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ENVIRONMENT | Habitat destruction

Keep your Christmas palm oil free and keep orangutans safe

News agency

Wednesday, November 14, 2018, 6:04 PM - British supermarket chain Iceland has been banned from showing its Christmas advert on television because it has been deemed to breach political advertising rules.

The discount supermarket company planned to use a Greenpeace-made animated short film, voiced by actress Emma Thompson, called "Rang-tan", about the destruction of the rainforest caused by palm oil production and its impact on endangered orangutans.

Iceland, which earlier this year announced its intention to remove palm oil from its products by the end of 2018, said the film fitted its agenda, leading to its decision to use the film as its Christmas advert.

The film was banned by Clearcast, which is responsible for the clearance of television ads before they are broadcast, on the grounds of it being seen to support a political issue.

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Under the 2003 Communications Act, an advert is deemed to contravene the bar on political advertising if it is "wholly or mainly of a political nature" or is "directed towards a political end".

Iceland, which trades from 900 stores and specializes in frozen food, said it hoped the advert would raise awareness and improve people's understanding of rainforest destruction from palm oil production, which it said appears in more than 50 percent of all supermarket products.

"This year, we were keen to do something different with our much anticipated Christmas advert," said Richard Walker, an Iceland managing director, in a statement released on Friday (November 9).

"The culmination of our palm oil project is offering our customers the choice of an orangutan-friendly Christmas, and we wanted to reflect this in our advertising.

"Whilst our advert sadly never made it to TV screens, we are hopeful that consumers will take to social media to view the film, which raises awareness of an important global issue.


Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil derived from oil palm plants and is one of the biggest commodities linked to deforestation. Palm oil plantations are found primarily in Indonesia and Malaysia, where large areas of forest are cut down to make way for production.

In addition to environmental impacts, the palm oil industry has also been criticized for labour-relates issues, including unsafe work conditions and wage exploitation.

The rain forests of Borneo and Sumatra are shrinking at an astonishing rate due to a rising global demand for palm oil. Between 2000 and 2009, Indonesia lost 15 million hectares of forest. This rapid decline is the fastest deforestation rate in the world.

Nearly 100% of this lucrative oil is produced in Borneo, using unsustainable practices. About half of all commercial products -- from grocery store items, to cleaning supplies, to cosmetics and personal care goods -- contain it.

Visit the World Wildlife Foundation for more information on products that contain palm oil.

With files from Katie Jones and Cheryl Santa Maria

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