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Rejecting an already accepted job on moral grounds
Thread poster: Karin Kutscher

Karin Kutscher  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:31
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Sep 25, 2007

You know how it is. An agency asks you if you could take on a job ("chemical related", they said), and you say you're available, and you start translating right away.

And then, 15 minutes into the job, I found out that it was related to chemicals used, among other things, in "laboratory animal research". And I instantly felt that I couldn't be involved with that. So I wrote the most difficult (and urgent, because we were on a tight deadline) email yet in my life. I'm not vegan, I love to eat the meat of farm animals and wear leather (from farm animals) and I don't really research which household or medicine chemicals have been tested on animals, but I stop using them if I learn that that has been the case.

But, I'm a Pagan and I revolt at the idea of killing animals for purposes other than food, and above all at the idea of slowly killing them, or any other part of Nature.

And my client understood!

Have you ever been in a similar situation?


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megane_wang  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:31
English to Spanish
+ ...
I have translated quite a few of those Sep 25, 2007

I understand and respect your feelings...

But no, this was not an issue to me. I translated a pile of documents for animal health product registration. In fact, it was my first job as a translator.

I'm glad that (a) the products were registered and many animals -and people who consume them- benefit from them, and (b) laws have evolved a lot since then to minimise this sort of studies and replace them by in-vitro analysis as much as possible.

In any case, I say I understand and respect your attitude, because there EXIST subjects I would not deal with !!!!

It's nice to know that your customer understood.

Ruth @ MW


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 04:31
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Luckily, I have not yet been in that position Sep 25, 2007

However, I am vegetarian, and almost vegan, and I would certainly have refused the topic, and done the same as you.

I think it is very important not to go against your own standards and beliefs, just in order to earn money.

Nice to hear that you had the courage to reject it at that point. Well done!

Astrid


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patyjs  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 21:31
Spanish to English
+ ...
Agree with Astrid, Sep 25, 2007

I'm a vegetarian, too. I'm so glad you did what you felt was right for you. But above all, that your client understood.

Hats off to you, Karin, and your client!

(Although I don't agree with using animals for research, their reaction at having their work rejected on a tight deadline deserves recognition.)

Paty


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Karin Kutscher  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:31
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you!! Sep 26, 2007

patyjs wrote:

I'm a vegetarian, too. I'm so glad you did what you felt was right for you. But above all, that your client understood.

Hats off to you, Karin, and your client!

(Although I don't agree with using animals for research, their reaction at having their work rejected on a tight deadline deserves recognition.)

Paty


Yes, I had been afraid of losing this client. Of course I offered to take on any financial charges that the agency may have incurred because of my default, but they just said that they totally understood my point of view and that they'd find someone else to do the job.

And immediately they sent me some other job!
I love them


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Yaotl Altan  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 21:31
Member (2006)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Yes Sep 26, 2007

Karin Kutscher wrote:

...

Have you ever been in a similar situation?


Yes, I was given a patent to translate several components of an oil machinery used in the oil industry. As I dislike very much the name of this firm, still in Iraq, I did not translate the job because they were the asignees of this patent. Frankly, I don't want to be linked to them.

It's a totally acceptable action if your religious, political , et al. concepts are involved.


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mjbjosh
Local time: 04:31
English to Latvian
+ ...
Never been Sep 26, 2007

I have never been involved in a situation like this but I can picture very well that I would refuse proposals that could eventually be used against my faith. They would more probably have to be of political nature though.

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The Misha
Local time: 22:31
Russian to English
+ ...
What the heck, let's exclude the military, alcohol and tobacco and big business too! Sep 26, 2007

I am not trying to be judgemental here, but I think all of you guys are way off. I am sure, we are all making our own rules - that's the beauty of being your own boss - but why stop there? In fact, let's take this one step further and also exclude:

Military (fe-fe, they kill people)
Police (they trample on the rights of minorities and such)
Big business (too rich, too unscrupulous)
Alcohol and tobacco (poisons)
Fast food (kills you too)
Chemical industry (all those pesticides and such)
Car manufacturers (those big SUVs)
Oh, and did I mention your favorite scumbag politicain or government bureaucracy?

Feel free to add your own pet peeve to the exclusion list.

PS. I am sure, domestic animals just love to be butchered and eaten.


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Lesley Clarke  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 21:31
Spanish to English
Congratulations! Sep 26, 2007

Congratulations on your principles. The closest I have come to this was refusing to do a military translation, but we do have to have principles, we are humans before we are translators.

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Catherine Bolton  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:31
Member (2002)
Italian to English
+ ...
I disagree Sep 26, 2007

Karin Kutscher wrote:

And then, 15 minutes into the job, I found out that it was related to chemicals used, among other things, in "laboratory animal research". And I instantly felt that I couldn't be involved with that. So I wrote the most difficult (and urgent, because we were on a tight deadline) email yet in my life.


OK, I'm going to go against the majority here, but I think you should consider yourself extremely lucky that they contacted you again.
You've gotten lots of pats on the back here, but what about *professional* ethics? You said the deadline was tight. What if the agency hadn't been able to find someone else? What if they were late submitting the job? What if, in turn, they lost that customer? Would your willingness to accept financial responsibility extend to that?
The key here is "already accepted": you accepted, so I think you should have completed the assignment. You should have checked the job BEFORE accepting it but once you accept, you have an obligation.
A few years ago I agreed to translate what the agency called "a speech". Short deadline, of course. As it turned out, in the middle the speech took a political stance with which I completely disagree, and I'll admit that I felt uncomfortable with it. But I had agreed to do it. All I had to do after turning it in was say "please don't contact me with jobs for that particular customer again".
Catherine


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Iza Szczypka  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:31
English to Polish
+ ...
I don't refuse such jobs unless the text is biased Sep 26, 2007

I see our profession as making people aware of facts previously unknown to them and thus enabling them to make educated choices. Therefore, if the text stated the chemical is used in lab animal research, I'd hope that this information would influence someone's decisions in most positive way ... Maybe I'm being naive.
Also, I'm part of a team doing a huge job translating foreign police records for the case to be put before a court here. The job is revolting - a minute-by-minute account of every angle of several crimes for which the beast claiming the proud title of a human being deserves a million years in prison. Still, if everybody having any human feelings refused the job, no justice would be possible ...


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Medved
Ukraine
Local time: 05:31
English to Russian
+ ...
agree with Catherine Sep 26, 2007

[/quote]

...The key here is "already accepted": you accepted, so I think you should have completed the assignment. You should have checked the job BEFORE accepting it ... [/quote]

Normally I sort of 'scan' a job prior to accepting it just to get the insight and the generals what it all is about. And usually I say to my customer something like "I'll be shortly there within an hour or so with my final judgment whether I'm taking or refusing it". But once the deal is called deal then you HAVE to follow your obligations whatever it takes you.
On the other hand...well...heck...me, with my last name which translates like BEAR and who is desperately in love with doggies, cats, horses, wolves, etc... I do appreciate your principles.


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Daniele Martoglio  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:31
Polish to Italian
+ ...
I have a list of field which I don't translate on my site.. Sep 26, 2007

May be it's a good solution for you, for the future?

Karin Kutscher wrote:

...An agency asks you if you could take on a job ("chemical related", they said), ...

...I found out that it was related to chemicals used, among other things, in "laboratory animal research".


Sometimes we are out of office, client call us at mobil phone, the say "bla bla bla related", and after we discover that wasn't what they promised.. Sometimes client (agency) say "i have no the document, i'll have, but will be about..." - so neither MY client (agency) know exactly what is about..

I've my "forbidden fields" in my page, and when i've a similar situation I say "OK, i can, but only if it isn't something that I don't translate for ethical reasons".

So, if after will be a problem, it's client fault ("my dear client, couldn't you read what I wrote on my site?")

May be a suggestion for you, for the future.

Daniele


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Luis Antonio de Larrauri  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:31
English to Spanish
+ ...
Have a look beforehand Sep 26, 2007

I have had similar problems, and my advice is to quickly review the job. I think agencies should do it, but I understand if sometimes they don't have the time, and, anyway, they can have different ethical criteria. Once I had to say no to a judgment because it was for the divorce of a catholic marriage.

I haven't had the time to look at it before, and I had to say 'no' some hours after, but with enough time for the agency to look for another translator if they wished to do so. I agree with Astrid, the important thing is to stick to your ethical view, to do what you think is correct, regardless of the money.


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:31
Italian to English
+ ...
Agree with Catherine Sep 26, 2007

If you'd already had a chance to look at the document before accepting, you should have translated it (a different matter if you'd accepted in principle before seeing the document).

I also agree with The Misha - I have strong ethical views on a number of subjects, but where do you draw the line? It was a decision I had to face early on in my translating career (so early that refusing any job was essentially out of the question, as I was still trying to build up my client base). And then once you've accepted once, you've already created a precedent..

There's also the fact that I'm a medical translator. Every medicine in existence has been tested on animals. What sense would it have to refuse to translate the animal test trials but translate everything else? None whatsoever. And as I use medicines when I need to, any scruples in translating the animal tests would be somewhat hypocritical.



[Edited at 2007-09-26 08:51]


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