Jul/Aug 2016

Readers' Letters


from Ethical Consumer Issue 161, July/August 2016



Cover image of EC160Optics for hunting have their place
I would just like to point out that in New Zealand we have enormous problems with introduced animals. There are various control strategies employed to protect our native flora and fauna from predation from the exotics. These strategies generally all involve killing the targeted animal. Often the most humane means of control is by shooting, where recreational hunting can provide useful assistance to state-funded culling of animals.

I like to think of myself as a greenie at heart. In the last few years I have been getting into hunting as I have seen the damage done by large herbivores in our delicate alpine ecosystems. I see no problem in going on an alpine trip and coming back with a load of meat which is well enjoyed by our family and those that it is given away to.

Good optics are very useful for accurately ranging and dispatching an animal in a quick and humane manner. In the New Zealand context there is even room for trophy hunting, although I personally can’t bring myself to shoot something purely because it is big and beautiful. I understand that New Zealand is possibly a small and isolated exception to the worldwide hunting industry.  However, I have seen our possum fur and skin industry suffer considerable decline partly by environmentalists attacking those wearing furs.  Possums cause massive damage across NZ.  Having a commercial imperative to control them was helping to reduce the damage.

I haven’t read your full report, but I just wanted to voice concern that even for nature lovers, it can be difficult to find black and whites out there...

Rory Jones, by email




Alternative to rice advice
As you noted in EC160, those who are worried about the environmental impact of eating rice should consider barley. I can add that it can be cooked in the same way, is often superior in taste, and is widely grown in the UK.

Dave Jackson, by email



Wi-fi – Why not?
In response to Guy Wood’s letter about wi-fi exposure (EC160) and there not being “more concern”, the reason is simple: there doesn’t appear to be any reason to be concerned. Wi-fi is non-ionizing radiation which puts it into the same category as radio waves (>50 years’ exposure to the entire western world through TV Radio) and ultrasound (which is of course what they point at babies in wombs). This doesn’t guarantee it’s harmless, but it’s in a different league to the bad stuff that comes to mind when most people think of ‘radiation’ – the harmful ionizing radiations such as x-rays, and ultraviolet.

Guy doesn’t specify the studies he’s referring to and I cannot readily find them, except the male infertility one which was probably poor experimental design. I have found a study showing no effects on pregnancy outcomes excepting stress related ones (they’re worried about the wi-fi), and another showing no effect on the immune system of babies.

On the issue of the WHO classification as a “potential (2B) carcinogen”, I would point to this article which clearly states the classification is for the entire EM spectrum. This was “based on studies of extremely heavy cell phone use; 1640 hours or more per year, which is equal to holding a cell phone to the side of your head for 4 hours a day every day of an entire year.” and as a result of that extremely high usage, there was ‘possibly’ an increase in a rare type of brain tumour. It should be noted that “WiFi emits 1% of the levels of EMF radiation as cell phones do”.

So, while “Wi-Fi” is new, the western world has been zapping themselves with EM in the form of radiowaves and ultrasound for decades with negligible effect. I also found multiple papers which do show a correlation between bad media reporting and people then experiencing symptoms and “developing an apparent sensitivity to” whatever the ailment of the week is. I would therefore suggest maybe we should focus on weeding out bad media reporting as it has a more deleterious consequence to society than wi-fi.

Jon Jones, by email



When service sucks!
We recently purchased a vacuum cleaner (Hoover). It was obviously good for the environment (so we thought) with its A rating. On opening the box, we found a vital part was missing.  It was not easy to obtain this part and, because of this, they offered us a cleaner/descaler for our washing machine(!) in compensation. I said ‘no’, because I had seen one several years ago and turned it down because of environmental concerns. They (Hoover Candy) gave us to understand that this product was environmentally sound.

Imagine our dismay when, on reading the (very) small print, we saw that this product is dangerous to aquatic life with a long-lasting effect. I wrote a letter of complaint and they quietly put a refund into our bank account (no letter, though). I only wish I had the energy to start a campaign around this issue. Any offers?

E. Wood



Visual distortion
Thanks for the latest update; your veggie vs meat page is very interesting (EC160 p11). However, I find your infographic desperately confusing. It looks as if you’re trying to convey land use with rectangular patches for each food type. However, they just don’t make sense:


Infographic showing meat production CO2 emissionsAt first I thought that the patches were overlapping (smaller patch contained in larger, etc.), but that doesn’t make sense because at 3m² each, Quorn and soya should occupy the same patch.
But if the patches aren’t overlapping, then things don’t make sense because chickens should use up more than twice the area of the Quorn/soya, which they don’t, and pigs are even more bewildering because they don’t use twice as much again as chickens.

And what are you using to convey area?  The grey patches?  The coloured ones?  Colour kind of almost makes sense except that the sizes still don’t work and it would imply that the containment/overlap hypothesis is correct, which it plainly isn’t, and why is the grey there anyway and what do the variations in grey area mean, and why is the text for soya possibly on Quorn’s patch, etc.  Sigh.
.. and I’m a mathematician, so I usually do quite well at making sense of these things.  Please could you try again?  It’s a great idea to try to present this kind of information in a nice intuitive way, but I think this graphic could do with a bit of a review...

To my mind, if the total area of the graphic represents the 420m² required for a kilo of beef, then soya and quorn should each have plots that are a twelfth the size of this on each edge, representing their 3m², since 420 = 140 times 3 is approximately 12 by 12 times the area required by soya/quorn: if you stack 12 rows of 12 columns of little 3m² patches you’ll get one 432m² patch, which is close enough.  Similarly chicken should be about a seventh on each side (7*7*8m² = 392m²), and pork a little over a fifth on each side    (5*5*15m² = 375m²).  As far as I can see, this picture would look quite a bit more dramatic than your current graphic since the Quorn and soya patches are absolutely *tiny* compared to beef. That’s just not obvious (to me at least) from the current graphic.

As I reach the end of this I’ve a new hypothesis, that it’s the width of the coloured stripes and the cow field that you’re trying to use (the dark green cow area is 375 pixels wide, the pig stripe 12 pixels, chicken 8, quorn 4, soya 5), but I’m not convinced that the representation makes sense: we don’t think of area as the width of a stripe, we think of it as rectangles.

Conrad Hughes, by email

Ed: You are not the only person to have been confused by this infographic. We accept that it could have been clearer.  It is your last hypothesis, the width of the coloured strips, that we were trying to use. Apologies for any confusion.




GM feedback
I have enjoyed reading Ethical Consumer for the past 18 months, but I now find myself querying one particular issue. From articles I have read, it seems that a lot of people would see genetically modified crops as harmful to a green/ethical lifestyle. I have always felt slightly dubious about this stance.

An article in EC160 titled ‘GM is not the answer’ talked about mono-cultures, GM contamination, poor contracts with multinational corporations, and over-use of herbicides. Whilst these are good examples of how crops have been controlled and used in a poor and ill-thought-through manner, none of these issues show that there is anything bad with GM crops themselves. I think by all means environmental charities could do good by campaigning against intensive farming, corporate power and the over use of herbicides, but why should this be twisted into an all-out ‘GM Freeze’? Surely it is possible to support sensible use of GM without considering it to be a replacement for good practise and farm management? Perhaps EC could consider more carefully the other potentially ethical effects of GM, and fully inform readers, before seeing it swiftly dismissed in the opening lines of an article?!

Zoe Round, by email

Ed: We recognise that GM is an issue that divides our readers which is why a column on the tables allows them to avoid or support companies involved.  A key concern at EC is Monsanto’s dominance in this area and its focus on commercial profit.