Since that episode of QI, it’s a question many of us have been faced with - are avocados vegan and should we ditch our avo on toast? Matt Turner from The Vegan Society shares his thoughts.
It’s important to examine our definition of veganism when answering the avocado question. Veganism is ‘a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing for any other purpose.’
The emphasis here should be on ‘possible’ and ‘practical’. We acknowledge that in a nonvegan world, it is simply not possible for everybody to avoid all forms of animal exploitation.
A sad reality that we have to face up to is that many products that are considered vegan staples are mass-produced in a way that is reliant on commercial beekeeping: beans, tomatoes, almonds, butternut squash to name but a few.
Avocados fall into this category as well. Therefore, how restricted would our diets be if the assertion that avocados are not vegan was put into practice as a new ethical gold standard?
This issue of migratory beekeeping, which is essentially the moving of colonies from one area to another for the purpose of pollinating crops, is often raised. The trouble facing vegans is that many of us will not be able to specifically source where or what farm the avocados from our local supermarket or market came from, or how ‘natural’ the pollination process actually was. If it’s not traceable, how are we meant to know?
In a non-vegan world, it is simply not possible for everybody to avoid all forms of animal exploitation.
This is why it is all about what is possible and practicable. Sadly, it is both impossible and impractical for many to avoid mainstream farming practices when it comes to crops, fruits and vegetables.
That’s not to say we don’t fully understand the reasons why some vegans might shun avocados in the future. It’s an individual choice and one that should be respected, but we would fall short of claiming that avocados are not vegan altogether.
The environmental impact
Another issue often raised is the environmental impact of avocados. It’s been widely reported that compared to other fruits and vegetables, the impact is relatively high.
Of course, this is still nowhere near the level of climate destruction that animal agriculture and the production of meat foists upon our planet, so you are still doing better than most.
Regardless of whether you’ve had avocado on toast this morning or not, research by Oxford University has shown that a vegan diet is the single most effective way to reduce our environmental footprint.
The art of the impossible
In short, even as vegans, there are always better, more ethical choices we could make when it comes to food consumption. To some, that will include a diet that is avocado free — for valid reasons. That being said, by our definition of what is possible and practicable, avocados can form part of a vegan diet.
Keep on doing your best — and if you did Veganuary or you’re new to veganism, good luck with your journey! If you need more support, we’ve got everything you’ll need to educate yourself at vegansociety.com, including recipes, nutrition advice and more.
Matt Turner is a spokesperson for The Vegan Society, which provides information and guidance on various aspects of veganism. vegansociety.com