Animal Rights Zone

Fighting for animal liberation and an end to speciesism

Some Facts On Palm Oil   


 

Palm oil is a type of vegetable oil which has a very high content of saturated fat. It is derived from the palm fruit, grown on the African oil palm tree. Oil palms originated in West Africa but can flourish wherever heat and rainfall are abundant. Today, almost all palm oil is produced in, and exported from, Indonesia and Malaysia; but most of the time not using sustainable measures. 

Thousands of kilometres of pristine rainforest is slashed and burned in order to make way for oil palm plantations. Many orangutans and other animals are killed in the process, for the production of palm oil used in many of our everyday foods and products. This large-scale deforestation is pushing orangutans to extinction, along with many other native species of Borneo and Sumatra. 

Palm oil is an extremely popular vegetable oil amongst manufacturers. It is used in over 50% of products, including: baked goods, confectionery, cosmetics, body products and cleaning agents. But in many countries, there is no law on the mandatory labelling of palm oil. Consequently, companies will usually hide palm oil under the name of 'vegetable oil', or over 170 other names! (See the list of the most common 30 names below).

One argument is that we need palm oil in today's society, and that palm oil is a key ingredient in many foods and body products. But what about 30 years ago? Back then, palm oil wasn't use is nearly as many products as today, in fact, it was almost non-existant in much of the Western-world. So why does there need to be such a high demand for it in the modern world? We don't need palm oil. There a many alternatives to palm oil, but unfortunately none as cheap and efficient, which is why companies are reluctant to switch.


Another alternative option for companies is 'sustainable palm oil'. The only issue with sustainable palm oil is that currently, this 'eco-friendly' vegetable oil is sourced through RSPO, an organisation which is considered unreliable and untrustworthy by many (read the segment below for more information). 


However; even if sustainable palm oil was proven to actually be 'sustainable', why wouldn't all companies use it? Consider two chocolate bars. They both contain palm oil. One uses palm oil sourced from a sustainable plantation, the other uses palm oil from plantations associated with animal genocide and catastrophic deforestation. Which one would you buy? The answer may be obvious to you, but for the global corporate giants of this world, it's a different story.

Because palm oil isn't labelled in many countries, consumers are blinded to the fact that many of the products they are buying contribute to this unprecedented disaster. One of the lists below consists of well-known products that contain crude palm oil as well as a list of products that contain 'sustainable' palm oil. That way you can have the choice whether to buy them or not. 

Orangutan numbers are plummeting at a dangerously fast rate, all for our sugary, prepackaged snack foods and fragrant, chemical-filled soaps and shampoos. 

We have a choice, orangutans do not.


RSPO - Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil

 

RSPO, founded in 2004, is an organisation made to promote the sustainable agriculture of the palm oil crop. 

It is a good start for companies to become a member of RSPO and commit to sourcing 'Sustainable Palm Oil', however; the effectiveness of RSPO is yet to be proven. 

There has been large debate and controversy over whether RSPO is a well run, effective organisation or as some describe; 'a green wash'. Many consumers are not happy with RSPO's low standards and lack of regulations. Consumers state that the RSPO is simply a name that companies can hide behind and that the palm oil cannot be proven to be sustainable.


"At the present time, it is possible to be a full member of the RSPO without ever actually producing any RSPO certified sustainable palm oil." - Wikipedia, the online Encyclopedia.

For now, it's up to you as a consumer to choose whether you trust the RSPO and their standards on sustainable palm oil.

 

Click here to visit the RSPO website  

To see the full list of companies that are members of RSPO, click here.


7 ways to detect & avoid palm oil

 If you live in countries such as Australia, New Zealand or the UK, then you will understand how frustrating it is trying to avoid palm oil when shopping, because there are no laws on the mandatory labelling of palm oil. This means companies usually don't label palm oil on their products.

The list below consists of a number of different ways in which you can detect and avoid palm oil when shopping:


  1. The most common name palm oil is hidden under is 'vegetable oil'. Almost all Asian products or products made in Asia that have 'vegetable oil' written on the label means that it is palm oil.  
  2. Most pre-packaged snack foods made by well known, large corporate-giants (Nestle, Unilever etc) contain palm oil.
  3. If a product's saturated fat content is over 40% of it's total fat content, it will almost always have palm oil in it.
  4. Ingredients with the word 'palm' in them are palm oil or are derived from the oil palm fruit (as shown in the ingredient list below).
  5. Nearly all home-brand/no-name pasties and confectionery will contain palm oil (Coles/Safeway donuts, muffins, cakes, chocolate, confectionery etc).
  6. If you are not sure whether a product contains palm oil, either type the product name into google along with 'palm oil'and see the search results, or call the company and ask if they use palm oil. 
  7. To avoid palm oil, look out for products that contain alternative vegetable oils, such as 100% sunflower oil, corn oil or canola oil. However, please note that Soybean oil is often associated with the destruction of rainforest in Brazil.

IMPORTANT:
Just because a product says it is "Organic" or "Cruelty-Free" does not mean it doesn't contain palm oil. In fact, most natural/organic products do contain palm oil - because palm oil is very much a natural ingredient. It's the way it is produced that is far from natural, which is something many companies fail to realise.

 

30 NAMES PALM OIL CAN BE LABELLED UNDER

Foods, Body Products, Cosmetics & Cleaning Agents:

 

-Vegetable Oil
-Vegetable Fat
-Sodium Laureth Sulfate (in almost everything that foams) ^
-Sodium Lauryl Sulfate ^
-Sodium Dodecyl Sulphate (SDS or NaDS) ^
-Palm Kernel#
-Palm Oil Kernel #
-Palm Fruit Oil #
-Palmate #
-Palmitate #
-Palmolein #
-Glyceryl Stearate #
-Stearic Acid #
-Elaeis Guineensis #
-Palmitic Acid #
-Palm Stearine #
-Palmitoyl oxostearamide #
-Palmitoyl tetrapeptide-3 #
-Steareth -2 *
-Steareth -20 *
-Sodium Kernelate #
-Sodium Palm Kernelate #
-Sodium Lauryl Lactylate/Sulphate *
-Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate ^
-Hyrated Palm Glycerides #
-Sodium Isostearoyl Lactylaye ^
-Cetyl Palmitate #
-Octyl Palmitate #
-Cetyl Alcohol ^
-Palmityl Alchohol #   

 

# These ingredients are definitely palm oil or derived from palm oil.

* These ingredients are often derived from palm oil, but could be derived from other vegetable oils.

^ These ingredients are either derived from palm oil or coconut oil.  


 

Click here to learn more about palm oil.


More information is available here: 

http://www.saynotopalmoil.com/palm-oil.php

 

 


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Replies to This Discussion

What actually shocked me was once I was looking at an Internet site that sold vegan foods and supplements, and I saw at least one of their products contained palm oil.  I'd have thought that something so bleeding obvious would not be listed on a vegan site.  I guess we all really need to be careful not only about vegan food but about being an environmental vegan as well.

Perhaps there is a need for a new identifying term to take into account environmental responsibility.  A sort of pan-veganism that not only relates to what you eat and wear but the actions you take to reduce risks to habitat etc.  While I personally think this becomes by default what being vegan means, I think the majority of vegans, in whatever stage they are, would think being vegan is about what you eat and wear.  Technically the use of palm oil doesn't transgress dietary requirements but by extension causes cruelty to other species, in this case the orangutans.  But so does sugar cane growing.  At the end of the season they burn the cane before harvest which kills who knows how many snakes for example.  I agree it is a complex issue and what 'vegan' means is not understood even within the community.  What we have at the moment doesn't seem to quite fit the need for raising awareness.

I've seen oil palm plantations in Malaysia juxtaposed against not-yet-slashed-and-burnt natural rainforest.  To the eyes, both are green, but to the mind that knows, it is like night and day.  And it is heart-breaking.

hi kerry,

i completly agree with u that the present definition of veganism is too narrow,an a vegan diet is interpreted by most people to include many products that cause massiv suffering an death .this makes mainstream veganism a hypocritical an inconsistant moral position,in that "vegans " who abstain from eating,wearing or using anything that comes from an animals body wil stil hapily consume all other products of exploitation.

in my view,the problem is not that vegans ignore the enviromental problem of palm oil production,but that they ignore the violations of the rights of countles individuals which it causes.the fact is, palm oil production involves rights violations - therfore it is against the core principles of veganism to consume it.obviusly this is only one example  ,an the typical self defense of those taking a  more mainstream aproach to veganism is why single out palm oil from all the other crops that cause death an suffering to nonhumans .my answer to this would be that ethicaly consistant veganism is an ideal which,in this corrupt an human centred society,it is impossible to completly live up to. on a grossly overpopulated planet,our very existanse causes harm.but this not not make the use of palm oil ethical-the question is not why stop at palm oil,but why stop before adressing this issue? because it is less conveniant than a boycott of animal products ? 

i agree with roger that many vegans shy away from adressing this issue because they feel that popularising the vegan message is the only way to create more new vegans -but why would we want to popularise an ethicaly inconsistant position that acepts rights violations ? advocating for somthing we dont believe in ,in the hope that people wil find it aceptable, is hardly the way to build a movement against nonhuman exploitation. 

the present definition of veganism fails to recognise in my view that animal use is only one result of speciesism. nonhumans rights are also violated whenever they stand between humans an profit.



Kerry Baker said:

Perhaps there is a need for a new identifying term to take into account environmental responsibility.  A sort of pan-veganism that not only relates to what you eat and wear but the actions you take to reduce risks to habitat etc.  While I personally think this becomes by default what being vegan means, I think the majority of vegans, in whatever stage they are, would think being vegan is about what you eat and wear.  Technically the use of palm oil doesn't transgress dietary requirements but by extension causes cruelty to other species, in this case the orangutans.  But so does sugar cane growing.  At the end of the season they burn the cane before harvest which kills who knows how many snakes for example.  I agree it is a complex issue and what 'vegan' means is not understood even within the community.  What we have at the moment doesn't seem to quite fit the need for raising awareness.

I think perhaps we can broadly understand veganism in terms of consumer and activist.  Many vegans, and for that matter vegetarians, are perhaps not aware or not interested in learning the path that what is on their plate, or in their computers and mobile phones, or car tyres and so on, took to get there.  They are solely interested or think that what they need to do to be vegan/vegetarian, is to make sure that they don't personally eat or have anything with animal content which is quite introspective really.

Activism however takes us to the level of higher awareness to stop environmental degradation, factory farming etc and takes us I think into that realm Roger that you describe as the 'ethical vegan'.  Perhaps this is a simplistic description, and certainly is just a suggestion as a starting point, for raising awareness.  I suspect that many people just get tired of the constant feelings of defeat as yet another product we thought was OK turns out to be not OK.  The list is endless and having to continually ask about products from the shop assistant or whoever may not be something we can with confidence accept.  It's what Tim identified as that dilemma, that we can't be 100% vegan.

There is also so much garbage put about that people will accept to make themselves feel better.  I am astonished for example when I have seen posts from people on Internet forums talking about animals 'sacrificing' themselves for us and similar ludicrous statements.  One person who I was talking to once said she bought organic meat only because she knows that animal was killed away from others being killed and didn't have that awful experience that other animals have in slaughterhouses.  I questioned where she got that piece of information and expressed doubt, but she was convinced.  I think people will basically make themselves believe all sorts of rubbish to ease their consciences. 

Yes Roger I think Vegan Buddies is a good avenue to raise this awareness.  And yes we do need to try to increase the numbers of vegan globally. 

Roger Yates said:

It would tragically be easy to very quickly draw up a list of everyday human activities that ultimately violate the rights of other animals. Some of these violations are "structural" in the sense that it is difficult to see what individuals or even collectives can do about them if they have so few members that they have little or no socio-political and economic power.

If vegans want to alter the way that crops are "harvested," oil is made and used, transportation systems are organised, or electricity is manufactured, then we are going to need substantially more vegans in society than we have now, preferably ethical vegans. 

In a sense we need to create vegans and promote the philosophy of veganism in a world in which being vegan is not really possible. 

I think there may be an important distinction to be drawn between newer vegans and established vegans. I think the latter group have the least excuse not to take heed of people like Tina who are quite reasonably trying to "firm up" what veganism means as a way of removing oneself from harming others. Newer vegans, however, may be put off if their world is literally torn asunder when they contemplate going vegan.

Let's think about ARZone's Vegan Buddies programme in the context of this issue. While we might hope and expect that the experienced VB mentors will be thinking very hard about issues like palm oil, and doing their best to eliminate it from their own patterns of consumerism, what do they - as vegan mentors - say to the new and aspiring vegans who are wanting, and perhaps needing, help in their early days of veganism? Do they tell "newbies" that one is not vegan unless one eliminates palm oil (and a bunch of other things like flying, the private car, the bicycle, and computers) from their lives?

This really is a dilemma with several strands to it involving personal purity issues, social movement interaction, practicality, and all bound up with the claims that we want to make.



Tina Cubberley said:

hi kerry,

i completly agree with u that the present definition of veganism is too narrow,an a vegan diet is interpreted by most people to include many products that cause massiv suffering an death .this makes mainstream veganism a hypocritical an inconsistant moral position,in that "vegans " who abstain from eating,wearing or using anything that comes from an animals body wil stil hapily consume all other products of exploitation.

in my view,the problem is not that vegans ignore the enviromental problem of palm oil production,but that they ignore the violations of the rights of countles individuals which it causes.the fact is, palm oil production involves rights violations - therfore it is against the core principles of veganism to consume it.obviusly this is only one example  ,an the typical self defense of those taking a  more mainstream aproach to veganism is why single out palm oil from all the other crops that cause death an suffering to nonhumans .my answer to this would be that ethicaly consistant veganism is an ideal which,in this corrupt an human centred society,it is impossible to completly live up to. on a grossly overpopulated planet,our very existanse causes harm.but this not not make the use of palm oil ethical-the question is not why stop at palm oil,but why stop before adressing this issue? because it is less conveniant than a boycott of animal products ? 

i agree with roger that many vegans shy away from adressing this issue because they feel that popularising the vegan message is the only way to create more new vegans -but why would we want to popularise an ethicaly inconsistant position that acepts rights violations ? advocating for somthing we dont believe in ,in the hope that people wil find it aceptable, is hardly the way to build a movement against nonhuman exploitation. 

the present definition of veganism fails to recognise in my view that animal use is only one result of speciesism. nonhumans rights are also violated whenever they stand between humans an profit.



Kerry Baker said:

Perhaps there is a need for a new identifying term to take into account environmental responsibility.  A sort of pan-veganism that not only relates to what you eat and wear but the actions you take to reduce risks to habitat etc.  While I personally think this becomes by default what being vegan means, I think the majority of vegans, in whatever stage they are, would think being vegan is about what you eat and wear.  Technically the use of palm oil doesn't transgress dietary requirements but by extension causes cruelty to other species, in this case the orangutans.  But so does sugar cane growing.  At the end of the season they burn the cane before harvest which kills who knows how many snakes for example.  I agree it is a complex issue and what 'vegan' means is not understood even within the community.  What we have at the moment doesn't seem to quite fit the need for raising awareness.

hi roger!

your absolutly rite that ,at the moment ,we are such a tiny minority group that we can hav no influense on how many conventionaly vegan comoditys are prodused .an until we grow as a movement many activitys we hav to engage in in our daily lives wil be esentialy nonvegan ,in that they hav used an cause suffering to sentient beings ,whether or not they actualy contain animal products. but do we want to grow as a movement that acepts nonhuman exploitation in any form ? a vegan movement which acepted the consumption of palm oil would be built on hypocrisy .its true that we are all hypocrites to some extent ,because ther is so much violense to which we cannot avoid contributing -in this sense,noone is vegan. but to consiously choose to consume somthing lik palm oil ,wher an effectiv boycot is humanly posible, is to choose complisity in violense over taking a stand against it. whether this is done for personal convenianse or for thesake  of the movement,i see this as inconsistansy which costs countles lives .

i also agree ther is a diferense between experiensed an new vegans,an that many newcomers to the movement require some sort of "comfort zone" in the early days-- but i dont think this has to be at the expense of ethical consistansy . this argument could be extended to include many other  issues besides palm oil ,until the vegan message would be lost in meaningles welfarism - what if self proclaimed new vegans felt comfortable consuming so called free range eggs ,whose production involves unthinkable violense an rights violations ?how is this essentialy different from new vegans consuming palm oil,which also involves the exploitation an murder of countles sentient beings ? because accepted "vegan" boundarys hav been set up to exclude eggs an include palm oil, are we free to turn our backs on the victims of the palm oil industry ,an sacrifise them for the sake of greater cohesion in the movement ?

i dont think this is about plasing impossible demands on others -its about chalenging evryone ,including those alredy within the movement ,to examine wher they draw the line an why , an what ther consienses will allow them to ignore while stil claiming to be vegan. otherwise our position is as hypocritical an morally flawed as that of vegetarians -we select forms of exploitation which we wil not tolerate,yet draw a line beyond which we dont care enough to act .

im definitly not accusing u of taking this position , roger - i know you would nt use palm oil urself an are talking about this in strategic terms .im just questioning the lengths we need to go to to make newcomers feel comfortable,an to what extent we should be willing to bend our own principles to do so.


Roger Yates said:

It would tragically be easy to very quickly draw up a list of everyday human activities that ultimately violate the rights of other animals. Some of these violations are "structural" in the sense that it is difficult to see what individuals or even collectives can do about them if they have so few members that they have little or no socio-political and economic power.

If vegans want to alter the way that crops are "harvested," oil is made and used, transportation systems are organised, or electricity is manufactured, then we are going to need substantially more vegans in society than we have now, preferably ethical vegans. 

In a sense we need to create vegans and promote the philosophy of veganism in a world in which being vegan is not really possible. 

I think there may be an important distinction to be drawn between newer vegans and established vegans. I think the latter group have the least excuse not to take heed of people like Tina who are quite reasonably trying to "firm up" what veganism means as a way of removing oneself from harming others. Newer vegans, however, may be put off if their world is literally torn asunder when they contemplate going vegan.

Let's think about ARZone's Vegan Buddies programme in the context of this issue. While we might hope and expect that the experienced VB mentors will be thinking very hard about issues like palm oil, and doing their best to eliminate it from their own patterns of consumerism, what do they - as vegan mentors - say to the new and aspiring vegans who are wanting, and perhaps needing, help in their early days of veganism? Do they tell "newbies" that one is not vegan unless one eliminates palm oil (and a bunch of other things like flying, the private car, the bicycle, and computers) from their lives?

This really is a dilemma with several strands to it involving personal purity issues, social movement interaction, practicality, and all bound up with the claims that we want to make.



Tina Cubberley said:

hi kerry,

i completly agree with u that the present definition of veganism is too narrow,an a vegan diet is interpreted by most people to include many products that cause massiv suffering an death .this makes mainstream veganism a hypocritical an inconsistant moral position,in that "vegans " who abstain from eating,wearing or using anything that comes from an animals body wil stil hapily consume all other products of exploitation.

in my view,the problem is not that vegans ignore the enviromental problem of palm oil production,but that they ignore the violations of the rights of countles individuals which it causes.the fact is, palm oil production involves rights violations - therfore it is against the core principles of veganism to consume it.obviusly this is only one example  ,an the typical self defense of those taking a  more mainstream aproach to veganism is why single out palm oil from all the other crops that cause death an suffering to nonhumans .my answer to this would be that ethicaly consistant veganism is an ideal which,in this corrupt an human centred society,it is impossible to completly live up to. on a grossly overpopulated planet,our very existanse causes harm.but this not not make the use of palm oil ethical-the question is not why stop at palm oil,but why stop before adressing this issue? because it is less conveniant than a boycott of animal products ? 

i agree with roger that many vegans shy away from adressing this issue because they feel that popularising the vegan message is the only way to create more new vegans -but why would we want to popularise an ethicaly inconsistant position that acepts rights violations ? advocating for somthing we dont believe in ,in the hope that people wil find it aceptable, is hardly the way to build a movement against nonhuman exploitation. 

the present definition of veganism fails to recognise in my view that animal use is only one result of speciesism. nonhumans rights are also violated whenever they stand between humans an profit.



Kerry Baker said:

Perhaps there is a need for a new identifying term to take into account environmental responsibility.  A sort of pan-veganism that not only relates to what you eat and wear but the actions you take to reduce risks to habitat etc.  While I personally think this becomes by default what being vegan means, I think the majority of vegans, in whatever stage they are, would think being vegan is about what you eat and wear.  Technically the use of palm oil doesn't transgress dietary requirements but by extension causes cruelty to other species, in this case the orangutans.  But so does sugar cane growing.  At the end of the season they burn the cane before harvest which kills who knows how many snakes for example.  I agree it is a complex issue and what 'vegan' means is not understood even within the community.  What we have at the moment doesn't seem to quite fit the need for raising awareness.

Thanks, Pranav! 


From that article, in which it reports that three critically endangered Sumatran elephants were killed on a palm oil plantation in Indonesia, it also, sadly, states: 

Early last month, two other Sumatran elephants were found dead in the west of the province.

There are fewer than 3,000 Sumatran elephants remaining in the wild, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, marking a 50 percent drop in numbers since 1985.

WWF changed the Sumatran elephant's status from "endangered" to "critically endangered" in January, largely due to severe habitat loss driven by oil palm and paper plantations.

Conflicts between humans and animals are increasing as people encroach on wildlife habitats in Indonesia, an archipelago with some of the world's largest remaining tropical forests.

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