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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

My Boycott List -- Does It Really Matter?

I recently realized how many things are on my boycott list. Then I started to wonder, does a consumer boycott ever really make a difference? Or does it merely give those of us who boycott something a sense that we are doing something rather than just sitting around and stewing about some injustice. I do know that I will not give my money to any company, state or nation that does things to harm animals and the environment. But I don't know whether a boycott ever achieves the change desired.

Back in the 1970s, when whale killing was rampant, I did my best to boycott all things Japanese. I also added Norway and Denmark to the boycott list, since those countries also engage in whaling. At the time, most electronics were made in Japan, so like boycotting made-in-China products these days, a boycott was not easy. I will buy something made in Japan if there is no alternative, although the country still engages in blowing up whales. And although I like Norwegian Jarlsberg cheese, I refuse to buy it or any other product from Norway or Denmark.

Here are some of the other companies and countries I boycott:
  • China: I boycott anything made in China for a number of reasons. Recent, repeated reports of Chinese manufacturers using toxic chemicals in pet and baby food to cut production costs are one reason. I refuse to buy anything that could enter my body or the bodies of my daughter and dogs, if it is made in China. This includes toothpaste and dog treats. Another reason is the Chinese attitude toward animals, as evidenced by the photos shown on Facebook of a Chinese woman roasting a live puppy over an open flame, and nobody did anything to stop the atrocity. Widespread pollution and disregard for human as well as animal life are the other reasons. I have walked away from clothing, watches and household goods made in China and I will continue to do so.
  • Any state that allows, and especially encourages, the slaughter of wolves. I won't buy Idaho potatoes or anything made or grown in Idaho, Montana or Wyoming. These three states couldn't wait to start the wolf-hunting season -- with bows and arrows, by airplane and snowmobile, traps or by any other means. They just want to murder wolves. So the bag of Idaho potatoes I picked up at the grocery store went right back on the shelf. And there it will remain. Likewise, I won't be taking any vacation trips to any of those states, either, although I would love to return to Glacier National Park in Montana.
  • Nike recently renewed its contract with animal abuser and convicted felon Michael Vick. It has been documented that Vick not only bankrolled a dog-fighting operation on his Virginia property, he also apparently took great delight in personally murdering dogs that didn't fight well. He electrocuted them, hanged them, drowned them and slammed them repeatedly against the ground. He laughed as family pets were torn to shreds by his fighting dogs. There will be no Nike products purchased with my money. If Nike thinks having a murderer like Vick on the payroll will entice people to buy their products, they are badly mistaken. 
  • Subway sponsored the BET sportsman of the year award, which went to Vick. Although Subway tried half-heartedly to distance itself from the honoree by stating that it simply sponsored the award but did not select the winner, my money will be spent at Quizno's, Dion's or some other sandwich shop until Subway figures out that its association with a felon who murdered animals for fun, and who still hasn't figured out that what he did was wrong, is not good for business. 
  • I recently added beef to my list of boycotted products because the attack on wolves is being led by cattle ranchers. If enough consumers start foregoing steaks and burgers, ranchers might start to pay attention. I also boycott anything made of wool, and have done so for many years, since sheep ranchers also are vocal advocates of wolf slaughter.
    Will cattle ranchers feel pain when I order chicken rather than beef? Will Subway notice the loss of a sandwich sale because I won't eat there? I doubt it. But if thousands, even millions, of people take their business elsewhere, maybe the company won't be so quick to defend its marketing choices. And maybe it will be a bit more thoughtful in the future before sponsoring an award over which it has no control. Same goes for Nike. I don't like Nike running shoes, so I am not a major consumer of Nike products. But if I need socks or other athletic gear, you better believe that I won't be buying anything with the Nike swoosh on it.

    Corporations don't often listen to consumers; the only thing they seem to respond to is profit. Letters, e-mails and phone calls have little impact on corporate decisions. But if enough of us hit these companies where they live -- the bottom line -- maybe, just maybe, we can wake up a few of the corporate gazillionaires who run these companies.

    I don't know how effective consumer boycotts are. Japan, Norway and Denmark still engage in blowing up whales 40 years after the boycotts of the 1970s. Nike still stands by its corporate felon spokesperson. Ranchers and hunters in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana still take pleasure in slaughtering wolves. Whether my refusal to provide financial support to those whose policies I disagree with will matter in the long run isn't clear. But at least I know that my money isn't going to support those who either take pleasure in harming animals for fun and profit, or who turn a blind eye and do nothing to stop the slaughter.

    At the end of the day, the decision to boycott a company, country or product is a personal one. Each of us has to do what he/she feels is right. At the very least, we need to be informed consumers when we make our decisions about how and on what to spend our money.