If You Eat Oreos, You Hate Baby Orangutans

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The Center for Science in the Public Interest has a full-page ad in today's New York Times that urges us to save ourselves and save the orangutans by eschewing Oreos. Under the headline "Dying for a Cookie?," accompanied by a photograph of a baby orangutan touching the skulls of what presumably are his dead relatives, CSPI explains:

Orangutans are literally dying for cookies. Thanks in part to a palm oil trade propped up by indifferent
corporations and authoritarian regimes, the rainforest habitats of the last remaining Sumatran orangutans, tigers, and rhinoceroses are being destroyed. Keebler, Oreo, Mrs. Fields, Pepperidge Farm and other companies use palm oil in some of their cookies. It's found increasingly in crackers, pastries, cereals, and microwave popcorn. Though not as unhealthy as partially hydrogenated oil, palm oil still promotes heart disease. Be sure to read labels and select products with non-hydrogenated soybean, corn, canola, or peanut oils, which don't harm your arteries–or the rainforest. We can find other ways of making cookies. We can't find other ways of making orangutans.

I'll let Ron Bailey discuss the possibility of cloning them. The thing that strikes me about the ad is that it displays two tendencies for which CSPI is known: hyperbole and the intertwining of nutritional advice with a moral/ideological agenda. I'm pretty health-conscious when I shop for food, and I like orangutans at least as much as the next guy. But instead of making me doubly determined to avoid Milanos and Pirouettes, the convenient combination of these two goals makes me skeptical. I suspect CSPI is exaggerating both the health risks of palm oil and the orangutan-preserving power of my choices in baked goods. And that's before I read up on the possible nutritional advantages of palm oil or the potential for making it without destroying habitat.

To CSPI's credit, the ad does not display its tendency to go beyond persuasion and demand coercive solutions (such as bans on olestra and Quorn). And the group has every right to encourage boycotts aimed at punishing what it considers irresponsible or unethical corporate behavior. But I suspect many people who see this ad will, like me, feel manipulated rather than enlightened.

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  1. …I like orangutans at least as much as the next guy…

    Does this mean you like orangutans at least as much as the next guy likes orangutans, or that you like orangutans at least as much as you like the next guy?

  2. How dare they not tout the fact that you can’t harvest palm oil on American soil. Why does the CSPI hate America?

  3. Baylen–

    Both.

  4. The Keebler company? Wow, maybe elves do exist.

    The Oreo company? I guess Nabisco is just a front.

    The Pepperidge Farm company? I wonder where those farms are…

    Hey, at least they got one right.

  5. But I suspect many people who see this ad will, like me, feel manipulated rather than enlightened.

    If only most of the people who read the ads had the same reasoning ability as you, Jacob… Sadly, most of the people who read it will probably just feel informed.

  6. Jacob, you don’t like me anymore than you like orangutans? My feelings are hurt.

  7. I’m going to console myself with a quart of oreo cookies and cream flavored ice cream. And if my arteries clog up, we’ll know who is to blame.

  8. Yeah, I’d say there’s a bit of mission creep going on here.

    And besides, if I clog my arteries on a binge of deadly palm oil and croak, thus avoiding a lifetime of sensible palm oil eating that results in an overall increase in my consumption of palm oil, is this a net win for the orangutans?

  9. “Sadly, most of the people who read it will probably just feel informed”

    Or outraged. I know many a supposedly well-educated and enlightened environmentalist who would repsond with the utmost indignation to the harvesting of palms for their oil at the expense of the life of orangutans and call loudly and vehemently for the immediate boycott of any and all products, be they foods, medicines or material goods, that utilize palm oil in any way, shape, or form, until such time as a peace-loving, fair-trade, socially responsible collective of growers provided an organic and non-harmful-to-orangutans-and-other-species, shade-grown (can palms even BE shade grown?), organic and biodynamically tilled and harvested source of palm oil, at 10x the current market price.

    Now that I’ve ranted, Jacob does raise a good point about manipulation – but isn’t that what all advertising is? Whether its point be subtle, blunt, or one of the many shades of grey inbetween, advertising is all about manipulating our sympathies and fears. I almost prefer this sort of advertisement to a more subtle one that insidiously works its magic on my preferences for certain things.

    I consider CSPI to be perpetrators of junk-science in many respects. They may have the best of intentions but will conveniently ignore other research that refutes their claims as to the dangers of meat, dairy, eggs, non-organic produce, pesticide use, medical treatments and drugs, etc. I used to visit a Vegetarian website to get recipes and almost every article, blog post and message board were overtaken by CSPI advocates and believers who were taken a-back that anyone would dare question its findings.

    -aside: I am not a vegetarian, BTW, just interested in various types of cooking and recipes. I bought a great cookbook instead and canned the Veggie website – little talk of cooking, all leftie politics.

  10. To counter this, Nabisco should hire Dr. Zaius as its pitchman for Oreo.

  11. If only eating cookies put the CSPI on the edangered species list.

    Now that would be something worth taking out a full page ad in the NYT for.

  12. If only eating cookies put the CSPI in mortal danger.

    Now that would be something worth taking out a full page ad in the NYT for.

  13. Has CSPI been anything other than disturbingly silent on the subject of hobbled and amputeed african children being the workhorses of the diamond industry?

    Dr. Zaius was an orangutan, and he was a dogmatic anti-science fundamentalist keeping his theocratic society ignorant.
    Let them die.

  14. I actually think CSPI is right. Nabisco should ditch the palm oil and bring back the lard they used to use in Oreos.

    Kill the pig! Bash him in! Render his fat! Save an orangutan!

  15. Has CSPI been anything other than disturbingly silent on the subject of hobbled and amputeed african children being the workhorses of the diamond industry?

    Dr. Zaius was an orangutan, and he was a dogmatic anti-science fundamentalist keeping his theocratic society ignorant.
    Let them die.

  16. Has CSPI been anything other than disturbingly silent on the subject of hobbled and amputeed african children being the workhorses of the diamond industry?

    Dr. Zaius was an orangutan, and he was a dogmatic anti-science fundamentalist keeping his theocratic society ignorant.
    Let them die.

  17. will, like me, feel manipulated

    Very manipulated. I feel myself swelling with outrage and am ready to blow my lid. I refuse to substitute anything for my 100% pure palm oil.

  18. Jeff P.,

    You are a menace. A walking pestilence.

  19. If only eating cookies put the CSPI on the edangered species list.

    Edangered? Does this mean that their website is down? **rimshot**

    As far as the CSPI goes, a previous (Reason) article mentioned Quorn, and how terrible it allegedly was. Back when I was gainfully employed, I used to eat Quorn often, and it was one of the best chicken substitutes I’ve ever tasted. I wound up preferring the taste to real chicken nuggets, and never had any of the problems CSPI alleged were caused by it. The only bad thing about it is its cost, but I should eventually get another job, and when I do, I’ll be sure to get some. And some Oreos for desert.

  20. I refuse to substitute anything for my 100% pure palm oil.
    What about foot oil, elbow grease and other body part derived fats?

  21. Jacob,
    How come you never call anymore? Is there someone else you like better?

  22. All my life I’ve awaited your coming and dreaded it!

  23. Beware the beast man, for he is the Devil’s pawn. Alone among God’s primates, he kills for sport or lust or greed. Yea, he will murder his brother to make Oreo? Cookies

  24. Wow, I knew CSPI was a crock but I just looked at their “Medical Evidience” page against Quorn.
    The ‘evidence’ is so underwhelming I have to comment.

    The last 3 ‘studies’ are as follows:

    Jacobson, M.F. (Allergy. 2003 May;58(5):455-456)
    This letter, submitted by the executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, described the adverse reactions reported by the first 284 people who contacted CSPI. It was the first item in the medical literature that indicated that Quorn caused widespread reactions, including vomiting, stomach ache, hives, and breathing difficulties.

    Van Durme P, Ceuppens JL, Cadot P. (J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2003 Aug;112(2): 452-454)
    Belgian researchers identified a young woman who suffered a severe anaphylactic-type allergic reaction after her first ingestion of Quorn. Skin prick tests were highly positive with Quorn extracts. The researchers deduced that Quorn can be cross-reactive with inhaled mold spores.

    Jacobson, M.F. (Am J Med 2003 Sep;115:334)
    This letter, submitted by the executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, described the adverse reactions received by CSPI. The letter cites a survey showing that mycoprotein is more likely to cause adverse reactions than shellfish, milk, peanuts, and other common food allergens.

    Okay, so let’s review. Three articles, two of which are letters written to journals by CSPI and a case report about a single individual. It takes some doing to locate it, but the ‘survey’ cited in the last letter was commissioned by CSPI and claimed that 4.5% of Britons who tried Quorn suffered some sort of reaction. The actual wording of the survey was not listed.

  25. CSPI is right about its health advice. I’m switching to healthy orangutan meat.

    – Josh

  26. Kwix: You forgot Baby Oil.

    Remember what the Ape Scrolls teach: “And Proteus brought the upright beast into the garden and chained him to a tree and the children did make sport of him.”
    Damn dirty apes.

  27. All my life I’ve known of your coming, Mrs. Fields, and I’ve dreaded it … like Death itself.

    The Forbidden Zone was once a heart-healthy paradise. Your breed of duuuuhbya-tarians made a market-worshipping desert of it … ages ago.

    Hehehehey.

    (signed)

    AmazingDrZ

  28. Actually, if you get the baby orangutan young enough, you will find it is, in fact, somewhat sweeter than oreos. Additionally, they don’t get as soggy when dunked in milk, but the downside is they are somewhat more difficult to seperate by twisting even when doublestuffed.

  29. Am I the only one wondering about the health benifits of eating the Orangutans?

  30. I knew it was only a matter of time before this forum got around to talking about double stuffing baby orangutans.

  31. Actually B.P. (or is that DP?), the double stuffing happens in the internet porn forum…

  32. I read about the stupid Quorn controversy, and figured that anything that had that much fuss about it made by the nervous nellies must be pretty darn good. Co-workers of mine from the UK proclaimed it “not bad” and said, “You’re one of those vegetarians, aren’t you? You should try it.” So, OK. I went to the store and picked up a few dinky packages, and then I looked at the price, and my mouth dropped open past my knees. Guess they still have some work to do on that price tag, and good thing I like tofu.

    And because I have to say this every damn time I post on a libertarian site… I am a vegetarian, yes, but I will defend to the death your right to stuff any old crap down your own cheap pie-hole that isn’t actually nailed down, so long as you didn’t forcibly remove it from the person or possessions of an unwilling human.

  33. Finally! Somebody’s willing to speak out about the Oreo/Orangutan conspiracy! …by the reaction of some of you, you’d have thought they said, “Property is theft.” or somethin’!?

    …now, if we can just get someone to speak up about the Current Lack of a Reason Bikini Girl Ad/Global Warming connection, …

  34. Oh, hell. Pepperidge Farm Bordeaux Cookies already suffered a steep drop in tastiness years ago when they gave in to some crusader and eliminated coconut oil. These monsters won’t be happy until we’re down to raw flour that we have grind ourselves.

  35. Actually, I’ll disagree a bit here…

    First, I don’t think the main point of the article was that Palm Oil is necessarily unhealthy. I think that was simply added at the end to remind people that the given benefits of palm oil may not be as great as some (say for instance “palm oil producers”) might proclaim.

    Secondly, I do indeed believe that rainforests can be damaged if they are located in third world countries where environmental protection is lacking and most politicians are on the take. This has been proven countless times and continues to be a problem thoughout the modern world..remember the Buffalo..and that was in the US.

  36. …They may have the best of intentions but will conveniently ignore other research…

    I don’t equate data mining with “the best of intentions”.

    Who did all the fancy skull carving in the picture? And the little sucker seems to be enjoying himself. Send the corn syrup to feed the starving orangutans.

  37. Or is that “data dredging”?

  38. I quit eating partially hydrogenated oils years ago. I recommend that all of you, my fellow libertarians and you too, joe, do the same as there is definitely a correlation between the consumption of partially hydrogenated oils and arterial disease. I’ll look into this and if palm oil really promotes heart disease, I won’t eat it anymore.

    I’m sympathetic to concerns about animal suffering. For example, I only eat cage free eggs cuz I feel sorry for chickens, even though they cost more. So if I find that the CSPI account looks to be accurate, and if I am still consuming palm oil, I’ll find other sources or just give it up.

    Jacob:

    To CSPI’s credit, the ad does not display its tendency to go beyond persuasion and demand coercive solutions.

    Good for them for a change. It might be a smart idea for us to tell CSPI that when they advocate government intervention, it defens us to the concerns that they raise. I’m gonna do it for sure. They need to be told that advocating impeding capitalistic economic individual liberty is irresponsible.

    Jacob,

    Thanks for your interesting write up and the useful links that you posted with it.

  39. I wrote:

    I eat only cage free eggs cuz I feel sorry for chickens, even though they cost more.

    Now wouldn’t those wrong headed critics of free markets cited in the next thread down count this as a “non-rational” decision on my part?

  40. So after seeing this ad you feel more manipulated than enlightened? And your point is??? I mean, do you know any ads that leave you more enlightened than manipulated? That’s what advertising does, and it seems silly to start objecting when they push something that you don’t agree with.

  41. I wound up preferring the taste to real chicken nuggets, and never had any of the problems CSPI alleged were caused by it.

    In other news, the inventor of chicken nuggets recently died.

    Cookies rule. Oreo cookies rule. Even better: chocolate-covered Oreos.

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