So that’s a bit of a dry title for a blog post, but it’s something I’ve wanted to write about for a while, and I read an article today that got me thinking.
Over the last few months, one of the places I’ve grown more and more keen to visit is the Faroe Islands. I’m attracted by the wildness of the landscape, its remoteness and the fact that it’s still fairly unrecognised as a tourist destination.
However, many people have called for a boycott of the islands due to their whaling practices. I’m not going to write about this in depth, but you can find some fairly brutal photographs online if you care to look.
This article is written by a travel blogger about to set off for the Faroe Islands, who argues that boycotting this one place because of whaling should also mean boycotting other countries that have issues with animal rights. And let’s face it; most countries have something that others would consider unsavoury or downright cruel. I remember a trip to Bulgaria more than 10 years ago where we saw a man walking down the street, a bear following behind him on the end of a chain, a metal ring fastened through its nose. The sight made me uncomfortable then and it did so for a long time afterwards, but I never felt that it was indicative of the whole country.
I’d suggest that increasing tourism to the Faroe Islands could actually lead to a change in their whaling laws, as it will increase their economy and the number of jobs available, and the exposure to the wider world might eventually bring a change to their attitude to whaling.
But this isn’t supposed to be an article on the Faroe Islands or the morality of whaling practices around the world.
It’s about how we balance morality against the things we choose to spend our money on, not only where we travel too.
That might mean extending our outrage over animal rights to that brand of make-up that still tests its products on animals. Or it might mean buying our clothes in places that espouse ethical practices, that don’t pay their workers slave wages and expect them to toil under inhumane conditions. It might mean boycotting a tech company whose workers in certain factories have committed suicide under the strain of the hours they need to work to make a basic living.
And it goes further than that too, if we think about entertainment. If we download an album from an artist who has been accused of rape, or domestic abuse, are we tacitly supporting their behaviour? Should we avoid films directed by men accused of child abuse? Just because they’re talented or critically acclaimed, can we justify liking their work?
Is it okay to be outraged by one issue, and completely ignore another? Does that make us hypocritical, or is it realistic? After all, how moral is it possible to be in a world dominated by consumerism? Delve deep enough into any large company and there’s a chance you’ll find something you don’t like.
I’m asking a lot of questions here, because I don’t know the answer. I’m thinking out loud, because these issues trouble me.
I’m not perfect, and I know I could spend my money more carefully. I feel guilty sometimes because I haven’t taken more of a stand on some of these things. But I can’t care that passionately about everything; not enough to change my behaviour. I’m not proud of it, but sometimes the easiest option wins out.
We all have our own level of morality and behaviours that we find acceptable, or troublesome. I once read an article by a vegan blogger who justified owning a leather jacket because it was second hand.
Most of us are happy to ignore these problems because a lot of the time, everyone else does it too. It’s when we band together to say that something is unacceptable and we extend that message to our shopping habits that things change, because money is the biggest influencer.
At the moment, there seems to be a lot of anger in the world: over politics, over inequality, over other people’s attitudes. Boycotting a country or a business over their practices will surely add to that. But sometimes taking a stand is about raising awareness, and maybe if we were all a little more aware of where our money was going, or who it was supporting, we might be able to reduce some of the behaviour that society has generally been willing to ignore, because money was more important.