Queen of England going “fur-free” is a step in the right direction

Queen of England going “fur-free” is a step in the right direction

What’s new with the Queen?

We’ve learnt it from Angela Kelly,  Senior Dresser of Queen Elizabeth II of England: The Queen is going fur-free! In her memoir, “The Other Side of the Coin: The Queen, the Dresser and the Wardrobe”, Kelly explained that “if Her Majesty is due to attend an engagement in particularly cold weather, from 2019 onward fake fur will be used to make sure she stays warm.”

By “going faux”, The Queen is setting a strong example and sending a powerful message, encouraging an ethical fashion trend that we should all follow. Many activist organisations dedicated to the well-being of animals, such as PETA UK, welcomed the news. Claire Bass, executive director of animal charity Humane Society International, was said to be “thrilled by the move”.

If you’ve paid attention to the way the Senior Dresser announced the news, you can read between the lines that The Queen will continue to wear the fur robes required for duty. Also, in what might be seen as a logical method of  sustainability, she won’t throw away the pieces of clothing made with fur she already owns. But when used, those shall be replaced with faux fur. 

 

Why is it good news? 

Over 100 million animals around the world are killed each year for their fur. As you can imagine, their living conditions are far from ideal, and let’s not even mention the way they’re killed. To give you an insight, when those fur animals are killed by electrocution, neck breaking or drowning, these are the lucky ones. In addition, the whole fur process contributes to climate change because of land pollution and devastation, but mainly because of water contamination.

Let’s be honest then, anyone quitting fur is good news. How can we not to welcome The Queen’s commitment? Well, I guess by having mixed feelings about the lack of coherence between the Country’s statements about fur. I’ll explain.

The Queen’s Guards, famous for their uniforms including their hats, are not going faux fur. All the Guards are still wearing the so-called “bearskins”. As their name suggests it, these hats are made with bear skin. Each year, the British army take 100 bear skins from the Black Bear Cull in Canada. 

We know that, since 2005, the British Ministry of Defence is trying to find an alternative to the bear fur. Tests have been done, but so far artificial fur is said to be unable to fit the same rigorous criteria than the original. Unfortunately, I don’t think that saving animals is really what motivates the Ministry or the Army to try and change such a tradition. The fact that in a decade the price of that bear skin rose by 500% might more likely be the reason they aspire to find alternatives. 

 

What’s the public’s opinion in the UK? 

Since 2000, the UK has banned fur farming on its soil. It was the first country worldwide to implement that ban. Claire Bass has asked the Government to go further and ban the sale of fur, making the UK the first country to do so. Today, the country is continuing to import fox, mink and rabbit fur.

Bass stated that “Queen Elizabeth’s decision to go “faux fur” is the perfect reflection of the mood of the British public, the vast majority of whom detest cruel fur and want nothing to do with it.” More than 2/3 of the British population support fur prohibition. 

 

What is the debate in Ireland, the EU and more?

In Ireland, three fur farms are still in activity, all of them mink. Located in Donegal, Laois and Kerry, these farms combined kill about 150,000 minks a year. Their main arguments to keep fur farming is based on three – to be proven incorrect – pillars. Firstly, they say they employ permanent staff and give jobs to the locals, when reality shows that on average they have only three permanent workers per farm. Secondly, they try to convince us that fur farming is Irish heritage. Oh surprise, it’s not. Only one of the three fur farms in Ireland belongs to an Irish family. Thirdly, fur farming is said to actively support the national economy. Well again, as shown in other countries including the UK, bans on fur farming have had no negative impacts on the economy. 

According to a Red C Research published in October 2018, 80% of the Irish population agree that fur farming and killing should be banned. This is not even the highest rate in Europe. Italy culminates with 91%, followed by Belgium and Germany with 86%. However, some European countries remain more split such as France, with 51% of its nationals agreeing on a ban, or Denmark with 55%.

The UK opened the way in Europe to ban fur farming in 2000. Then, went along Austria (2004), Denmark (2009 – for fox farming only), Slovenia (2013), the Republic of Macedonia (2014) to name a few. 

The European Union passed regulations regarding fur farming, namely European Directive 98/58/EC (concerning the protection of animals kept for farming purposes) in 1998 and the Council of Europe Recommendation Concerning Fur Animals in 1999. Fur farming as it’s done today simply does not comply with these regulations, twenty years later. 

Worldwide, a few brands decided to drop fur from their collections, including Prada, Gucci and DKNY. In the USA, Macy’s Inc – one of the biggest American retailers – announced that it would stop selling fur by the end of 2020 fiscal year. California state, ahead of the rest of the US and most of the rest of the world, banned the manufacture and sale of animal fur. We can only hope to see more commitments heading in this direction.

 

 

Photo by Kutan Ural on Unsplash

 

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Queen of England going “fur-free” is a step in the right direction

We’ve learnt it from Angela Kelly, Senior Dresser of Queen Elizabeth II of England: The Queen is going fur-free. By “going faux”, The Queen is setting a strong example and sending a powerful message, encouraging an ethical fashion trend that we should all follow. But we have mixed feelings about the lack of coherence between the Country’s statements about fur.

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The European Investment Bank’s decision to divest from fossil fuels

The European Investment Bank’s decision to divest from fossil fuels

The European Investment Bank (EIB) recently announced that it would be phasing out investment in fossil fuel companies by 2021. The EIB is the biggest public lender globally and the move was celebrated by those within the banking industry and the environmental movement. It sends a clear message that markets are moving away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energies, with the EIB positioning itself as the leading ‘Climate Bank’. The President-elect of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, commended the transition and, last week, the European Parliament declared a ‘Climate Emergency’. Two moves that signal Europe aims to take the reigns as leader of climate action, as other world powers shirk the responsibility. 

Cutting financial flows to fossil fuel companies is a necessary step in the transition to clean and renewable energy. Less money in the bank for fossil fuel companies means that less exploration projects will secure funding and less oil rigs, coal plants and fracking-infrastructure built. As Bill McKibben outlines in his essay; “Money Is the Oxygen on Which the Fire of Global Warming Burns”, this will ultimately lead to fossil fuels being kept in the ground. McKibben, who is the founder of 350.org, has long been campaigning for divestment in the fossil fuel industry. He outlines the three financial sectors that need to divest; banking, asset management, and insurance. Once the purse-strings are cut and these companies have to self-fund to insure themselves, they will not be able to survive on financial reserves for long. There are also Government subsidies to think about, but that would require a whole other article. 

The financial industry is conservative and calculated in nature, and when it begins to make large changes the whole world takes heed. To stop investing in fossil fuels is to signal the beginning of the end. Closer to home, AIB in Ireland is positioning itself as the ‘Green Bank’ of Ireland. It has launched a ‘Green Bond Framework’ whereby it will greatly increase the investment available for green projects, and it has also introduced a lower green mortgage rate for houses that meet the highest energy-efficiency standards. 

Critics of the EIB’s decision to move away from fossil fuels have said that 2021 is too far away and that in the meantime, new fossil fuel projects can be funded which would lock the European Union into a ‘dirty future’. Angela Merkel also voiced her concerns that the EIB would not fund natural gas projects as a transition fuel on the way to renewables. This is certainly the beginning of something – but it remains to be seen how long it takes to reach the end. 

 

Photo: Ian Sharp (Flickr)

 

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The European Investment Bank’s decision to divest from fossil fuels

The European Investment Bank (EIB) recently announced that it would be phasing out investment in fossil fuel companies by 2021. The EIB is the biggest public lender globally and the move was celebrated by those within the banking industry and the environmental movement. It sends a clear message that markets are moving away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energies.

What is Ecofeminism?

Ecofeminism is a movement that unites two issues close to our hearts at STAND: women’s rights and the environment. It is perhaps one of the most useful ways we can look at a wide range of social issues we face today. However, the term may be unfamiliar to many.

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Single-Use Plastics levies: The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly

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Leaderless Protests of 2019 and Hong Kong

Leaderless Protests of 2019 and Hong Kong

2019 has witnessed the kindled spirit of the youth across the world. The one common factor is that young people have decided to stand up! 

Political autonomy, corruption, powerlessness, poor economies, climate change and social media seem to be the chief contributors to the mass protest rage that has taken over the mood of 2019. The large anti-government demonstrations have not been peaceful with the number of human losses increasing as every day goes by. From Algeria, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, France, Hong Kong, Iraq, Lebanon, Iran and Pakistan and more, the story seems to be the same: voices that were never heard are gathering together for a scream to bring about a much needed change! Does it mean the people’s voice will finally be heard, after months of uprising? Editor Deepthi Suresh gives her analysis largely focusing on the protests in Hong Kong, Lebanon, Bolivia and Iran.

 

Umbrella Protests of Hong Kong (2014)

Hong Kong was ruled by Britain as a colony until it returned under China’s control in 1997. The city, under a “one country, two systems” arrangement, is considered to have more autonomy than the mainland, and its people enjoy more rights. Beijing is responsible for the city’s defence and foreign affairs. However, Hong Kong witnessed protests (also referred to as an Occupy Movement or Umbrella Movement ) that occurred from 26 September to 15 December 2014. The protests began after the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC) issued a decision regarding proposed reforms to the Hong Kong electoral system. This decision was seen as a widely restrictive and almost equivalent to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP’s) pre-screening of the candidates for the Chief Executive of Hong Kong. Thousands of Hong Kong residents from all spheres of the population occupied major  streets across the city, shuttering businesses and bringing traffic to a halt. Their claim was that Beijing had reneged on an agreement to grant Hong Kong open elections and their demand was “true universal suffrage”. 

 

2019 Protests

Five years since the Umbrella Movement, Hong Kong witnessed yet another massive protest in June 2019. Demonstrations began this summer over a bill that would have allowed criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China in certain circumstances. Hong Kong, despite being part of China, enjoys special freedom. This bill erupted a sense of fear among the residents that Beijing was bent on exerting greater control over Hong Kong and would largely endanger judicial independence and target social activists and journalists in Hong Kong.

Clashes between police and activists have become increasingly violent with police firing live bullets and protesters attacking officers and throwing petrol bombs. On July 1st 2019, after an hour long siege, protesters stormed into the parliament and defaced parts of it. Protest action at Hong Kong international airport in August also saw renewed clashes and led to hundreds of flights being cancelled.

The problematic bill was withdrawn in September, but the demonstrations have continued and now the demand has been for full democracy in addition to an inquiry into police actions.

Also, protesters feared that the bill could be revived. Protesters have formulated the following demands:

  • This movement should not be categorised as a riot
  • Amnesty should be granted for arrested protesters
  • An independent inquiry into the police brutality should take place
  • Complete universal suffrage should be implemented

 

Recent Developments

Protesters have continued their protests which include train disruptions and university occupations. However, these protests have subsided and the election on 24th November took place quite peacefully. Democratic candidates have secured about 90 per cent of 452 district council seats, which clearly has shown the public support for democracy. The landslide win has put immense pressure on Hong Kong’s leader who has pledged to listen to public opinion. Although the elections may have been local in nature, a result such as this where Democrats have secured the maximum number of seats is a sign that the protesters have the complete support of the public. The current head of Hong Kong has agreed to take public opinion into account but to what degree, only time will tell.

As a timely thanksgiving gift to Hong Kong, President Trump has signed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act in support of the pro-democracy protest movement. This will definitely lead to a backlash from Beijing further derailing the delicate US-China trade talks. The act was unanimously passed by both houses of the US Congress. Hundreds of Hong Kong residents including the elderly marched carrying the US flag as a sign of gratitude aimed at protecting human rights in Hong Kong. In response, China has suspended the review of requests by US military ships and aircraft to visit Hong Kong as of December 3, 2019, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying. She also announced that Beijing would impose sanctions on several US non-governmental human rights organisations that have been monitoring and reporting the state of protests in Hong Kong.

The relative calm over the past week is definitely not a sign of the protests losing momentum, but looks like players of the world have heard the voices and path-breaking changes may be fashioned in the new year.

 

Photo by Joseph Chan on Unsplash

 

Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to receive our top news straight to your inbox!

 

The European Investment Bank’s decision to divest from fossil fuels

The European Investment Bank (EIB) recently announced that it would be phasing out investment in fossil fuel companies by 2021. The EIB is the biggest public lender globally and the move was celebrated by those within the banking industry and the environmental movement. It sends a clear message that markets are moving away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energies.

Leaderless Protests of 2019 and Hong Kong

2019 has witnessed the kindled spirit of the youth across the world. The one common factor is that young people have decided to stand up! Editor Deepthi Suresh gives her analysis largely focusing on the protests in Hong Kong, Lebanon, Bolivia and Iran in a new STAND series. This first piece focuses on the situation in Hong Kong.

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Last week the Minister for the Environment announced that the Irish Government would be introducing a number of levies aimed at reducing single-use plastics. Two of the most notable levies being a ‘latte levy’ on disposable cups and a plastic bag levy increase. This is good news – so why has there been a murmur of controversy around this announcement?

Book Review: “Yes, We Still Drink Coffee!”

Book Review: “Yes, We Still Drink Coffee!”

“Yes, We Still Drink Coffee!” is a collection of powerful essays, interspersed with beautiful illustrations, that tell the stories of female human rights defenders from Egypt, Kuwait, Palestine, Tunisia, Turkey, Somalia and Sudan. 

The book has been jointly published by two charities: Fighting Words and Front Line Defenders. Fighting Words works to foster imagination and develop the creative writing skills of children and young people, and Front Line Defenders is dedicated to protecting human rights defenders who are at risk due to the nature of their work.

Behind each story is a meeting of two women. Every piece was created when an inspiring advocate for the rights of others shared her story with an acclaimed writer, who then put it to paper. As a collection, these stories have striking commonalities, yet they are all delightfully unique in their telling.

The core message of the book is not a commendation of the extraordinary work being done by these women (although this is much deserved!). Instead this collaboration celebrates their ordinariness. We are given an insight into some of the most difficult places to be human in the world, and are introduced to women doing just that. 

These women still go for coffee, they still scroll through Instagram, they make jokes, they are as human as you and I, even in the face of absolute inhumanity. One woman describes her life as a human rights defender as “annoying” and “tiring”, as one might describe a tedious office job. For them, rising up to combat injustice is simply an element of their everyday life.

“Yes, We Still Drink Coffee!” is an intimate account of news stories to which we have become immune – too often unable to pierce through the overwhelming din of the media, and too far away to seem real. This book allows us to understand a world we have never been to, through the lens of human commonalities.

You will find yourself confronted with questions. Where was I, while these stories unfolded? Would I have the same courage, if my normal life was upturned by conflict? And what is “normal” life anyway? 

“Yes, We Still Drink Coffee!” is an arresting series of portraits, which gives an insight into the lives of extraordinarily ordinary women. It captures the immutability of our human nature, in even the most hostile of environments. One story offers this wisdom: When you love life, fear of death cannot stop you from taking action to protect it. Living life to the fullest is the greatest retaliation against oppression. 

This book exalts just that. 

You can purchase a copy of “Yes, We Still Drink Coffee!” at https://www.fightingwords.ie/yes-we-still-drink-coffee.

 

Photo by Fighting Words on Twitter

 

Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to receive our top news straight to your inbox!

Book Review: “Yes, We Still Drink Coffee!”

“Yes, We Still Drink Coffee!” is a collection of powerful essays, interspersed with beautiful illustrations, that tell the stories of female human rights defenders from Egypt, Kuwait, Palestine, Tunisia, Turkey, Somalia and Sudan. Behind each story is a meeting of two women. Here is our review.

What is Ecofeminism?

Ecofeminism is a movement that unites two issues close to our hearts at STAND: women’s rights and the environment. It is perhaps one of the most useful ways we can look at a wide range of social issues we face today. However, the term may be unfamiliar to many.

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New Focus on Gender in Ireland’s Citizens’ Assembly

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What is Ecofeminism?

What is Ecofeminism?

Ecofeminism is a movement that unites two issues close to our hearts at STAND: women’s rights and the environment. It is perhaps one of the most useful ways we can look at a wide range of social issues we face today. 

However, the term may be unfamiliar to many. In essence, ecofeminism is the idea that the oppression of women and the exploitation of our planet’s natural resources are inextricably linked. The movement originated in the 1970s alongside the rise of second-wave feminism and environmental activism. Today, people are increasingly waking up to the fact that different forms of oppression are all linked to one another and ecofeminism is a great example of this intersectional way of thinking. 

There are many fascinating women who have pioneered this movement and continue to do so. The mother of the movement is French feminist Francoise d’Eaubonne who coined the term ‘ecofeminism’ in her 1974 book Le féminisme ou la mort (Feminism or Death) in which she encourages women to take climate action. 

Another vocal ecofeminist is Anika Rahman, a lawyer and human rights activist who views her fight for reproductive rights and her environmental advocacy as being part of the same thread. She is currently Chief Board Relations Officer at the Natural Resources Defense Council, co-founded the Center for Reproductive Rights and was President as CEO of the Ms. Foundation for Women. 

Today, Vandana Shiva is possibly the ecofeminist who has gained most notoriety. She was featured in 2015 documentary ‘The True Cost’ which delves into the devastating effects of fast fashion, both on women and the environment. She has also co-authored a book titled Ecofeminism with feminist scholar Maria Mies, which is a fascinating look into the relationships between capitalism, the oppression of women and the ecological degradation. 

There are two main schools of thought regarding ecofeminism: radical feminism and cultural or spiritual ecofeminism. Radical ecofeminism asserts that oppression is perpetuated by patriarchal structures which must be deconstructed if an egalitarian society is to be achieved. It believes that the patriarchy see both women and nature as “wild,” and therefore wishes to have control over them. This is a bit like the feminist idea of “gender as a construct”, which holds that connotations of gender are completely made up ideas used to subjugate women. 

Cultural or spiritual ecofeminism, on the other hand, embraces the idea that women are connected to nature. It asserts that power can be derived from aspects of womanhood such as child-bearing and menstruation which (according to them) make women closer to nature. This view is often criticised by radical ecofeminists who say that this is a trivial comparison and only serves to oppress women further.

However, more important than ecofeminist theory are the concrete issues it aims to tackle. In spite of conflicting views within the movement, there are core ideas that all ecofeminists share, the most important being the belief that women suffer most from the depletion of the planet’s natural resources. 

For example in many Third World countries, such as Ethiopia and Bangladesh, it is women who are in charge of managing natural resources in the home including collecting drinking water and firewood. When natural disasters such as drought (in the case of Ethiopia) or floods (in the case of Bangladesh) occur, women have to work harder to find these resources. This often means that girls will leave school to help their mothers. In some cases, they may completely take over responsibility for the home so their mothers can go out to work and compensate for the impacts of crop destruction on their income. This is just one of the many ways in which women suffer from environmental degradation.

Regardless of your school of feminism, the reality is that women are suffering as a result of the depletion of our planet’s natural resources. It is high time that the systems which harm both women and our planet be interrogated and – eventually – deconstructed entirely.

 

Photo by Cintia Barenho on Flickr

 

Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to receive our top news straight to your inbox!

Book Review: “Yes, We Still Drink Coffee!”

“Yes, We Still Drink Coffee!” is a collection of powerful essays, interspersed with beautiful illustrations, that tell the stories of female human rights defenders from Egypt, Kuwait, Palestine, Tunisia, Turkey, Somalia and Sudan. Behind each story is a meeting of two women. Here is our review.

What is Ecofeminism?

Ecofeminism is a movement that unites two issues close to our hearts at STAND: women’s rights and the environment. It is perhaps one of the most useful ways we can look at a wide range of social issues we face today. However, the term may be unfamiliar to many.

Endometriosis Explained

Endometriosis affects one in every 10 women in Ireland. Carrying a huge personal and social cost. Despite this, awareness of endometriosis is sorely lacking. This STAND article aims to spread awareness of this chronic condition.

New Focus on Gender in Ireland’s Citizens’ Assembly

Ireland’s Citizens’ Assembly is shifting its focus to gender equality. Over the next six months, it will examine issues like the gender pay gap, sexual assault and how to increase women’s participation in business and politics.

Witches – a History of Misogyny

On this All-Hallows Eve, witches will be painting the town black. But while witches continue to fascinate as feminist symbols, the history of the witch is also bound up with a history of misogyny that still persists today.

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Yesterday, a plenary session was held in Stormont, Northern Ireland’s Assembly. The Assembly, which has not sat in over a thousand days, was brought back together to try and vote about the decriminalisation of abortion and the legalisation of same sex marriage.