What do you do when faced with a dilemma involving your principles?

Choose one principle above another? Or try and find that compromise in the middle, that isn’t one or the other?

Life is made up of compromises of so many sorts.

When I wrote about ethical shopping (here), it sounded as though, with a little help from the internet or Ethical Consumer magazine, that I was always able to source goods that were produced in an environment that protected and respected workers rights, was non-polluting, not involved in animal tests, totally vegetarian ie didn’t use animals in the product, not involved with the arms or nuclear industries etc etc. And preferably didn’t travel half-way around the world to land on my doorstep, or profit a global corporation, or an obnoxious political party (by definition I suppose that is tautological as aren’t all political parties obnoxious?).

In fact, in the UK, it actually wasn’t too difficult. But I am also talking ten years ago. Moving to Spain was a significant change. The range of produce and manufactured goods living outside a big provincial city is radically different. Here in Gibraltar, choice is well? – take it or leave it.

Let’s use food as an example. I want tomatoes. I want organic ones. I can get them from Morrisons when they are in stock. They invariably come from Spain, so they are shipped from Spain to the UK to a packing and distribution centre, where they are enclosed in plastic and then shipped back down to Gib. Gah!! Or I can buy local ones, ie Spanish or Moroccan, that are not organic.

Organic = no pesticides, which to me is a good thing. I do not believe they are remotely safe (after all I did work for HSE where pesticides regularly came up as a controversial topic) and I do not want toxic residues on my food. I wouldn’t spray Lindane or DDT on it and I would rather someone else didn’t either. [Lindane and DDT are for the sake of example, before someone corrects me and tells me they are not used on fruit and veg, thank you].

But those organic tomatoes involve a load of fuel and travel in big trucks and a load of plastic packaging, all damaging the environment.

The non-organic toms involve the toxic cocktail but less damage to the environment (well, depending on how they are grown of course, as I don’t know that).

Do I look after me? or the environment? In this case, I do buy organic tomatoes (carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic, broccoli, cauliflower and mushrooms). Because not only am I thinking of me, but I also want to support organic growers, and in doing so, I reckon I am supporting the environment, because the organic growers will not be chucking loads of nitrates on the ground, or using pesticides, to harm the delicate soil structure.

If you read the previous series of consumerism posts, you will have read about some of the other issues I raised. Vehicles was one. I think supporting the local economy is fundamentally important. If the money keeps circulating around the local environment then people have an adequate standard of living, they have jobs, homes, food, and some spare money.

So my first vehicle was small and British-made. The next was extremely large, and British (Solihull) made. In two years time it will be 40-years-old. I see no added value in scrapping a vehicle that functions perfectly well, can be repaired on the side of the road, that is rarely used, to meet some crass bureaucratic directives. Better to tell people to drive less rather than to keep buying newer.

The next one was large and Spanish-made, in provincia de Jaen, which is where the Santana Land Rovers come from. And the final one is yet another British Land Rover which seems appropriate for a Gibraltar resident. Justification for buying large 4×4 gas guzzlers? Rarely used, buying locally, last for a long time, thereby eliminating the need to produce yet more cars off the line – of course that doesn’t help big business or car plant employees in the long term, but we can’t achieve all our aims in one purchase.

Now I don’t usually lavish praise on the USA and some of the inhabitants, but I am impressed by the way they do try and buy American, and especially their vehicles. I suspect it is a British characteristic to knock British stuff and do ourselves down. I must sadly admit this is one area where we could learn from the Americans.

Clothes are a nightmare. Fortunately we don’t need many in hot climes and I have a lot of old ones. But everything these days is made in a Chinese sweatshop. On the rare occasion I need to, I take the least worst option and try and buy something that was manufactured in a sweatshop slightly nearer. Yes, I could make my own and did for many years, but a) I don’t have the appetite and b) the sewing machine needs repairing. Oh! for the days when Zara had clothes for sale that were made in Spain, or at worst, Portugal.

And the biggest nightmare? Computers. Life was good in the old days with my trusty Amstrad courtesy of Lord Sugar – although – he was shipping in parts from the far east for other electronic goodies even back in the 80s.

What about my adorable Hal AppleMacs? Well, they are all made in China. Although there is some poncy clart on the box/book that says ‘designed in California(?)’ According to Ethical Consumer, Apple also has a crap record as a firm. So why am I buying from this unethical company (that incidentally has appalling customer relations), that manufactures stuff in China? Because I think it is a vastly superior product. I could buy a slightly more ethical product that is shite. Where is the sense in that? See what I mean about compromises?

So there you go. Ms Extremely Principled Cloudy Roughseas has her down side/s.

I invariably put quality first. And if I can’t afford something, I will do without, wait, save up etc. Which is why I still haven’t bought a DSLR.

And after that, my list of priorities is probably:

  • Avoiding anything to do with dead animals
  • Workers rights/the environment
  • Nuclear involvement/armaments

But where are the easy areas to make a difference? Household products without a doubt. There are so many good companies out there, I wonder why anyone is still supporting Proctor & Gamble and Unilever, when they buy their washing powder/liquid detergent. Seems they are though.

Do you buy Ariel, Bold, Daz, Dreft, Fairy, Persil, Surf?

Animal testing
Animal testing for household products is not a legal requirement in the UK. Despite there being plenty of more-than-adequate laundry detergents and other household products on the market, new ingredients for such products are constantly being developed and tested on animals.

However it’s an area that people can avoid, purely by choosing to buy household products that have not been tested on animals.

Of the products on the table, Astonish, Clear Spring and ECOS are signed up to the HHPS. Bio-D receives ECRA’s best rating as it has a fixed cut off date too. Both Ecover and ACDO receive ECRA’s middle rating as they have a five-year rolling policy i.e. they only exclude ingredients which have been animal tested within the last five years.

Market leaders Procter & Gamble and Unilever both receive ECRA’s worst rating and are subject to boycott calls as they commission animal experiments.

Full link here

[ECRA = Ethical Consumer Research Association]
[HHPS = Hazardous Household Product Something]

And on the same subject, here is a topical article regarding animal testing in the cosmetic industry. [And why we ‘need‘ to wear cosmetics is a whole other post]. I really thought this was meant to be ended years ago?? Apparently not.

If you want to skip the text fine, but read the last par – no, it is not shocking, – it is a good and extremely relevant point.

Fighting Animal Testing
17/04/2012 10:06

Launch today of global campaign to end cosmetics testing on animals

Humane Society International and Lush Cosmetics have joined forces to launch the largest-ever global campaign to end animal testing for cosmetics. The campaign, launched to coincide with World Week for Animals in Laboratories, is being rolled out simultaneously in over 700 Lush Ltd shops across forty-seven countries including the United States, Canada, India, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Russia.

Hilary Jones, Ethics Director at Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics, said: “The animals have waited over 20 years for this legislation to be fully enacted. Whilst the laws were not strong enough, companies like Lush have adopted voluntary codes of practice to cut animal testing from their business.  But animals should not have to rely on voluntary codes of conduct, they should be protected by robust laws which force ALL companies to adopt humane methods to bring their products to market.  The public demanded this legislation in the 80s and 90s – it is time to honour the promise given to them to take animals out of cosmetics testing.”

A sales ban is due to be implemented in March 2013, but EU policy makers are considering delaying or weakening it, so consumers are being urged to sign HSI’s CrueltyFree2013 petition in Lush stores and online at

Outside the EU, animal testing for cosmetics continues and is even a legal requirement in some countries. HSI offices in Australia, Canada, India, the United States are joining with Lush to end cosmetics cruelty with nationwide consumer campaigns in each region. HSI will also be working with politicians, regulators and scientists to press for change.

Lush and Humane Society International believe that testing on animals to produce new cosmetic products or ingredients is morally and scientifically unjustified.

Animals are subjected to considerable pain and distress during toxicity tests; even pregnant animals are used and their unborn babies chemically poisoned. Animal toxicity tests are also scientifically unreliable for assuring human safety because animals and humans can respond very differently to the same chemicals.

Cosmetics can easily be produced without animal testing by using the thousands of existing ingredients for which safety data is already available and advanced non-animal testing methods such as 3D human skin models, test-tube cell tests and computer models.

[bolding is mine]

And yes, although I am dubious about on-line petitions, I did sign. You might want to too.

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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28 Responses to Compromises?

  1. Not sure how much you follow this issue or want to but the new CEO of Apple has been making a public point of visiting Foxconn, the factory in Shenzhen where all their stuff (and every other computer/phone manufacturer’s stuff) is made. It’s impossible to buy any sort of new sexy tech without this issue…I blogged it and wrote about it in my new book about working retail; we’re all implicated because Apple’s obscene profits are coming at the expense of workers far away with zero economic or political clout; (says she, typing on an Apple laptop.)


    • I try not to leave my head in the sand too much of the time.
      Where is our choice though? Whatever happened to consumer power? Hah!
      MacBookPro here – but oldish – well, me and the computer. But sadly my computer comment was all too serious. I can not cope without a Mac. When the logicboard went down (first computer EVER to collapse on me), I was going hairless using an HP and Windows.

      It ain’t just the ones miles away with no clout, we have none either.


  2. tlbflowllc says:

    I love your thoughts!

    I’m also someone that gravitates towards quality. Well, unless someone’s rights are being brutally trodden upon. In the case of a lot of big companies that people hate, I always remember what one of my Economics professors told me. Interestingly, he was teaching at the University of Arkansas which is largely funded by the giant superstore Wal-Mart. So, he’s probably biased.

    The ECON professor said that he hears people complaining about the unethical conditions of jobs in China, but to him, it seems perfectly ethical. He said that Wal-Mart isn’t forcing the Chinese people to work in their “sweatshops”. The Chinese hold these jobs in high esteem because the alternative is typically rural farming and a lot of them die of starvation when their crops don’t turn out well that year. It was an interesting view that I hadn’t heard before. It’s just a question of “what’s their alternative?” So, if Wal-Mart can give them a job that they took out of their own volition that is better than any alternative that they have, how can we say that Wal-Mart is unethical?

    Food for thought. I’m still up in the air on my own level of agreement with his statements, but I thought it was a good counter-balance to the media I’ve typically heard confidently proclaiming that Wal-Mart is Satan.

    All in all, your post makes me think of the classic utilitarian question, “Does the end justify the means?” It’s a lot to think about.


    • Why doesn’t Wal Mart – or any other company – provide jobs in their own country?


      • tlbflowllc says:

        Because it’s cheaper to outsource the work to countries with weaker economies. The minimum wage in the US is around $7 an hour, but the Chinese people in rural areas are happy to work for something like $1 an hour. So, these companies essentially save $6 per hour the employees work. When you have thousands of employees working thousands of hours, that really adds up.

        It’s almost entirely just about the bottom line.


        • Sorry, it was a rhetorical question. Thanks for the lesson though which I appreciate. By which I mean, I appreciate the time you took to reply. I knew the answer. I learned a little about profit a) gaining my MBA and b) running small businesses.

          The point of this post and the previous series was, and is, about ethics and principles and whether anyone is prepared to put them before that bottom line.

          But given you have a commercial blog, I’m guessing you may be interested in the bottom line.


          • tlbflowllc says:

            Sorry that I didn’t pick up on the rhetorical part of the question. I only read your most recent post and your “About” page which has no mention of your MBA degree. I hope you can agree that my ignorance was warranted.

            As for any discussion about ethics and principles within the world, I really don’t think either of us want to get into a discussion on here. Frankly, I couldn’t care less what you believe on the issue. I’ve studied it out myself to a level of my own satisfaction in university ECON classes and various philosophy texts. My reasoning brings me to the conclusion that my stances are rational according to the best economists I know of and the best philosophers I know of. It’s not a matter of me trying to bend the world to a certain set of principles of what I believe should be. It’s merely a matter of responding to the fact of what is… Essentially, “How can a finite number of resources be divided among an infinite number of desires?”

            In the same vein, I don’t think you could care less about my point of view based on how you so quickly retreated from the issue at hand to making it a personal issue. You’ve likely been extremely irritated at unethical capitalism and therefore hate it in its entirety. For that, I do not blame you.

            With that in mind, I tastefully agree to disagree with you. I have several close friends with your point of view on the subject, so if I have any questions I’ll ask them. Please know that from now on, I will steer clear of your blog so as not to cause further annoyance.


          • I did say two degrees on the About page. Normally a second degree follows the first. Nor am I convinced that I should be giving out my CV for any passing commenter.

            But it hardly takes any degree to work out that cheap labour from abroad trumps expensive labour at home.

            However, despite my degrees, I don’t feel qualified to comment on your ignorance.

            But if you don’t care what I think, what on earth are you doing on here anyway? Seriously?

            And in terms of dividing world resources, they can be divided a lot better than they are being done at the moment.

            As for ‘what is’ – it can be different if people have the will to change. Instead of accepting the status quo.

            There was no retreat from the issue. Just noticed you had a commercial blog. Should I not have mentioned that? That is correct, is it not?

            But back off with the judgements. Right now. Because based on reading one post and one ‘About’ me page you are groping in the dark. To put it politely.

            I do wonder why you even came here in the first place. But still. Thank you for your comments. And who gives a shit about whether you will steer clear of my blog or not? Not me for one.


          • tlbflowllc says:

            Lol. Yeah, it was a tragic mistake with the “Health” tag on your post.


          • Yours not mine. Eating is about health. I did mention that. I also mentioned not using vehicles. Health isn’t just about working out, as you know. In fact, far more than me 🙂


          • tlbflowllc says:

            Ha. Yes, I’ll admit that the onus of the mistake is upon my shoulders.

            Also, I fully agree that health is far more than just working out. You’re already light-years ahead of most Americans.


          • Let’s agree to part on good terms. My 50+ year old vegetarian body needs to move! Go on, scoot. You weren’t coming past here any more 😀


          • tlbflowllc says:

            Lol. I like you. I think I’ve just been scarred by overly-stupid people on both sides of all issues. The ones who will accuse you of killing your own mother if you tell them that you believe in something they don’t.

            Ok, I’m scootin’. 🙂


  3. I’m guessing my thoughts are less than loved now though. Don’t you all love these pragmatic academic debates?


  4. You address a lot of different issues here! I’ll stick to vegetables! In my opinion everyone should be encouraged to ‘grow their own’ – you only need a tiny patch and it is quite easy to keep a small family supplied for most of the year with seasonal vegetables. Having read this (and I’d never thought about this before) the only worry I have now is how far have the seeds travelled before I get to sow them?


  5. EllaDee says:

    Such an interesting post and comments. I like that there is conversation about the topic because compromise is something we consider every day, as we don’t alway have the time, money & opportunity to make our #1 preferred choices. I think it comes back to as we have dicussed before, awareness and doing the best you can as much as you can.


    • Absolutely. In fact one of the issues, is that being an informed shopper is such a privileged middle class thing. Although we may not have much time to grab in our working lives, in my case there was the money to subscribe to a fairly thinking magazine which informed me, and then the money to pay for the products I chose, including some by mail order. There is no way anyone on minimal income or state handouts with a houseful of screaming kids can do any of that. Begs the question of why they have the screaming kids in the first place, but that’s a whole different issue, and you’ll know the issues as well as I do.

      I was writing this from a purely personal perspective because I wanted to show that although I do have a hierarchy of preferred values, I can’t meet them all – or even any of them sometimes. But it doesn’t take much for the average remotely thinking person who blogs and has access to reasonable internet to inform themselves a little bit and, as in my example quoted above, not buy products by Proctor & Gamble and Unilever. If people think animal testing is unnecessary then they should Do Something About It. Huge drops in sales do have an effect on companies.


  6. You Were so very right I love the interaction …


    • Well, I’m sad that my new friend never came back and totally scooted off.

      Myself I think my beliefs are reasonable because they are my own and not someone else’s. We all live, learn, and grow older.


      • And we all believe our views are reasonable / right, it’s what makes this blogging business the fun it can be.


        • I spent a lot of time ( like the scooter above ) listening to my olders, wisers, betters and all that. One day I learned to think for myself. After that, the damage was done.


          • If only our elders etc. didn’t keep letting us know they had some sort of god given monopoly of being right we probably wouldn’t be in the mess we are now. But hey, now I know what I want I can start trying to coax these tired bones into doing it.


          • The most I can do is occasionally write a few posts pointing out that people don’t have to sit back and accept corporate/banking/political/monied ‘wisdom.’ That people can and should think for themselves. They may also wish to think about every other living entity on the planet occasionally. Before everything gets totally killed off.


I appreciate any comments you leave, so long as they are relatively polite. And thanks for reading.

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