I try to do as little harm as possible in this world. I don’t cheat in relationships, I try to be there for my friends, I look where I’m going so as not to tread on slugs or snails and I believe in absolute equality across all forms of life (as we know it) be that trees, flowers, worms, fish, ape, human or butterfly…
Even in being on the road in Campervan, Mill(y)onaire Milly I looked to use my work to also fund safe ways for wildlife to cross the roads that I was using.
I stand absolutely against the concept that humanity is in any way superior/entitled. I don’t believe that any life should be born to be tested on (in a lab) to cure a human affliction and thanks to Animal Free Research we no longer have to choose human vs mouse. I am vegan NOT because I don’t think that we should eat ‘meat’ (and be part of the circle of life) but because we have - as a species - labelled farm animals as products/stock and disregarded their rights to community, freedom, family and free will. So I instead eat a plant based diet. It’s my own quiet form of protest.
So when I looked to fund Urban Pocket Wild-Scaping (rewilding our urban spaces) I sought to source money from those in alignment with the principles on which my whole life was based: I even turned down an opportunity to meet with the chairman of a pharmaceutical company for almost guaranteed sponsorship and instead decided to build a community of personal donors around my work.
But on being asked where I drew the line - what was REALLY ethical? - I found myself stymied. What - from my point of view - is actually ethical money? Does it even exist?
Do I turn away a donor who works on the tills in Boots because the UK chain sells hats with a fox hair bobble? Do I decline a personal one-off donation from a salesman at a paper company, since the company that paid him annually obliterates 1000s of acres of trees?
Is any money free of blood or sacrifice? Imagine a teacher who does incredible work educating youngsters with behavioural difficulties to help them recognise themselves for the wonderful people that they are… Let’s say that that teacher is paid a salary from the school and that that school has a number of parents who range from many different industries, INCLUDING Research Scientists who test on animals… Is their salary tainted? Is there blood on my hands if I use it to fund my own conservation work?
Should ‘ethical money’ be about the number of steps that a pound coin has taken from causing harm to ending up in my pocket? How many steps is enough? Should I accept the teacher’s (hypothetical) donation simply because money has gone from the pocket of those testing on animals in a lab to the school’s accounts to their own personal income? Is 3 steps enough?
I have really struggled with this.
All money is blood money, in some way, it turns out, since we are a society apparently grounded in the blood of the earth and the lives we share it with.
We actualise ‘resources’ instead of acknowledging them - as the Aborigines and Native Americans did - as our metaphorical siblings. Our modern age would mock to refer to a tree as a ‘brother’ or a river as our ‘sister.’ They are resources to be used, to be labelled and monetised: 1000 trees delivers X much paper and 1000 gallons of water sells for X amount or is used X way to X profit…
We are an age that kills for sport but fears our own mortality. It is hardly surprising then that the currency that we have created to trade with reflects this way of life, even to the point that we are moving closer and closer to a cashless society, keeping money in bank accounts (that banks invest on our behalf in weapons, farming, tobacco etc) and utilising machines that run off the cobalt dug up by children suffering in mines.
So, ‘Ethical Money’ does not exist. Where does that leave me, with my high minded ideas of ‘principled funding’?
I suppose it leaves me with one choice/one rule to source funding by: that at no point does the money gifted to me to fund my work profit those who theoretically stand against it.
For example…. A personal donation from a Research Scientist (who may love hedgehogs) offers no profit/promotion to the work that they do BUT the corporate sponsorship of the pharmaceutical company hiring them would come with promotional expectations and would - at an immediate level - be condoning their practices. So I accept the former but decline the latter.
Similarly, a monthly donor who works on the tills in a fast fashion outlet (selling leather shoes) wants nothing but to play a role in funding 1000s of new habitats for uk wildlife whereas the shoe manufacturer itself- profiting from the use of leather from our current farming practices - would sponsor my work to benefit from the exposure. Again, I accept one but decline the other.
Ours is both a perfect and an imperfect world. To step out into nature is glorious. To watch squirrels play and breathe in fresh air and feel soft rain on our faces is heavenly. Yet we have overlaid our magnificent world with a shallow economy: labelling, draining and monetising instead of rejoicing and appreciating.
As it stands, to reclaim 1000s of urban spaces across our landscape, I must use ‘money’ to both purchase and protect. This money has passed through an economy currently grounded in unnecessary suffering: natural, human and animal. So I will do (and am doing) the best I can to at least not promote those practices in business that I abhor (those that specifically victimise/devalue others) and invest in returning humanity back to the wild state in which we are happiest, in the hope that we will evolve (through my work and the work of countless others ) to find a better, kinder, sweeter way.