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Palming for Profit: The Oily Truth

November 11, 2011


Shenaaz Khan, via e-mail

Come mid November, palm oil pundits the world over will grandly gather in Kuala Lumpur to propel palm oil polities and “discuss the many facets of the palm oil industry”. One facet of no exclusive concern at the Malaysian Palm Oil Board International Palm Oil Conference (PIPOC 2011) would be the Orangutan de-habitation facet!  This feast of greed aims to “fortify and energise the world” through what they claim to be sustainable means of palm oil propagation. Nonetheless, these conferences merely serve to garner further protection and institutional approval of environmental crimes. It is purely profane profit over profundity!

Palm oil protectors will no doubt be in full force, slaying critics and cuddling groupies. One such faction certain to be jumping up and down like a restless banshee is Palmhugger. Palmhugger dispels the myth that platypuses are the only venomous mammals in existence. The Palmhuggist have exhibited a tendency to deem me unhuggable and have expressed this endearment in an exquisite editorial/epistle titled “A Spiteful and Malevolent rant by Shenaaz Khan”.

Hence, having roused and provoked head hugger, Ms Linda Everett, my spiteful and malevolent ways demand that I address Ms Everett’s foul concerns with a priggish response. I believe it was the French playwright Moliere who once said “Oh, how fine it is to know a thing or two”! But while I have no intentions of “out-quoting” Ms Everett, I wish to pointedly point out a number of points pursued by her to pillory my palm oil position. However, amidst her derision of me, Ms Everett fails to concoct a credible analysis against my assertions.

My pathology of evil deeds, she claims, is unfathomable. That I, the president of an animal welfare society, deign to protect a zoo is incomprehensible. Now if we existed in an enchanted and idyllic world, all animals would be left to live their lives with freedom and pride and would not be “cabined, cribbed and confined”. Nonetheless we live in a land where vice is rewarded and virtue punished! A land where animals are caged and condemned for merriment, meat and medicine.

So while I may detest the concept of having any animal removed from its habitat, I shall defend Melbourne Zoo for doing precisely what zoos were conceptualised to do- conserve and educate. Malaysian zoos however have a roaring reputation of doing what Auschwitz was designed to do- exploit and abuse. Johor zoo, Danga Bay, Saleng zoo and A’ Famosa are just some of the monstrous zoos guilty of ill treating and neglecting animals in their care. It shames me to say that the orang-utans are better off in Melbourne zoo than they are in any godforsaken Malaysian zoo.

But, ghastly zoo conditions in Malaysia are disgracefully absent from the Palmhuggers venomous vents! While hurling a huge dump of stale statistics and faux facts, Ms. Everett shrieks absurdities by accusing Melbourne zoo of utter hypocrisy. She contends that Melborne Zoo appears hypocritical for not applying for a conservation grant from the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC).

Now someone ought to impress upon the Palmhuggers team of esteemed columnists that Melboune zoo accepting any monetary stimulus from the MPOC would be the height of hypocrisy. Much like the Cancer society accepting money from Malboro! That, dear Palmhuggers, could be deemed as seducement to slain and slaughter orang-utans. Then in attempting to malign me as a mouth frothing agent provocateur, Palmhugger drops its own “independent” facade by proclaiming FELDA a “wildly successful poverty eradication programme”.

The Malaysian government, FELDA and their frequent pocket-pickery of the people seem to have evaded the radar of the Palmhuggists. I suppose their purpose atop Cameron Highlands is to egotistically echo the words of the head honcho himself, MPOC chief, Dr Yusof Basiron. Dr Basiron, whose fabrication of the Melbourne zoo conditions birthed my boiling blood, revealed his inner Charlie Chaplin with a blog post that said: ”Realizing the importance of the palm oil industry to the country’s economy, the Hon.

Prime Minister of Malaysia recently spoke of the narrow view taken by the greenies and their followers who want to tarnish the image of palm oil by linking it to deforestation. No country in the position of Malaysia or Indonesia which benefits from the palm oil industry would tolerate the unsubstantiated allegations made by the greenies to denigrate palm oil”.

So it would seem that the powers that be and the palmers that hug perceive conservationists as pests, united in common hatred of development and all things spectacular. Nonetheless, the allegations of high forest loss, degradation and fragmentation are real and not just part of a current trend of critical opinion. A United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) report this year extrapolates that in the last century, the orangutan population has decreased by 92% due to degradation of its forest habitat and poaching.

And it isn’t just the orangutans who are victims but the Malayan sunbear and indigenous communities who are being banished from their homes to make way for gilded enterprises like palm oil and timber plantations. But in the face of innumerable arguments to the contrary, Palmugger, the MPOC and the Australian House of Representatives Economic Committee persist in their protection of palm oil policies and politics.

While all palm plantations attest to complying with the RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) code of conduct, most of them don’t. Their aims are economic in nature and therefore their callousness towards the welfare of the animals their schemes render homeless. And this is not just endemic within Malaysia but that of other resource rich countries. As recent as last week, PT Khaleda Agroprima Malindo, a subsidiary of a Malaysian company, Metro Kajang Holdings Bhd, was reported to be clearing out wildlife habitats in East Kalimantan.

Workers were seen hunting down and aggressively driving orangutans away. Another report of an orang-utan massacre was published in early October involving the very same company! But while conservationists and animal activists are overwrought over this environmental black hole, the government of Malaysia, the MPOC and those other pillars of palm oil proclivity continue to   exhibit their soullessness and play ducks and drakes with animals for gross gains!! And the horrific truth is that the fate and fortune of our wildlife rests in their palms.

The writer is president of the Malaysian Animal Welfare Society


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