A western tool for economic domination

This article was published in Borneo Post.

THE PALM OIL industry is much maligned by western lobby groups that see increasing acceptance of the crop as a formidable threat to the global market share of their own edible oils such soy, rapeseed and corn.    

Casting aspersion on palm oil since the 1980s, they have now dragged things like destruction of forests and wildlife (due to the industry) into their smear campaign. Posters blaming the palm oil industry for causing the displacement of orangutan population in Malaysia is seen on the wall of an orangutan enclosure in full view of visitors to Adelaide Zoo in Australia.

According to news reports, in one poster, the activists claim there are now between 45,000 and 60,000 left in Borneo and the primates would become extinct within 20 years at the present killing rate of 50 animals per week.

If all this is true, especially the bit on the weekly 50-animal killing rate, then there is, indeed, cause for serious concern about the threat posed to the survival of the entire pongo pygmaeus species in tropical Borneo where they are found. 

But, what have the activists based their claims? Facts or fantasy? Most likely the latter.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak dismissed these frivolous allegations because the palm oil industry is not depriving the orangutans of their habitat. 

Malaysia has a good track record of preserving this Asian living genus of great ape.

In Sarawak, for instance, orangutan habitats are identified in three totally protected areas — Lanjak Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary, Batang Ai National Park and Ulu Sebuyau National Park. In Sabah, it’s the Sepilok sanctuary near Sandakan. Moreover, one million hectare trans-boundary biodiversity conservation area has been set up between Malaysia and Indonesia to protect orangutans and other wildlife.

This is a whole lot more than what is being done to conserve the dingo (canis lupus dingo) Down Under. And for the record, the Tasmanian Tiger (thylacinus cynocephalus), the world’s largest carnivorous marsupial, once common throughout Australia, is believed by many to have been hunted to extinction by the early European settlers of Tasmania, its last stronghold.

Although orangutan conservation initiatives are well-documented, we still hear ludicrous stories about the primates being mercilessly hunted and killed for exotic meat or agricultural development. Clearly, the activists’ are spreading lies about orangutan habitats being destroyed or the species being driven to the verge of extinction by deforestation or commercial agriculture.

 Oil palm plantations are set up on legitimate agricultural land without any need to clear virgin forests. That’s why Malaysia still has virgin forest cover of more than 50 per cent despite planting the crop for more than 100 years and being the world's second largest palm oil producer.

It must be noted that developed countries, like Europe, Australia and New Zealand, cut down forest to clear large swathes of land for planting cash crops to ensure economic survival. Just look at the millions of hectares of wheat and corn fields there. These land were once lush temperate forests. It is now flattened for cultivating subsistent and cash crops to fuel their economies (with substantial subsidies.. at the expense of their taxpayers). In the process, many wildlife species were displaced or became extinct due to destruction of their habitats. 

Why don't we hear vociferous protests from their environment and animal rights activists?

Yet, when agro-based countries like Malaysia embark on oil palm planting to diversify and sustain their economies, they are straightaway blamed for destroying forest and producing a crop that is dangerous to health.

With more wildlife conservation data gathering and scientific research carried out on palm oil nutrition in Malaysia, it is no longer that simple for mercenary activists to pull wool over people’s eyes. 

For instance, studies by Universiti Sains Malaysia have revealed palm oil’s potential as a cure for many ailments, including fatty liver and stroke. Palm oil, being a vegetable oil, is cholesterol-free. It is also the richest source of tocotrienol, the superior form of Vitamin E that is packed with heart-friendly antioxidants. The oil palm industry also provides renewable energy sources such as biogas and biomass.

Despite such scientific findings, the lobby groups in the EU, Australia and New Zealand continue to discredit palm oil. What are they really up to?

It’s an open secret that the anti-palm oil lobby is a western tool for economic domination. Their aim is to keep the third world economically backward so that the latter’s markets can be manipulated and exploited by developed nations.

Leave a Reply