Musings, politics and environmental issues

Archive for December, 2012

More on slave labour

After a long gestation period and various changes, both from me and the IPS editors, my article on trafficking as slave labour finally went up on the Inter Press Service website today. Check it out if you like. It is difficult to find figures on this issue as not everyone views themselves as a victim of trafficking (and the police and trade unions were distinctly non-responsive on this issue, as I mentioned in a previous blog).
Meanwhile, Icelandic national radio reported yesterday that shop workers who work in supermarkets open 24 hours a day receive wages that are far too low. This applies especially to those who work at night. Some of them have also been exploited in other ways too.
About 7 years ago, I remember talking to shop staff who worked till 11 p.m and then had to start at 9 a.m. next morning, when regulations here stipulate 11 hours rest between shifts.

Disgusting conditions at livestock farms in Iceland

Two dairy farms have recently been in the spotlight for the bad conditions of their cows. One farm, Brúarreykjir, was particularly bad although the farmer there said there were reasons for the bad conditions when the Food and Veterinary Authority made an unannounced visit there at the end of last month. Still, his farm had been monitored several times over the last year and there were 90 animals in a barn supposed to hold 64. The cows and milking equipment were dirty and the animals were walking around ankle-deep in slurry. The farm had its milk licence taken away and it was not allowed to send animals to slaughter.  Yet the farmer is irate and has applied for his milk licence to be reinstated.

It turns out that sheep have had to be put down at 5 farms during the year because of under-feeding, and in 3 cases charges were made. The news report did not mention whether one of these cases was the sheep farm in East Iceland that has been repeatedly in the limelight for bad conditions of its animals, yet has been allowed to continue.

A new Bill is in the offing over animal welfare, which apparently should make it easier to take action in cases like these. Let’s hope it does.


Doctors rubbish complementary therapies

Doctors are up in arms against a parliamentary proposal here in Iceland to EXAMINE whether to subsidise certain well-known complementary therapies to make them more accessible for the public to use them, as currently they are out of reach of the ordinary person. Currently, users must also pay value-added tax when they see a practitioner, which they do not have to do if they see an allopathic practitioner.

Doctors say that the complementary therapies have not been subject to peer-reviewed assessment, and in the studies that have been done no beneficial effect has been seen over a placebo. This is biased judgement, as often doctors have to try many drugs to find the one that suits a patient (if such a drug exists) and the person may get worse while this is happening. Doctors also know that sometimes it takes a while for a drug to work, and often a drug has to be taken life-long if the illness is chronic. Yet complementary therapies are expected to work IMMEDIATELY and with the first remedy tried, which is totally unreasonable. It is also impossible to do randomly controlled trials with many types of complementary therapies as each person is different, and what works for one person will not necessarily work for another.

I welcome the proposal, and would like such proposals to be passed everywhere. The world would be a much healthier place if that happened.