Menu Close

Bad Oil and the Animals

Relevant at this time of Greta Thunberg and climate protests, this fast-moving and exhilarating tale involves teenagers’ exploits to expose the threat to orangutan habitat from factory farming’s use of palm kernel extract. There’s daring, disguise and quite a lot of mischief as the multi-cultural group aims a spotlight at animal welfare in New Zealand and elsewhere. Their stunts attract public attention but with scholarships at stake, maintaining their anonymity is critical. So when the police come calling at their school, has there been one prank too many? Sources for further study included.

Publisher: Oneopoto Press
Format: Paperback, 127 pages
ISBN: 978-0-473-37380-1
Teachers’ resource: download PDF
Order: direct from author below, or eBook and paperback from Amazon

Industry and readers’ reviews for Bad Oil and the Animals

Wonderful story about teenagers and their belief they can make a difference

This is a story about a young New Zealand girl Heidi, who has a passion for photography and a yearning desire to be a photographer of the rich and famous one day. However her path crosses with Meke, a homestay student from the Cook Islands. He brings her attention to the plight of the rainforests and the importation of palm oil kernels (PKE) as stock feed on NZ farms. This is because grass production can no longer match the size of the herds on farms. Through this friendship Heidi joins a group of teenagers who are passionate about saving the world’s orangutans.
The group devises a daring plan to create a children’s picture book, Molly’s Story, which outlines in blatant detail the plight of baby orangutans orphaned and clinging to their dead mothers’ bodies. Carefully they leave copies in as many public libraries as possible in order to create public awareness. They plan to hit social media and the regular media with letters about this terrible story as though they are horrified parents or librarians. Anything to raise awareness. Their book gains publicity and Heidi makes a film to tell the orangutans’ story.
As if the book isn’t enough, the group proceeds to impersonate a renowned Dr Diego at a conference centre where Heidi’s film is shown. The police become involved at the school trying to locate the impersonators.
All in all this is a wonderful story about teenagers and their belief that they can make a difference to the world. The author wrote it for readers aged 11-18 year-olds.

Jacky Armstrong, 14 June 2017
Tui Motu Book Review: Bad Oil and Animals (2016)

Sue Kedgley, politician, animal welfare campaigner and author

Sue Kedgley, politician, animal welfare campaigner and author: ‘An absorbing and exciting book about teenagers who decide to investigate the way palm oil plantations are destroying the habitat of orangutans. Interwoven into this action-packed novel is the use of palm kernel extract as stock feed plus an expose of factory farming. It is a fascinating tale that teenagers will love. I can highly recommend it.’

Dr. Michael Morris, Director Environmental Education Ltd, zoologist

Dr. Michael Morris, Director Environmental Education Ltd, zoologist, author and animal welfare advocate: ‘Transmits a profound and disturbing message in an informative yet entertaining tale of teenage self-discovery.’

Ben Dowdle, Founder and Campaign Director of Unmask Palm Oil

Ben Dowdle, Founder and Campaign Director of Unmask Palm Oil, The Australasian campaign for mandatory labelling of palm oil: ‘A fast paced and exhilarating read on an important issue. Well researched and well written, it puts a spotlight on activism, encouraging any young person into action.’

Bad Oil and the Animals is an astounding novel/novella with themes of global warming, the environment and self-discovery.

Centred around sixteen-year-old Heidi and her new-found friends, it explores the horrific effects of palm oil.  Palm oil is something that sure has a bad reputation now, with everyone now alert and aware of global warming. Harvested mostly from the African Oil Palm, palm oil is in everything, food, cosmetics and even chocolate!

Although we might not see the effects of palm oil first-hand in New Zealand, we can still educate ourselves on the topic. Palm oil harvesting hurts orangutans by destroying their habitats, often leaving baby orangutans orphaned and in sanctuaries in Thailand and Indonesia when poachers kill their mothers to sell the babies as pets. But one of the most eye-opening parts of this book was that palm oil does harm animals… right here in New Zealand.

PKE. Does that sound familiar to you? Probably not. Most New Zealanders (even myself, until I read this book) believe that all farming in New Zealand is 100% clean and green, but plot twist… it is not! Now I am not saying that all farms in New Zealand are like what I am about to describe, because many farmers do an excellent job of caring for their animals. Back to PKE: it stands for Palm Oil Extract. According to research, PKE is a palm oil by-product which is a dry, gritty meal, which cows do not like at first. And New Zealand imports a huge amount of it from South-East Asia.  Nearly all the information above I learnt from reading Bad Oil and the Animals. The rest I learned from doing some research of my own, because the book had me so intrigued on the topic.

While being a short book (126 pages) that can be read in a sitting or two, it sure packs a punch. A mighty one. This book begins with Heidi attending an Amnesty International meeting at her school, where she meets one of her friends who will be part of their undercover protest group. As Heidi learns more about the orangutans and meets people with the same views as her, their protest group comes into the picture.

Another reason this book is so beautifully written and realistic is the diverse culture of the protest group. Meke is a scholarship student from the Pacific Islands, Severn is from Canada, Kim has rich Chinese parents, then there is Heidi and Andy, her next-door neighbour, from New Zealand. This careful detail about so many ethnic groups is what makes this book so real; New Zealand is a bubbling hotpot full of diverse cultures, swirling, mixing, and learning from each other.

As the book goes on, Heidi and her friends get deeper and deeper into their protests. Authoring a book about the grotesque way animals are treated, creating a film about orangutans, their diminishing habitat and more. There are disguises, cover-ups and pure thrills. Bad Oil and the Animals reminds me, in some ways, of George Orwell’s novels. Full of trouble and controversy, they say what needs to be said, and open people’s eyes to the real world. Because of this, I believe that this book will be ever popular, or at least, should be.

I promise you this book should not take long to read – the language is also simple, the book has one, clear plot. I promise you will enjoy this book, and I promise you will have your views on palm oil and deforestation spun right around.

Reviewed by Sasha Maclean, 12 year old reviewer for Hooked on NZ books Te Ao Ano, 21 Oct. 2020. Sasha is a student at Sacred Heart Girl’s College, New Plymouth.

Photo credit: Photo by Dimitry B on Unsplash