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Off topic: Have you ever refused a project for ethical reasons?
Thread poster: Francesca Battaglia

Francesca Battaglia
Italy
Local time: 21:07
English to Italian
+ ...
Sep 10, 2008

I am currently translating a medical related text and the passage I'm doing right now is describing animal tests. I am very sensible on the issue and it's very hard to go on with the translation.
so here is my question, have you ever refused or turned down any project for moral/ethical reasons? Or have you ever worked on a morally/ethically-sensible text and decided to just go through it and complete it no matter your principles?


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CFK TRAD  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 21:07
English to French
+ ...
I have already refused translations for ethical reasons. Sep 10, 2008

Dear Francesca,

I have already refused (and not once!) projects which, in my opinion, do not match my ethics.
Basically, there's nothing wrong in refusing a job for ethical reasons. If a client is unable to understand that you have to feel comfortable not only with the wording, but also with the subject matter, let it be: I prefer risking to lose a client, that to lose my principles.

A couple of days ago, an agency I regularly work with sent me a text about a project of a film, the topic of which was unacceptable for me. I read the text, and wrote back to the client, saying that I would not do the translation, explaining precisely the reason (they have the right to know). Not only did the client understand, but they even apologize, and admitted that they had not read carefully enough the text.

The problem, here, is that you accepted the project: was the text sent to you before you accepted it? If not, it's the agency's responsibility. If yes, well, I would advise you to send an email, or to give a call to the PM, and say that you don't feel comfortable with these paragraphs, pages XXX-YYY, which are n-word long; maybe they'll accept to send this part to someone else.
If you feel the PM won't accept, or if you don't feel like calling the TA, what you may want to do is to outsource this part of the text. You don't have to explain why (I have too much work can be an acceptable explanation).

As an outsourcer, I will not accept the assignment, precisely because animal testing (and weapons, and terrorist attacks, and porn & adult materials, etc) are prohibited in my Statement of Principles on Ethics.

This is something you may want to consider: draft a Statement of Principles on Ethics (call it the way you want); you don't need to draft 20 pages, one or two are enough. You point what kind of text you will accept, and what kind you won't (for ethical reasons, or because it's out of your scope). And you send it to any agency or client who asks for your services, stating that they are binding for both parties.

You may lose clients, of course; but you may also win clients who are sensitive to ethical issues.

Best

Coralie


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Atena Hensch  Identity Verified
New Zealand
Local time: 07:07
English to Farsi (Persian)
+ ...
I did Sep 10, 2008

Hi
one time I received an email from one of my clients to translate a document from English to Persian and it was about using chemical and changing DNA in some products and generally it was about genetically modified organism. I don't like the concept and I refused it.

cheers
Atena

[Edited at 2008-09-10 10:52]


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Siegfried Armbruster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 21:07
Member (2004)
English to German
+ ...
Who's ethics ? Sep 10, 2008

There is no need to start a discussion on moral/ethics with your customer. You are free to decide which jobs you take and which jobs to refuse. No need to give a reason.

As an example, yes I have turned down jobs because they were against my "ethics", but I would not turn down a text containing a paragraph describing medical animal tests. As a researcher who participated in animal testing, I'm convinced that it was highly ethical what we did and I'm also convinced that animal tests not only contributed to save my life but also helped me to save other's as well.

So your ethics and mine differ in this respect, but as mentioned before, I would not get involved in such a discussion with my customer.

You problem seems to be, that you already accepted the job. Again, it is your decision to go on with it or not. Your customer might have different "ethics" and might consider your decision as "unethical" behaviour.

Siegfried

[Edited at 2008-09-10 10:53]


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Jan Willem van Dormolen  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 21:07
English to Dutch
+ ...
Of course Sep 10, 2008

Everyone will sooner or later encounter jobs with content they don't like, for some reason or other. If the subject matter is too revolting, refuse the job. I've personally refused porn and weapons industry jobs. In all cases, the agency wholeheartedly agreed.

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diana bb  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 22:07
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
Have a look at http://www.proz.com/topic/112733 Sep 10, 2008

Hello, Francesca,

You might find some interesting points in this thread:

http://www.proz.com/topic/112733


Regards,
Diana


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Francesca Battaglia
Italy
Local time: 21:07
English to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
... Sep 10, 2008

Hi all and thanks for participating. Well, this part is a very small percentage of a large work and althought it is quite controversial for me to cope with it, I will definately keep on and finish it.
Sorry, I think i gave the wrong explanation to my topic, I wasn't referring to a personal problem in refusing the job now that i've started it. I only wanted to see if this was a common aspect of our job and see other similar experiences..

So sorry if I gave wrong informations/argumentations.

But this is definately a nice point since this very similar situation might be arising in the future. I never really thought about this possibility but i see it's not rare to be proposed jobs that might hurt one's sensibility or morality.

I see what you mean, Siegfried Armbruster, ethical and moral issues are extremely points of view, luckily! I understand the importance of such tests but still don't feel comfortable with the idea.


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Kimberly De Haan  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 21:07
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Porn? Sep 11, 2008

Once I received a proposal from an agency I'd worked with for a long time to translate a series of pornographic films. The job could have been quite lucrative as there were many films to translate (but just what how much needs to be translated in porn, anyway? ), but I really didn't feel right about doing something like that so I turned it down.
Another time, an agency contacted me to ask me not to translate, but to paraphrase an entire web site. They wouldn't provide any info on why, and I had a sneaking suspicion it might be something akin to plagiarizing, so I turned that one down, too. The project manager was not too understanding, but I didn't want to take the risk.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:07
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Exactly - No need to start a discussion - Just refuse it! Sep 11, 2008

Siegfried Armbruster wrote:
There is no need to start a discussion on moral/ethics with your customer. You are free to decide which jobs you take and which jobs to refuse. No need to give a reason.


Absolutely. In these situations, "our schedule is full".


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:07
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
"Being professional" Sep 11, 2008

This raises a very important matter really: If we get a job from a regular customer about something we profoundly dislike, will cause damage in our opinion, is against our faith, or we find revolting... are we professional to turn the job down?

I think it is important to refuse a job if you think that helping the customer will contribute to damaging other people (or other creatures for that matter). This can be linked to all kinds of ethical standards and beliefs of course. Translating about easy abortion can be quite OK and necessary for some, but a crime for others. In these cases where life, health, or rights of people and creatures are endangered (based on your own perception of such danger), I think that rejecting the job is what we should do.

But, are we really entitled to reject a job because we don't agree with its social, political, economic, environmental, or religious implications?

Something that happens to me these days: A potential customer asks us whether we would translate about a kind of machine I am not very fond of. I dislike seeing them around. Should I reject the job completely? After all, they are not illegal, they are very widespread, and other people find them quite OK, enjoyable and the center of their lives and leisure time. So what do we do in those cases?


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RNAtranslator  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:07
English to Spanish
+ ...
Being a freelancer instead of an employee Sep 11, 2008

Tomás Cano Binder wrote:

This raises a very important matter really: If we get a job from a regular customer about something we profoundly dislike, will cause damage in our opinion, is against our faith, or we find revolting... are we professional to turn the job down?

But, are we really entitled to reject a job because we don't agree with its social, political, economic, environmental, or religious implications?

Something that happens to me these days: A potential customer asks us whether we would translate about a kind of machine I am not very fond of. I dislike seeing them around. Should I reject the job completely? After all, they are not illegal, they are very widespread, and other people find them quite OK, enjoyable and the center of their lives and leisure time. So what do we do in those cases?


Hey Tomás, you are a freelancer, not an employee!. You can refuse a yob for any reason. You can refuse a yob because you have decided to spend next two weeks watching the clouds in the sky. You can refuse a job because because you have decided to to turn down jobs if client's name starts withe the letter "A" and he calls you on Wednesday (quite a stupid behaviour, but it is your right to do so). As a freelancer, it's you, an only you, who decide when you work, what works you turn down, the clients you shall not work with and so on. I can't see any unprofessional behaviour on that.

But not the other way around: I love World War II History, but I would be very unprofessional if I accepted a translation on that subject, since I've never read any English text on History. (Looking at KudoZ questions it is clear not all translators agree with me on this)

[Edited at 2008-09-11 17:57]


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:07
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
For any reason, but.... Sep 11, 2008

RNAtranslator wrote:
Hey Tomás, you are a freelancer, not an employee!. You can refuse a yob for any reason. You can refuse a yob because you have decided to spend next two weeks watching the clouds in the sky. You can refuse a job because because you have decided to to turn down jobs if client's name starts withe the letter "A" and he calls you on Wednesday...


Yes, I understand what you mean. However, will our regular customer still consider us professional if we refused to translate the minutes of the National Rifle Association because we are members of the World Peace Association, or if we rejected a translation on cattle farms because we a vegans, thus forcing him/her to look for some other translator for that job?

Just being the Devil's attorney as we say in Spain.


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RNAtranslator  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:07
English to Spanish
+ ...
Keeping the client happy Sep 11, 2008

Tomás Cano Binder wrote:

RNAtranslator wrote:
Hey Tomás, you are a freelancer, not an employee!. You can refuse a yob for any reason. You can refuse a yob because you have decided to spend next two weeks watching the clouds in the sky. You can refuse a job because because you have decided to to turn down jobs if client's name starts withe the letter "A" and he calls you on Wednesday...


Yes, I understand what you mean. However, will our regular customer still consider us professional if we refused to translate the minutes of the National Rifle Association because we are members of the World Peace Association, or if we rejected a translation on cattle farms because we a vegans, thus forcing him/her to look for some other translator for that job?

Just being the Devil's attorney as we say in Spain.


If they think you are unprofessional they are wrong; may be they believe you are their employee because they don't understand the meaning of the word "freelancer". In that case suggest them a good dictionary.

The problem you address is not about professionalism; it is about keeping the client happy. If you turn down their works X times during Y period of time they might look for another translator; not because they think you are unprofessional, but because you do not provide the service they need. You must decide what is more important for you: to avoid helping that client to do things you don't like or keeping them happy. As we say in Spain, "no se puede estar en misa y repicando"


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Wendy Cummings  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:07
Member (2006)
Spanish to English
+ ...
purpose of the text Sep 12, 2008

A very similar thread was being discussed quite recently, and I agreed with one poster's point that it depends on what the text is being used for.

Taking the example at hand: if the article on animal testing is for a laboratory that is going to conduct the tests, then a translator who is against this practice may wish to decline it. However, if the same article is for an animal rights organisation that is trying to understand the practices at a laboratory in order to then be able to target their protests and actions more effectively, then even though the translator is against animal testing, they may wish to help the organisation as in effect, they both have the same ideals.

Wendy


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:07
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Will the customer understand? Sep 12, 2008

Wendy Leech wrote:
However, if the same article is for an animal rights organisation that is trying to understand the practices at a laboratory in order to then be able to target their protests and actions more effectively, then even though the translator is against animal testing, they may wish to help the organisation as in effect, they both have the same ideals.


Yes, I understand what you mean. But... will our customer understand our point of view? Not everyone is against lab animal research, weapons, porn, or some contents many people can find offensive and dangerous. And declining a job from a regular customer with no reason at all also sounds odd and raises suspicion.

Honestly folks I thank God that I haven't had such a situation yet. I don't know how I would react to it.


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