquire about where they source there cacao beans. These companies need to be given a clear message to change their ways.
Vegan Chocolate Recipe Ideas
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