On my recent trip to Sri Lanka, I was reminded of something that I already knew but sadly had forgotten. The use of palm oil should be curtailed.
I visited an elephant orphanage outside Kandy that had a very good and comprehensive information center and one of the things it talked about was how the cultivation of palms for oil is displacing elephants at an alarming rate, not just in Sri Lanka, but all around the world (but mostly in Malaysia).
As a chef, it’s part of my job to know about ingredients and constantly keep myself informed. Not a single chef do I know that doesn’t care about using the best available products in his or her cooking. But as a professional, it’s often difficult to keep up on what are thought to be socially-responsible ingredients: Standards vary, providers vary, social trends ebb and flow, and then there’s misleading regulation and labeling, etc, all contributing to confusion.
This much is crystal clear, though: The harvesting of palms for oil is bad for elephants.
There’s a simple change we can all make that will have far-reaching positive ramifications on the difficult task of species protection: Don’t buy or use any products listing palm oil.
Whenever it’s used as an ingredient, palm oil is specifically listed. SO STOP BUYING THESE PRODUCTS. It’s just that simple. Some people my bitch and moan: “But it’s so HARD to read labels!”. Bullshit. Everyone already reads labels anyway for other reasons, so just look for palm oil in the ingredient list and put that shit down. There are tons of alternatives to palm oil products.
Another problem that might be more sinister and invasive because it’s a place where palm oil can hide is the vague “vegetable oil”. What the fuck is vegetable oil? Which vegetable? in what ratio? Where’s it from? No one I know would buy a plain box labelled simply “Wine”, so why would you do the same with vegetable oil? Make sure to buy “olive oil” or “walnut oil” or “peanut oil” or best of all “canola oil”. (Quick link over here to WTF is canola oil…)
The pervasive use of palm oil isn’t something that can be regulated (god save me for suggesting that the marketplace may actually be the best solution here!); it’s a fight that has to be taken up in the grocery aisles.
Let’s save the elephants and stop creating a demand palm oil.