The travesty of palm oil: how you can help


courtesy of World Animal News

Mary Gillon, Co-Editor in Chief

Palm oil. It’s probably in most of your favorite foods and cosmetic products– but it’s killing and displacing wildlife and indigenous tribes in tropical forests.

Southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa are the most predominant areas for such activity, with Indonesia and Malaysia being the most common exporters of palm oil. According to the environmental organization Rainforest Rescue, “the warm, humid climate of the tropics offers perfect growth conditions for oil palms.”

Within these warm and humid tropics are a plethora of different animal species. The International Union for Conservation of Nature reports that 193 endangered, critically endangered and vulnerable animals face palm oil expansion as one of their largest threats, with Cotton Top Monkeys, Gibbons, Sun Bears, Tree Kangaroos, Orangutans, Elephants, Rhinos, Tigers and Cassowaries being among those.

 Indigenous tribes, such as the Penan tribe in Borneo, are also being left for dead, with Borneo’s government selling off nearly 500 acres of Penan land for palm oil plantations according to Survival International. 

“Our land and our forests have been taken by force,” one Penan man told Survival International. “Our fruit trees are gone, our hunting grounds are very limited, and the rivers are polluted, so the fish are dying. Before, there were lots of wild boars around here. Now, we only find one every two or three months.’

Think of the victims of palm oil expansion while strolling through the grocery store or personal care aisles; be sure to read the ingredients to ensure that you don’t contribute to this problem. Prominent products that include palm oil include Nutella, Oreos, Gushers, Fruit Roll-ups, microwave popcorn, some lotions and even makeup, among many other items. Some countries in the European Union even use it for biodiesel. 

Even we are victims, despite being thousands of miles away from palm oil-producing countries. With forests being cleared in order to make space for plantations, carbon emissions will rise in the atmosphere because there are fewer trees to absorb it, thus contributing to climate change.

Not all palm oil is bad though.

Despite some popular products using unsustainable palm oil sourced from deforested areas, other brands like Annie’s, Nestle, Kellogg’s and many others have made a commitment to only use palm oil that is sustainably sourced. 

Sustainable palm oil is produced on plantations that are independently owned and do not grow palms on deforested land, thus not contributing to the process of climate change.

Not only is this kind of palm oil better for maintaining and reviving tribal culture and biodiversity, but it also decreases poverty in many regions, bettering tropical palm-wielding communities and economies.

Put yourself in the shoes of the people and animals that are losing the only home they’ve ever known to money-hungry corporations. Make the move toward more sustainable palm oil products.