Many kinds of Girl Scout cookies contain palm oil, which is the leading cause of deforestation in Southeast Asia, and thus causes the displacement and exploitation of indigenous populations, reported Glenn Hurowitz for the Huffington Post.
"Land is often sold or long-term leased to plantations companies without the knowledge or consent of local communities," according to surveys conducted by the Forest Peoples Programme, a UK-based indigenous rights organization, and the Environmental Investigative Agency (EIA), an international environmental group, reported Rhett A. Butler for Mongobay. Oftentimes, a single local official authorizes the agreement, persuaded with a "gift" like a basic motorbike. Many local landowners also misunderstand or are misinformed of the terms of the contact, and do not realize that they have signed away rights to their land for 30 years or more, reported Mongobay.
The British version of the Girl Scouts, the Girl Guides, substituted olive oil and canola oil for palm oil in their cookies, and are offering to help the Girl Scouts USA and Girl Guides Canada do the same, reported the animal welfare blog Please Do Not Tap on the Glass, stated Hurowitz in the Post.
Two Michigan girl scouts in particular are raising awareness of the effect of palm oil plantations, particularly on orangutans. "We have found orangutans beaten to death with wooden planks and iron bars, butchered by machetes, beaten unconscious and buried alive, and doused with petrol and set alight. Since 2004, more and more orangutans in our centers have been rescued from areas within or near oil palm plantations, and over 90 percent of the infants up to three years of age come from these areas," said Michelle Desilets, executive director of the Orangutan Land Trust, to Mongobay.com.