Why The Vegan Society Must Withdraw its Logo from Nestle’s KitKat V
By Global Vegans
By Global Vegans
We are calling for The Vegan Society to retract its Vegan Trademark from the new vegan KitKat in support of the former child slaves fighting against Nestlé in its most recent cocoa labour lawsuit.
Nestlé is currently embroiled in a lawsuit alongside some of the world’s largest chocolate producers for ‘knowingly profiting’ from the forced labour of children on Ivory Coast cocoa plantations.1 The multinational conglomerate has faced numerous allegations of this nature, with a long and checkered history of sourcing cocoa beans from farms using illegal and unethical practices.
In light of these accusations, which were put forward by the International Rights Advocates (IRA) on behalf of eight former child labourers, we are dismayed by The Vegan Society’s recent decision to award Nestlé’s new vegan KitKat, the KitKat V, its Vegan Trademark.
The Vegan Trademark is the pinnacle of vegan acceptance. Internationally-recognised and firmly established, this is the logo we have trusted since 1990 to point us in the direction of kind and cruelty-free products. To be associated with a company facing allegations of child slavery goes against everything the vegan movement is based on. It completely tarnishes the very concept of veganism as an ethically-driven lifestyle, dissolves consumer trust in the logo, and devalues The Vegan Society as a moral-based organisation.
Facilitating Nestlé’s move into the vegan market at this time is both unacceptable and unjustifiable. Until Nestlé stops hiding behind scripted public statements and PR moves and demonstrates a real commitment to tackling slave labour within its cocoa bean supply chain, we must make it clear that the vegan community stands firmly against its practices and products.
As one of the world’s most reputable and trusted vegan organisations, The Vegan Society has a responsibility to act on behalf of the wider movement. We must not allow our fight against the cruel treatment of animals to disregard clear violations of human rights. It is time for us to recognise the intertwining nature of both justice issues.
If a company is found to have engaged in illegal or immoral activity, we must withdraw our support until the appropriate reparations have been made. The insidious activities of large businesses like Nestlé don’t only harm animals; they are also detrimental to communities across the world and responsible for mass ecological devastation. As animal rights campaigners, we must not ignore this. Being complicit in the exploitation of animals, humans and the planet is not an option.
‘Vegan’ and ‘ethical’ are not yet synonymous, and they won’t be if we continue along the trajectory of celebrating companies for doing the bare minimum. If a production line profits from compromising animal rights or human rights, it hurts both. Our overarching goal of Do No Harm must encompass the struggles of every species if it’s to be effective.
We implore The Vegan Society to acknowledge this when awarding the Vegan Trademark to companies that do not meet comprehensive ethical standards. We can no longer consider products as separate from their manufacturers; doing so will only undermine a movement that has been built on the core principles of compassion, equality and challenging the status quo. The Vegan Society has been instrumental in shaping modern veganism, and we need its ongoing support if we’re to strive for a kinder future.
If we fail to look beyond the ingredients list of a product and close our eyes to the human pain and suffering behind its existence, our movement is falling short. How can we rally against one form of injustice while contributing to another? Knowing that Nestlé’s KitKat V may have been produced using the labour of vulnerable children means that supporting it would be nothing short of morally reprehensible - but individual action is not enough.
The Vegan Society holds a great deal of power, and we need to direct this power towards dismantling the oppressive structures that are holding back the animal and human rights movements. By withdrawing its logo from the packaging of the KitKat V and refusing to accept future applications from companies responsible for violating human rights, The Vegan Society will set a major precedent. By making it clear that companies such as Nestlé will not be supported by the vegan community until they cut ties with cocoa bean plantations operating through child labour, we stand firmly on the side of justice.
This stance must not end with Nestlé. Unsurprisingly, Nestlé is not the only chocolate manufacturer accused of benefiting from illegal child labour; Mars, Hershey and Mondelēz are also amongst the defendants named in the current case.
It is also crucial to acknowledge that these companies have not yet been found guilty for the crimes described in this particular lawsuit, and of course, we must abide by the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ presumption. However, ‘this particular lawsuit’ is the operative phrase here. We might not yet know the outcome of the current legal case, but many leading chocolate manufacturers - including Nestlé - have already faced countless allegations of this sort.
As recently as 2019, Nestlé was forced to invest in rehabilitation projects after it found more than 18,000 children participating in ‘unacceptable’ tasks on its suppliers’ cocoa farms.2 Just a few years before, in 2015, the Fair Labor Association (FLA) found evidence of child labour on 7% of 260 Ivory Coast farms that are known to supply cocoa beans to Nestlé.3 In 2016, Nestlé also admitted to finding cases of forced labour amongst its seafood suppliers in Thailand.4
Knowing this, there is no justification for The Vegan Society’s decision to allow Nestlé’s KitKat V the Vegan Trademark. Unless a company can prove that it is wholeheartedly committed to eradicating human rights violations within its supply chain, the vegan community must not associate with it. Otherwise, we are allowing such companies to profit from the plant-based market while continuing to commit some of the worst crimes against humanity.
Together, we can help to create a better, kinder future for animals and humans. This is what veganism has always fought for, and we cannot diminish the work of the movement for the sake of a chocolate bar.
Are you ready to join us? Sign our petition to ask The Vegan Society to consider the true implications of accrediting Nestlé and withdraw its Vegan Trademark from the new KitKat V.
1. Oliver Balch, "Mars, Nestlé And Hershey To Face Child Slavery Lawsuit In US", The Guardian, 2021 <https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/feb/12/mars-nestle-and-hershey-to-face-landmark-child-slavery-lawsuit-in-us> [Accessed 28 March 2021].
2. "Nestlé Identifies Over 18,000 Child Labourers In Cocoa Supply Chain", SWI Swissinfo.Ch, 2019 <https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/bitter-chocolate-_nestlé-identifies-over-18-000-child-labourers-in-cocoa-supply-chain/45423936> [Accessed 28 March 2021].
3. Joe Sandler Clarke, "Child Labour On Nestlé Farms: Chocolate Giant's Problems Continue", The Guardian, 2015 <https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2015/sep/02/child-labour-on-nestle-farms-chocolate-giants-problems-continue> [Accessed 28 March 2021].
4. Martha Mendoza, "Nestlé Probe Finds Slave Labour Used To Catch Fish For Fancy Feast | CBC News", CBC, 2015 <https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/nestle-seafood-thailand-1.3331127> [Accessed 28 March 2021].