Jan/Feb 2015

Readers Letters from Ethical Consumer Issue 152

Jan/Feb 2015



Clarifying Cambodian workers pay demands

I have just returned from a visit to Cambodia where I learned of the factory workers’ fight for a higher minimum wage. It was recently increased (a week or so ago) to $128/month, but they are asking for $177/month. This morning I was pleased to see this was reported in the most recent issue of Ethical Consumer (EC151, page 8), which I hadn’t read before, leaving for Cambodia, but the article is missing out one vital piece of information – that they are asking for $177 PER MONTH. The article states that factory workers demonstrated, “…calling for an increase in the minimum wage to $177”, which makes no sense unless you include the period of time to which this wage would apply! I would imagine such an omission would cause confusion among your readers, so perhaps this could be clarified in the next issue?
Elizabeth Metz (by email)

Ed: Well spotted, and thanks for sending in the clarification. We've printed an amendment in our current issue.

You can download the current issue of the magazine here >



Operating systems for PCs and laptops

Thank you for the comprehensive guide to the internet in issue EC150. It encouraged us to switch browsers on our Microsoft Vista desktop from Google Chrome to Mozilla Firefox. As for search engines, we never use Google anyway, but it’s good to see the various, more ethical alternatives.I hope you will follow with a comprehensive look at operating systems and office suites. People should be aware that there are ethical alternatives to Microsoft, Apple and Google. Two years ago, I needed a small portable PC and bought a secondhand Acer netbook. This came with Microsoft Windows 7, but last year I downloaded the Ubuntu opensource system. I experienced no problems at all apart from having to install one driver for wi-fi, and I’m absolutely delighted with Ubuntu. It is slicker and more stable than Windows, and the open-source office suite, Libre Office, is almost as user-friendly as Microsoft office.
Andrew Day (by email)



Pro-Israeli-Palestinian Peace

I note from the articles in Ethical Consumer and newspaper reports that there are a number of boycotts against companies who are involved in, or give support to, the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land being advocated. I am entirely supportive of the aims of these boycotts and, for my part, avoid products that have come from Israel. However I also know that if there is to be peace in that part of the Middle East, both sides have to be part of the peace making. I wonder, therefore, if simply boycotting Israeli products will help bring both parties to a peaceful settlement. Is it possible for consumers to actively encourage Israel to seek peace by proactively supporting Israeli companies or organisations that are pro-peace? Could Ethical Consumer perhaps compile a list of products that we could buy in support of peace?
Judith (by email)

Ed:You might be interested in Sindyanna, producers of artisanal olive oil and other delicacies from the Galilee region in northern Israel. It is led by women striving for social change and “symbolizes a unique cooperation between Arabs and Jews”.

For more on communities working together check out the peace village of Neve Shalom / Wahat al-Salam. 

Ethical Consumer supports Tree for Life, which plants olive trees in Palestine, and recommends Zaytoun, which markets Palestinian olive oil in the UK.  

You can sponsor the planting of an olive tree when you buy a gift subscription.



Boycott them all?

I have been an avid reader of EC over the years and have found it so much easier to choose a lifestyle which is improved by basically NOT buying anything (i.e. boycott most of the companies in your lists except the ‘Best Buys’ and, even then, not buy unless I really need to). It’s become quite simple now as the so-called choices that the multinationals like to promote are owned by a relatively small number of companies so there is in fact little choice, except to not buy from as many of them as possible. Of course the biggest hurdle is seeing how the companies like to duckand-dive and snap up the more ethical companies in the name of greenwash etc – and EC certainly helps sort out the wheat from the chaff.By using my consumer power, I find it easy to put most multinationals in the ‘For Life Boycott’ as they can never repent for the misery they have inflicted on humanity. So companies like Nestlé, Procter and Gamble and Shell to name a few must have lost a few bob over these last 25 years from lost trade.


One small suggestion: I have found that DVDs can be used to promote ethical consumption. It would be great if you could dedicate space to add in links to documentaries that give more info about some of the issues that you cover. Here is a brief list of some that I can recommend:

  • Black Gold: the hidden costs of coffee.
  • Trashed: the world’s waste and it associated problems.
  • Tapped: side-effects of bottled water
  • More than Honey: what is happening with the world’s honey.
  • Chocolate, a bitter taste: speaks for itself.
  • Canned dreams: just how many miles goes into that canned food.
  • Gasland (pts 1 and 2): another indictment on fracking.

McBoycott (by email)

Ed:Many thanks for the list of documentaries. For more on current consumer boycotts (or how to make a boycott call) go to our boycotts pages.




Riverford Organics and fox hunting

Further to EC 151 page 6, this is a perfect example of my mother’s adage, ‘You can choose your friends, but not your relatives’. Guy Watson and his sister have obviously agreed to differ on this matter. They are both part of Riverford. She clings to tradition; he innovates. The request for people to “put pressure” on Mr Watson, who is already anti-blood sports, is misguided; he could take his business elsewhere and the world would still have a landowner who hunts. Pressure should be put on his sister. That might effect real change.
Gina Purrmann, London



eBook dilemma

I’ve been looking at your findings on e-readers and now feel very guilty about owning and using a Kobo! I bought it before I realised how poorly they rate on your ethical assessment. What would be your advice? Should I stop using it and put it to the back of a drawer? There seems little point in giving it away and this just moves the problem.
Brian McGuire (by email)

Ed: Now it’s purchased we reccommend continuing to use it rather than buying another new appliance but carefully choose where you buy your ebooks from and try to use an ethical ebook shop. For more information, see our Ethical Guide to Booksellers.




Think animal welfare, think pigs!

At Farms not Factories, we are working to improve the welfare standards of the pig farming industry. As ethical consumers, you already know that what you buy makes a difference. Every time we buy pork, bacon, ham or sausages we vote for one of several different methods of pork production. We are putting out a call for collective action for consumers to demand pork that is produced responsibly, and not at the expense of animals or the environment. By choosing to buy only high-welfare pork, you are voting for farming with traditional values of stewardship and against animal factories that abuse animals; sicken neighbours with a toxic stench; overuse antibiotics and ignore welfare laws.

By externalising the true costs of production, these producers are unfairly putting sustainable farmers out of business. So how do you know what pork to buy to support good farming? To make choosing ethical pork easier, we’ve produced a star rating system that shows what each pork label means in terms of how the pigs have been raised.


We endorse a star rating for farmed pork products:

  • Organic = 5 stars
  • Free Range = 4 stars
  • Outdoor Bred = 3 stars
  • Freedom Food = 2 stars
  • Red Tractor = 1 star


For more information on the rating system and to sign the pledge see Farms Not Factories.
Tracey Worcester, Farms not Factories (by email)

Ed: More on improving animal welfare from Compassion in World Farming.



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