Consumerism (7) – it doesn’t matter to me

The much-heralded post and the final one in the series. Perhaps the most important one too. Oh.

Why? Because it is the one where you can make a difference.

I was going to insert a terribly clever digression here to tell you about the latin phrase that means to vote with your feet, that originated in Rome when senators left the senate if they didn’t approve of the motion. Something to do with pes, or pedes.

But sadly the dear old internet has let me down and I can’t pretend to be as clever as I wished. So you will just have to take my word for it that I learned that one at university some 30 years or so ago. [ETA, see note in comments below about the Roman pedarii from someone who can search on the internet far better than I can!]

And the relevance is that you can vote with your feet or your wallet if you really want to try and make a difference at a personal level.

It is no good saying, well, it’s just me, what difference can I make? Because that is so negative, apathetic and irresponsible it is just not true. If more people thought I CAN make a difference, then perhaps the world wouldn’t be such a greedy grasping place.

OK, lectures on ancient history and morals now over.

I first got into ethical shopping years ago. Probably when as a teenager I didn’t want cosmetics that were tested on animals. I did have a mild twinge of conscience about eating the same dead animals but quickly brushed that one away.

When I say, got into it, I didn’t actually do anything. I just mean I thought it was wrong. So I still wore Lancome and painted my nails with Christian Dior’s incredible Train Bleu, (a deep blue-toned magenta), the best nail polish ever.

Let’s fast forward to where I started to buy Beauty Without Cruelty products (before they were taken over by L’Oreal, I think, from memory). And I started using Ecover, before they were taken over by Group Four.

The real push was becoming vegetarian, because if I wasn’t eating dead animals, why would I want any products I used to be tested on them? Doesn’t really hang together from an ethical perspective. I won’t make this a scientific lecture about how unnecessary and irrelevant some of those animal tests are, you can find the info out there if you are so interested.

It meant serious thinking about where my money went though. No flying Air France for example because at the time they were transporting primates for vivisection.

Oh wait!! Big bucks!! Nothing changed here. They still are. Now it’s Air France-KLM. That’s the only change.

Air France-KLM are the number one transporter of animals for the vivisection industry and are a vital link in the global supply of animals. They fly primates from Africa and Asia to Europe and the USA, as well as transporting dogs, cats and other animals from breeding facilities to laboratories around the world. If we are serious about ending vivisection then it is vital we cut off the supply of animals.
The heart of the matter is, the vivisection industry has grown into a huge, politically powerful conglomerate of institutions, experimenters, drug companies, animal-supply companies and medical-supply companies. Maintaining it now takes the obscene number of 21 million animals a year.

[my bolding]


and from a couple of months ago:

This Wednesday, Air France plans to transport 60 monkeys from Africa to the U.S. for use in cruel and deadly experiments at the notorious Shin Nippon Biomedical Laboratories (SNBL).

If Air France moves ahead with its plan, the monkeys will be crammed into tiny wooden crates and shipped first in the dark and terrifying cargo hold of a passenger flight from an African facility run by the infamous Bioculture to Paris. In total, these terrified monkeys will endure more than 80 hours of grueling transport before they arrive at SNBL, where they will likely be tormented and killed in cruel experiments.


Apparently Air France shut down ‘phone lines and comments on its Facebook page, as a result of this protest.

Bad publicity hurts, but companies recover. What hurts just as much is not supporting them economically.

My ethical shopping initiation was completed when I discovered Ethical Consumer. Back in the 90s it was a magazine, now you get a choice of magazine or internet.

What was great about it (and still is), is the way they give you the choice to choose your most important concerns.

They review a product, give you some background, and then you can look at nuclear, environment, political contributions, boycotts, animal testing, human rights violations, trade union bans, etc etc

In a way, it is an ethical Which. It isn’t the traditional value for money (VFM), but to me, it is the way we should be regarding VFM. It’s much broader than ‘Is this Sanyo cheaper and better than this Toshiba?’ for example.

It is more on the lines of: how much am I supporting cruelty, slavery, degradation of the planet, armaments and war, if I buy certain products – and most importantly – what are my alternatives? Because there invariably are, one or more.

Check out their site, because you can read some reports for free.

Ethical Consumer

It tends to be focussed on global English-speaking countries so will be of interest to UK, North Americans, and maybe Australians and NZ too. It also focuses on global pollution and environmental damage.

There again, if you don’t give a shit about what a mess we all leave behind and you don’t care where you spend your money so long as you get cheap, it won’t suit you. But neither will this blog.

Let’s look at essentials. Food. Since when have we all been unable to live without asparagus all year round? This is one of my pet peeves living in Spain, as it is grown here and Granada asparagus is in season now. I totally object to buying asparagus when it is flown in from Peru. In fact I don’t buy it out of principle. Whether it helps the Peruvian economy is not the issue. The veg is being freighted thousands of miles by air and isn’t remotely fresh when it arrives. Added value there? Even better, in my pueblo in Spain, would be for me to try and beat the Spaniards who all know exactly when and where to look for the local wild asparagus. Free and local and fresh.

The same applies to everything else. Why buy stuff that is flown in from goodness knows where? My local veg shops in Gib get their produce shipped in from Morocco, and I buy what seasonal veg are available. Whatever happened to living with the seasons? I know there is a hungry gap in the UK, and there is a different one in Spain too. * Note to non-veg growers – a hungry gap is when you are struggling to get any crops from your ground so you need to have some laid by, or rely on basic staples. * The blunt truth is that you can live on limited veg and don’t need endless fancy goodies from the other side of the world.

One of the good things about getting an organic box in the UK (actually we used to get two) was the challenge of using the veg of the season. We did ask for less carrots though. What do people do with so many carrots? and NO, I did not want to make carrot cake.

Then there are all those pre-packed salads from the SM because you are too idle to wash a lettuce. Or all those pre-packed meals because you are too idle to cook. And don’t even dare tell me what it is like after a hard day at the office as I have come in (late), kneaded the dough, put it to rise, got on with tea, had a glass of wine (obviously), and usually managed to wait to fall asleep until after we had eaten tea and the bread was cooked. And got the salad or the brassicas or the potatoes in from the garden.

It may not be your choice to grow veg or cook your own food. Or consider how many animals are being killed every time you buy certain washing powders. Or think how many hours some Chinese are working in a clothing factory or an electronics factory so you can have cheap clothes that will fall apart or cheap goods that will pack up in a few years time.

The trouble is, we all want an easy life. With luxuries that we now take for necessities. Our priorities are wrong. Happiness and satisfaction don’t come from what we buy, and showing off.

Or do they?

People: please don’t think ‘I can’t make a difference’ or ‘It doesn’t matter to me.’ You can make a difference. That’s why changes happen in societies. At the very least, inform yourself about how and what you are buying and then, if you are happy with that – continue – if it doesn’t matter to you.

And – Redgum. Australian political folk rock band from – a long time ago.

It doesn’t matter to me.

Lyrics below, if you can’t be bothered with the song (or understand the Aussie accent). If nothing else, skim down to the last verse and remember how old this song is. (Album, 1983, Caught in the Act)

I’m in the RSL, I joined the Lions club Friday 
My support of sport is thought of highly 
I’m a Class 6 clerk in the PCD 
And who the hell is Ayatollah Khomeni? 

It doesn’t matter to me 
It doesn’t matter to me 
I’ll sit home and watch you all on my colour TV 

Well I never look further than my own back door 
Except when wrapped up in my Commodore 
I was reading Nostradamus or 1984 
I ran out of Valium and then I got bored 

It doesn’t matter to me 
It doesn’t matter to me 
I’ll sit home and watch you all on my colour TV 

Well I prune in June and I plant in October 
And I write to the council when a sign gets knocked over 
I always say the Channel 10 news is best 
Especially when the weather girl wears a low cut dress 

It doesn’t matter to me 
It doesn’t matter to me 
I’ll sit home and watch you all on my colour TV 

Well, my wife ran off to a Women’s Shelter 
She didn’t understand me or why I had to belt her 
My daughter carries candles for the festival of light 
The fridge is full of beer and I’m all right 

It doesn’t matter to me 
It doesn’t matter to me 
I’ll sit home and watch you all on my colour TV 

My son’s gone off to the Eastern war 
And Killen wrote a letter explaining what for 
It’s the very first job the boy’s ever held 
He’ll learn a good trade while he sees the world 

It doesn’t matter to me 
It doesn’t matter to me 
I’ll sit home and watch you all on my colour TV 

I’m watching colour TV 
Thanking god it’s not me 
OPEC, Exxon and ITT 
Presenting World War Three


About roughseasinthemed

I write about my life as an English person living in Spain and Gibraltar, on Roughseas, subjects range from politics and current developments in Gib to book reviews, cooking and getting on with life. My views and thoughts on a variety of topics - depending on my mood of the day - can be found over on Clouds. A few pix are over on Everypic - although it is not a photoblog. And of course my dog had his own blog, but most of you knew that anyway. Pippadogblog etc
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21 Responses to Consumerism (7) – it doesn’t matter to me

  1. Vicky says:

    Can’t agree more about produce. Living in Worcestershire, with the vale of Evesham on our doorstep, where fruit and veg is grown in abundance, my biggest gripe is why the UK has to import apples from NZ and even France for that matter, when we have an abundance of them here, the British apples like the coxes and russets etc are far better in my mind. Strawberries are another, with plenty of ‘pick your own’ places nearby (a great day out when the girls were little) why are the supermarkets full of huge tasteless foreign ones.
    I could go on, but I’ll restrain myself 🙂


    • Used to love Granny Smiths as a kid and then suddenly they seemed to be coated with horrid tasting stuffs 😦

      It was only in later years that I realised the UK grew wonderful sharp crisp apples.

      Corporate gain, and individual thoughtlessness. IMO


  2. free penny press says:

    This is a great post.. really one of the best I have read on the entire Word-press machine..I will confess there was a time (about 15 yrs ago) I have very (as in almost none) funds with which to feed my children fresher (believe it or not, in the USA crappy food is cheaper than fresh) foods. That being said I have educated myself to ways of growing my own veggies, buying only local veggies (what I don’t grow), I eat no meat and am frugal to a fault on personal items.

    The majority of our planet is wasteful beyond belief and I actually wonder where the hell this globe will be in 100 years…


    • Thank you L. The trouble is I could write a blog post a day on the topic!! I used the example of Air France shipping primates because it was the sort of thing I had never even thought of before I started reading around the subject, but I could just as easily have used examples of women being forced to take pregnancy tests by their employers (Mexico, Philippines as I remember but may be wrong) – there are just so many issues. I was gutted to see they are STILL shipping primates though.

      When I worked in the UK health service we had the same issue of poor people not being able to afford fresh food and filling their kids with the cheapest junk food available. We wanted to try and set up an initiative where the big stores supplied local outlets with cheaper veg, but I doubt it ever happened, because there is also an issue about not everyone wanting fresh – and it would have the status of a soup kitchen too.

      I don’t think human nature has ever been any different. I think the problem this century is the pace of change, the globalisation (another of my pet hates), and the incredible culture of superficiality (eg your comment on your blog about the cover of the RS).


  3. Good post, you make some interesting points here. Some of your ethical purchasing is a bit extreme for me I have to say but I do agree with you about vegetables. I live in Lincolnshire which is the UKs largest producer but our supermarkets are still crammed with overseas specialities. The French prefer to only eat in-season produce and I think we should try and do the same. Strawberries were much nicer when they were only available for six weeks or so!


    • Thanks A. I think it actually sounds more extreme than it is in practice. Also, part of the imagery is wrong. The word ethical is a bad one to use, however accurate it is. ‘Ethical consumer’ and ‘ethical purchasing’ sound too highbrow, lefty, and elitist. If I was getting paid to run a PR campaign on this topic I would re-badge the whole concept and call it something like ‘thoughtful shopping/spending’, or ‘think before you spend’ because that is what it is really about. We all have to compromise when we spend (unless we are extremely rich) and I’ll write another post about that because that will look at the practicalities.

      Some (probably many) years ago, I seem to remember that people shunned local produce on the grounds that a) it was inferior to plastic wrapped supermarket products and b) the supermarket stuff was cheaper so who cared where it came from?

      Certainly in Spain my local neighbours only eat in season produce (including the wild asparagus and chumbos (prickly pears) ) but they are in their eighties and were brought up in the countryside. There have been so many changes over the last generation and food/eating habits have to be one of the biggest. You’re right about the strawberries too!! They are in season in my pueblo right now, and the local village shop advertises them as strawberries from the village.


  4. EllaDee says:

    Great post, and great series. Getting the information & your views out there is a bit like adding dance steps to “voting with your feet”, or dollar. You make the topic of consumerism relevant, interesting and immediate instead of faceless. I like that you write from the way you live and even if we aren’t there yet ourselves, it’s something real to work towards 🙂 EllaDee


    • Thank you for that. We aren’t there either! Nor can any of us be. But we can go some way towards making a difference – if we choose to, and that is really my point. Principles are great, but it’s no good writing a thoughtful intellectual piece without saying how to put those principles into practice, and easily. I said in response to A above that I will write something about compromises because I think that is an interesting one. Especially for city dwellers, my life in Gib is as different to my Spanish pueblo life as yours in Sydney compared with your place up the coast. And maybe I’ll write something about some really really simple and easy examples that neither cost money nor time.

      This could turn into a shopping blog and I HATE shopping!!


      • EllaDee says:

        It could turn into a shopping blog but informed shopping (shopping being a necessary evil) is a good thing. Looking forward to reading more.


        • Yeah, informed shopping was one of the other re-badge titles I was thinking of. Information about anything is always good – in fact, it is quite difficult in these days of internet shopping to get adequate information (another gripe and another post!!) Must have a break from the shopblog and post something different first. 😉


  5. A decree of the Roman Senate was made, by a separation of the Senators, to different parts of the house, rather like our Parliamentary voting system of passing through the lobbies. Those Roman Senators who only had the right of voting, but not of speaking, were called pedarii, because they signified their opinion by their feet, and not by their tongues.


    • Seriously, thanks for that – where did you find it? I haven’t got my ancient history books here with me so couldn’t look it up. When I tried wiki it seemed to think that Ronald Reagan was credited with popularising the term 😀


      • I knew the story but like you couldn’t remember the detail. I found it hidden away in the depths of Google but can’t remember the search term that I used. We historians make good researchers! Ronald Regan? now that is interesting!


  6. Pingback: Compromises? | Clouds moving in

  7. Great post. I think ethical purchasing and eating can seem difficulty from the outside, but much like any change, once started people see it just takes some research and willing. I grow my own vegetables, and do all I can to take into account where purchases are sourced and the like. Thank you for the words. *smiles*.

    – sonmi


    • Thanks Somni. You are dredging around the archives! I’ve forgotten what I wrote years ago. Except for when I read something elsewhere, and think, I’m sure I’ve written about that years ago …

      Air freighting or frigi trucking vegetables drives me up the wall. I see no need for it, apart from $$$$$$. I look at the exotic fruit and veg in the supermarket and cringe (well, when I go which isn’t often). At least by using small local shops, I know for the most part that vegetables are relatively local. But best of all is the meagre haul from my garden.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Always. You can’t beat those home grown ‘taters!
        A few people have said it’s slightly unsettling when someone starts wandering about ‘the vaults’ of their blogs, and I know the feeling myself too. It’s funny really, what is old for some is brand new to others, time has fled for the hills suddenly. *smiles*

        – sonmi


        • I grew brill taters in the UK. Harder in Spain. Years back, I would try and read every new blog from scratch so I knew a bit more about them. But in 2007 most of them didn’t have years of blog posts to read back through.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Indeed. Don’t tell everyone, but I only read back through certain blogs, and never in any order, a random lucky dip of sorts suits me best. Sometimes I think very long blogs are a little like dusty library shelves, it’s all there, but not many people disturb the content within. I like to blow the dust off occasionally *smiles*.

            – sonmi


          • Is t there some feature for retrieving random posts from the past? Can’t remember what it is. I’m afraid I’m too organised and like to start from Post 1. And eight years worth of my blogs would be way too much! Although I do have quiet periods.


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