Is Coconut Oil Vegan? Getting the Cruelty-Free Version

October 2, 2023

Yes, coconut oil as a food source is plant based. However, this doesn’t mean that the oil is always cruelty-free and ethical for vegans.

A majority of my clients are either vegans or flexitarians. As such, I do get asked the question is coconut oil vegan a lot. Therefore, I decided to do a little digging to see whether every element of commercially available coconut oil was plant based.

The following post takes a look at why coconut is considered vegan as well as whether it can be considered ethical as well. Let’s get started!

fresh coconut produce

Is Coconut Oil Plant Based?

The good news is that the extraction and production process means that coconut oil is completely vegan. Coconut meat is either exposed to high heat or placed under immense pressure, allowing the oil to be separated. Even the refining processes of refined coconut oil are vegan.

Of course, this doesn’t automatically mean that all commercially available coconut oil is vegan. When buying your coconut oil, always check the ingredient list. The only ingredient should either be coconuts or coconut oil.

You may want to pay close attention when choosing fractionated coconut oil in particular. This type of oil is typically used as a carrier oil or for your hair and skin. As such, other components may be added to the oil. Make certain that each of these ingredients is vegan as well.

Is Coconut Oil Vegan and Cruelty-Free?

Now, as any vegan can tell you, veganism isn’t just about consuming plant based foods. It is just as important to ensure that the products that you are buying and consuming aren’t harmful to animals in any way.

On this note, just how ethical is coconut oil? Well, it turns out that not every aspect of coconut oil may not be as cruelty-free as everyone imagined.

In Thailand, pig-tailed macaque monkeys have been trained to scurry up trees and pick coconuts for farmers. These monkeys are often illegally taken from the wild as babies. In some instances, the canine teeth of these monkeys are removed to make them easier to handle.

If this wasn’t bad enough, when they aren’t working, the monkeys are kept chained up or placed in cages that are too small for them.

The investigation that discovered these atrocities had a domino effect on the world of coconut oil manufacturing. Many major stores vowed not to deal with brands or farmers who used monkey labor. Nevertheless, you should still do your due diligence before choosing your coconut oil.

First, check where the oil has been sourced from. If the coconuts or the oil comes from Thailand, then you will need to do some additional digging. Check whether the brand has been cleared by cruelty-free agencies such as PETA.

If they aren’t on the approved list, then a little bit more research is in order. Look for any news articles that may have reported on the harvesting processes of that brand. You can also email the brand directly with a list of questions.

Of course, if you would like to your life a little easier. Check out cruelty-free organizations that provide you with lists of acceptable brands. Then, find one that manufactures coconut oil. 

cooking oil bottle

Is Coconut Oil Sustainable?

Veganism and sustainability go hand in hand. After all, it is your job to ensure that your consumer choices aren’t destroying the habitats of the animals that you are trying to protect.

For the most part, coconut oil does appear to be sustainable – but, there is a caveat.

As you will recall, the Western world’s obsession with coconut oil is fairly recent. Prior to this, Asia was the biggest consumer of the oil. Much of the coconut oil came from small, independent farms. Furthermore, these farmers also alternated other crops on their land, ensuring biodiversity.

All of this is great news as it does mean that coconut oil is a fairly eco-friendly crop. However, all of this new demand for coconut oil has caused a few issues.

In order to keep up with this surging demand, farmers are now having to clear away larger portions of forest to plant coconut trees. They are also switching their focus primarily to coconuts. Thus, they aren’t planting as many other types of crops as they used to.

Now, there may not be much that you can do about this, but you can still make certain that the coconut oil that you buy is sustainable.

Once again, it is all about researching the brands that you buy. Check out who their sources are and how the coconuts are grown. An increasing number of brands are making strides to only use ingredients that have come from sustainable farms. Thus, it is a good idea to begin your search here.

The Final Verdict

It is clear that the whole concept of coconut oil being vegan is a bit more complex than you might have imagined. On the one hand, this is definitely a plant based oil and, typically, no animal-derived ingredients are added to it.

However, this isn’t the full extent of veganism. If you are also taking animal cruelty and sustainability into consideration, you do need to be a bit more careful with your choices in coconut oil. Not all farmers use eco-friendly practices for growing crops. And, not all of harvest the coconuts in a cruelty-free way, either.

This doesn’t mean that the coconut oil that you buy can’t be vegan, cruelty-free, and sustainable. To make certain that you are making the right choices, always know exactly how the coconuts are grown, harvested, and processed. This will provide you with the insight that you need regarding any brand.

Now that you have the full picture, making an informed decision will be easier than ever before. Go ahead and make the choice that is in line with your morals and have peace of mind while enjoying your coconut oil.

Did you enjoy this post? If so, make sure to check out our Pinterest page. We have tons of other content on coconut oil, including how to make better consumer choices as well as how to use the oil.

An Important Disclaimer
The information on this page should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. Consult a doctor if you wish to consume any kind of tea regularly for the purpose of treating any condition or illness.
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