Neal’s Yard on Guardian EthicalLiving: you ask, they don’t answer. Will they answer here?

Neal’s Yard were nice enough to agree to feature on the Guardian’s Ethical Living Blog: to answer reader questions. Guardian readers donated thiee time in order to contribute plenty of interesting questions (the comments page on this story runs to five pages) on issues such as what level of evidence they demand before selling a product, the ethics of their previous policy of selling homoeopathic pills for malaria (now withdrawn), or the ethical problems involved in distributing non-evidence-based anti-vaccine information.

Sadly, though, Adam Vaughan of the Guardian was left to report that

Unfortunately, despite previous assurances that they would be participating in this blog post, I’ve now been told they ‘will not be taking part in the debate’.

So yes, as several people have pointed out, this has become something of ‘You Ask’, rather than a ‘You Ask, They Answer’. I’m still hoping NYR will reconsider.

Despite attempts to persuade Neal’s Yard to participate, that comments thread has now been closed.

This is a real shame: there are fascinating ethical issues around the marketing and selling of ‘complementary and alternative’ treatments, and it would have been great to have discussed this with Neal’s Yard. We were just putting together a question about their position on vaccinations, before we learnt that they were not going to respond.

Ever-optimistic, we will e-mail Neal’s Yard shortly: to invite them to address some of the questions raised on EthicalLiving here (in the comments, or a guest post). If there is anything else you would like to ask them, feel free to post the comment here – we will be sure to e-mail them a link to this thread.

I hope that they will respond. When selling healthcare products to the general public, I think there is both an ethical duty and a commercial imperative to engage with and explain things to your (potential) market. Of course, though, I can’t guarantee it.

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17 Comments

Filed under patrick holford

17 responses to “Neal’s Yard on Guardian EthicalLiving: you ask, they don’t answer. Will they answer here?

  1. aw6334

    I think you’ll find pigs will fly before they answer the questions – after all there are no true answers to ‘where’s the evidence for…..?’.

  2. No, no hope whatsoever of any engagement from NYR. They’ve been badly burnt by the Grauniad experience.

  3. Bizarrely, a few comments down the first page the Guardian say that

    “Cheers for all the questions so far — Neal’s Yard tell me it’s working on replies now…. watch this space”

    Which looks even worse. They started working on the replies, realized they couldn’t hack it, and pulled out, I guess.

  4. pv

    I have to say that for me all it indicates is they know exactly what they are doing. It’s a business and the word “ethical” is a marketing device. Why should they enter into a debate they know will make them look foolish and dare I say not entirely up front with their customers, and potentially damage their business. Like all modern purveyors of evidence-free elixirs if life and beauty, it’s the bottom line that counts.
    The business philosophy might as well be – “A good customer is an ignorant customer”.

  5. Michael

    I was quite insulting with what I posted on that comments thread so probably haven’t helped the situation at all. Apologies for the nerd rage but the whole thing was quite infuriating!

    I think I and a few others venting their frustation, distracted from the genuine challenging questions that deserved response.

  6. Did they really think they were just going to get loads of questions like, “I’ve been feeling a bit run down – what would you recommend?”

    How naive.

  7. Michael, I see your point but this does not distract from the fact that they invited questions, and agreed to take place in a public debate. Poor-quality questions often happen in these kinds of debate, and there are various ways to deal with them – ignore them, humor them, or call them out as childish by all means.

    But there were a lot of simple, well-stated, substantive questions on the thread too. Yes, they were difficult questions to answer, and the answers may have been uncomfortable. Even so, some answer is better than none at all.

    I hope that the Grauniad follows up on this one.

  8. Pingback: Neal’s Yard quacking chickens « Smart Bombs

  9. I’m still waiting with baited breath for a reply from Neal’s Yard…

  10. I think you should start breathing normally again jon. They don’t seem to be commenting on this post and I’m concerned that your diminished or moderated breathing may have adverse health effects if maintained for too long a period of time.

  11. They actually did reply. They wrote the answers on a piece of paper and burned it, thus making the Earth’s atmosphere a high potency dilution of their response.

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