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WeWork bans meat: Unicorn startup will no longer reimburse non-veggie meals

17th Jul 2018
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Meat is off the menu for the employees of one of the world’s hottest startups. WeWork, the shared office space provider valued at $20bn, has told its 6,000 staff it will not pay expenses for meals containing meat.

The policy was announced in an internal memo written by Miguel McKelvey, WeWork’s billionaire co-founder. “We have made a commitment to be a meat-free organization,” McKelvey wrote. “Moving forward, we will not serve or pay for meat at WeWork events and want to clarify that this includes poultry and pork, as well as red meat.”

McKelvey cited new research from the journal Science that "avoiding meat is one of the biggest things an individual can do to reduce their personal environmental impact". He added that the policy will “save an estimated 16.7 billion gallons of water, 445.1 million pounds of CO2 emissions, and over 15 million animals by 2023”.

A WeWork spokesperson confirmed to TechCrunch that the new policy will remove red meat, poultry and pork from the expenses policy. The company was, however, “not prohibiting WeWork staff or members from bringing in meat-based meals they’ve paid for themselves”.

Members can also still host their own events at WeWork locations and serve meat they’ve paid for themselves. And fish is still covered by WeWork’s T&E policy.

WeWork’s new policy has inspired some criticism already. The UK’s largest union told the BBC that workers shouldn’t be punished for their dietary choices. "Employees should be encouraged to make healthy choices. They should not be left out of pocket if they choose to eat meat."

The new policy also received a mixed response on Any Answers. “I'd be looking for a pay rise,” wrote AccountingWEB member LionofLudesch. DJKL was similarly critical: “Seems to me employers need to decide if employment is a contractual relationship or whether they think they own their employees.

“I can see the need for an employer to control employee behaviour in the workplace if it might be detrimental to other employees but this, casting their values onto an employee, is a nonsense.”

The reaction wasn’t exclusively negative, though: “I'm sure most will disagree but I think this is a good idea on behalf of the company,” wrote Jholm.

“While incentives are offered for other 'greener' options (such as mileage rates for cycling to temporary workplaces), it does make sense to me especially since animal agriculture is one of the largest single contributors to carbon dioxide emissions.”

For Jonny Vowles, CEO of automated expenses tool Expend, the move also raises questions around the practical application of the policy.

“While potentially a divisive policy change, WeWork’s heart is in the right place. However, this may be overshadowed by how to police the regulation with over 6,000 employees worldwide. No one is going to manually check every food receipt to ensure it is meat free and not all receipts will be as obvious as stating 'steak and chips,'" said Vowles.

According to Vowles, a new breed of expense tools will help finance and HR teams apply the policy more rigorously and allow businesses to itemise details of employees’ expenditure, quickly and efficiently.

"In WeWork’s case, the finance and HR teams can then perform spot checks that food claims appear to be meat-free if they so wish," continued Vowles. "The ability to log expenses with the required level of detail at the point of purchase will be more likely to drive employee compliance with this expenses policy, helping it to serve a long-lasting purpose, beyond simply grabbing news headlines.”

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Replies (87)

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By crebourret
20th Jul 2018 11:03

I bet they reimburse mileage done in SUV and other powerful engine though.

Regardless... massive publicity stunt if anything!

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By Lesser Tax
20th Jul 2018 11:05

It's a bold move to implement this but staff are not prevented from eating meat, just encouraged.

Let's see. By 2050 I wonder what % of people will stop eating animal products. 50% perhaps? It is currently a hot topic and due to health concerns (increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer etc), high intake of antibiotics, environmental damage and cruelty to animals. Previously a massive meat eater but no longer. Helps that a client close to the office runs a vegan café and gives us a substantial discount (appreciate this is a fairly unique luxury). I do wonder if history will look back in 100 years and view eating animals in the same way as we view cannibalism today. Having stopped eating animal products 9 months ago, I feel far better for it. Watched a documentary called "what the health" and had two clients die in quick succession of cancer and heart attack. One expected and one unexpected. A loss of life which was too early. Could diet have avoided this? We will never know but it may well have done. I am continuously surprised at the high quality, large variety and wide availability of vegan cuisine (all be it, at a premium).

It is certainly a topic which causes a lot of excitement and passion.

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Replying to Lesser Tax:
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By leon0001
20th Jul 2018 11:48

Are you including people who live in China in your estimates?

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Replying to leon0001:
Teignmouth
By Paul Scholes
21st Jul 2018 09:49

See my comments elsewhere, for thousands of years China and India have eaten tiny quantities of meat compared to the West but have only recently discovered our bad habits and so are the driving force behind the increase in meat production.

This is not sustainable and so they too will have to restrict their production, perhaps when we have come down to meet them?

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Replying to Lesser Tax:
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By listerramjet
21st Jul 2018 01:28

10% perhaps? Nothing like evidence based policy.

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By Ian McTernan CTA
20th Jul 2018 11:06

Stupid virtue signalling and probably not legal in the UK- any employee could make a claim here for discrimination and wrongful dismissal if a company tried imposing this rule here.

Here's a better way to save the planet: breed less people. Want to commit to saving the planet? Have less children.

And 15 million animals in 6 years between 6,000 staff- by my reckoning that means they were EACH eating over one animal PER DAY. Don't know about you, but I'd struggle to get through a whole cow every day....

Maybe all that CO2 they will save will be eclipsed by the amount of hot air coming out their ....

All this from a company that is 'valued' at $20bn and yet loses almost $1bn a year and owes $18bn in rent:

WeWork owes $18 billion in rent. The company has more than 14 million square feet of office space, with suitably massive lease obligations, though WeWork has the option of closing locations if it can't pay those bills.
WeWork is burning cash. Revenue from memberships more than doubled last year, to $822 million, but expenses also more than doubled, to $1.81 billion. Net losses came to $934 million, according to Bloomberg.

I wonder how much virtue signalling the billionaire founder will be doing when it all collapses and leaves the banks billions out of pocket which consumers will ultimately end up paying for.

Given the high occupancy rates and yet losses higher than total income, I can't see any value in the company.

We'd be better off not allowing companies such as this to exist- that would save us all a lot more than the virtue signalling from the boss who has salted away his billions so that when the company collapses he'll be fine.

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Replying to Ian McTernan CTA:
Tornado
By Tornado
20th Jul 2018 11:29

As you imply, there can be no REAL commitment to this policy as there are hundreds of other more legitimate and generally acceptable ways to 'be environmentally friendly'.

This is just a clever ploy to publicise the Company in a very cynical way using those that sympathise with this view as the Patsies. When this new start up suddenly stops, there will be a few people realising that they have been taken for a long ride just to help a few people make a massive amount of money out of this Company at the expense of others.

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Replying to Ian McTernan CTA:
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By listerramjet
21st Jul 2018 01:30

We don’t need to allow it. It sounds like it will disappear for the normal reasons

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By PJWhite
20th Jul 2018 11:10

I'm amazed that as an accountancy website nobody has yet commented on the figures?

"McKelvey cited new research from the journal Science that "avoiding meat is one of the biggest things an individual can do to reduce their personal environmental impact". He added that the policy will “save an estimated 16.7 billion gallons of water, 445.1 million pounds of CO2 emissions, and over 15 million animals by 2023”."

Now by my calculations 6,000 staff over 5 years equates to 500 animals per staff member per year.

Over a standard 240 working day year that's over 2 animals per day each just in meals claimed on expenses!

I have to admit to being a fully committed meat eater (unlike my vegetarian 8y/o son) but there's no way I could get through 2 chickens per day never mind cows!

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Replying to PJWhite:
Francois
By Francois Badenhorst
20th Jul 2018 11:33

It's not just employees though. It's catering at WeWork events/buildings etc, too. So that's thousands of extra people beyond just WeWork's staff.

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By crofte
20th Jul 2018 11:23

The maths are obvious - WeWork are going to increase their non-meating, expense claiming staff 10 or 20 fold. Simple!

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By rememberscarborough
20th Jul 2018 11:38

Interesting that after a couple of cancer ops I'm now on a low residue diet that excludes many of the high fibre vegetarian staples . Wonder if this policy is discrimination? Also, can they now insist on what type of cars we drive if we claim expenses?

Is veganism going to be a new religion on the next census because it sure feels like they're telling us how to live our lives? God is a lettuce....

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7om
By Tom 7000
20th Jul 2018 11:51

Expenses claim....
Steak and chips £30

Chips and lettuce £5

Look we are environmentally friendly .. FD rubs hands together as subsistence payments drop by 70%

Follow the money~~~~ >>

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Replying to Tom 7000:
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By moneymanager
20th Jul 2018 13:22

Organic avocado on toast £10 (okay in Camden) and a punnet of organic blueberries flown in from Chile (air miles?) Avocados take bucket loads of water to grow and the greenhouse gas impact of the blueberries?

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7om
By Tom 7000
20th Jul 2018 11:51

Expenses claim....
Steak and chips £30

Chips and lettuce £5

Look we are environmentally friendly .. FD rubs hands together as subsistence payments drop by 70%

Follow the money~~~~ >>

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By sunshine
20th Jul 2018 11:54

What an excellent idea - modern factory farming methods should be illegal, and I'm so happy that companies like this are making a stand.
And shame on anyone who sees what goes on in those places (all easily viewed on the internet), yet still buys the product.

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By leon0001
20th Jul 2018 11:54

Does this prohibition include fish, seafood or dairy produce?

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Teignmouth
By Paul Scholes
20th Jul 2018 12:35

Blimey I went away and came back to Trump land.

This is a huge topic that, for me, has been running for over 20 years and I'm still only scratching the surface.

It's pointless chucking years of stats and numbers at people who just don't want to believe or gain knowledge of something that they have always taken as gospel but, as has been mentioned here and in so many studies, with the projected global increase in meat consumption over the next 30 years we will run out of land to sustain it.

For example, in the UK, the agricultural land used for animal production, ie to keep and feed them, is about 85% of the total, leaving 15% for crops that humans eat. Yet less than half our protein intake and about 30% of our calorie intake comes from animal products.

In some parts of the world it is even more unbalanced with some countries having to deal with human starvation whilst exporting grain to the West to feed their animals.

Contrary to comments above, meat and animal product consumption in the UK has dropped over recent years and so the projected increase is predominantly in far eastern countries like China and India.

It's ironic that somebody mentioned humans always eating meat. Not always but for a long time, meat has been a fast and efficient way to get stuff, that took us ages to gather, into our bodies and this benefitted our development and population growth.

Like a lot of things though, this all started to turn sour 8K to 10K years ago when we stopped moving around and started gathering animals around us in larger and larger numbers, breeding animals that would never had existed had we not had control over them.

The irony comes from the fact that for thousands of years this has been predominantly a western trait in that countries like China and India traditionally consumed far less meat per head than we did but then they opened up and were introduced to the new fast food eg McDonalds etc.

So, as with consumerism in general, many in these countries saw our consumption of meat and energy as something to strive for (why shouldn't they share it it as well?) albeit that they are now also discovering heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, colon cancer etc etc

One stat I will chuck out there is that, taking land, water, soil degradation, excrement treatment, energy use etc into consideration, if the world's population wanted to match the USA's lifestyle, we'd need 7 planets and the EU's 3 planets.

Someone sound bited the "Chinese coal station" comment so often heard when the West's profligacy is talked about. For several years now China has been the largest consumer and producer of solar power and is likely soon to be the world's largest battery producer, controlling more than half of the planet's Lithium resources.

Yes, it also still needs to provide power to its population via coal but, per head, it's energy needs are still probably a third to a half of the average American.

More to the point though they acknowledge and are planning far more than the West for the need to reduce GH gasses and will make a fortune out of it, especially whilst Trump and his like Tweet and post stuff about false Climate Change news.

On the radio this morning I heard that, in a survey, 50% of shoppers don't care or think about the ethical or environmental issues surrounding meat consumption but then I suppose there was little time to take them to an abattoir to let them practice slaughtering, gutting and preparing a lamb for the table or to point out that the energy to produce their beef burger that day could probably recharge their mobile for months.

The comfort I get is in thinking that 10 years ago it would probably have been 95% of shoppers.

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Replying to Paul Scholes:
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By moneymanager
20th Jul 2018 13:35

Paul

Many, most even, of those points I agree with BUT the conventional approach to the issue conflates meat eating with "meat" eating by which differentiation I mean the quality and the way that we relate to it. The mass and repeated consumption of highly processed, factory farmed (CAFOs etc) is every bit as damaging for both the environment and ourselves and leaves the "meat" centre stage of the late.

By pushing meat to where it should be, the difficult to get and expensive occasional item, we satisfy a number of objectives (by the way I am essentially vegan having made the journey back and forth a bit), our own health improves by removing the rubbish from our diets, recognising our non carnivorous origins but also the dead cert that it was meat protein that lead to encephalation, and thence accountants, the environment improves through removing the disconnected industrial processes and returning to a biologically sustainable cycle of animal growth, defecation/fertilisation etc.

We could write for hours on this but I feel that a single sound bite approach as exemplified by this company is wrong in principle and wrong in fact.

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Replying to moneymanager:
Teignmouth
By Paul Scholes
21st Jul 2018 16:09

Hi moneymanager

Whilst some countries, particularly the UK, enjoyed huge benefit from wholesale, slavery and opium production but then realised things had gone to far, they did not limit practices to just the occasional slave or syringe of heroin.

More relevant, how about limiting foie gras to the first Sunday of the month?

I agree with you that the our ability to eat a wide variety of food, including meat, has helped in pushing us to the top of the tree in terms of intelligence but look what we have done with it.

We now have the intelligence however to appreciate our impact on the planet and other people and animals and suss that with our dominance in plant food production there is no longer a need to eat/use meat or any of its bits.

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By richardterhorst
20th Jul 2018 13:02

Is it legal to impose a political view on staff?

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By dgilmour51
20th Jul 2018 14:10

[***] Sapiens is an evolved omnivore - though as with all evolved species there is a bell-curve of 'norm'.

I have no problem with any company making contractual arrangements with staff at the outset, but having contracted, to make such great alteration in the employment conditions seems to me to be dishonest and unethical - not to mention bullying.

I have told our people to strike WeWork from our lists and that we will not reimburse any expenses that arise from them.

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By lordburnside
20th Jul 2018 14:32

I have always found vegetarians to be very flatulent.

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Replying to lordburnside:
Teignmouth
By Paul Scholes
21st Jul 2018 09:54

lordburnside wrote:

I have always found vegetarians to be very flatulent.

In that I have to agree with you but, strangely, far less since I went vegan, maybe it’s because, like every other mammal, I wasn’t designed to digest milk after infancy?

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By lordburnside
20th Jul 2018 14:32

I have always found vegetarians to be very flatulent.

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By Chris Dodd
20th Jul 2018 16:55

I think in the spirit of social responsibility this is a good thing, they are not saying you cannot eat meat, just that they will not re-imburse expenses where meat products have been purchased.

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Replying to Chris Dodd:
Teignmouth
By Paul Scholes
21st Jul 2018 09:56

Chris Dodd wrote:

I think in the spirit of social responsibility this is a good thing, they are not saying you cannot eat meat, just that they will not re-imburse expenses where meat products have been purchased.

In accountant speak; the cost of eating meat fails on the “wholly, exclusively and necessarily” principle.

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By D_Smith
21st Jul 2018 00:10

It seems somewhat harsh to tell employees that who have to travel for their business that they won't be reimbursed for eating food containing animal products.

Maybe in the USA there are more vegan choices readily available, but outside of large cities here in the UK it isn't easy.

Maybe the policy should have been introduced gradually over a year or two?

I've been fully vegan for almost a year after seeing some films on Netflix and videos on YouTube.

At first it wasn't easy to eliminate all meat, fish, eggs and dairy, but it became easier.

That said, I wouldn't dream of telling anyone else that they shouldn't eat what they wanted to, including meat, if say, I had invited someone to eat out and I was paying the bill - which in some way is what this company is doing!

If individuals choose a plant based diet or not, surely that's up to the individual?

If I'm ever asked, I refer to the films and YouTubers that influenced me - passions can run high on this issue and this company has certainly set the cat amongst the pigeons!

Netflix:
'Cowspiracy' - This film is about the environmental impact of farming animals - cows - for food.

'What the Health' - the health benefits of a plant based diet.

YouTuber: Erin Janus
She made:
1. Dairy is Scary,
2. What's wrong with Eggs? The truth about the Egg Industry, and
3. 'Humane' Slaughter Debunked in 5 minutes

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By listerramjet
21st Jul 2018 01:27

I can’t say it worries me too much. People are free to believe any nonsense they like. Practically it sounds like a nightmare to enforce and may well be open to challenge. And it has exactly zero relevance to accounting!

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By Beancounter55
21st Jul 2018 11:50

I sincerely hope that the executives of this and other organisations that propose such policies do not suffer from cancer at some later stage in their lives.
Having chemotherapy destroys part of your immune system and doesn’t help your red blood cell count nor your white blood cell count. You need a specific minimum red blood cell count in order to have continued treatment without having to endure a blood transfer. My nurse told me to do the opposite of what people are generally told - she said that in order to boost my red blood cells prior to chemotherapy I needed to eat steak. My company were quite happy to sign off expenses with steak on the menu as it was actually helping me to get better.

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Replying to Beancounter55:
Teignmouth
By Paul Scholes
21st Jul 2018 12:53

Without wishing to move this debate any further away from topic than it’s already strayed, although vegans are at lower risk of cancer than others, they do get it and experience chemotherapy, and the medical profession is equally able to suggest a suitable plant based diet.

As I said elsewhere, eating animal flesh is a quick way to get some nutrients into your system but where did the animals get them from?

For red cells, there are many good sources of iron in plant matter, my diet is full of them, and you then need Vit C to enable the body to absorb them, something you almost always get from fruit.

From what I’ve read, the jury is out on what foodstuffs, if any, boost white blood cell production, rather it’s a case of having a healthy balanced diet to support and build the immune system and, again from what I’ve read, and experienced, this means lots of fruit and veg.

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By the_Poacher
22nd Jul 2018 11:29

One would have thought that a modern startup could come up with better ways to pursuade staff to eat healthy low impact food.

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Replying to the_Poacher:
Teignmouth
By Paul Scholes
22nd Jul 2018 18:14

the_Poacher wrote:

One would have thought that a modern startup could come up with better ways to pursuade staff to eat healthy low impact food.

What would you suggest?

The government has spent millions, if not billions, promoting healthier living, to what effect? Sometimes it takes clumsy direct action like banning smoking indoors, tax on sugar or a policy like this to get the issues into the open and start the ball rolling.

As happened for decades with cigarette smoking people don’t hear or chose to ignore advice. With issues such as climate change, soil degradation, anti-biotic resistance and overuse of water they/we really have an uphill struggle as you’re asking people to make changes that are predominantly for others, including foreigners! and those yet to be born (and dare I mention animals?) So what chance eh?

The brilliant James Lovelock contends that the public will choose not to hear this stuff and that the only way you ever get people motivated for others is during a war, or threat of war, ie we have to wait till we have to ration food and/or water or a few thousand die from heat stroke, floods or hurricanes.

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By keithas
22nd Jul 2018 14:36

So much antipathy towards an employer not paying for their employees to eat meat (for sound environmental reasons) in a time when many have had their right to fair employment terms undermined by zero hours contracts and the like - for financial, and unethical reasons!
I despair.
And, so many respondents defiantly defending their right to do whatever they want when all the evidence tells us that this will deprive our grandchildren of any quality of life.
It beats me that some are arguing the case on the basis of relative intelligence. The ultimate test of intelligence is, surely, the ability to survive and prosper as a species.
On the subject of intelligence: I don't think we are intelligent enough to yet to assess the different manifestations of intelligence in the animal kingdom. It has recently been found that some bird species, including crows, can retrieve food from unreachable places using Archimedian principles. Most people I see would starve, given the same experiment.

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Replying to keithas:
Teignmouth
By Paul Scholes
22nd Jul 2018 18:34

Blimey keithas - where have you been?

“Antipathy” wish I’d thought of that one.

Looking back nearly 30 years, one of the most vivid memories when announcing my move to becoming veggie was the over reaction from some people and groups, as though I’d insulted them, in fact I received less antipathy (usually from the same people) when I suggested Thatcher wasn’t fit for purpose, any purpose.

There was some bewilderment but no antipathy when I moved to veganism 8 years ago but then I didn’t announce it on here.

I see the same emotive reaction on this and the other thread, maybe it’s just the old threat or opportunity view of the world?

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By bigkahunna456
24th Jul 2018 18:01

Glad I don't work for those bozo's. I'm NOT a Vegetarian and I would not tolerate anyone inflicting their moral views on me. If I were an employee there I would be working to circumvent this policy at every opportunity.

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Replying to bigkahunna456:
Teignmouth
By Paul Scholes
24th Jul 2018 23:05

Did you read the article? If it was about animal welfare it would be a moral issue, it’s not, it’s about reducing the harm to the environment and others.

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