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Wellington Zoo Speaks Up In Palm Oil Debate

Wellington Zoo Speaks Up In Palm Oil Debate

May 13, 2014

Wellington Zoo is lending its support to an Australasian consumer rights campaign that is actively seeking legislative change regarding the labeling of palm oil.

The zoo has recently signed on as a partner of Unmask Palm Oil, a campaign that wishes to see transparency around the use of the ingredient and sustainability in how it is produced.

After playing host to one of Unmask Palm Oil’s public information workshops last year, Wellington Zoo has committed to working closer with the campaign. Zoo staff support Unmask Palm Oil’s cause as they are particularly concerned at the impact that current palm oil production practices have on wildlife.

‘We are thrilled to partner with Unmask Palm Oil,’ says the Zoo’s general manager for community engagement Amy Hughes. ‘We think it is crucial for consumers to know what they are buying and how their purchasing choices affect the precious forest habitats of the endangered animals we care for at Wellington Zoo.'

Unmask Palm Oil’s campaign director Ben Dowdle is pleased to continue working closely with the Zoo. ‘They have been strong supporters of our campaign since we ran a workshop there last year,’ says Dowdle. ‘The unsustainable production of palm oil is an issue of global significance. The conventional palm oil industry is pushing species like the orangutan, Sumatran Tiger and the Asian elephant to the edge of extinction so its great to have Wellington Zoo voicing their concern.’

Production of the oil is chiefly based in Indonesia and Malaysia where the rampant growth of the unsustainable parts of the industry is causing lasting social and environmental harm. Unmask Palm Oil takes a line of difference and is calling for legislation that makes it mandatory to clearly label the ingredient as customers are currently in the dark as to what food and cosmetic items contain it.

Unmask Palm Oil also advocates for Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) which is a certification scheme that assures consumers the palm oil is from a source that hasn’t come at the cost of indigenous land rights or primary rainforest.

The campaign is hard at work raising awareness ahead of a 2015 meeting of the Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation, which consists of nine ministers from Australia and Nikki Kaye, New Zealand’s Minister for Food Safety.

‘These ministers will decide in May next year whether mandatory labeling of palm oil goes out for public consultation,’ says Dowdle. ‘We have big plans for making sure this happens and we look forward to working with Wellington Zoo in achieving this.’

About Unmask Palm Oil
Unmask Palm Oil is the Australasian campaign for mandatory labeling of palm oil. Unmask Palm Oil aims to see mandatory labelling of palm oil introduced through the introduction of Recommendation 12 of the ‘Labelling Logic’ report. This recommendation will be decided upon by the ‘Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation’. This forum is made up of a nine ministers from Australia (federal, state, territorial) and one from New Zealand.

Palm Oil is an ingredient used in processed foods, soaps, shampoos and cosmetics that when produced unsustainably, causes environmental and social damage primarily in Indonesia and Malaysia. The deforestation for new plantations means species like the orangutan, tigers and elephants are being pushed to the edge of extinction, indigenous communities living in the rainforest are forced off their land and billions of tonnes of carbon emissions are produced every year.

A consumer wanting to buy Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) or a suitable alternative will discover that Australasian labelling laws makes it impossible to make this simple ethical choice. Under Australasian labelling laws palm oil can be labelled generically as ‘vegetable oil’.

ENDS

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