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Banned UK Ad Sparks Discussion About Palm Oil

Eric Warner   Staff Writer

“The least I can do is speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves” – Jane Goodall.

Recently in global news, a Christmas ad made by the British Supermarket chain Iceland Foods Ltd, called “Say hello to Rang-Tan”, was banned for being too political and violating the 2003 Communications Act. Clearcast, the organization that reported the ad and pre-approves most British television advertising, based the banning off of the Broadcast Code for Advertising Practice (BCAP), which indicates that ads cannot be directed towards a political agenda. In the ad, that agenda was to prevent the future use of palm oil in day-to-day products; Iceland Foods Ltd is the first British supermarket chain to remove palm oil from all of its products after discovering that palm oil is the major cause for the endangerment of orangutans, a species of great ape located in the rainforests of Borneo, Indonesia, and Sumatra, Malaysia.

The ad depicts an adolescent Orangutan jumping about in a little girl’s room knocking down products that contain palm oil such as food and shampoo. The girl tells the orangutan to leave her room, and asks why it came to her room. In response the orangutan states, “There’s a human in my forest and I don’t know what to do. He destroyed all of our trees for your food and your shampoo. There’s a human in my forest and I don’t know what to do. He took away my mother and I’m scared he’ll take me too. There are humans in my forest and I don’t know what to do. They’re burning it for palm oil so I thought I’d stay with you” (Iceland Foods). The ad goes on to show the girl supporting the orangutan and saying how she will fight to save its home and spread the word so that others can help too.

All of the great apes, with the exception to humans, are endangered due to our actions. Barely 5,000 gorillas are left in the world due to illegal hunting, poaching, and deforestation, according to a recent report made by BBC Earth in an article called “The Great Gorilla Wipeout”. The gorilla’s natural habitat in the Democratic Republic of Congo just so happens to be on top of an economic goldmine of coltan and other valuable metals that are used in the manufacturing of mobile phones. According to the Jane Goodall Institute, there are only 340,000 chimpanzees and bonobos left in Africa today due to similar endangerments that effect gorillas. In the year 1900, there were reportedly one million of these beautiful creatures in the wild. As for the Orangutans, of which there are three species, there are only 104,700 Bornean orangutans, 7,500 Sumatran orangutans, and about 800 Tapanuli orangutans according to the World Wildlife Foundation. Many of these apes die or are orphaned for materials that are used for products in our day-to-day lives such as our cellphones, baked goods, cosmetics, and cleaning agents. Recently it was reported by the LPI (Living Planet Index) that all vertebrates have declined in population by 60% on average since the 1970’s. At this rate, most of the great apes can be gone within our lifetime and almost certainly in our descendant’s lifetime.

In this Thanksgiving season, people often think of what they’re thankful for and often reunite with family members. As a fellow great ape species, perhaps we should be thinking of our forest inhabiting relatives; after all, wouldn’t you help your cousin in a time of crisis? While this ad was banned from British viewers, it has been posted on YouTube and due to its banning, its message has been spread more than it probably would have if it was regularly released. To support these struggling relatives, donations can be given to relief organizations such as the Jane Goodall Institute, the International Animal Rescue (IAR), the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF), and the support group Say No To Palm Oil. A family is not a family if there’s only one person to encompass it.

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