Letters to the Editor

June 22, 2007


Richard Bulmer (GLW #713) presents a well-reasoned case against capitalist livestock meat production on environmental grounds, but in doing so he makes what I believe to be two errors.

Firstly, it is inappropriate to use words like "enslavement" and "incarceration" to describe cows in pasture and equate farm-animal suffering with human suffering due to political oppression. If this is "speciesism" then I can only hope that the world remains speciesist.

I am concerned with animal suffering in agriculture but I am not concerned with ending all livestock agriculture on animal-welfare grounds. When all the poor and suffering humans of the world have as good a life as most Australian cows then my opinions on this might change.

Bulmer's second error is to claim that vegans are the only genuine environmentalists. I see no problem with advocating veganism, vegetarianism and lower meat consumption for improved environmental (and health) outcomes, but it is a mistake to turn this into a form of personal consumption moralism.

Consumer capitalism drastically reduces the individual's capacity to make environmentally benign choices (especially when that individual is not middle class) and for this reason environmentally positive lifestyle choices should be supported but not morally imposed.

Bulmer says, "It is a moral imperative for us to adopt a vegan diet and lifestyle." But what exactly does this politically correct lifestyle entail? Is it a moral imperative to eat organic food, buy "green" electricity and have solar panels? What if I can't afford solar panels, or my landlord doesn't want them? Am I an environmental baddie because I drive a motor vehicle? There is no sensible boundary between who is a "real" environmentalist and who is not based on individual consumption so we shouldn't seek to create one.

In any case, society can only make a successful transition to environmental sustainability through collective action and whole-of-society systemic change. Individual behaviour changes are part of the picture, but they wont do the job.

Rohan Gaiswinkler

Hobart, Tasmania

Pulp mill

I support the protestors not wanting a pulp mill in the West Tamar Valley. The world needs another pulp mill like it needs another case of AIDS.

I've lived (and worked) my whole life under the effluent stacks of various types of pulp mills and have had
the tumours, cysts and breathing problems to prove it. Many of my friends have died of cancer or premature heart disease. Asthma is rife.

Pulp mills are not just hard on forests — a pulp mill will devour one forest in a single day — they are hard on the people, wildlife, fish and the rest of the environment in the vicinity. There are too many pulp mills in the world — especially Kraft mills. Many are falling apart, for pulp prices aren't high enough to maintain them. Plus the owners-investors are mainly scumbag multinational corporate heads with the heart and soul of a stone and they always extract the profits first before maintenance. They would always rather build a new mill somewhere else with government (taxpayers) grants, tax breaks and other handouts.

Worldwide, we have to stop the investor class before they annihilate everything, including us. Investors are compulsive gamblers, after all — with a grossly inflated idea of their own self-worth. Their CEOs are fashioned out of the same cloth. Keep on fighting against pulp mills!

Susanne Shaw

Port Alice, Canada

Peaceful protest

"Why we must reclaim our right to protest at APEC" (GLW #714) was the latest of many articles to declare the need for peaceful protests at the upcoming APEC summit. It has been argued that adding the word "peaceful" to the leaflet for the upcoming APEC protest will be crucial to gaining broad public support/participation. While I support a peaceful action, I think that adding only the word "peaceful" to the leaflet unnecessarily alienates and helps to demonise activists who wish to employ non-"peaceful" tactics.

I think a more in-depth addition, along the lines of "While we support people's right to employ other tactics away from this peaceful assembly, this action has been organised to be explicitly non-violent", would be more useful. This would give the public a more accurate picture of what will happen at the protest as well as advertise its non-violent nature. At the same time, such a statement extends solidarity to other protesters before a police crackdown.

People who preference simply adding the word "peaceful" over a statement such as the one suggested, expose the fact that their decision is ideologically, not tactically, based. It comes from pacifist tendencies, deep rooted in the Australian left, that seek to alienate forces who seek to employ tactics that are outside what they deem acceptable. It seems feasible that the ISO and Solidarity have made similar judgments and that is why they support organising a non-violent action, but are opposed to adding the word "peaceful" to the leaflet.

Rohan Gaiswinkler (Write On, GLW #711) alleged that I am a member of Mutiny. This is false. I have never even met a single member of the group. However, having read their open letter for myself, I came to the conclusion that the article ( "What tactics for the Stop Bush protest at APEC" (GLW #709) gave a distorted picture of it.

Benjamen Standing

Via email

Sinn Fein

I am writing in reply to the letter by Colm Breathnach (Write On, GLW #714) which misrepresents the polices of Sinn Fein and attacks what was a straightforward and accurate report by Emma Clancy on the 26-county Irish general election (GLW #713).

Sinn Fein stood in the election on a platform for free, universal health-care system, for the provision of social housing as a basic right for all, for increased, accessible childcare services, environmental sustainability and in opposition to the war in Iraq.

In relation to taxation, Sinn Féin proposed a review of taxation to ensure that tax justice could be achieved including raising the minimum wage, ensuring that those on the average wage pay the lower threshold of tax, closing down tax avoidance schemes and ending the tax benefits to developers of private hospitals — as well as seeking to end partition and undo centuries of sectarianism and discrimination.

I would argue that none of these policies could in any way be classified as mildly reformist or reflect a rapid move the right.

To correct Colm, Sinn Fein has repeated continually that it wants to be in government, but has never stated any preferred partners. As I understand it, Sinn Féin wants to be in Government to deliver change otherwise its polices are reduced to rhetoric. I am confident that Sinn Féin would only enter Government on the basis of delivering its polices.

As a republican and a socialist, I believe that partition can be brought to an end and an Ireland of equals established — and that Sinn Fein is the best vehicle for achieving this scale of change.

Ciarán Quinn


Work Choices I

The PM says that his partial plugging of his AWA hole in Work Choices is about perception. He could now allow employees on AWAs to have the choice of testing whether their individual terms are now fair.

If the PM's plug is what he originally meant, then it is most unfair for individuals not to have the ability to have fair compensation. The government earlier unilaterally changed awards and agreements when WorkChoices came in, so can do it now.

Howard's revised scheme is not as safe as his 1996 "no disadvantage" test, with a range of loopholes, under "other factors".

Chris White


Work Choices II

Breaking news: Last night there was a violent escape from the large Canberra storage facility where the Howard government keeps its out-of-date and unwanted AWA propaganda. The patricidal Work Choices zombie was last seen staring blinklessly, moaning, dribbling and lurching towards Parliament House, where it apparently wants to find its fathers, and eat their brains. Citizens are advised not to be alarmed, as the zombie is only dangerous to the politicians who created it.

The army has been contacted, and they will try to fit it in next week, but they're "really quite busy" these days and they reckon that's the best they can do, especially given the low priority.

Motorists who encounter the zombie are asked to slow down and to allow it to cross over.

Sean Burke

South Fremantle, WA

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