What’s the harm in palm oil?
The destruction of primary rainforest by Duta Palma. West Kalimantan, Borneo. Image via Rainforest Action Network
Vegans and environmentalists count on the use of their consumer dollar as a weapon — one that is wielded carefully to send a powerful message to the industries behind the mistreatment of animals and the destruction of our planet. We understand that it is a tool for affecting real change and it makes us conscious consumers, expertly scanning packets to ensure our purchase aligns with our ethics.
Unfortunately, there is one ugly little ingredient that is fooling many of us: palm oil.
Palm oil is fooling us because many consumers do not understand the enormity of this product’s crimes in terms of environmental devastation and animal and human rights abuse.
Palm oil is fooling us because even when we understand its horrific consequences for our world we are tricked into purchasing it when we think we are avoiding it.
Did you know that palm oil is in almost half of the products lining Australian supermarket shelves? HALF! It is found in packaged food, cleaning products and most cosmetics.
Deforestation to grow palm plantations is happening at the most rapid rate ever seen on our planet.
Image via Rainforest Action Network
According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the equivalent of 300 football fields are being destroyed every hour in South-East Asia. In the last 20 years, over 3.5 million hectares of Indonesian and Malaysian forest have been destroyed to make way for palm oil. I can’t even begin to wrap my head around these statistics!
But here’s the real heartbreaker: we are left with only 60,600 orangutans as invading palm oil plantations push humankind’s closest kin to the brink of extinction.
The orangutans aren’t the only ones affected — all of the native animals are displaced or killed. Any animals that are considered cute — such as baby primates, pygmy elephants or the slow loris — are captured and sold into the illegal pet trade. Hungry and desperate animals enter villages and violent encounters between animals and humans increase. Dangerous working conditions and child labor are also rampant in the industry.
Image via Rainforest Action Network
So why would any of us allow our dollar to contribute to this horrifying problem?
“In the 21st Century customers don’t want to buy crackers and cookies that are responsible for pushing the world’s last wild orangutans to extinction and for horrifying child labor violations,” said Lindsey Allen, Executive Director of Rainforest Action Network.
Understanding this, many companies use less recognizable names to denote palm oil on ingredients lists, causing RAN to dub palm oil the snack food industry’s “dark secret.”
Palm oil can be listed as around 200 other names on a label. Here are a few common variations:
- Vegetable oil
- Elaeis Guineensis or Elaeis Oleifera
- Sodium lauryl/laureth sulphate (can also be derived from coconut oil)
- Cetearyl alcohol
- Palmate, palmitic acid or acetyl palmitate
- Glyceryl stearate
- Sodium kernelate
So what can you do?
- Check product labels for signs they may contain palm oil and err on the side of caution
- Download the free Palm Oil Investigations app to your mobile www.palmoilinvestigations.org
- Let the diligent team at The Vegan Box do the work for you! They ensure that every product that comes to you in your monthly box is 100% palm oil free! Like the creamy little bar of soap from The Australian Natural Soap Company. Handmade with natural plant oils and quality raw ingredients sourced from Australian farmers — this little bar will have you declaring your beauty routine 100% palm oil free forevermore! I cleansed my body with the pure macadamia bar after a dry brushing and my skin was singing!