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Your response: Dying for a Biscuit

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Raphael Rowe | 15:59 UK time, Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Thanks for coming to the programme to watch Dying for a Biscuit.

Our examination of Indonesia's palm oil industry triggered a number of interesting online comments about deforestation, the future use of palm oil as an energy source, shopping habits, why palm oil is not listed on the ingredients of many household products and of course, the situation of the orangutans in Borneo.

Some of our viewers asked what happened to Melay, the orangutan chained to a pole that was featured in the programme.

During filming, we discovered Melay - an orphan taken as a pet by local people 10 years ago - as we returned from a trip to a palm oil concession.

As soon as I returned to the mainland and was able to e-mail, I sent a message to the International Animal Rescue charity giving the whereabouts of the chained orangutan.

Subsequently I also passed the information to another orangutan charity that works in West Kalimantan.

As I write, Melay has not yet been rescued but her owner told me that she is often moved around the river community, which could mean that finding her will prove difficult for rescue charities.

In response to questions about what the Indonesian government are doing to halt illegal deforestation, I put some of what we discovered to the country's Minister of Agriculture, Dr Suswono.

He assured me that if there is evidence of illegal development of palm oil plantations and clearing of high conservation forest he would take action. Panorama will provide the Indonesian authorities with all the evidence we discovered in order to aid their efforts.

Even the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil's European communications department thought it important to use this blog to draw viewers to what the RSPO is doing to increase the supply of sustainable oil.

With the general election coming up, some of the Panorama audience have also suggested that candidates seeking election should be asked for their views on palm oil use and labelling in the food that ends up on supermarket shelves here in Britain. Current Food Standards Agency rules allow for palm oil to be listed as vegetable oil on an ingredients list.

Those and many of the other comments that were sent to Panorama definitely provide plenty of food for thought on the subject.

Again, many thanks for taking the time to participate in our online discussion about Dying for a Biscuit.


  • Comment number 1.

    If you have any news of Melay and her fate please let us know.

    I sincerely hope she is found and given a chance of having some sort of better life - even though we can never make up for the fact that she should be in the forest after growing up with her mother.

  • Comment number 2.

    Thank you Raphael for bringing this emotive truth to light, I had no idea this was happening and have since stopped buying anything containing vegetable oil, I shall be following what happens to the illegal logging companies, but I doubt it will be much, because worryingly it never is, money can buy anything these days, including the green light to keep destroying the planet and its inhabitants.

  • Comment number 3.

    Dear Raphael, I watched the programme Dying for a Biscuit the other evening, and I still can't erase those tender faces of the urangutans and the prospect of losing their habitat completely, is there ANYTHING one can do, sign a petition or whatever, although when MONEY is involved in a project and the governments are corrupt it's extremely difficult to do anything, I definitely will not buy anything which says "vegetable oil" that could be a very tiny contribution, but if we ALL do that, then something WILL have to be done. I wanted to put the video on my FB page, but I live in Buenos Aires and was unable to receive the video.
    Congratulations on helping the universe!!!
    best wishes, Janet

  • Comment number 4.

    Thank you so much for making this documentary Raphael. It was shown this week in Australia, on SBS Dateline, as "Primate Change". I would love to know whether the Indonesian Government do act on that illegal deforestation that you captured on film - is this something you've been able to follow up on at all?

    Your documentary is one of a number of events in my life that moves me to change the work I'm doing to something that more directly contributes to stopping things like this happening.

    Warm regards,

  • Comment number 5.

    Habitat loss such as the destruction of Indonesias rainforests are the result of an economic system that seeks short term profit without regard for the long term effects. Global warming is another side effect of capitalism. The corporate search for infinite profit and growth demands that we identify ourselves as consumers. For if we stop buying, they stop making money.
    There was no historical context eg US intervention in the slaughter of up to 1 million Indonesians in the 1960's, US support and arms sales to Suharto, the massive disparities in wealth/land distribution, IMF structural adjustment and privatisation. Without the historical context it is difficult for viewers to develop an accurate understanding about what is happening and why.


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