Di Stapley asks ‘is gardening ethical?’

There have been a few tweets recently about the RHS being unethical. This accusation rather surprised me, so I questioned one of the tweeters about their use of the word unethical; I was curious to know what made them arrive at this conclusion.

The response was to direct me to a blog, which expressed disappointment that the RHS had apparently withdrawn its peat policy and “refuses to go peat free”. This seemed to be the reason for the unethical accusation.

So I began my own research into the debate, using the RHS website and google.

Like the author of the blog, I could not find an RHS peat policy per se. However, I did discover some interesting articles that explain its stance very well; at least in my humble opinion!

Check out this BBC article

It seems clear enough that the RHS message is to reduce our peat usage and employ alternatives wherever possible.

Now take a look at the Science & environment section on the RHS website

So far I am at a loss to see how the RHS can be accused of being unethical.

My next step was to explore the flower shows. Once again, I think their stance is abundantly clear – see for yourself in this article

It might be argued that any nurseries using peat should be banned from exhibiting at RHS shows. But that would be almost impossible to police and some exhibitors would surely feel they were unfairly treated / disadvantaged, whilst others may feel they had been excluded altogether. So leading by example, as the RHS are doing, is surely the best way to encourage others to reduce their use of peat.

I believe it’s far more important to walk the walk, rather than talk the talk. A written policy is all very well, but positive action in the form of encouraging and persuading through constructive scientific and ecological explanation is far more powerful than issuing a dictatorial edict, which does not necessarily take into account special circumstances.

My conclusion is that the apparent lack of a published peat policy is not a basis for accusing the RHS of being unethical. Indeed, I would suggest its approach, which is based on education, encouragement and ecology, is to be applauded.

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