Londoners were stunned on Wednesday morning as they witnessed what appeared to be an angry Orangutan clinging to a Christmas tree at Coin Street, London.
Further sightings were reported at locations across the capital including Oxford Street and the parks of London, where the ape appeared to be in search of a new home.
The displaced ape, staged using sophisticated animatronics, was actually part of the supermarket chain Iceland’s Christmas campaign. The stunt highlighted the retailer’s decision to offer shoppers the choice of a Christmas without palm oil.
A team of leading special effects artists spent months designing and building the ultra-realistic animatronic replica orangutan, which is controlled both remotely and via a specialist puppeteer who has spent years studying the movements of the species to fine-tune their skills.
The campaign has received mass public support after the supermarket chain’s Christmas advert was banned for being too political. More than 12 million people have now watched the film on Facebook, and it has gained the support of numerous high-profile figures including James Corden and Paloma Faith.
The campaign follows new research, commissioned by Iceland, that reveals deforestation and the use of palm oil are among the top three environmental concerns of consumers, alongside food waste and single-use plastics.
Despite their concerns, the study of 1,500 British adults highlighted that over half (56%) weren’t aware of the devastating effects palm oil production has on the rainforest and the consequent threat to the survival of orangutan populations.
The majority of retailers continue to use palm oil at an alarming rate, but Iceland is pioneering the response to this needless destruction and endangerment of the majestic apes. The supermarket chain has pledged to eliminate the ingredient from all its own-label products by the end of 2018.
The natural habitats of the critically endangered orangutans are being torn apart at an alarming rate in Indonesia and Malaysia. It has been estimated that around 6,000 orangutans are wiped out each year, with 80% of their natural habitat disappearing in the space of two decades.
A rainforest area the size of 146 football pitches is cleared every hour to make way for palm oil production,which contributes to the death of 25 orangutans every day.
93% of people asked would like retailers to be doing more to make it clear which products contain palm oil. This festive season, Iceland is giving customers an opportunity to enjoy Christmas without palm oil, with a special Christmas food range including luxury mince pies, vegetarian centrepieces and desserts.
‘Our stranded, distressed orangutan is a stark and potent symbol of the effects of deforestation. We always try to give people a real choice about what they buy and this was a key driver of our decision to allow Iceland customers to join us in saying ‘no to palm oil’. We are determined to be at the forefront of efforts to guarantee palm oil is not causing rainforest destruction and Iceland will continue to be a driving force until this environmental impact is drastically reduced. I am immensely proud of the work our food development team has carried out to create this new Christmas range without palm oil – a celebration of our commitment to end its use before the year closes.’
Iceland’s managing director and 2018 P.E.A. Superhero winner
Iceland made the decision to demonstrate to the food and retail industries that it is possible to reduce the demand for palm oil by seeking alternative ingredient solutions.
Growing demand for palm oil for use in food products, cosmetics and biodiesel is devastating tropical rainforests across South East Asia. In Indonesia and Malaysia, where expanding palm oil and wood pulp plantations are the biggest driver of deforestation, the orangutan is being threatened with extinction.
The disruptive campaign follows Clearcast’s decision to ban Iceland’s Christmas TV advert. The ad featured a baby Orangutan seeking a new home because its normal forest habitat had been destroyed as a result of deforestation.
In response to a swell of public support for a petition to release Iceland’s banned ad, Clearcast said it has not banned the ad for being too political and that it has ‘no problem with the content or message in the ad’.
In a statement, Clearest said, ‘The problem arises because the film was made by Greenpeace and the rules prevent adverts ‘inserted by or on behalf of a body whose objects are wholly or mainly of a political nature’ from being broadcast on television.
‘Greenpeace is a charity and environmental organisation but is also a lobbying and campaigning group with activities that are political as defined by the BCAP Code. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they count as a political advertiser under the rules (as that will depend on what proportion of their overall activities the political ones make up), but we need to satisfy ourselves that they are not before we can clear the ad for TV. We can’t take a view on this until we’ve received information from Greenpeace, and we have not had that to date.’
Clearcast’s managing director agreed to meet with Mark Topps, who started a change.org petition to get the Iceland ad onto TV screens, on 14 November.
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