Is Palm Oil Vegan? A Vegan in Borneo Tells All.

is palm oil vegan?I ask myself, looking into his face, is palm oil vegan?

Just got back from a trip in Borneo and I met this guy. He was a resident at the rehabilitation center, though I saw many wild (those of course, remained in the trees). He followed me down through the woods as I was leaving. A truly amazing experience. Sadly the outskirts of this forested land that harbor the last of Borneo’s orangutans are surrounded by palm plantations. My spirits were lifted after meeting several inspiring, fierce locals who are working hard at educating their community, reforesting scorched lands and preventing further deforestation. A beautiful reminder that we all have our own corner of the world to save.

Caroline Awne: Hey there! How goes it? I can’t get over how beautiful that orangutang is! 

Alex SunBear: Really well, just came out of the forest this morning ( it’s 5pm here) so really just catching my breath
It was an incredible experience
The best of my trip so far

Caroline Awne: that sounds so lovely, do you go there often?

Alex SubBear: No this is my first time in Indonesia, been here about a month.

Caroline: Oh sweet, I have never been there myself, what is it like?

It’s amazing, possibly my favorite country yet
The wildlife is stunning
I highly highly recommend a visit
Especially considering at the rate we are going not much will be left soon

Yes, very true.
I think if people made the connection between the orangoutang and palm oil
they might actually really be affected

I’m going way off the grid to the Togean Islands tomorrow, but I’d love to make this work somehow
Palm oil is definitely a vegan issue

Yes, it is! It seems to be in everything vegan junk food wise

I know! I’m very much a whole foods eater so I rarely encounter it myself, but it does seem to show up in veg snack foods constantly. 

I just got done watching ‘Before The Flood”, so I am in super activist mode right now! I try just to get people to eat vegan, but we must stop cutting down the forests too. I always see the debate people have, is palm oil vegan? I think seeing this orangutang first hand would actually really fix the debate. 

Like if people could actually see him
they would give it up I think.

is palm oil vegan?I honestly don’t think I understand the people who say palm oil is vegan. It’s very very directly causing the displacement of an endangered species( as well as many other animals). As you go into the forests, you can initially see nothing but palms for miles. Because most of the land here is owned unofficially ( without documentation) nothing stops big business from coming and seizing the land and turning it into farm plantations

It’s really atrocious

That is horrible!
So they slash and burn the forests to grow the palm? Or the palm just grows there naturally?

It’s difficult because a lot of people here do these things in an effort to bring themselves out of poverty but it is very short lasting.

Parts of the land are now being protected but it’s slow going, still lots of illegal logging, forests are still burned to the ground to be turned into palm farms and mother orangutans are often shot and killed so babies can be stolen and sold into illegal pet trades

is palm oil vegan?

No the palms not here in the amounts it’s in naturally, forests are set on fire to make way for palms

As you go into the forests you can initially see nothing but palms for miles. Because most of the land here is owned unofficially ( without documentation) nothing stops big business from coming and seizing the land and turning it into farm plantations

That’s sickening

That’s what I had heard, but it’s hard to hear from someone who’s actually there.

I think people like to pretend it isn’t happening

It’s difficult because a lot of people here do these things in an effort to bring themselves out of poverty but it is very short lasting. Mining nearby is causing significant pollution to the river, the deforestation of the land to be sold to big business only gives a short pay day but results in permanent habitat loss. It’s all very sad

That’s terrible. It sounds like they are selling their souls in a way to get a few dollars but tearing apart the forests for nothing

But there are efforts to reforest, even by the Indonesian government. I met a wonderful man who is buying land around the preserve so it can’t be made into more palm oil and is diligently reforesting on his own.

That is encouraging to hear! Do you think if people stopped buying the palm oil the animals in the area like the orangoutangs will be ok?

Do you think if people stopped buying the palm oil the animals in the Borneo, like the orangoutangs, will be ok?

Yes, it’s a drop in the bucket, but it’s a start

Well it’s all about supply and demand at the end of the day
Right now the best thing people can do is back organizations that are working locally to preserve and reforest

Reforesting needs to take place for there to be a future and preserving the lands that are left are vital.

 Orangutan are especially susceptible because they mother their young for such a long time ( up to 8 years) and don’t populate as quickly as other animals

 But of course, if a company is profiting it will keep trying to acquire land for palm plantations and in countries like Indonesia just because something isn’t legal ( like deforesting protected lands) doesn’t mean it won’t happen

I would love to know more about organizations that restore the rainforests in that area. Do you know any first hand that you know for certain are legitimate?

is palm oil vegan?

The Orangoutangs take care of their young sound an awful lot like humans. It must be really hard for them to lose their home.

 Orangutan are especially susceptible because they mother their young for such a long time ( up to 8 years) and don’t populate as quickly as other animals

The Orangoutangs take care of their young sound an awful lot like humans. It must be really hard on them to lose their home.

http://savetheorangutan.org/about-us/index

About Save the Orangutan

Save the Orangutan and Lone Dröscher Nielsen work to save the endangered orangutan and its rainforest habitat. We support the rescue and translocation of wild orangutans whose forest habitat has been destroyed and the rehabilitation of orphaned orangutans that – without our help – would die.

savetheorangutan.org

These guys are really present here
I’ve seen a bunch of their aid workers

There are others, and some of it is done really small scale with locals. The person who was my guide in the Borneo forests gives a large portion of his proceeds from guiding to purchasing land

Thank you! They do look pretty active!

I also was wondering what is your take on sustainable palm oil?
Wow, I just saw their video, they take care of baby orphan orangoutangs!

To be honest, I’m not educated enough about it to have one. Because I  don’t eat processed food it’s rare I personally run into it but I think personally I would stay away if I came across it. It’s a largely unnecessary product to consume where I live, so there’s no reason to take any chances.

3000 orangetanges each year are killed just from habitat loss

That makes sense to me! I wish they were more clear about it, it seems rather vague.

I’m also reading here on their website how the Borneo rainforest stores massive amounts of carbon, and how if they are cut down it can be really quite terrible,
and that 3000 orangutangs each year are killed just from habitat loss

Yes. Just a year ago an orangutan was killed when land ( specifically the tree it was in) was set on fire.
It kills them both directly and indirectly

I don’t even have words for that

From the photo, it looked like such a gentle creature.
How did it feel to have him follow you through the forest?

So gentle. They aren’t even violent with each other; there’s hierarchy and a dominant male, but it’s very rare they ever end up in a physical conflict
He was inches away from me, and I never felt any danger despite the fact that he obviously could harm me very easily if he wanted to.

Oh my gosh you are so blessed. They look so entirely magical

He was inches away from me and I never felt any danger despite the fact that he obviously could harm me very easily if he wanted to.

I think you can’t say you are vegan, and not care about them

Yes. Just a year ago an orangutan was killed when land ( specifically the tree it was in) was set on fire.
It kills them both directly and indirectly

I don’t even have words for that

Are you just in the area visiting or there for work?

I’m visiting, came to Indonesia on a diving trip but flew out to Borneo especially to go to the nature preserve where these guys live

Seriously, though, it sounds like you are having a trip of a lifetime!

Yes! It’s wonderful! I’ve traveled a lot, but this is my favorite trip I’ve done, after this, I go to Thailand to volunteer at an elephant sanctuary, so that’s also really exciting.

Oh wow! I hope you have a good time with that too! You get to meet all the coolest animals ever 😀 ;D

I have a feeling this is going to like…piss some vegans off but I frankly don’t care. The orangutang pictures tonight was the final straw for me.

The orangutang pictures tonight was the final straw for me.
I think its fate he followed you!

 I get that no one’s a perfect vegan, we all accidentally consume something here or there. I accidentally ate fish sauce a few weeks ago unknowingly. But we should all be doing our very best to cause as little harm as possible; that’s the whole point
yeah exactly! I think an accident is fine.. but if you are at the store and you know that something is pretty much evil…it’s probably good to keep an eye out

Totally agree!
My opinion is all the new vegan companies are so new that are open to care about what we really think as consumers. 

Saying “well my favorite cookies have palm oil” really isn’t any different than saying “my favorite cookies have dairy.”
I don’t know, and it seems most of the palm oil is in vegan food for some reason…do you know if thats right? I mean literally, it seems that way

Yeah, that’s so true!! Make your own cookies!

 

I think palm oil is just really really cheap and most of these companies are small and try to cut corners
But it’s not one that can be cut for me

That makes a lot of sense
I know the almond butters have it
thats why I made the magazine about cooking. Because when you cook you have control over what you eat more
If you want to make chicken wings out of cauliflower, that’s great. But at least you know what went into it. You know the ingredients. It is easier to vote with your food for a better future when you cook it yourself..
But to be honest, before I was not 100 percent sure what the deal was about palm oil…
but you pretty much converted me tonight!

Yes! Justin’s almond butter has it and it kills me!

Right!?

I was never very crazy about it until I came here. I avoided it but anytime it came up on the vegan message boards I stayed out of the debate and felt kind of neutral
But after seeing it first hand I really don’t think you can call palm oil vegan.

Yeah that’s just so crazy
and awesome you actually get to see it
It’s like one thing to have some random person online saying its wrong
but another to have someone actually there…telling you how it really is.
It just sucks, and I hope there is something we can do about it.
I think about all the stupid millionaire billionaires out there,
you would think they would just buy up all the land
and conserve it?

it came up on the vegan message boards I stayed out of the debate and felt kind of neutralBut after seeing it first hand I really really don’t think you can call palm oil vegan.

It’s all about money at the end of the day

As it always is
And that’s heartbreaking

That’s so true.

Indonesia is general is stunning naturally, but their reefs are being destroyed by mining (big business), their forests are also being cut down at alarming rates ( big business)
We’re destroying our world so billionaires can make production slightly cheaper
It really breaks my heart it does mine too, it’s really mind blowing how bad things are but I think that people are waking up.

is palm oil vegan?I hope so, really do
You’re right it seems the developing countries get exploited and then the habitat goes to pot.

It’s a hard balance in places where the poverty is so high. Which is why I think locals who are fighting conservation stand the best shot
All I know is that there’s a huge gap between us and like areas like that where we think it’s “Over there” but it’s really not… it’s like still a part of us.

Yeah like the idea they have to modernize… or sell everything for money. They should probably not do that lol
just like we shouldn’t buy so much here blindly!

We’re all residents of the world. I try to remind myself of that regularly. Every day we vote with our dollar. Each purchase is a vote. Buying sweatshop clothing is a vote saying this is okay. Buying bacon is saying slaughtering is okay. Buying puppies from a pet store is saying puppy mills are ok. And so on

I don’t want any of my votes going to hurt anyone else
Or anything else

Yeah I agree
It might take work, but some things are worth it.
I mean we r can’t afford not to think about it.
I hate personally how there used to be this like eco stigma…
that only eco people had to care about where things got sourced and stuff.

Yessss my god yes. The stereotype is awful

Yeah, it turned me off from it for a while lol
but I eventually saw past it.
But frankly  think it’s going to be more popular because I am on twitter a lot and its kind of trending on Twitter to be minimalistic lol

Same! Yeah, I think our generation in general, is actually moving forward because we really don’t have a choice. I just hope it isn’t too late. A large part of me thinks there’s no hope for anyone over 40  I think they are just too…I don’t know, stubborn? Hopefully, I am wrong.

Yeah, it’s kind of amazing. I am so impressed with us. And even if it is too late, I don’t think we should stop fighting. I mean wtf look at the Hamarabi meme…I think we can influence each other more than we think.

I totally agree. Jane Goodall ( one of my heroes) has said she really believes this generation will save the world from devastation.

And I hope she’s right.

You can find Alex Sunbear on her Instagram at @spirit.feastis palm oil vegan?

 

 

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