It’s bad enough that pandas are traded back and forth between China and the US, every time diplomatic ties between them take a turn for the better or worse. Now Malaysia mulls “orangutan diplomacy”.

So countries buying palm oil from Malaysia will be gifted an orangutan — to show its commitment to “biodiversity conservation”. The suggestion has drawn flak from conservationists.

Malaysia, like Indonesia, has been at the receiving end of global concern over orangutan habitats being adversely impacted by growing palmoil plantations. And with global consumers increasingly making ethical choices – preferring to go with products that are sourced and developed sustainably without harming animals or children — countries and companies are being forced to mend their ways and cater to this ethical clientele.

Gifting an orangutan is as misguided as it gets. Malaysia could do way better by ensuring that orangutans and their habitats are protected, and real conservation efforts are made — rather than gift these precious lives away to trading partners including India, China and the European Union.

In fact, “animal diplomacy” needs to stop, and politicians need to come up with better, non-living gifts. In the past, pandas, leopards, dogs etc have been gifted between heads of nations. But a real “leader” understands that animals are their constituency too, and need to be protected. Animals are a life, they have families, and it’s not for us to toy around with them, for business or any other purpose.

From this week, the export of live animals has been banned in the UK. “British animals will no longer be sent on gruelling journeys abroad for further fattening and slaughter in cramped and poor conditions with little or no access to food or water,” said Chris Sherwood, Chief Executive, RSPCA.

If the meat industry can be made to mend its ways, surely heads of State and diplomats can do better.