Is Your Toilet Paper Killing Tigers?

Tiger

Image: anekoho / freedigitalphotos.net

Greenpeace has demanded that toilet paper made by IGA be boycotted because it’s associated with the destruction of the habitat of an endangered species of tiger in Indonesia. The only one of Australia’s major supermarket chains to obtain paper products from Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) and its Australian subsidiary, Solaris, is IGA. The offending bogroll is sold under the Signature and IGA Black and Gold labels.

APP is the largest paper company in Indonesia. In the United States, its products are sold under the Livi and Paseo brandnames. Livi is used by schools, restaurants and hotels while Paseo is the country’s fastest-growing brand of loo roll.

Greenpeace released video footage that it claimed showed a Sumatran tiger dying in a hunting trap after its habitat was spoliated by APP. The tiger was trapped for seven days. Only around 400 Sumatran tigers remain in the wild, and they’re designated as critically endangered. The organisation’s forests campaigner, Reece Turner, said that increasingly, the tigers were forced from their homes by increased logging. As he put it, “These destroyed habitats are being converted into toilet paper and sold by IGA to households across Australia.”

A spokeswoman for IGA said that the tiger captured on video was caught in a trap that was illegally set by local villagers in a forest with signs forbidding trespass and hunting, and that the demise of a Sumatran tiger was “a tragic situation,” but conflict between humans and tigers had long been part of life in Indonesia. She complained that suggesting APP’s operations caused a tiger to perish was “grossly inaccurate” and “deeply offensive.” Her lamentation could be seen as unjustified, since tigers are forced to hunt in areas closer to human activity following the loss of habitat, so APP is still responsible.

IGA’s owner, Metcash, had, the spokeswoman said, received assurances from Solaris that it was abiding by Indonesian governmental rules to protect wildlife and forests and that Metcash had initiated a third-party review of Solaris which gave the company “a clean bill of health.” Furthermore, according to the spokeswoman, supplier arrangements were under constant review to ensure that they continued to meet regulations and that Metcash fully supported Greenpeace’s efforts. It was the intention of Metcash that all products are accredited by the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC). Greenpeace countered that PEFC was not a reputable model.

In 2008, another of the largest antipodean supermarket chains, Woolworths, ended its contract with APP because the company couldn’t provide assurance that its products were sourced sustainably. Adidas, Fuji Xerox, Kraft and Target have also ceased business with APP in the last few years due to environmental concerns. Companies more closely associated with the United Kingdom – Marks & Spencer, Nestlé, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Unilever – have acted similarly.

Linda Kramme, the manager of the World Wildlife Fund’s Global Forest Trade Network, said that APP’s forest management operations in Indonesia weren’t certified by any credible third party, despite promises that began in 2001. APP, she bemoaned, was estimated to have destroyed over five million acres of Sumatran forest since it commenced activity in 1984, an area equivalent to nearly four million football fields, with more to come.

It is not so long since there were three species of tiger in the region, but now only the Sumatran tiger has escaped extinction, however the population has declined by 70 percent since 1982. Elephants are also in danger, with numbers decreasing from 1,300 to under 200. APP is now set to expand into forest in other parts of Indonesia in addition to Borneo and West Papua. Kramme wailed that APP was “not a good steward of the environment” and that “Consumers shouldn’t have to choose between tigers and toilet paper.”

Its possible to sign petitions for the protection of Sumatran and other tigers online. Donations can be made to the Sumatran Tiger Trust.

About the Author Timothy Chilman

Timothy Chilman used to work in IT. Once, in Sydney, he was turned down for a job because he was “too flamboyant” (“Someone who wears green tartan suspenders to a job interview probably isn’t going to fit in here”). Timothy then became an English teacher. University students in Bangkok complained that he was “too enthusiastic” and company students in Prague complained that he was “too theatrical.”

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