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 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
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 www.fightinganimaltesting.com
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.