I sit, eating “Chocolate Devastation” ice cream and contemplating the myriad health, human rights, and animal rights issues attached to the contents of my bowl. Where do I even begin?

Chocolate? With the fight for living-wages paid to chocolate farmers in South America, but the ever-growing demand for products made from the cocoa bean, especially since there have been so many new claims of health benefits from eating something everyone loves anyway, I would love to choose fair trade chocolate over conventional agri-business chocolate. When other humans are kept in poverty because the affluent North Americans and Western Europeans want to buy and consume chocolate often, but want it to be cheap, I start to lose my taste for it. I am guilty of buying the worst offending mass produced chocolate that sucks the lives from the farmers. I’m guilty because I’m not poor, it is readily available, and I’m gluttonous.

High fructose corn syrup? This ubiquitous sweetener is typically sweeter than table sugar, but a fraction of the cost, so it is in nearly every form of processed or packaged food, from candy, soft drinks, and cookies, to bread, crackers, “fruit drinks,” and dairy products (check your yogurt). HFCS is made from corn, and thus can be mistakenly thought of as “natural.” It has been linked to growing rates of obesity and diabetes, especially among children. It has also been suggested that HFCS is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. It is not natural.

Milk and cream? I have met some of the cows that produced my ice cream, so I know they are not in as poor a situation as some of America’s dairy cows, but they still didn’t know about pastures, they still had to stand around in piles of their own excrement until someone hosed off their concrete yard, and they are, like most of the country’s dairy cows, injected with growth hormones to boost milk supply, and antibiotics to treat the mastitis infections that result from excess milk. It has been suggested that these growth hormones are a factor in early puberty among girls, and that the excessive antibiotics in dairy products reduce human tolerance to disease. It has also been suggested that the bovine hormones have no effect on the human body, but recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) is banned outside the US.

Hydrogenated oil? I pronounce this with the emphasis on the Hy, so it sounds like hydrogen-ated. This is adding hydrogen (H2) molecules to unsaturated oil and turning it into a saturated fat. As we all know, saturated fats are factors for coronary heart disease, but it seems that trans fats, which are a result of this hydrogenation, are especially unhealthy. Most fats are beneficial to humans in varying quantities, but trans fats are not. And yet partially-hydrogenated oils are preferred for processed foods. They are solid at room temperature, have a nice reaction with flour, which gives baked goods a pleasant texture, and are slower to go rancid than unsaturated oils, so they have a much longer shelf-life.

It seems that my ice cream may not have been worth it.

This post is not meant to be informative, it is just my reaction to all the things I’ve been reading here and there. I don’t have sources, but I think if you wanted to find out about any of this, it would not be very hard.