Monthly Archives: April 2016

Oh, everybodys got a beef now…

I am so tired of going from burst of outrage to burst of outrage in Alberta.

Ok. I can get through this…

earls sourceA local restaurant chain, Earl’s, announced that they were pleased to be the first chain in North America to serve certified humane beef as part of their commitment to conscious sourcing. Apparently Earl’s could not find a source of enough Canadian beef that was certified to meet their expectations, so they are getting their beef from a Kansas producer.

It is so weird to see that so many Albertans conflate a local industry with a purchasing obligation for local consumers.

Yes, Earls started in Edmonton. Yes, Earl’s headquarters is in Vancouver. Yes, both of those are in Canada. But what isn’t in Canada is a process to certify that beef is produced in a humane way. That’s the problem.

It’s also distressing to see Albertans acting as if this is an out of the blue attack on Alberta beef producers.

It’s not out of the blue. Unless you live under a rock you’ve probably seen this ad by A&W about using beef raised with out any added hormones or steroids. Or this story about McDonald’s switching to cage free eggs. The precedent is there. There is growing consumer concern about animal welfare.  Earls, and A&W, and McDonalds are not creating this issue, they are responding to it.

It was not an attack, it was a business decision. What this move by Earl’s makes them is an innovator and an industry leader, not a saboteur. It’s not an attempt to do anything more than respond to market trends. That’s what resilient, strong companies do.

Also worth noting: the point is only marginally whether the beef is raised humanely. The point is the certification the producer provides. The point is a standardization and definition of the minimum acceptable treatment of animals raised for food.

This is not a targeted snub of Alberta beef producers. It could be an accidental rebuke of Alberta’s cattle industry for not staying ahead of the curve though. Another company, an American company, beat them to the punch and were earlier to respond to a growing market demand. It’s a pretty poor business model where producers get angry at consumers for choosing what product they want and going to the business that gives it to them.

I guess Earl’s didn’t consult the Alberta industry when they made their decision. I didn’t consult Safeway when I switched to buying my cheese and pasta at Italian Centre, or my smoked meats at that market in Holes Greenhouse, and I won’t consult them when I start buying my produce at Farmer’s Markets this summer. I’m not clear why consultation was an expectation.

This is not restaurants telling consumers that Alberta beef is not good enough. Earl’s, and MacDonald’s, and A&W are reacting to the shift in consumer perception about the the way animals are treated in all the meat producing sectors – not just beef. They are taking their cues from consumers, not dictating them.

This is not a battle for social license. Social licence is the level of acceptance or approval CONTINUALLY granted to a producer by their consumer. Social license changes over time. Companies have to constantly earn and re-earn social license. Companies need to conduct constant environmental scans and maintain an awareness of shifts in their market.

Alberta beef producers could have Earl’s as a customer if they want Earl’s as a customer. Earl’s is no longer their customer because that is what happens in a free market when you don’t/can’t give the customer what it wants. Earl’s want a certification. If the Alberta beef industry is already doing all these things then this is an easy fix for them. All they have to do is finish development of the certification program. If they can’t then they need to address gaps in industry standards, because this is where the future of the industry lies – in open, transparent and humane standards for the production of animal products.

It’s happening in the fashion industry, it is happening with diamonds, it is happening with laundry detergent, it’s why companies are boycotting North Carolina. Ethical consumerism is a growing global movement. No amount of complaining will make that less of a reality for any industry.

alberta beefMy message to Alberta beef producers is simple. Get together, draw up some parameters and a good plan for enforcing and regulating the standards you choose, and you’re golden. Earl’s has indicated it would consider using Alberta beef if this happened.

Adapt or die. You can do this. It can be done.

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When one door closes: Ghomeshi

It’s been two weeks.

The trial and verdict in the Jian Ghomeshi sexual assault trial has come and gone. I find the reaction more subdued than the internet predicted it would be, and I feel more subdued than I thought I would be. That being said, the trial has changed the way I see Canada’s justice system. And it changed the way I pay attention to how our society treats sex, sexuality and women.

Two weeks ago I was keeping an eye on twitter as the verdict was read. A co-worker was not and asked me to tell her as soon as the verdict was known. I sent her a quick email, and seconds later heard her holler “He said that?” So I walked around the corner to her office, feeling quite sad, looked at her equally sad face and she said “I have a daughter.”

scales

Given how the trial rolled out I did not expect a guilty verdict. Given the current state of our laws a guilty verdict was not possible. Not because Jian Ghomeshi isn’t guilty, not because the woman are liars, not because what happened didn’t deserve a different outcome – because our laws are not written to give us the better outcome.

Our culture builds a case against the women before they even have a chance to make their case. That was confirmed when, at the end of his verdict, the judge said: “…need to be vigilant in avoiding the equally dangerous false assumption that sexual assault complainants are always truthful.” His equating trusting half of the human race to be experts on their own bodily integrity to the danger posed by rapists sent a chill down my spine.

innocent or guilty presumption of innocence until proven guilt as charged in a fair trial for crime suspect

We vociferously, adamantly and unwaveringly defend the idea that a person is innocent until proven guilty. Rightly so.

And yet, in the case of this completely unique crime, we do not with equal conviction defend the idea that a woman is honest unless proven otherwise.

That alone proves the system is biased against female victims of sexual assault, because we start from the assumption that women could lie, that trusting the woman is a threat to all men, and so we interpret normal human behaviors as reasonable doubt.

I read a Facebook story by a male ally in which he likened this to a wallet being stolen. It was a good analogy but I amend that narrative this way:

…I have an invisible wallet. It holds something I value. You can’t see it, but you can touch it, and you can damage it, and you can take it from me. Because it is invisible I can’t prove when you have done any of these things. I will rarely have evidence to support my accusation. It will often be my word against another’s. The damage done to me will be invisible to most people…

Why do we need to start from the premise that we believe women? Because with sexual assault it is all about believing that a woman has the right, and ability, and credibility as a human being to her own sexuality. No one else owns it. It isn’t a matter of property. It is a matter of controlling what happens to her own body, and having redress under the law when that inalienable right is infringed upon. It isn’t about cuts or bruises. It is about one human being violently usurping another human being’s right to self. The nature of the harm done by crime may be invisible to the eye, but the human toll of the crime must never be.   

lady justice6We need to re-examine our laws, and make some sounder judgments about what we have put on the scales of justice. We need to make some sound judgments about the weight of things that are difficult to quantify.

One in four women will experience sexual assault in her lifetime. One in four men will not commit that offense, and one in four men do not being accused of that offense. Crimes like this are perpetrated by a very, very small pool of men who re-offend as they get continue to away with their behavior. The risk to one in four women is significant. The risk to the many men is significant. For most men, the risk of being tarred with the same brush, being lumped in with those few men, is real.

By doing a better job of punishing the few criminals we are not only protecting women, we are protecting men from the criminals that hide among them and use them as a human shield for their behavior.

This is not making sex more complicated or risky, for the vast majority of men this will make sex easier and better. Same goes for women. Because when we stop confusing violence with healthy human sexuality, we all win.

This door has closed. But we must open a new door to discussion about how we can do better as a culture, and how our justice system can be made to better serve the best interests of all Canadians.

[read this, it’s interesting]

This civilization accepts change only

when-the-winds-of-change-blowAs many of my pedantic tales do, this one begins on social media.

In response to a thread about Ted Cruz and his demagoguery, a Facebook friend asserted that he was a liberal, to which I replied:
“Of course you’re liberal, … Most of the civilized world is liberal (progressive, we call them progressives here). Being liberal is a requisite to being civilized.”

Later someone challenged me on this, and after thinking it over, I continue to believe I was correct. Look:

civilize: bring (a place or people) to a stage of social, cultural, and moral development considered to be more advanced.
civilization: the stage of human social development and organization that is considered most advanced.
liberal: open to new behavior or opinions and willing to discard traditional values.

Civilization is not a place. It is not a location in time. The march towards civilization is not linear (which of course may also be true of time, but let’s not go there). Once we recognize civilization, it ceases to be the most advanced point because our recognition of the advancement is an advancement in and unto itself. Conversely, recognizing that a something is not civilized we are progressing. Get it? Civilization is a continuous process. Civilization is a progression of moments in which we move toward bettering ourselves and our societies. It is advancement.

mirrorA person who is civilized is individually at a stage of individual peak advancement, because of the same circular proof I outlined above.

Ergo, being civilized is to be in the process of change. You can’t advance without moving, you can’t move without changing position, you can’t change position if you’re not open to the possibility that your position can change.

HuxleyThis is the question I answered at the start; how can you be civilized if you are not open to change? Being open to change and the state of being resistant to change are mutually exclusive, which leaves only liberality compatible with civilization. In the long run, being open to new behavior or opinions (the definition of liberal) is the only of those two states compatible with civilization. Being liberal not only has a civilizing effect, it is in fact required for the civilizing to take place at all.

I will agree that what we consider to be a civilization is relative. But regardless how subjective the judgement call that ‘civilized society’ is, change is necessary to advancement. It is the willingness to consider change, not the adoption of new ideas, that makes the liberal mindset requisite to civilization.

I’m going to rest my case right here… what do you think?

quote-the-true-law-of-the-race-is-progress-and-development-whenever-civilization-pauses-in-the-march-of-william-gilmore-simms-171220