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Poll: Would you refuse to work on a project for moral or ethical reasons?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 07:40
SITE STAFF
Jan 15, 2014

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Would you refuse to work on a project for moral or ethical reasons?".

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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 15:40
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Yes! Jan 15, 2014

As I said before recently (Nov. 2013): As a professional translator, I try to leave my causes, my biases, my likes and dislikes and my morality at a good distance from my translation desk, but for me it is a question of comfort level — if you are not comfortable working on a project, you are certainly not going to be able to turn out your best work. If something feels wrong to me, I am willing to walk away from the money. I would refuse jobs, and I have in the past, on gambling, obscene or pornographic material, military weapons, racism…

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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:40
Spanish to English
+ ...
It depends Jan 15, 2014

My moral or ethical reasons might not be the same as other people's. There is always the possibility that I might feel more ambivalent towards certain issues which others might find morally or ethically reprehensible.

In general, however, my attitude is one of "don't shoot the messenger". Although I may translate a given text, I am not its author and need not necessarily share any opinions or attitudes expressed therein.


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dasein_wm  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 16:40
Member (2009)
Italian to English
+ ...
Yes, of course Jan 15, 2014

I don't support ANY agenda that I believe to be deceptive, malicious, or that I personally find offensive (whether it is in the mainstream or not).
I'm a freelancer. Nobody is holding a gun to my head and making me write what I don't wish to write.
Having said that, I still produce large amounts of translations of material that the world would probably be better off without. But, the material already exists and I am simply translating it to further my business objectives. Where I draw the line is an individual choice.


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Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:40
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Not moral or ethnical, but . . . Jan 15, 2014

if I found it just plain disgusting I might refuse. That would be the case of porn. That one has never come up for me.

But I have no problem translating material on issues or politics I don't agree with. I find it a professional challenge to convey the message effectively, regardless of its content.


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Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
Yes Jan 15, 2014

Every time some muppet offers me a job for peanuts

I've turned down stuff on animal testing before; I'm aware that it achieves nothing but it makes me feel better and removes the temptation to be unprofessional

But luckily this issue doesn't come up often - my main customer is the world's biggest ethical investor


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Charlotte Farrell  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:40
Member (2013)
German to English
+ ...
Yes Jan 15, 2014

I once accidentally accepted a translation job for an company based in a country that I find politically intolerable (through a German agency) and will not be doing that again if I can help it due to my involvement in boycotting the country and its products. (I've been asked to edit this section of my post due to it involving politics despite another member mentioning the same country and that not being removed).

I was happy to translate the website for a brothel, however, as some research showed it to be an honest business that treated its employees fairly and in line with labour laws.



[Edited at 2014-01-15 20:59 GMT]


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John Cutler  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:40
Spanish to English
+ ...
Yes Jan 15, 2014

I would refuse if I truly disagreed with the subject matter.

I'm not some young, idealistic, starry-eyed newbie to this profession. I can honestly say, after all these years, that money isn't everything. What you stand for is who you are.


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Michael Harris  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 16:40
Member (2006)
German to English
Yes Jan 15, 2014

nothing more to say

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Texte Style
Local time: 16:40
French to English
John has nailed it Jan 15, 2014

Nothing to do with cruelty for me, whether it's to animals, like hunting or fishing (one agency keeps sending me stuff about fishing tackle because their client likes what I do for their other lines of business) or humans, or the environment.

I prefer in fact to go further and actually seek out work with people whose agendas I firmly agree with. I'm translating more and more stuff for organic farmers, cooperative banks, organic cosmetics manufacturers, sustainable development in general. Having always avoided finance like the plague, it was quite a challenge to translate a brochure about micro-finance for the cooperative bank.


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Julian Holmes  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 00:40
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
Ditto Jan 15, 2014

neilmac wrote:

My moral or ethical reasons might not be the same as other people's. There is always the possibility that I might feel more ambivalent towards certain issues which others might find morally or ethically reprehensible.



Yes. Even though we may share some moral and ethical common ground, there will always be someone who is Teflon-coated and has no qualms about feeding off and thriving on what is distasteful and harmful to others.

Whether this has anything to do with ethics or not, I'm not sure but I do remember one particular translation -- I was asked to translate an in-house circular by a regular customer. I accepted it by default without looking it over. It was a letter from the CEO of a major Japanese corporation to the heads of group companies exhorting them make efforts to cut back on costs and expenditure to the tune of 280 million dollars (at today's rate). He stressed that they should review their "outsourcing pricing strategy," i.e. pay their vendors less.

Here I was at the bottom rung of the ladder literally nailing my own coffin. They even had the nerve to haggle over the number of words and repetitions before I started a job at a rate much lower than my other customers. That job left me with a very nasty taste in my mouth.


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DianeGM  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:40
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Yes Jan 15, 2014

I certainly do! One great thing about being my own boss is that I don't have to work in any way whatsoever which I consider compromises my personal or professional ethics.

It doesn't happen often though. The last project I remember turning down was for beauty products which I know were tested on animals. There are also some subject areas I never touch e.g. arms or arms manufacturing, etc.


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Allison Wright  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 15:40
German to English
+ ...
Yes Jan 15, 2014

Muriel Vasconcellos wrote:

But I have no problem translating material on issues or politics I don't agree with. I find it a professional challenge to convey the message effectively, regardless of its content.


I have done that too, Muriel. Exacting and rewarding!

I have rejected offers to translate porn, but subsequent to that did translate an academic paper on bestiality. (I am not saying that they are the same thing, merely that both are equally distasteful to me.)

Then there was that disaster about a decade ago where I could not go beyond the first page of a descriptive account of what were purported to have been satanic practices in an East African country, and had to return the work to the agency unfinished.

So if my "weird and harmful to my spirit" antennae start beeping, I have no qualms in refusing work on moral or ethical grounds.

The other moral or ethical reason I refuse work is because I know I will never get the hang of the subject matter; the example of automobile or aeronautical engineering springs to mind immediately, but there are others.

One last one: I refuse work where the rate or the deadline, or payment terms, are morally or ethically quite beyond the pale.



[Edited at 2014-01-15 13:27 GMT]

[Edited at 2014-01-15 13:29 GMT]


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Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:40
Hebrew to English
Erm........ Jan 15, 2014

I would refuse to translate political propaganda or anything that would defame, libel, smear, malign or in any way damage or otherwise harm the State of Israel.

(However, given my language pair and direction, this is a highly unlikely event)

Other than that I'd take it on a case by case basis, also taking into account the skopos of the thing (i.e. translating a terrorist training manual for a government, quango or think tank is one thing, doing it for some shady individual is another).

Whenever this topic is brought up, porn always gets mentioned which surprises me for two reasons:
a) I've never encountered a "porn translation industry".
b) Why does such work exist? Surely the dialogue isn't the main..."focus" in the porn industry. Does anyone really care what they are saying enough to pay for its translation?


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Elizabeth Tamblin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:40
Member (2012)
French to English
Difficult one Jan 15, 2014

This is such a complex issue, and I cannot categorically state that there are certain translations that I would not do due to moral objections regarding subject matter. This is not because I'm a mercenary person, who will do anything for money - far from it.

I'm a strong believer in freedom of expression, and do not believe it is my job to censor other people's work. There have been many works published over the years that have been highly controversial and offensive to many. Nevertheless, they have been translated, and I think it is important that controversial material is translated.

So for instance, if I were asked to translate some kind of Neo-Nazi propaganda - obviously, I would be repelled by it, but would I refuse to translate it? Possibly not. I think it is important for people to be able to read this material, to know what they are up against and enable them to counteract this kind of thing.

If the material is out there in one language, I see no reason not to translate it, so that everyone else can be aware of what is going on.


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