Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
An investigation has discovered that nearly 300,000 cues imported into the UK annually are made from the timber of ramin trees – a rare species listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) – chopped down and exported illegally from Indonesia’s dwindling tropical forests.
The Indonesian Government banned all cutting and export of ramin wood in 2001, yet Red Pepper has learnt that a number of British companies continue to import cues made from ramin for supply to hundreds of pubs, clubs and retail outlets, including Argos which advertises ramin cues for sale at 7.99. The timber is smuggled into China by criminal gangs before being manufactured into cues for export to the west.
Environmentalists have reacted with fury to the revelation which will come as a blow to the UK authorities who in 2002 signed a groundbreaking bilateral agreement with the Indonesian Government promising to crackdown on the trade in plundered timber between the two countries.
Indonesia is home to around 10% of the world’s remaining tropical forests and home to many rare and endangered species including the Orangutan, Sumatran tiger, Sumatran rhinoceros, clouded leopard and sun bear. Pressure groups such as the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) claim that over two million hectares of Indonesian rainforest is being destroyed each year by logging and that by 2010 virtually all the country’s lowland forests will have disappeared.
Illegal logging in Indonesia has been linked to widespread corruption and human rights abuses, with highly organised criminal gangs – dubbed the timber barons by environmentalists -brutally controlling the lucrative trade in stolen timber, much of it, including the highly prized ramin wood, plundered from inside supposedly protected forest areas.
In Central Kalimantan’s Tanjung Puting National Park – one of the largest conservation forests in Indonesia – millions of cubic metres of ramin trees are chopped down, hauled out and sold illegally each year, devastating the area’s rich ecology and costing the country’s economy millions of pounds in lost revenue. Those opposed to the activities of the logging cartels have faced violence and intimidation.
Ramin is a tropical hardwood only found in the swamp areas of Borneo, Sumatra and in the peninsular region of Malaysia and is classified under CITES as a vulnerable tree species. Once processed it can fetch a $1000 per cubic metre on the international market for use in picture frames, wood blinds, decorative mouldings as well as pool cues.
Much of the stolen timber used in the cues destined for the UK is believed to be exported to China where the cues are manufactured before being dispatched to the west. Red Pepper has learnt that at least four key companies are importing ramin cues into the UK for distribution to coin machine operators contracted by brewery groups to supply their pub games equipment.
Pool is one of the UK’s favourite pastimes, with over 5.2 million people playing the game each week on some 62,000 tables in public houses, clubs, hotels and in private homes. According to industry sources around 99 in every 100 cues used in British pubs are made from ramin.
Devon based Pot Black Ltd distributes cues by mail order to high street outlets including Argos, Littlewoods, Toys R Us and John Lewis. Cuecraft Ltd of Nottingham supplies snooker club chains with ramin cues supplied from China; the Merseyside based Leisure Services Group also imports them.
Another importer of ramin cues is Bristol Coin Exchange (BCE) / Critical Place Limited. The company, which sponsors leading snooker players Ronnie O’Sullivan and Jimmy White, is understood to import around 100, 000 cues each year from a Taiwanese owned factory in Xiamen, China.
Most of the companies contacted were unaware they needed permits to import ramin. David Nichols, of BCE / Critical Place Ltd, said his company had switched to an alternative timber source.
Under CITES legislation, companies importing ramin products must hold the appropriate permits guaranteeing that the wood comes from sustainable sources. But because ramin only grows in Indonesia and Malaysia, where investigations have discovered that Indonesian ramin is frequently laundered illegally, pressure groups maintain that no ramin imports can be trusted to have come from ecologically friendly sources.
Sam Lawson, of the EIA, said: “I find it shocking that wood from rare and endangered tropical trees is being used for cheap throw-away cues. This is only possible because these trees are being stolen, often from national parks.
“But what is more shocking is that ramin is a special case. Millions of pounds worth of illegal timber enters the UK every week and for most of this wood there is no UK law stopping companies from importing and selling it. New laws are urgently needed Europe wide to ban the import of all timber which was illegally sourced.”
The police spend little of their time making arrests, and most crimes are not solved, writes Alex Vitale – their real purpose is social control.
Many important things happened on conference floor, reports Alex Nunns – but you wouldn’t know it from reading the newspapers
Radhika Desai says Capital by Karl Marx is still an essential read on the 150th anniversary of its publication
The Spanish state is seizing ballot papers and raiding meetings, write Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte – but it is being met with united resistance
The crunch executive meeting ahead of Labour conference agreed some welcome changes, writes Michael Calderbank, but there is still much further to go
Dipesh Pandya speaks to documentary film-maker Sanjay Kak, who for 30 years has been working outside the mainstream to tell a story rooted in the struggles of those excluded by India’s militarism and its narrative of neoliberal growth
Jeremy Gilbert on how radical Labour politics can be inspired by the utopianism of the counterculture
Disasters have unequal impacts – it's the poor and marginalised who suffer most. David Harvey writes on Hurricane Harvey
Universal credit isn’t about saving money – it’s about disciplining unemployed people
The scheme has cost a fortune and done nothing but cause suffering. So why does it exist at all? Tom Walker digs into universal credit’s origins in Tory ideology
Meet the digital feminists
We're building new online tools to create a new feminist community and tackle sexism wherever we find it, writes Franziska Grobke
The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on
Marienna Pope-Weidemann meets Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana
Forget ‘Columbus Day’ – this is the Day of Indigenous Resistance
By Leyli Horna, Marcela Terán and Sebastián Ordonez for Wretched of the Earth
Uber and the corporate capture of e-petitions
Steve Andrews looks at a profit-making petition platform's questionable relationship with the cab company
You might be a centrist if…
What does 'centrist' mean? Tom Walker identifies the key markers to help you spot centrism in the wild
Black Journalism Fund Open Editorial Meeting in Leeds
Friday 13th October, 5pm to 7pm, meeting inside the Laidlaw Library, Leeds University
This leadership contest can transform Scottish Labour
Martyn Cook argues that with a new left-wing leader the Scottish Labour Party can make a comeback
Review: No Is Not Enough
Samir Dathi reviews No Is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics, by Naomi Klein
Building Corbyn’s Labour from the ground up: How ‘the left’ won in Hackney South
Heather Mendick has gone from phone-banker at Corbyn for Leader to Hackney Momentum organiser to secretary of her local party. Here, she shares her top tips on transforming Labour from the bottom up
Five things to know about the independence movement in Catalonia
James O'Nions looks at the underlying dynamics of the Catalan independence movement
‘This building will be a library!’ From referendum to general strike in Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte report from the Catalan general strike, as the movements prepare to build a new republic
Chlorine chickens are just the start: Liam Fox’s Brexit trade free-for-all
A hard-right free marketer is now in charge of our trade policy. We urgently need to develop an alternative vision, writes Nick Dearden
There is no ‘cult of Corbyn’ – this is a movement preparing for power
The pundits still don’t understand that Labour’s new energy is about ‘we’ not ‘me’, writes Hilary Wainwright
Debt relief for the hurricane-hit islands is the least we should do
As the devastation from recent hurricanes in the Caribbean becomes clearer, the calls for debt relief for affected countries grow stronger, writes Tim Jones
‘Your credit score is not sufficient to enter this location’: the risks of the ‘smart city’
Jathan Sadowski explains techno-political trends of exclusion and enforcement in our cities, and how to overcome this new type of digital oppression
Why I’m standing with pregnant women and resisting NHS passport checks
Dr Joanna Dobbin says the government is making migrant women afraid to seek healthcare, increasing their chances of complications or even death
‘Committees in Defence of the Referendum’: update from Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte on developments as the Catalan people resist the Spanish state's crackdown on their independence referendum
The rights and safety of LGBTQ+ people are not guaranteed – we must continue to fight for them
Kennedy Walker looks at the growth in hate attacks at a time when the Tory government is being propped up by homophobes
Naomi Klein: the Corbyn movement is part of a global phenomenon
What radical writer Naomi Klein said in her guest speech to Labour Party conference
Waiting for the future to begin: refugees’ everyday lives in Greece
Solidarity volunteer Karolina Partyga on what she has learned from refugees in Thessaloniki
Don’t let Uber take you for a ride
Uber is no friend of passengers or workers, writes Lewis Norton – the firm has put riders at risk and exploited its drivers
Acid Corbynism’s next steps: building a socialist dance culture
Matt Phull and Will Stronge share more thoughts about the postcapitalist potential of the Acid Corbynist project
Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power
What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains
The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme
Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it
The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going
A very social economist
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism