Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Palm Oil & the Sumatran Tiger

Dubbo is the first major stop after our meeting in Newcastle. We are camped by the Macquarie River and enjoying the outdoors. We have decided to spend two days at the Dubbo Zoo, donating a few dollars to conservation and learning about the work they do there. The Sumatran Tiger catches our eye partly because neither of us has seen this beautiful big cat in the wild.  As we listen to the zookeeper talk, we learn a little more about how Palm Oil is destroying the habitat of animals such as the Sumatran Tiger and the Orang-utan. 

We learn that Palm Oil is the most widely consumed vegetable oil on the planet.  It is also the highest yielding vegetable oil but its very efficiency is resulting in the loss of habitat for animals such as the Sumatran Tiger as land is cleared in Sumatra and Malaysia to grow more of this crop.  I hadn’t realised that 50-60% of our supermarket products contain palm oil, from beauty products to pizza dough, packaged bread, detergents, paint and bio diesel.  Most of us are unaware of the fact that even the shampoos we use daily contain palm oil – check the labelling for sodium lauryl sulphate.

More recently, some of the growers have committed to growing Palm Oil more sustainably and you can look for the acronym RSPO (Round Table for Sustainable Palm Oil) identifying it as having been cultivated in an ethical manner.  We learn there are many ways to being an informed consumer including installing the Palm Oil Shopping Guide application on your IPhone.  Simply checking the labelling on the back of the products we buy is not sufficient as often in Australia Palm Oil may be identified as vegetable oil.

The talk at the zoo brings home to me once again how important it is to make conscious choices about everything we purchase.  While most people would not condone destroying the habitat of the Sumatran Tiger, by not bothering to understand the labelling of the products we buy could mean we unwittingly do so.  Choices such as this are always left to the consumer to figure out with little education in the press or media to highlight the problem. Wouldn’t it be great to have governments implementing serious policies that ensure we don’t have products on our supermarket shelves that are destroying the habitats of species such as the Sumatran Tiger?

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