Monday Moaning

‘Palmed Off’: Is Your Dinner Killing Orangutans?

Palm Oil: The Other Kind of Oil Spill

Although it is difficult to draw a direct relationship between the growth of palm oil and the conversion of forests, roughly 66 percent of Indonesia’s palm oil plantations and 87 percent of Malaysia’s plantations have involved documented forest conversion.

Palm oil plantations are used to harvest and process palm oil, an edible plant oil derived from the fleshy middle layer of the fruit of the oil palm. Not unlike other vegetable oils, palm oil acts as a cooking ingredient in both tropical cooking and the larger commercial food industry, and may be prevalent in products purchased by up to 75 percent of everyday Western consumers.

As of 2010, it was the most widely used and consumed edible oil in the world, holding approximately 32 percent of the oil market.

Often listed discreetly as “vegetable oil”, palm oil is found in some 200 international brands, including McDonald’s, Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, Girl Scout cookies, Kentucky Fried Chicken and KFC packaging, Avon personal care products, Clinique cosmetics and skincare, Tim Tams, Mars Incorporated chocolate and confectionary, and in Mary Kay, Covergirl, Lancôme, Sephora and Urban Decay cosmetics and face washes—just to name a few.

Because of trapping, hunting, and deforestation, wild orangutan populations have fallen 70 percent over the last 60 years.

Is your Big Mac really worth the lives of this parent and child? (Photo: Anup Shah)

When I found Max, he couldn’t walk. He was disorientated and terrified, and the burns to his feet and body were severe. He was one of several hundred orangutans displaced by forest clearing outside Indonesia’s Tanjung Puting National Park in 2006. He had become separated from his family after plantation workers cruelly herded escaping orangutans back to the burning jungle—and away from precious plantation land.

No more than one year old, Max had fought successfully against the trapping, hunting and forest clearing industries that endangered his short life. But with one last breath, he finally lost his battle, becoming one of several thousand orangutans killed annually by a barbaric agricultural farming process, and becoming a victim of a different kind of oil spill: the trade in palm oil.

Palm oil monoculture is “palming” off orangutans in giant numbers, pushing the once abundant species closer than ever to extinction. Today, less than 60,000 orangutans exist in the wild and scientists and biologists conclude that the species’ numbers have disappeared by more than 70 percent over the last 60 years as a combined result of trapping, hunting, and deforestation.

These same scientists predict the species could be extinct by 2023.

Deforestation forest fires—used as a method of land clearing for the construction or expansion of palm oil plantations—run a high risk of unmanageability and typically burn out of control in the often dry and dense conditions of Indonesia and Malaysia, irreversibly degrading the important habitats of tigers, elephants and endangered orangutans like Max.

Do the Green Thing for Orangutans: “Palm Off” Your Palm Oil

Turning the cheap and popular commodity into a commercial liability is the surest way to safeguard the future for orangutans and other species affected by commercial palm oil production—and it’s easy!

1) Look out for palm oil by keeping an eye on the label: Ice cream, pet food, cosmetics, chocolate, chips, and personal and household items with the highest percentage of saturated and transfats or containing stearic, isopropyl or elais guineensis acids are products that may contain significant amounts of palm oil. Researching and eliminating items guilty of endangering orangutans—and choosing sustainable alternatives—will contribute greatly to the lessening in the supply and demand of palm oil products and safeguarding orangutan habitats and populations.

2) Raise your political voice: Lobbying and petitioning Indonesian, Malaysian, and Papuan New Guinean governments to enforce environmental and wildlife protection law is a quick and simple way of applying political pressure on the worldwide need for palm oil regulation. Your signature on active petitions will call for the fruition of strict regulations on existing palm oil plantations in both Western and developing countries, forcing owners and workers to comply with standards of sustainability and animal welfare.

3) Get active for orangutans: Existing in abundance, orangutan conservation organisations—including the World Wildlife Fund, the Australian Orangutan Project, the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme, Orangutan Foundation International, DeFORESTaction, the Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Project, and the Orangutan Conservancy—need volunteers, symbolic adoptive parents and generous donors to support important initiatives seeking to care for orphaned, displaced and wild orangutans. Learn more about becoming an activist for orangutans and volunteering.

Will you stop using products that contain palm oil?

Source: Take Part

Opinion:

Another case of First World consumer needs taking advantage of Third World nations.

The First World is insatiable, it is raping the planet without regard or remorse.

Consumerism is the worst form of pollution.

4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by smallftprints on June 11, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    Quite some time ago I started hearing rumblings about palm oil and the problems with it. So, I took it off my list … or rather, I watched for it specifically because I don’t believe that I ever intentionally bought palm oil. I’m also an avid label reader so … unless it’s called something else, I won’t buy if it’s on the list. This post, though, really explains the trouble with it.

    I’m afraid it’s true … too many people have been introduced to products which they then believe they MUST have. “Moderation” seems to be a forgotten idea. Gluttony and Avarice, as well as growing numbers of people, will only make things worse if we don’t “smarten” up.

    Reply

  2. >SF, as you I have heard rumblings without really knowing what it was all about. As for labeling, you can see it called ‘palm fruit’ here,;so yes there other names for the product in order to minimalise consumer detection.

    AV

    Reply

  3. I’ve always wondered what “vegetable oil” means, exactly – and always assumed it means corn or canola oil. Thanks for pointing out the connection with palm oil.
    Incidentally, does anyone know why it is getting more and more difficult to get sunflower oil?

    Reply

    • >CelloMom, yes, they try to pull the wool over the consumers eye whenever they can. I googled as to why sunflower oil is getting more difficult, but no luck. I did however find out how to make my own biodiesel… I’ll be posting on that soon.

      AV

      Reply

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