by Phil Chatfield
Do you use olive oil for cooking and in salad dressings? If so, you may be shocked to know modern harvesting practices are killing migratory birds. Portugal’s Institute for Nature Conservation and Forests has found millions of birds are killed each olive harvesting season in the Mediterranean basin.
The songbirds, many of which migrate from northern and central Europe to winter in North Africa, frequently stop to rest in olive trees in southern Spain, France, Portugal and Italy. They are sucked out of the trees at night by super-intensive harvesting machines.
It has been estimated that in Andalusia 2.6 million birds die each year due to this method of harvesting, while in Portugal the number is 96,000. The Government of Andalusia believes many of these birds are sold illegally to the rural hotel industry for consumption.
Night-time harvesting is done because the cool temperatures better preserve the olive flavours. Daytime harvesting prevents this happening – and the technique is reportedly not used in Greece.
Ethical Consumer contacted all the companies they had examined in a recent Olive Oil guide to ask if they could guarantee their olive oil was not made using this harvesting technique. Of the major supermarkets, Waitrose, Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury all confirmed their olive oil did not involve this technique, as did most companies supplying organic oil and smaller suppliers such as Zaytoun. Full details of their survey can be found on their web site.
Based on information from the Olive Oil Times: www.oliveoiltimes.com/world/millions-of-birds-killed-by-nighttime-harvesting-in-mediterranean/68111 and the Ethical Consumer : www.ethicalconsumer.org/food-drink/olive-harvesting-bird-deaths
Web sites accessed 6 June 2020