Victoria Martindale: The hidden additive that is killing the world's orangutans
IF your weekly shop is anything like mine, it's a soulless affair. I pile my trolley high with convenience and tick the items off my shopping list one by one.
It would never have occurred to me that what I was loading into my trolley was in fact a slice of rainforest and I certainly didn't ever connect my groceries to orangutans going extinct.
There is, however, a connection between me, my groceries and orangutans and it is palm oil. A heinous invisible ingredient, it is guilty of some of the worst ecological atrocities this planet has known. Unwittingly, I was an accomplice.
This tree-axing, wildlife-exterminating ingredient had found its way into virtually all of my everyday products, hidden in even the most innocuous of items.
The groceries that used to fill my trolley all contained palm oil.
It was also in my regular cleaning products and toiletries. I am sorry to say, the consequences of my weekly shop were bloody and far-reaching.
Palm oil may be cheap; its cost is deadly. But nowadays, cheap seems to justify even the most terrible of environmental crimes.
Palm oil production emits vast amounts of greenhouse gases and drives orangutans and other species even further to the brink of extinction as it annihilates habitats.
Forests are being cleared at a rate of six football fields per minute, leaving behind ecological deserts.
Orangutans are peaceful, highly intelligent and feeling creatures who are being killed in the hands of the palm oil industry.
When the bulldozers move in to clear the forests, orangutans are shot on sight. Or, these gentle, sentient beings can be beaten, burned, mutilated, tortured alive and even eaten. Babies are torn off the backs of their dying mothers and sold as pets to wealthy families. Many die as a direct result of the trauma and stress of such early maternal separation or from untreated injuries sustained when captured.
I came across a poster of Spanish football star Carlos Puyol, who fronted the campaign Act Now for Orangutans under the slogan "I care, do you?" He is appealing to us to resist this ecocide by checking product labels and avoiding products that contain palm oil.
If it really is this simple, I saw no reason why I could not break my link with it.
I started to scrutinise the labels of everything I picked off the supermarket shelf and got to know companies that refuse to taint their products. Some may not be my familiar brands but it doesn't cost anything to make the swap. It saves lives.
Now when I'm doing my weekly shop, I always check I'm not pushing a slice of rainforest in my trolley and there isn't an orangutan hidden among my groceries.
I intend to leave the rainforest for the orangutans, where it belongs, which is not in my shopping trolley. As Puyol says, I care. I know you do, too.
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