We should give up palm oil, simply because if we don’t, orangutans will become extinct very soon. You likely know about the palm oil issue, but think that it’s okay to eat ‘sustainable palm oil’, because the supermarkets tell you that they are doing all they can to help? Not so. Let’s learn.
Palm oil is a cheap oil (rich in saturated fat that clogs your arteries) that is used as an alternative to hydrogenated fats in junk food, junk pet food and soap (listed as ‘sodium palmate’ – nearly all commercial soaps are now made with it, since most no longer make soap with sodium tallowate (beef fat). It comes from fast-growing trees in Indonesia and the island of Borneo, and is used by major food companies like Pepsi.
This incredible photo is of a wild orangutan who saw a conservationist who had been told there was a snake in the river nearby. Wanting to protect the apes, he waded in to try to move it on – and then the orangutan (on thinking the man had fallen into the river), reached out his hand, to help him out. The man did not take his hand, as he did not want to cause any harm to the orangutan, nor wish him/her to become tame. What a species.
So what’s the problem? It’s because the forests were previously home to orangutans, one of our closest cousins (their name means ‘old man of the forest’) and severely endangered. Excellent mothers, their homes are torn down and the orangutans are often killed (their babies are then orphaned). Truly awful, there have been stories of orangutans burned alive, when they tried to defend their babies’ forest homes.
So instead of giving up palm oil, the companies instead hit up on the Round Table for Sustainable Palm Oil, which is basically a self-policed think tank with no legal powers. Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and Rainforest Action Network all say it’s as useless as a chocolate teapot, and want companies to either use palm oil from certified organic land (the only way you can be sure of source) or use alternatives. The response is they are ‘creating jobs’. But in a world of climate change, paying farmers a pittance to produce oil to send over here to make processed food for corporate food companies, obviously is not the answer: creating local sustainable economies is, like ecotourism (perhaps to protect orangutans?)
People who say not to boycott palm oil are rather missing the point. This suggestion comes from companies that want you to eat plastic-wrapped junk food flown half away across the world for profits. It’s not natural to eat it, we should not be flying food unnecessarily, and the laws for orangutans are not stringent enough. It’s like they are saying ‘you will eat ready-made crap for the rest of your lives, in order to do the right thing’. People that eat local food with real ingredients – never touch palm oil.
Certified palm oil is the only type that traces the source, to ensure no harm. But with the western appetite for junk food, there is not enough land. You would run out in no time. So the only alternative we have is to use less of it, or ideally give it up. It used to be labelled as ‘vegetable oil’, but today it’s mostly labelled as ‘sustainable palm oil’, which means zilch (no such thing, according to environmental and orangutan charities). Many vegans are not happy that some ‘certified’ products contain it, when its use is indirectly also killing animals.
A New Palm Oil Free Trademark
Foods You’ll Find Palm Oil In
Junk food. Crisps, biscuits, ice-cream, ready-meals, bread, crackers. What’s complicated is that many companies have replaced it with coconut oil, which has 3 issues: it’s not local, cheese made with coconut oil makes you vomit, and some coconuts are harvested by terrified ‘monkey slaves’ who are sent up high trees (and don’t even get to eat any coconuts). Recent media coverage has caused many supermarkets to drop own brands using this practice, but other brands may contain it.
If this is all sending you awry, there is a simple solution: eat real food. Buy a couple of wholefood cookbooks, and just don’t eat processed food. If you don’t eat junk food, you won’t eat palm oil. Go for local organic food. If you use oil, choose a local rapeseed oil (or olive oil). Or learn to fry or bake with oil alternatives (good for losing weight & health).
How to Give Up Palm Oil
- Rainforest Action Network has a Snack Food 20 list of the main brands to avoid. Most are American, but UK-sold brands include Unilever, Nestle, Kellogg’s and Mars.
- Choose palm-oil-free vegan butters.
- Find palm-oil free crackers from Amisa, Seggiano flatbread & Grissini breadsticks or Artisan Smokehouse (olive oil). Or make your own crackers.
- Find palm-oil-free nut/seed butters
- Make your own ice-cream
- Chip shops can switch to palm-oil-free oil. Or make chips in an air-fryer (safer than chip fryers).
- Find palm-oil-free soap. Most health shops sell Friendly Soap (includes unscented for babies, pregnancy & nursing). You may wish to also avoid soaps with eucalyptus oil unless certified, as now there is concern about that, with koala trees disappearing after the wildfires.
- Local bakers make real bread. In shops, all Iceland bread (and Warburton’s Danish White) are palm-oil free. If making bread, keep bread dough away from pets, it can expand in stomach). And don’t give fatty leftover bread to birds (it can destroy feather insulation/waterproofing).
These babies are cute as can be – but remember this is not entertainment – they are all orphaned, because of the everyday brands found on supermarket shelves.