CHESTER ZOO has welcomed supermarket Iceland's viral Christmas advert – but is urging consumers to choose sustainable palm oil rather than a complete boycott.

Iceland hit the headlines with its 'Rang-tan' Christmas advert, highlighting the mass deforestation and wildlife habitat destruction caused in the making of palm oil, which is used in foods and cosmetics around the globe.

After TV advertising clearance body Clearcast 'banned' the advert as it was originally made by environmental organisation Greenpeace, which could not prove it was not a political advertiser, the resultant public backlash led millions of people to view the Deeside-headquartered firm's advert through social media channels.

But the advert's message, which says Iceland is removing all palm oil from its branded products, has itself had controversial implications.

Chester Zoo has explained, through its ongoing commitment to sustainable palm oil campaign, that if companies were forced to stop using palm oil altogether, they would turn to an alternative vegetable oil to meet the global demand.

Because other oil crops – such as coconuts, olives, sunflowers and maize – are less productive per square kilometre, even more land would need to be converted to agricultural land.

That would mean even more habitat lost and an even bigger catastrophe for wildlife around the world.

A zoo spokesperson said: “Iceland, the UK’s leading frozen food specialist, has announced that it will stop using palm oil as an ingredient in all its own label food by the end of 2018.

“Iceland’s attention to the issues caused by the unsustainable production of palm oil is to be welcomed. By stepping in, taking action, and sharing their concerns with their customers and other retailers, they are helping to raise awareness of palm oil, the complex issues around its production, and the choices which businesses and consumers can make.

“We will continue to campaign for palm oil to be produced sustainably and encourage consumers to demand sustainable palm oil in the products that they buy.

“Through bringing this issue to public attention Iceland are showing that they very much support our mission of preventing extinction and we are looking at ways in which we can work together with them towards this common goal in the future.”

Led by Chester Zoo, Act For Wildlife has been championing a sustainable palm oil production model, as opposed to a boycott.

The group is instead demanding urgent change of the palm oil industry so ultimately products contain only deforestation-free, certified sustainable palm oil.

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