UK Bans Warning Ad About Palm Oil As With Excuse “too political”


Evidently ads in Britain can be used to sell products but not to stop rainforest and habitat destruction.

Palm oil is in so much of what we buy; as TreeHugger Melissa points out, it is in everything from snack food to shampoo to biofuel. It is so prevalent that it can be found in around half of packaged items in most supermarkets. Melissa wrote in 25 sneaky names for palm oil:

To make room for palm crops, huge areas of tropical forests and other ecosystems where conservation is important are being stripped bare. Critical habitat for orangutans and many endangered species – including rhinos, elephants and tigers – has been destroyed. Forest-dwelling people lose their land, local communities are negatively affected.


Some companies have tried to do something about this; Iceland Foods, a big British retailer with 900 stores, announced earlier this year that they would stop using palm oil in all of its own-label foods by the end of 2018. For their Christmas advertising this year, Iceland planned to use an animated film made by Greenpeace and narrated by Emma Thompson to explain the problems with palm oil. It is quite wonderful:

But all ads in the UK have to be vetted by Clearcast; according to the Guardian, “One of the stipulations enshrined in the broadcast code for advertising practice (BCAP) is that an ad is prohibited if it is ‘directed towards a political end’.” Evidently, taking a stand against clear-cutting and destroying habitats is too political for them.

Many, including George Monbiot, are outraged. Thousands have already signed a petition.

Iceland foods is hoping for a lot of social media attention. Managing director Richard Walker is quoted in Huffpo:

Our commitment to help protect the home of orangutans remains extremely close to our hearts. We are proud to be encouraging consumers to make more sustainable choices, even without the support of TV advertising, ahead of the Christmas shopping season.

He might even sell a few extra mince pies.

Here’s Richard Walker earlier this year, explaining why his company dumped palm oil. He explained: “No major supermarket or food manufacturer can substantiate any claim that the palm oil they use is truly sustainable, as the damage being caused to the global environment and communities in Southeast Asia is just too extensive.”

North American TreeHuggers can’t shop at Iceland, but we can all do everything we can to avoid palm oil, as we have been suggesting since this ad ran a decade ago. Look at that list of names it is hiding under and watch out for it.