As a new subscriber to New Internationalist and a farmer I am interested in the debate on the effects of our diet upon the Third World. While fully respecting the opinion of those who do not eat meat because they find the consumption of flesh repugnant, I would like to point out that eating beef in the UK does not deprive hungry people of food in poor countries.
The argument that: ‘It takes l2lbs of grain to produce lIb of beef is completely inappropriate in the British context. The vast majority of our beef is produced from grass, usually grown on land unsuitable for cultivation. Chicken, eggs and pigmeat are the products which demand large inputs of cereals, soya, fishmeal etc which could be eaten by humans. Ruminants (cattle, sheep, goats) make a vital contribution to the utilisation of the earth’s biological resources in wet and hilly areas such as North and Western Britain, Ireland, and Norway.
It surprises me that so many ‘thinking’ people reject our indigenous sources of protein while happily eating pulses, exotic fruits, out-of-season vegetables, eggs and chicken which directly (or via imported feedstuffs) compete for cropland with the world’s poorest, hungriest people.
The ecological solution
I have just read a honor story, namely the May issue of New Internationalist. I cannot understand why it is fashionable for people meticulously to chart our progress to ruin and to do it with such aloof, almost superior, detachment. It is almost as though your writers are describing conditions on a less enlightened planet of which they are not a part.
Our food supply is most definitely contaminated with chemicals which enable us to
squeeze the last drop of profit from our declining soils, involving as few human beings in the process as possible. Even so-called organically-grown food cannot escape contamination.
But none of this is necessary if we address ourselves to the fundamental problem of restoring natural fertility in the soil. American engineer and ecologist John Hamaker has demonstrated that a healthy soil containing a balance of minerals grows abundant plants that have a natural resistance to disease and insect attack. And higher organisms which live on such soils and crops (ourselves included) achieve a similar resistance to disease and degeneration.
To discover why this method of fertilisation is not widely practised you have only to examine the power structure of our society. the vested interests - right down to the ‘experts’ whose income depends upon identifying which new chemical wipes out which new pestilence.
In the February issue (NI 132), Larry Gostin’s article does not ring true in its entirety. He tries to show that the inhuman ways we in the West treat our mental patients are exceeded in the Soviet Union.
He mentions six Russians ‘who have achieved folk hero status’ here because of their treatment by the Russian bogeymen. One of the names is the well-known ShcharanrJry. Shcharansky is not a dissident or a mental patient. And he certainly is no ‘folk hero’. He is a common criminal.
Shcharansky was busy as a little bee for years up to 1977 passing secrets to the CIA. In other words he was a spy against his country. He compiled information about the location and character of defence enterprises which the Americans could zero into very accurately with their Cruise and Pershing-2 missiles.
Shcharansky’s case was considered by the Supreme Court in open session and in full conformity with Soviet Law, including the right to legal defence. He knew the game was up. He said: ‘I personally took part in collecting the information and transferring it to the West.’
James C Bilotta
E.M. Allen (NI 136) writes: ‘I regard atheistic communism as evil. The atheism of much socialism is in fact what one might call ‘protest atheism’. That is, it arises out of a protest against theism as it is believed and lived out in ways that maintain injustice and oppression. In this sense atheism is morally good.
In the Soviet Union atheism has become a dogma, an excuse for repression. Only in this sense is it morally bad.
In EM. Allen’s view:
‘What is needed is a global effort on the part of Christians to convert the Kremlin.’ Perhaps so. But please, not to that Godless theism which Mr Reagan professes.
John P. Moran
I thought your crash course in economics (NI 134) was on the whole pretty successful considering the enormity of the task.
However when you attempt to make the distinction between two political ideologies, liberal and conservative, I think you leave yourself open to misinterpretation.
Conservative policy is in fact traditional economic liberalism, while the interventionist policies which you rightly associate with the more humane and hence politically ‘liberal’ parties are not economic liberalism at all. The latter neo-Keynesian policies are perhaps essential to maintaining a liberal democratic state today, but it is important not to confuse them with ‘liberalism’ or else you might find your readership accidently voting for the liberalism of the New Right, which ‘allows’ the strong to crush the weak.
Boy, oh boy
In response to Marie Pool’s letter (NI 133), I disagree that the borrowed term ‘un boy’ is ‘offensive’ in Ivory Coast or in other French-speaking countries. It simply designates a type of employment and is no more derogatory than ‘un speaker’ or ‘une nurse’ or, for that matter, than ‘un chauffeur de taxi or un professeur de faculte’.
A houseboy in Francophone Africa is referred to as ‘un boy’ but he is never addressed as ‘boy’. However, a waiter is addressed as ‘garcon’. Does that term have an ‘offensive connotation’?
The right jab (JAB)
Thank you for your UpDate of Project PROJIMO, the villager-run program for disabled children in rural Mexico (NI 134). Please note, though, that we are campaigning against unnecessary injections, and not vaccinations as your Up-Date suggests. This distinction is important.
Most abuses of the syringe come from injections of tonics, vitamin preparations, useless cold remedies and countless other medications that would be safer taken by mouth. Vaccination, however, has proven to be extremely valuable. In the area served by Project PROJIMO there is also a primary health care program, Project Piaxtla. Because of Project Piaxtla’s Vaccination program. there have been no reported cases of polio in the area that the project serves for over 15 years.
We were very pleased to see that your February issue gave so much prominence to the question of mental health generally and its place in developing countries. The Richmond Fellowship has taken an initiative in this regard xvhich may interest your readers.
The Fellowship runs over 70 halfway houses for expsychiatric patients in the Western world but has long felt that the therapeutic facilities it has pioneered would be applicable to developing countries. It was therefore happy to respond to a request from the World Health Organisation to set up a model project in India, which is planned to open next year. Persons wishing to know more about the Fellowship’s work and plans and who are interested in working in any of the proposed projects, should write to us for further details.
Elly Jansen - Director
I’m afraid I must take issue with Chris Mowles for berating the New internationalist for publishing a proIsracli letter from Jane Moorman of The Britain/Israeli Public Affairs Committee.
Mr Mowles main point seems to be that publishing a letter from a ‘pro-Israeli public relations organisation’ is taking’editorial balance’ too far.
Surely your readers have enough gumption and intelligence to weigh up the pros and cons for themselves and don’t just accept all statements at their face value.
Stating that Jane Moorman is the Director of the British! Israeli Public Affairs Committee is helpful and might make your readers more cautious about accepting everything she says than if she was writing as an individual unassociated with any organisation.
John M Meldrum
Just a quick note to say that I find New internationalist an excellent magazine - but the most recent, ‘Looking beyond violence’ was superb and passed even your usual high standard.
I note that you are still doing to Africa what page three of the Sun newspaper does to womenkind. You use Mercators Africa and not the Peters’ projection.
George E Easifield