The issues of western resource waste and world hunger are highlighted in this ethics assembly for secondary school children. It bases its message around the true story of a fisherman who made a stand by refusing to throw away the excess fish that he caught
Leader: There are 10,000 fishermen who make their living by fishing off the coasts of Britain. One of them is Mick Mahon.
Reader 1: Mick Mahon is a 60 year old man who fishes in the sea off of Newlyn in Cornwall. He’s made a good living with his boat, the J-Anne, for the last 43 years by getting to know the best places to fish and by working hard.
Reader 2: The fishing industry in Britain has been looked after by the European Union since 1973. The law states that each fisherman can only catch a certain amount of fish every month. If they catch too many fish they are expected to throw the excess of dead fish over the side of the boat.
Reader 1: As he fishes – possibly while you are listening to this assembly – he is working under the threat of being issued a large fine for refusing to dump fish. He is also likely to have his boat impounded and be left with nothing.
Reader 2: The reason for this is that he feels that the waste of throwing good food over the side of his boat is so unreasonable that he has been refusing to do it. Instead, he has been giving his food away to people, such as pensioners who need it, and asking people to give money to charity in return.
Leader: This assembly is about waste. The idea behind the laws surrounding the dumping of fish is to prevent the seas being over-fished which might cause certain species of fish to die out. However, Mick Mahon is mainly fishing for Haddock, which has a naturally fluctuating population that is very healthy at the moment. Mick Mahon is breaking the law and so, in a sense, he deserves to be punished. However, he feels so strongly about the waste of good fish that he is prepared to do so in order to make a point. He says:
Reader 1: “It’s simply immoral to dump good fish.”
Leader: What do you think? [Pause] In July, Gordon Brown said:
Reader 2: “If we are to get food prices down, we must also do more to deal with unnecessary demand such as by all of us doing more to cut our food waste, which is costing the average household in Britain around £8 per week.”
Leader: It’s easy to get complacent about the fact that, in the UK, most of us have access to enough food to keep us fed well enough. Most households clear out their fridges and throw away unwanted food regularly. Apparently up to one third of all food bought by British households is wasted. With a third of the world’s population underfed and the remaining third starving, I’m sure that, if Mick Mahon were in charge of food distribution, he would try to somehow magically transport our waste on a daily basis to people around the world who needed it.
There is a story in the Bible about a miracle that Jesus performed with some loaves of bread and fishes. It is known as ‘The Feeding of the Five Thousand”:
Reader 1: Jesus and his disciples went fishing on The Sea of Galilee. When they got back to shore, they discovered a huge crowd of people waiting for them who had heard about Jesus’s teachings and had travelled to the remote place to hear him speak.
Reader 2: By the time Jesus had finished talking to them, it was very late and they were hungry. Jesus told His disciples to feed everyone. The disciples were horrified and showed Jesus the little food they had – five loaves of bread and two fishes.
Reader 1: Jesus told the disciples to divide the crowd up into groups. He held the food and looked up to heaven. Then he began to divide the loaves and fishes into pieces.
Reader 2: The disciples put shares into baskets and began to hand the food out to the huge crowd. Miraculously there was enough food to feed everyone.
Leader: Maybe Jesus was not just performing a miracle to show how strong His faith in God was. Perhaps he was also pointing out that there is enough food to feed everyone in the world if it is distributed fairly. At last, in the UK, the idea of feeding people in need with excess food seems to be catching on. Supermarkets used to dump food – which was often perfectly edible, although beyond its sell by date. Marks and Spencer has a scheme set up whereby some of its excess is given directly to charities. Asda wants to be in a position to send nothing to landfill by 2010. Other companies are now sending waste to be converted into animal feed, for composting or even to contribute to the making of bio fuel.
In this country, we expect to make enough money to live on from the career we choose to follow. Out expectations are that, if we work hard and become skilled enough in that career, we can perhaps become successful enough to earn more money and go on to gain a better standard of living. We also expect some kind of appreciation and recognition for our experience and skills. However, very occasionally, laws are made that seem to make success difficult – and in the case of the fishing laws, to support pointless waste. Usually these laws are made with the best intentions – and usually, if they don’t seem to be fair, they are reviewed and changed.
The authorities are keeping a close eye on Mick Mahon as he makes a strong point about waste that goes beyond the fishing that he is directly involved with! Mick Mahon’s battle with the authorities highlights our need, every one of us, to be aware of the implications of waste in a world where 15 million children die of hunger every year and in a country, Britain, where we apparently buy, but don’t eat, ten billion pounds-worth of food every year.
Prayer or meditation
If we could all become fully aware of the importance of fair distribution of our resources, perhaps we could move towards a future where we share what we currently discard as excess to our needs, before it gets discarded as waste. We know that we are guilty of wasting water and electricity. We are also encouraged to recycle our household rubbish. Yet we are only just becoming aware of how wasteful we are with food. The fact is that the earth contains enough resources for everyone and no one needs to be hungry.
This e-bulletin issue was first published in September 2008
About the author: Jaki Miles-Windmill