Nov/Dec 2015

Readers' Letters from Ethical Consumer Issue 157

Nov/Dec 2015



Religion and EC

I was incredibly disappointed to read your feature on Islam and ethical consumerism in EC 156. There is no place for religion and religious constraints in Ethical Consumer as the rules of religion often stop you thinking for yourself in an objective manner. For example, your article supports Halal food. Many of your readers will disagree with this as it still involves killing animals. There is much debate over the ethics of Halal and how much it actually reduces suffering of the animal in comparison to modern methods used. This decision must be made by an individual outside of the rules of religion in order to qualify for the title of being an “ethical consumer”. I follow a faith system myself but I try and differentiate my decisions about my lifestyle choices so religion does not rule them without considered thought and justification. I urge EC to refrain from bringing in religion into their issues again as it decreases your credibility, especially when you show bias in only presenting a single viewpoint from a single belief system.

Concerned reader (name withheld)

Ed: Ethical Consumer’s work has in the past frequently crossed over with that of (mainly Christian) faith groups on Fairtrade, arms manufacture and ethical investment particularly. Indeed, the next story but one to appear on our website after the Islam piece was on the subject of the Pope’s June encyclical where he said “Purchasing is always a moral act” and backed consumer boycotts. Particularly in the current climate of Islamophobia in some parts of Europe, we felt that this article on Isam and Ethical Consumption offered an novel and measured reflection on the subject.


Amnesty unethical?
On a basic but undeniably accurate level, the commodification and subsequent purchase of a prostituted person introduces a consumer angle. Two photos of past conferences depict an Amnesty International presence. I write to ask if you are aware of the recent sex trade policy adopted by Amnesty, that concerns have been raised about the process of adoption and about how this policy impacts on the human rights of women and girls.  I very much look forward to EC going large as it is sorely needed. But I am concerned that your reputation should not suffer at such a crucial time.

Brigitte Lechner, by email


To survive I know that your magazine needs to make money from inserts, but I was disappointed to see an Amnesty International leafltet fall out of the recent issue. In its bid to legalise the grotesque sex industry Amnesty cannot be considered an ethical organisation.

Laura Bird, by email

Ed: Amnesty’s website states that their International Council Meeting in August 2015 passed a resolution recommending that they develop “a policy that supports the full decriminalization of all aspects of consensual sex work. The policy will also call on states to ensure that sex workers enjoy full and equal legal protection from exploitation, trafficking and violence.” Although clearly controversial, the campaign has not yet been developed, and may yet fail to see the light of day. Their work generally is excellent.


The case of the missing biscuits
Good range of coverage in EC 156. I have to admit I was a little surprised that you didn’t cover Border Biscuits in your report on same: they’re small, but I understand a bestseller throughout the UK; the company looks as if it might be worth your consideration next time though I fully understand that you can’t cover everyone of course.
Conrad Hughes, by email



Coffee pod reuse
I am a regular reader of your magazine and recently saw a letter from Chris Rogers (EC155) regarding deciding which pods to use with a Nespresso machine that he was given as a gift.
Having been in the same position I wanted to offer another option that I discovered when I researching the same issue: refillable pods. I used a coffee duck with my older Senseo machine and for the Nespresso discovered ‘BigSis’ refillable pods. They are plastic pods with aluminium stick-on lids that you peel off in one after use. I find them easy to clean – the coffee comes out with a little tap. I like this solution because it allows me to vary the coffee that I put in them giving me more choice of fairtrade coffee to use and also reduces the waste. I would find it useful if you could review the different refillable pods on offers and the companies that supply them as although I think the products are more sustainable than single use pods I don’t know much about the companies’ backgrounds.

Cheryl Anderson, by email

Ed: A timely letter. See page 14 in this issue!



Where are my pants?
I’m writing, because I have good reason to believe that Pants to Poverty may have gone out of business. In brief, (excuse the pun), I placed an order over 2 weeks ago, which has not arrived, and they have failed to reply to three emails, and their phone number is ‘unrecognised’. A web search revealed Facebook postings from several other customers who have had the same experience, going back to the end of June. Are you able to shed any light on what has become of this company which you currently giving a top ethical rating?
Guy Johnson, by email

Ben from Pants to Poverty replies...
I have absolutely no excuse but by way of an explanation:

  • Pants to Poverty is at the moment facing extremely difficult financial issues. I have therefore had to let all of my team go on sabbatical until I am able to re-engineer things and bring on board a new investor. We have a new investor ready to come on board any minute now.
  • It got so bad that I was unable to afford storage and shipping etc.. and so I have had to relocate all stock and set up a new system. This is now done.
  • One of my team – whilst on her sabbatical – became very involved in the refugee crisis across Europe. She asked for my support and we were very successful in our goals but then suddenly a pan-European movement took away our lives for the past month.

I now have enough money to send you your pants and to all those that have been waiting.



Ethical Fasion?
I read with some amusement the piece on “Ethical fashion discussions” (EC156), since the basic premise of the fashion industry is to encourage people to discard perfectly good clothing and buy something which is simply different. How unethical can you get?
Mike Fowler, by email



Boycotting militaristic language
I’ve been boycotting Amazon and Starbucks for more than two years now. I’ve persuaded many of my friends to boycott them too. I’ve written to British Gas to say how disappointed I am that they are promoting Amazon gift certificates, and am shocked that they want to be associated with an organisation under formal investigation for tax avoidance and antitrust practices. I came across your website today, and was initially excited but then I read your sentence on Amazon’s recent decision to route sales through the UK: “It is fair to say that this is a battle well won, but the war is far from over.”
I thought I’d let you know that using words like ‘war’ puts a lot of people off. We are tired of ‘war’ – we hear it every day all day ‘War on Poverty’ ‘War on Terror’ – the whole bloody world is at ‘war’ and we, the average Joe public, are sick of it.
Christine Homer, by email



Keeping Good Energy on their toes
Good Energy are behind the Big Deal currently being promoted by 38 Degrees. As a happy Good Energy customer myself, it is exciting that so many more people might get signed up. However, I noticed that Good Energy has recently updated their fuel procurement policy to include BioDiesel and burning wood chips, with somewhat aspirational phrasing about the way in which they would “ideally” source such electricity from local/sustainable sources. While I trust them more than the Big Six, we must keep an eye on the smaller providers too. As they get bigger, the temptation might be to cut corners. Scrutiny must ensure that their energy really is ethical, and isn’t contributing to deforestation or turning over agricultural land to biofuels and pushing up food prices.
Scillo, Forum post

Ed: Many thanks for the heads-up. On their website Good Energy state that they “have some of the strictest purchasing criteria in the industry – it’s also some of the most transparent”. Both their Renewable Electricity Procurement and Biogeneration Procurement Policies are available to view on their website.



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