Stop the "oil for ape" scandal

29th October 2005
news
release

News Release

Embargo: 10.45am, Saturday 29th October 2005

Photo Opportunity

Campaigners dressed as homeless orang-utans will be interacting with members of the public and will be joined by Manchester Central MP Tony Lloyd outside Tesco on Market Street, Manchester, from 10.45am on Saturday 29th October.

Photos available

Manchester Friends of the Earth [1] campaigners will be outside Tesco on Market Street on Saturday 29th October, calling for the retail giant to stop contributing to the extinction of the orang-utan.

The much-loved apes are at risk because rainforests in South East Asia are being destroyed to make way for palm oil plantations. Palm oil is a vegetable oil found in one in ten supermarket products [2], from crisps and bread to margarine and lipstick.

In an attempt to put an end to this destruction, Friends of the Earth wrote to Tesco, Britain’s largest supermarket, at the beginning of 2005 and asked it to trace its palm oil and adopt minimum production standards. Tesco refused. Its failure to act means that Tesco shoppers are unwittingly contributing to rainforest destruction and the extinction of Asia’s only great ape.

On Saturday, campaigners from Manchester Friends of the Earth will be asking shoppers to sign postcards which call for their MP to support new legislation that would help stop UK supermarkets buying products from destructive sources [3].

Manchester Central MP Tony Lloyd has already pledged to raise this issue with the Government. He says:

“This campaign is not only important – it’s now extremely urgent. Deforestation is happening at such a rate that orang-utan numbers are dwindling dangerously. The rainforest, once changed, will never be recreated. Nor will we ever see this near-human species again on our planet if we destroy it during our lifetime.

I am committed to working with Friends of the Earth to bring about action at a global as well as national level. We can make a difference if companies are made to change the way they operate.”

Manchester Friends of the Earth campaigner Liz Chater said:

“UK companies and supermarkets have shown that they cannot be trusted to act responsibly in the sourcing of products such as palm oil and a change in the law is needed to stop them acting so destructively. The Government is re-writing company law at present and we have a rare opportunity to influence it.

If we don’t take action now, we will have to explain to future generations why the orang-utan became extinct – and our only explanation will be that it happened because of corporate greed and a lack of political will.”

The biggest threat to the orang-utan is the destruction of its forest habitat to make way for palm oil plantations. Recent research published by Friends of the Earth found that almost 90 per cent of orang-utan habitat has now disappeared, with the orang-utan population falling by 50 per cent in the last 15 years. Without urgent intervention, the orang-utan will be extinct within 12 years [4]. 90 percent of the world’s palm oil exports come from plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia, the home of the orang-utan.

ENDS

Notes to Editors

[1] Manchester Friends of the Earth is a prominent pressure group, raising awareness and lobbying for policy changes at a local, regional, national and international level. The group consists entirely of volunteers, and its campaigns are funded by membership fees and individual donations. Up-to-date information is available on their website: https://www.manchesterfoe.org.uk. Manchester Friends of the Earth is part of a national network of local groups, affiliated to the national organisation (further information can be found at http://www.foe.co.uk).

[2] www.palmoil.org.uk

[3] The Company Law Reform Bill is now passing through Parliament. This is the biggest shake up of company law in a generation. Company directors are only required by the draft bill to ‘consider’ their impacts on the environment. Friends of the Earth is calling on the Government to ensure company directors have to minimise destructive impacts and not “just think about it”.

[4] See Friends of the Earth’s report “Palm Oil & Orang-utans – The Oil for Ape Scandal” at www.palmoil.org.uk.