The increase in palm plantations, specifically in Indonesia and Malaysia which together control 90 percent of the market, has left the orangutan fighting for survival. According to Thomas King, founder of SayNoToPalmOil.com, some dozen orangutans are killed every day due to palm oil production. In fact, palm oil workers are actually paid a bounty for every orangutan they kill. Orangutans are often caught wandering through plantations desperately hungry for food. The workers are instructed to do whatever they have to do to eliminate them—run over them with logging machinery, beat them to death, bury them alive, or set them on fire. Those who are not killed, often abandoned babies, are sold into the illegal pet trade or are shipped overseas to be used in abusement [sic] parks, zoos, circuses, or are made to perform in commercials and movies.
It is estimated that more than 50,000 orangutans have already died for the production of palm oil. Scientists believe that if nothing is done, these great apes will vanish from the wild as early as 2015. And they are not alone. In addition to orangutans, other species such as the Sumatran tiger, Sumatran rhinoceros and Asian elephant are also being exterminated directly and indirectly through palm oil production, making the profitable plant terribly cruel to animals.
There are also grave environmental consequences from manufacturing palm oil. The increase in palm plantations is causing widespread environmental destruction as old growth forests are destroyed to make room for palm plants, essentially releasing tons of trapped carbon into the atmosphere. Nearby waterways are polluted from toxic pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides, while the air is choked with smoke due to slash-and-burn techniques used to clear forests. According to a United Nation Environment Program report, Indonesian rainforests will be all but destroyed by the year 2022 due to illegal logging and palm oil production.
Like the blood diamond industry, there is no fool proof way to ensure that palm oil is produced in an ethical manner, or in a way that is environmentally sustainable, fairly traded, and doesn’t negatively impact the lives of both human and non-human animals. The existing methods of production are not tenable and are highly destructive to people, wildlife, and the entire planet.
- Spread the word.
- Boycott products with palm oil.
- Contact companies that continue to use palm oil and ask them to stop.
- Support conservation efforts in Borneo, Indonesia and Malaysia.