and VeggieGlobal Good-Cause Support
"Bad" Palm Oil Aware
Help Save the Orangutan
ORIGINAL 2005 ARTICLE
(with 2014 update edits and notes)
Photo Copyright Orangutan
Depending on what you buy during
your grocery shop you could be unwittingly aiding the extinction
of rain forest animals such as the much-loved Orangutan.
More than one in ten of supermarket and grocery store products
contain palm oil; from foods such as bread, crisps cakes and
chocolate to cosmetics and toiletries including soaps, skin
creams, shampoos and toothpaste. Palm oil is also found in
biofuels and if you are a meat eater the beef on your plate
is likely to have been fed on "palm kernal cake"
- a byproduct of the oil palm industry.
Most mass-produced palm oil comes from southeast Asian areas
such as Malaysia and the Indonesian archipelago, home to the
Orangutan. Nearly all palm oil from these regions is responsible
for the accelerated destruction of precious rain forests and
peat lands rich in irreplaceable biodiversity.
Each year around 5,000 Orangutans are driven from their unique
habitats in Borneo and Sumatra, as illegal loggers and "slash
and burn" farmers make way for palm oil plantations.
As huge swaths of forest are cleared, Orangutans and other
animals wander dazed and confused while plantation workers
butcher the frightened apes with machetes or even burn and
bury them alive. Hundreds of orphaned babies are also left
alone to die or sold in the illegal pet trade.
In 2005, Friends of the Earth reported on the state of corruption
and political greed existing in Borneo*. Researchers say that
forest fires, deliberately set by palm oil companies since
1998, have now killed around one half (by 2014) of the orangutan
population. Friends of the Earth also say that the Indonesian
Government is planning to convert a significant area of Tanjung
Puting National Park, the world's most famous protected area
for orangutan, into an oil-palm plantation.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Palm oil is used in most savoury snack foods, breads, cakes, biscuits
and chocolate, which should give you as a consumer some idea of
how extremely serious this problem is. Billions of food products
containing palm oil are eaten daily. If you are a meat eater even
the dead animal on your plate is likely to have been fed "palm
kernal cake" a cattle feed made from the kernal pulp of "bad"
Think twice before buying any foods and even cosmetics and beauty
products containing a palm oil. Has it been sourced from plantations
created by destroying forests and wildlife?
In the end, it's you the consumer who carries the final responsibility
- having the power to stop such atrocities by simply not buying
what we call "bad palm oil" products. If you ignore an
ethical issue as important as this, it means that unscrupulous plantation
growers will continue to provide manufacturers with ingredients
that destroy the world's last remaining ecosystems; vital to the
biological stability of the entire planet.
So ask questions when you go shopping. When the ingredients on a
product include vegetable oil, it often means it includes palm oil,
so find out where that palm oil comes from. A shop assistant or
even the manager will probably have no idea, but persist and make
sure your question is logged. And if you don't get a satisfactory
answer, don't buy the product.
2014 UPDATE NOTES:
The original version of this Looking-Glass good cause support article
(above) was first published here in 2005, bringing together information
and actions by animal and environmental organisations. Some of these
organisations had for years been battling to protect South East
Asian rain and swamp forests from destruction, but prior to this
article their important work had been only scarcely searchable online.
This page became widely read and discussed over the following months
and national press and media began publishing their own reports
as other palm oil web campaigns have since sprouted. The subject
of, what we call "bad palm oil", was finally in the public
eye and consumer awareness of this horror became mainstream. Our
original article asked consumers to question the source of palm
oil in products when shopping. The subsequent groundswell of interest
in palm oil meant that eventually one or two food stores began to
take notice. At the time of the original article our campaign stopped
short of calling for an outright boycott of entire supermarket chains.
We surmised that growing consumer and media pressure alone might
more diplomatically coerce governments in "bad" palm oil
growing regions to act by curbing indiscriminate clearing of the
South East Asian rain and swamp forests. The first signs of such
government environment ministry intervention appeared in 2014 when,
for the first time, a palm oil company was fined 30 million US dollars
for illegal clearing and burning of a forest in Sumatra.
On the consumer level, in 2012 the UK supermarket chain Waitrose
committed to using only sustainable palm oil in their own-brand
products. Other supermarket groups are slowly following, although
at the time of this 2014 update Tesco, Wallmart and Morrisons were
still shamefully lagging behind.
Since millions of products
containing "bad palm oil" are still manufactured and sold
worldwide we continue to advise all consumers to be "bad palm
oil aware". Still ask questions to your local supermarket or
shop manager .... Just because a supermarket chain have ensured
that their own brands contain forest friendly (sustainable) palm
oil doesn't change the fact that the hundreds of other brands they
sell may contain "bad" palm oil.
Why are these supermarkets
still selling any bad palm oil products at all?
At this point in our "Bad Palm Oil Aware" campaign it's
now time to consider boycotting individual brand products which
still contain "bad palm oil". If we stop buying bad palm
oil products then the shops will obviously stop selling them. So
if the offending brands have any sense they will quickly change
the palm oil content in their products to be sourced sustainably.
As regards seeing a "Rain Forest Alliance" label on a
product, don't be fooled. (See
When this article was first published
in 2005 there were approximately 60,000 Orangutans left in the wilds
of Borneo and Sumatra. In 2014, the Orangutan Copnservancy calculate
that there are now only 40,000. At the rate of forest and habitat
destruction in 2005 it was expected that Orangutans could be extinct
by 2015. Figures tauted by some organisations can sometimes be off
the mark for whatever reason and perhaps since this atrocity has
now been more widley publicized, deforestation may have slowed just
slighty. Therefore in 2014 the current extinction time frame for
wild oranutangs quoted by "many experts" has shifted from
2015 to approx 2039. No extinction date is good news however, because
as this horror continues - at any pace - this means the end of the
forests and the beloved orangutang at some point in the next few
In Africa huge palm oil plantations are now scaring their way across
the Congo Basin rainforest. Up to two thirds of the forest could
be destroyed for palm oil in the coming years Chimpanzee, gorilla
and forest elephant habitats are being destroyed.
To help stop the decimation
of any tropical forest, stop buying any product containing
"bad" palm oil right now.
To help you to choose products using sustainable palm oil look on
the product for the RSPO label (Roundtable for Sustainable Palm
Since this article was first published,
footage of orangutans burning alive as forests are cleared have
surfaced on the internet ... such as this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9oVVcOHKCU
(warning - distressing images)
In the meantime, these heartbreaking practices will continue as
long as manufacturers and consumers create the demand for unethically
(The Looking-Glass project
NOVA Key ethical clarity labelling system
conceived in 2000 includes a simple way to check if a product is
rainforest, natural habitat and ecologically friendly - or not.)
To help and to act on this crisis
please visit these action organisations (updated 2014):
Animal Welfare group, Ape
Alliance, represent organisations such as the Borneo Survival Foundation
... has a petition to urge the Indonesian government save the remaining
forests and peatlands.
Orangutan Foundation UK and USA
Sumatran Orangutan Society
Rainforest Foundation (for information
on new palm oil plantations in the Congo Basin, Africa)
* UK Friends of the Earth archive
report from 2005 worth reading at... http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/press_releases/one_in_ten_supermarket_pro_22092005.html
NOTE 2014: The organisations safepalmoil.org
(Safe Palm Oil) and savetheorangutang.co.uk originally listed in
the 2005 article no longer exist.
DONATION NOTE: Most charities
dealing with animal care and protection are basically funding organisations
whose function is to support and allocate funds from public donations
to the actual in-the-field projects and small animal rescue centres
they have "partnered" with. Our long-term experience has
shown that the practices of some large funding charities to be highly
questionable regarding funding and support to their in-the-field
"partners". Therefore, Looking-Glass always advises that
you check an organisation's direct physical involvement in the projects
they are representing. If you are in doubt as to how much of your
donation will reach the stated cause via a funding organisation
we advise you to instead donate directly to the actual "in
the field" project organisation if possible and not through
a representative funding organisation unless you are made fully
aware of and are happy with the organisation's funding arrangement
and its ongoing support for the in-the-field project.
Looking-Glass and VeggieGlobal Good-Cause Support Pages
See the Good-Cause
Support Main Menu
Find More Charities and Animal rescue
organisations at our Directories
hundreds of articles about animal welfare at the Looking-Glass
Global News Site