Guns, whales and onions


So many of our challenges today are worsened by poor use of government subsidies. Money being channelled towards coal power generation, pharmaceutical companies, car companies, and of course, top of the list, weapons and war.

But with ever-increasing transparency, and the realisation that it’s our money going towards supporting these practises, the spotlight is falling on governments. Backdoor deals with the lobbyist still happen every day, but now there’s more likely to be a price to pay, and by being in the open, more likelihood of a better decision.

One industry that’s survived almost entirely due to government subsidies is the whaling industry. While most European countries were active whalers and one time or another, by the 1930’s, Japan and Germany were the two largest whaling countries worldwide, with up to 55 000 whales a year were hunted and killed. The British whaling industry had collapsed after the removal of subsidies in 1840.

After the Second World War, the US encouraged Japan to continue whaling as a means of cheap food for it’s population, and a supply of cheap whale oil for the victors.

Now Japan is considering ending its whaling activities, not because of ethical or conservation concerns, but for financial and political reasons. In theory, $10 million dollars of the $90 million annual budget comes from government subsidies, and the rest from the sale of whale meat. In practise there’s widespread corruption in the industry, and whale meat sales bring in very little. The “Institute for Cetacean Research”, which runs the whaling programme under the guise of scientific research, has survived on loans which it has failed to pay back.

The Japanese political landscape was rocked in August, with the Democratic Party of Japan defeating the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in a landslide. The LDP had been the largest party since its formation in 1955.

Where the LDP used whaling as a nationalist issue, the new government seems to have come to the pragmatic realisation that whaling is inefficient and a political headache for the country.

There are many powerful financial interests in the Japanese whaling industry, and no changes have been made yet, but it looks hopeful that 1000 or so whales may soon receive a stay of execution.

Letting the sun shine

So if governments aren’t going to be spending our money on harpoons, coal, guns, drugs and paying a private company to keep Chapman’s Peak closed, what should they spending it on? Renewable energy perhaps?

For a period this weekend, Spain produced 53% of it’s electricity from wind. Spain is on track to consistently produce a quarter of its electricity by renewable means. South Africa, in spite of our miles of windy coast and abundant sunshine is nowhere near. Good news though is that NERSA, the National Energy Regulator of South Africa, has announced the second phase of the renewable energy feed-in tariffs. The first were announced in April, and the recent ones add further renewable technologies to the list, including solar photovoltaic, which receives a healthy R3.94 a kilowatt-hour.

At the same time, with the help of the April tariffs, a new wind farm has been approved for Jeffrey’s Bay, to come online in 2011.

What’s new

At long last, the highly popular Elgin Organics apple juice is back. Note that due to limited quantities it will be only be available until Sunday evening. The weather has been playing havoc with the farmer’s schedules, and there are a lot of damaged crops, and many items will be smaller than normal, having been sun-deprived.

We also have green onions, and Kleinjongenskraal oranges and lemons are back too.

To order, head on over to

Have a great week,
the Ethical Co-op team