Greenpeace has started a campaign highlighting the link between rainforest destruction and KFC. Colonel Sanders consumes lots of paper and it originates from a dodgy source; those cups with sugary drinks and buckets with dead chickens are made from illegally logged paper. Or, more specifically, chances are the paper is bought from Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), a company that has been at the centre of quite a few environmental controversies and is regularly accused of illegal logging.
I first learned about APP when I read Paper Trails by Mandy Haggith. The company features prominently in the book. Here's a taster:
APP might have been too dangerous for Haggith, Greenpeace has thoroughly investigated its practices and published its findings last February. If you don't want to read them you could at least watch the video:
Back in Pekanbaru, I thought it could not possibly get any worse and then I innocently asked, "There are two pulp mills here in Riau, right? APRIL's and another belonging to Asia Pulp and Paper."
"Right", said Fatra, the round-faced, helpful forest campaigner at Hakiki, one of the grassroots organisations that is part of Jikalahari's forest campaign network. We were sitting drinking tea in their sweltering front office in a suburb of Pekanbaru, getting a briefing.
"What's Asia Pulp and Paper like? Are they as bad as APRIL?"
"Worse", Fatra replied.
"Much worse", confirmed Dede. There was an exchange in Indonesian and nods all around the gathered activists.
"How do you mean?", I asked.
"APP buys much illegal timber and they even log in protected areas. They are responsible for the worst forest destruction, and they pour chlorine pollution into the Siak River, which causes much disease to people downstream."
"So how come you've been taking me to see only what APRIL is getting up to? Surely I should be on APP's trail too?" I felt somehow cheated. If I was there to see the worst excesses of the industry, I might as well really see the worst.
Fatra looked alarmed. "No, no, you must not investigate APP." He checked with Dede to make sure I had properly understood.
"Why not?", I questioned.
He was adamant. "It's much too dangerous."
He and the others started talking all at once. Dede struggled to give a coherent account of all their agitated stories. They told of disappearances, threats to their families and children, violent struggles in communities opposing APP's contractors, homes being bulldozed, even people being killed.
I was stunned. "You mean to say that APRIL are the nice guys in Riau?"
Dede laughed a bleak laugh. "There are no nice guys in the paper industry here."
Greenpeace's report about KFC is entitled How KFC is junking the jungle by driving rainforest destruction in Indonesia. If, like me, you're not on Facebook and Twitter there's not much you can do to support the campaign after you've watched The colonel's secret recipe. It's all about spreading the word on social networking websites.