one girl’s perspective on life, neopaganism, veganism, politics, books, films, and… stuff.

Posts tagged ‘Politics’

Ethical Shopping; A Quick Guide

The more I learn about the world of food production, corporate supermarket operations, and the environmental implications of modern lifestyle, the more thought I have to put into my shopping. The maxim about “voting with your dollar” is largely true, and there are a lot of factors to take into consideration. That being said, it doesn’t need to be difficult, and we all choose which factors most strongly influence our buying.

One of the biggest factors, which I don’t discuss below, is having the income to be able to make ethical shopping purchases. I am on a pretty damn low income, but I have made buying quality (and conscionable) food/products a priority. I don’t buy much (other than books, second-hand mostly), I don’t “eat out”, buy new clothes, etc. To me it’s worth saving my pennies elsewhere in order to eat well!

As a side note, I am surprisingly lucky in terms of access to local (and often organically) grown produce, and local businesses to support. For a small country town, the access to ethically sourced foods is amazing. Not to mention said local produce is usually MUCH CHEAPER than the produce available in the supermarkets!

Now we’ve gotten the preamble out of the way, here is a brief guide to the things I consider when buying a product.

  1. Where am I buying it? Especially with products in the major supermarkets, I always ask “Can I get this from a local business instead?”
  2. Is it vegan? Any animal ingredients (including E numbers)? Is it tested on animals?
      Animal-derived (i.e. non-vegan) E numbers:

    • 120 Carmine
    • 441 Gelatine
    • 542 Bone Phosphate
    • 631 Glutamic Acid
    • 901 Beeswax
    • 910, 920, 921 L-cysteine
    • 913 Lanolin
    • 966 Lactitol
  3. Is it Australian made? Check for products made from LOCAL ingredients only, not a mixture of local and imported.
  4. Is the manufacturer Australian? Even if the ingredients come from Australia, the parent company itself may be a multinational/international corporation. So it’s always worth checking.
  5. Does the manufacturer have a “black” listing? Has the company been accused of any unethical practices, code violations, human rights violations, etc.?

    As a quick guide, the 6 major companies you should boycott on this basis are;

    • Nestlé (aggressively marketed infant formula in developing countries; dependency on these products leads to infant deaths, workers’ rights, pollution)
    • Coca-Cola (murders, kidnappings and torture of union leaders in Colombia, pollution of soil/groundwater in India)
    • L’Oréal / Procter & Gamble (ongoing involvement in animal testing, with no interest in stopping; L’Oréal is also part-owned by Nestlé)
    • GlaxoSmithKline (animal testing, adulterated drugs, $3b fine for fraud)
    • Unilever (animal testing, BPA policy, price fixing, worker exploitation in Kenya and India)
    • Johnson & Johnson (animal testing, unethical marketing, price fixing, action on Darfur)
  6. How many ingredients? Is it mostly whole foods, is the ingredients list a mile long, how many artificial ingredients are there? I try and avoid unnecessary processing where possible.

    For example, quick oats have one ingredient, oats. Pre-flavoured quick oats often have up to FIFTEEN ingredients, even for flavours as simple as “brown sugar”. I’d rather just add some brown sugar to the oats myself; with soy milk that’s a total of 3 ingredients!

  7. How much packaging is involved? Can I get a version with less packaging? Is the packaging recyclable?

    I buy my cat tuna in tins for this reason; the individual sachet pouches aren’t recyclable, but tins are!

When buying produce there are a few extra considerations;

  1. Can I get this locally? A lot of farmers are happy to sell the produce that supermarkets reject because it’s not “perfect”, with the bonus of it being fresh (and did you know those rough brown spots on the skins of apples usually indicate a sweeter apple?). It’s worth hunting around to find out if you have this option.

    Obviously, if you live in a city (you poor thing!), this isn’t very practical; I’d suggest trying to find produce that comes from within your own state, if possible. The aim of the game is to select produce with the lowest food miles; there’s also nothing like fresh produce!

  2. Should I buy organic? This is a tricky one; as a general rule, I first consider whether the item is one of the “Dirty Dozen” or the “Clean Fifteen”. These are general guides indicating which foods are grown using the greatest amount of pesticides and petro-chemicals. They are:

      Dirty Dozen (buy these organic where possible)

    • Apples
    • Capsicums
    • Blueberries
    • Celery
    • Cucumbers
    • Grapes
    • Lettuce
    • Nectarines
    • Peaches
    • Potatoes
    • Spinach (and kale and other greens)
    • Strawberries
      Clean Fifteen (minimal pesticides used in production)

    • Asparagus
    • Avocado
    • Cabbage
    • Cantaloupe
    • Corn
    • Eggplant
    • Grapefruit
    • Kiwi fruit
    • Mangoes
    • Mushrooms
    • Onions
    • Pineapples
    • Sweet peas
    • Sweet potatoes
    • Watermelon

So there you have it, a (reasonably) short and sweet guide to ethical shopping considerations! Now, this is a lot to remember, especially when you’re busy grocery shopping. I use several reference materials, in handy pocket form, that ensure I can look all this stuff up on the fly. They are;

  1. The “Shop Ethical” guide, a new pocket-sized guide book that I am absolutely NUTS about! It provides you with information about products and companies, including animal products/testing, human rights violations, companies accused of ethical violations, the country of origin of companies, and a very useful guide to what is Australian owned/made. (And it’s only $9! I actually have two of these, one for each of my bags, so I’m never without!)
  2. A list of animal derived E numbers; I have written the above list out on a post-it and taped it to the back of the Shop Ethical guide.

  3. “The Chemical Maze”, which comes in a bookshelf or pocket size, and gives you a complete list of all E numbers and common chemicals in cleaning and costmetic products. It tells you what they’re derived from, what their function is, whether there are any health/safety issues associated with the chemical, and common uses.

As always, questions and comments are more than welcome!

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Another Year, Another Post

Well here we are again, at the beginning of the year… the secular/calendar year, anyway. I’ve always felt that it’s a very arbitrary marker of time, when the seasons flow endlessly into one another – wouldn’t it make more sense to go back to counting things by summers? I’ve now lived 25 summers. After all, clocks are a tool of the capitalist machine, used to control the proletariat!

It’s lonely being a vegan-feminist-left-wing-intellectual in rural Australia this world.

Not to mention being a vegan locovore (as much as possible) who is concerned with sustainable business and farming practices, not to mention human and animal rights, who has been forced by circumstance to work for one of the multinational grocery chains.

It’s about as soul crushing as you might imagine…

Every time I see one of their propaganda pieces about how they “treat and pay farmers well” or are concerned with “sustainable” food production I want to scream. It’s all goddamn lies, and people buy into it hook, line and sinker.

I’ve been doing more and more reading regarding the “hidden” costs and horrors implicit in a supermarket-driven food economy, and it’s some scary shit. Having eliminated animal suffering from my diet/life, I am now working towards ensuring humans don’t suffer either. From a self-confessed misanthropist extremis, this may seem surprising, but we can hardly expect society at large to treat non-human animals with respect when they’re still exploiting their own species.

I consider these two essential reading when it comes to understanding how the modern human “food chain” really works:

Not On the Label, Felicity Lawrence

The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan

Especially for those of you in Australia, I also highly recommend;

Eating Between The Lines: Food and Equality in Australia, Rebecca Huntley

Eating Between the Lines is a fascinating look at how economic, geographical and gender factors all influence how/what people buy, prepare, eat and generally interact with, food. The analysis of gender roles relating to food was a thought provoking examination that appears to be rarely mentioned in most literature dealing with food-human interaction.

See, I really wish I had someone in person with whom to discuss these ideas. Or any ideas, really. Anything but banal fucking melodrama and offspring (the spawn of human breeders, not the band). Basically, I just want a clone of myself, so we could discuss books, ideas, films, comics… sigh.

The long and short of it is, as I mentioned in my previous post, I don’t much feel like talking with most people. The conversation isn’t anything particularly important or interesting, so why bother? Not to mention, the older I get, the less I want other people involved in, or knowing about, my affairs. It inevitably leads to drama!

So I’m going to attempt to update here more often, and use it as something of an intellectual outlet, when I’m not too braindead and exhausted from working shitty shift hours. I have to turn my brain off at work in order to survive my job, now I have to get back into the habit of turning it back on afterwards.

There will probably be more book/film reviews and somewhat less baking – my oven is unreliable at best, and a complete bitch at worst. It’s about 50 years old, electric and very, very variable in temperature. So it’s somewhat taken the joy out of baking, because I’m constantly stressing about getting cooking times right and not burning things. Ugh. I do still bake, but largely unimaginative things – I’m rarely game to risk trying a new recipe when there are good odds my oven will fuck it up…

Thank the Gods for my cat, whom I love so dearly. And monkeybars.

We're All Mad Here

Repost: “Asking For It” (A Satirical Look at the ‘Justification’ of Rape)

Reposted from HERE. Warning for potentially triggering content.

“She He asked for the rape mugging.

She He was wearing an mini skirt expensive suit in a badly-lit area what did he expect? We know men muggers see an expensive suit and thing sex cash. Women men should avoid dressing like sluts rich pricks to avoid getting raped mugged.

She he had also been drinking. Everyone knows that drunk women men like to have sex give away their money.

She he didn’t fight back, that clearly means that he agreed to have sex give away money. Besides which she’sugly he’s given to charity in the past, how can he say that he didn’t want to give his money away to anyone?

We all know that some women like to cry rape.
We all know that some men like to cry mugging.

Maybe it was just a case of waking up the next morning and regretting having sex giving away cash.

Why did she he agree to have drinks with the rapist mugger? She he should have known better than to drink with a rapist mugger… she he should know to stay home after dark. She he could be raped mugged.

Husbands can’t rape their wives.
Wives can’t steal from their husbands.

Going to the police is going to destroy the rapist’s mugger’s family, you do understand that don’t you? Besides which the rapist mugger SAID sorry! What more do you WANT?

It was just harmless fun a few dollars… it wasn’t like the rapist mugger was going to rape take the victim’s life savings.

It was just a misunderstanding, a he said, she said. The rapist mugger thought it was consensual.

Educated rapists muggers don’t rape steal other people’s money.

Powerful people don’t rape steal.

The rapist mugger was actually quite wealthy, I think we can see where this heading.

You know you should take it as a compliment someone wants to rape you steal your money.

He was wearing expensive clothes.

He was just asking for it.”

Some Thoughts on ‘Discrimination’ and ‘Tolerance’

This particular tangent was inspired by a fantastically well thought out post on Southern Pagan.

I think a lot of NeoPagans get so caught up in the community (which is, realistically, not all that big – that’s not a bad thing, either) that they seem to forget that we are a religious minority. Well, let me qualify that – they forget that we are a religious minority when it comes to their expectations of how NeoPaganism should be accommodated within broader society. They sure don’t forget we’re a minority when it comes to crying wolf persecution.

I mean, seriously, so many NeoPagans expect that society should cater to us. Not just tolerate us, or be open-minded (that would be nice, but not just in regards to NeoPaganism), but openly provide specific opportunities designed to meet specific needs. Here’s a thought – why? It’s not a direct ‘persecution’ of NeoPaganisms, nor is it a denial of rights. Generally, it’s simply a case of practicality and lack of a realistic demand.

For example, the University of Sydney has Muslim prayer rooms specially set aside, because there are a large number of Muslims at the uni. None of the high schools that I went to made accommodations for this, because there was little to no demand – maybe one or two Muslim students. Considering that’s one of the major world religions, what’s the likelihood that society is going to go out of its way to make special arrangements for a religious tradition that is exponentially smaller?

Well, one could argue that it’s all about quality, not quantity. That the rights of one person is justification enough for changes being made. And theoretically, I’d wonder what planet you’re from agree with you, to an extent. No-one should be denied the basic human rights. Hence, I believe in tolerance, sure (and I do belief in tolerance – not even necessarily acceptance, just tolerance, because I really don’t care if you’re just humouring me). I also believe that there is a marked difference between not being accommodated and actively being discriminated against.

If you consider ‘not being given special time/space for religious services’ to be persecution/discrimination, your life is apparently way too easy. If they don’t go out of their way to accommodate every other religious tradition, major or minor, other than NeoPaganism, then you’re not being persecuted, you’re just not their primary concern. Most public domains do not have the time or motivation to cater to any minority group. That’s possibly bad, definitely sad, but it’s the way of the world. You’re not special, you’re not being discriminated against.

And when it’s all said and done – to what extent is it impacting on you, anyway? Sure, I go to university on days that are of religious significance to me; that’s what evenings are for. Or the day before or after. Sure, I don’t have a dedicated space/time/group devoted to my religious practices on-campus. So I’ll go climb a tree, or sit on the lawn, and don’t give a shit if there are other NeoPagans around to hold my hand and ‘lend support’ during class hours. Given the fluidity of the ‘orthopraxy’ of virtually every NeoPagan that I’ve ever met, I’m skeptical about people’s claims that this is a really that big of a deal.

Is it really about religious rights? Or is it about wanting to feel justified in your feelings of persecution?

Australia’s Attempts at Prohibition

Well, okay, they’re not actively working towards complete prohibition (the alcohol industry earns waaaaaay too much), but the government is working on impeding on civil liberties. At the moment, what I want to rant talk about is THIS article.

For those too impatient to read the entire thing, it’s basically saying that we should entirely condemn the ‘DrinkWise’ anti-alcohol campaign, because it’s sponsored by the alcohol industry. And then goes on to tangentially mention the sports industry’s support of alcohol products, the “underage drinking epidemic!!!”, and the whole issue of basically “no-one ought to be allowed to smoke, ever”.

Yeah, it’s well thought out and completely rational. *ahem*

For starters, it’s plain stupid to completely condemn the entire campaign because of whence it derives its funding; ‘throwing out the baby with the bathwater’ springs to mind. As for the argument that it’s because of this source of funding that the campaign doesn’t work – uh, no. They’ve done studies on government funded anti-drinking campaigns, and shown that they also have very little effect on people’s drinking habits. It’s not a question of where the funds come from, it’s a question of finding a method of transmission of information that actually works. Of course, that would basically require a complete overhaul of Australian social values and attitudes, which isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

One of my main problems with government officials (and every other wealthy bastard) condemning drinking and smoking is this: it’s an individual’s choice. You step in and tell people what they can and can’t do in their lives, as far as personal choice goes (and where it doesn’t infringe upon the rights of others, obviously) and you are setting a dangerous precedent for 1984-esque levels of control (of course, that’s what the government wants, but that’s a whole other rant). Yes, I do understand the argument that these activities cost the health system a shitload of money. Much like, hmm, obesity and the myriad of health problems associated with being overweight. I don’t see the government stepping in and shutting down fast-food chains, or assisting in lowering the price of health food and taxing the fuckery out of anything deep-fried. Ahh, the sweet smell of blatant hypocrisy.

The only thing I agree with in this article is that it’s stupid to have athletic events, such as hand egg ‘football’, financially sponsored by the alcohol and tobacco industry. That being said, Australians like to be distracted by mindless drivel, such as television and sports, and the funding has to come from somewhere. I’d rather see government funding being distributed to things like education than the pursuit of head-injuries. There’s also something delightfully ironic about something that kills brain cells (i.e. alcohol) lending financial support to something so brainless (i.e. sport). But it does provide yet another vehicle by which pro-drinking sentiments enter into social consciousness, which harks back to my earlier point; if you want to stop binge-drinking, etc. then the social norms and mores of Australian society would have to be changed.

Besides, distract the population with brainless pursuits, and you can basically do whatever you want. I thought that was the ultimate goal of any government?

In the News: Biker Gangs Are the New “Terrorists”?

What can I say, I’m the eternal skeptic. This decade has seen some great examples of fear-mongering propaganda sneaking into western ideology, from “Weapons of Mass Destruction”, “Al-Quaeda plot to destroy western society”, “North Korea is going to kill us all”, to “Oh no! Reds under the bed! Russia is going to take over the world… again”.

And now, we have “Bikie gangs are going to have all-out war in Australia.”

I don’t know whether to laugh at the sheer stupidity of this (quick, everyone, let’s race to become the 51st state of the U.S. – first, we need gangs. Next up – relaxed gun laws!), or roll my eyes in disgust that it seems to be working because people are actually believing this shit.

Hmm. Let’s consider this, realistically, for a minute. According to the papers, a man was beaten to death in Sydney airport, as part of an “escalating bikie gang war”. Am I really the only one who sees how ridiculously fabricated this is?

1. Beaten to death; beating someone to death takes at least a little time, no matter how efficient you are. It’s also messy and chaotic, unlike the efficiency of shooting someone with a silencer, where no-one’s sure what happened for a minute, and you can slip away. So, these people are members of “big scary gangs”, and yet they happen to pick THE most inefficient method of execution, in the WORST possible spot. Which brings me to my next point:

2. In Sydney Airport; you know, one of the most secure airports in the world?!? Anyone who’s ever been through it knows that you can’t fucking cough without security guards being on your case. Americans have commented on how strict the security there is, and their country isn’t exactly relaxed about airport security these days. So we’re expected to believe that this happened in the airport, and, mysteriously, no-one showed up to stop it? Bullshit. It had to have been at least partially an “inside job”, in that someone has given a directive to do NOTHING in this clearly pre-arranged event.

3. “Escalating bikie gang war”; I’m pretty sure that, for something to escalate, it has to begin. This is pretty much the first real mention of any such “war” in Sydney, on any large scale. Good fear-mongering emotive use of language though. And now that this “war” has been created (by the politicians and media, not by motorbike riders), we can be publically seen to “do something about it”.

Which brings me to the point of all this: why bother? Sure, there’s the perpetual government-agenda of keeping the public subdued through fear and intimidation, but there’s another great benefit. Political ratings! Tell people that there’s this huge threat (there isn’t), then tell everyone that you’re taking extreme measures to resolve it (you’re not), and you’re seen as a public hero! And, no doubt as an added bonus, the money you’re (not) “spending” on police task forces or whatever, well, there’s that lovely set of $30,000 curtains you’ve been eyeing…

Wake up and think for yourselves, people. The real thing to worry about is the possibility of what they’re doing to the country, while everyone’s locked indoors and trembling in fear.

Your meat or your life, sir

“The National Cancer Institute study is one of the largest to look at the highly controversial and emotive issue of whether eating meat is indeed bad for health.”

So, once again, in a study not sponsored by the American meat and dairy industry, eating meat (particularly red meat) has been linked with increases in just about every disease, including heart disease and several types of cancer. (Read the full article here.)

They’re right, though: as much as vegetarians and vegans are criticised for being “overly emotional” when it comes to animals, in my experience, few things will get a person more riled up than daring to suggest that eating meat is bad for them, bad for the environment, and it goes without saying that it’s the worst for the animals.

Sure, I’ll get annoyed when people won’t back off, and continue to criticise me for my choices. I’ll get downright angry at people who think there’s some big joke about torturing and brutalising animals. But if I turn around and question their ideals (or, rather, total lack thereof), I’m the worst thing to happen to this country since the Labor party was elected. (If you don’t see the blatant sarcasm there, you’re in the wrong blog.)

From the perspective of meat eaters, why is it a controversial issue? And why the hell is it an emotional one? I understand that you don’t want your civil rights infringed upon, but we’re not forcing you to stop eating meat, we’re trying to educate you so that, hopefully, at some point you’ll be smart enough to see that it’s really the only good choice here. Are you that addicted to the taste of a fatty, lard-dripping cheeseburger that you’d shed tears over it’s loss? Personally I’d cry over the senseless and brutal killing of thousands of animals every day, so that western society can continue to destroy itself through its own gluttony.

As for controversial: it’s only controversial because the meat and dairy industries, who’ve done nothing but cut back jobs instead of profits, and destroy the environment in their quest to spill as much blood as possible, tell us it is. It’s a non-issue. Anyone – who can be bothered getting past their own self-indulgent “But I wanna eat a steak!” bullshit – can see that not eating meat is a logical choice.

And this isn’t even considering the spiritual/humanitarian issues in eating meat. Personally, as a NeoPagan, especially one with strong Wiccan influence, I don’t think you can believe in an ethos of “harming none” and eating meat (this is a topic I’ll write more on, one day). I don’t think you can consider yourself “enlightened” or “progressive” as a species, when you still inflict unimaginable pain and suffering on other animals, based on your own absurd belief in your superiority. And all for no real reason.

Hopefully this is something to think about.

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