I Am Evil

I am a thief.

I keep child slaves.

I kill babies.

Those of you on Twitter have probably heard about the #Nestlefamily debacle.  It’s made it’s way onto Facebook as well, and of course the blogosphere.  If you’re wondering, very briefly, Nestle offered several Mommy Bloggers a junket, in return they would write and Tweet about Nestle and their products.  Many activists found out about this.  It started polite but degenerated into name calling, racism and extreme nastiness.  There’s a good round-up of it here with some eye-opening comments.

Extremely briefly, for those who don’t know, Nestle has been the subject of a boycott for about 30 years.  They aggressively market infant formula to mothers in third world countries and marginalised groups (read race) in developed nations, telling outright lies and giving free samples.  Then when mothers have lost their own milk they stop giving it out.  That’s how I kill babies.

But wait, there’s more.  You see Nestle is a huge corporation that does more than baby formula.  They also sell things like bottled water, which has to come from somewhere.  In the US, rural communities have been pressured and manipulated and their water rights have been stolen.  That’s why I am a thief.  And chocolate?  Most of the world’s cacao comes from Ivory Coast where many of the farms use child slave labour, children who have been kidnapped or sold by their families.  That’s where I keep my child slaves.

The blogs I have linked to and Baby Milk Action have covered it in detail from a number of perspectives, and I didn’t want to write about it unless I had something different to offer.  But a comment on one of the blogs started me thinking about evil.  My own personal definition of evil goes something like “knowingly hurting other people unnecessarily.” I think we can all agree that Nestle qualifies.

And unfortunately, so do I.

I know what Nestle does and I help them do it, either by buying their products or saying nothing.  And there’s no way I can argue that chocolate is necessary.  How can I do this?

I think it comes down to the personal.  When I read a comment that “the only child slave labour in this house is my kid opening a Crunch bar,” I feel revulsion, and I’m sure many of you do too.  When I see a picture of a Pakistani mother with twins, one healthy, one half the size and dying, I am horrified, and I’m sure you are too.  When I read about these things I resolve to boycott Nestle and all the other products it profits from.  But when someone gives me a lipgloss from The Body Shop (not tested on animals! shame about the babies) am I rude to them?  When my cat only eats Friskies biscuits, I still like having dry food available rather than only meats.  When I get my little girl a treat it’s convenient to have the Peters tub of vanilla icecream rather than the stick she can wave everywhere while it melts.  And so in the everyday details my horror and revulsion and resolve are lost.

Children in Africa, Hispanic mothers in the US, I feel for them in the moment but they are too far away from me personally to permanently impact on my heart.  So I need to make this personal.

I need to internalise it and make it about me, my children, my community.  Maybe then I will be stricter about finding out all the brands to avoid.  Maybe then I will be polite but firm with people who give me gifts.  Maybe then I will start to tell others about this (that’s one of the things I found most shocking – that so many people don’t seem to know) rather than keeping the peace at playgroup.  Being a good person is important to me, maybe the brutal realisation that I am evil is a way I can personalise it and force myself to do something about it.

How is it personal for you?

Because I don’t want to remain evil.  Do you?

Revision! A lovely lady passed on an Australian list to me:  http://morepraxis.org.au/justact-nestle-boycott-list/

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19 responses to this post.

  1. Thank you for educating me more about Nestle’s practices through this article. I am an avid breastfeeding supporter and blog about my experience with it on my blog. I just opted out of showing formula and bottle ads on my blog; I don’t want to encourage their use or facilitate these companies making more money via me.

    Are you on Twitter?

    Dagmar
    http://Twitter.com/DagmarBleasdale

    Reply

  2. I’m pregnant with my first, and while i’m absolutely boycotting Nestle, we buy nothing from them (though i too need to research more of the various companies they own), when Gerber (now owned by Nestle) gifts are given to me at my baby shower (like last night), I didn’t turn them down.

    Partially because i’m new to the whole nestle boycott, and therefore NONE of my friends know about it at all, as they’ve only recently been subjected to my facebook/twitter rantings about it & i’m the one that finds out about this stuff in my group of friends. I know the one(s) who gave me the gifts didn’t even know Gerber was owned by them (i wouldn’t, if not for the twittersphere). So when it comes to that bit, I just take it on myself to let more and more people know about it, so that maybe at the next shower they go to, they’ll reach for another brand, or if they are jonesing for chocolate in the checkout line, they’ll avoid the wrapping that says Nestle/Wonka, etc.

    Reply

  3. Hi, I’m new to all this. I was one of those completely unaware of the boycott. What an eye opener! I see in the article you linked to that Hersey and Mars also uses Ivory Coast chocolate. Is there a boycott on those companies as well? Where can I find Fair Trade Chocolate or be sure that’s what my favorite brand uses??

    Reply

    • The boycott on Nestle is so big because they are the biggest and worst offender. I don’t know about organised protests on other brands, but do know many people who personally boycott them.

      I’m not sure on different countries. In Australia Green’s and Black’s are fair-trade, as well as Cocolo. Cadbury should have some fair trade by Easter 2010 as well. This is a US resource that might help. Good luck!

      Reply

  4. This is a wonderful post. Thank you.

    It is exactly tweets like this that I found revolting and that almost made me lose my cool and become extremely unprofessional:

    “the only child slave labour in this house is my kid opening a Crunch bar”

    There were also ones where people were saying something along the lines of those dying babies are only in Ethiopia, not in the USA, and my Nestle-formula-fed 2 year old is perfectly fine. Are we really so insensitive that we only care about our own immediate family, or at best our own country??

    I agree that it is hard to avoid Nestle brands sometimes. I try. But my mom buys Nestle bottled water. Sometimes when I go to her house, I forget to bring my water bottle with me. I drink tap water during the day, but I need a bottle of water next to the bed at night (sometime that can be closed so it doesn’t spill) and so I grab one of the Nestle ones and cringe. I don’t know what brands the restaurants I frequent purchase, so it is possible I’m chowing down Nestle stuff whenever we go out to eat. I’m not sure. But I try…and now I’m trying even harder.

    Reply

  5. I have been boycotting Nestle for years, but sometimes I don’t look carefully enough at packaging, and forget how far reaching this brand really is. Thank you for the reminder, I will be more vigilant with what I allow into my home hence forth.

    Reply

  6. Posted by Mummy woo on October 4, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    Great topic Deb.

    We have been trying to eat only fair trade chocolate for the last two years, and have been boycotting Nestle since university (15 years ago – eek!). But it can be difficult, especially with the way the multinational companies have several brands. It takes me a long time to get around the supermarket because I’m a compulsive label-reader.

    I have been too ‘well brought up’ to reject a gift and I did and still do struggle with what to do with gifts of chocolate that is not fair trade. My solution has been to talk (alot) about fair trade chocolate (and other products) to anyone who listens – I like to think that by educating as many people as I can I might influence others to join me in trying to be a more ethical consumer. Maybe that balances out the gifts, which invariably end up being eaten?

    I can’t say exactly how we managed to ‘personalise’ what we know about a terrible industry to actually change our purchasing decisions. But honestly, next time you are tempted by a piece of chocolate, think about the child who lived and worked in horrible conditions. If you really think about it, the chocolate doesn’t taste so good anymore, does it?

    My latest project is trying to avoid textiles manufactured by people with unacceptable working conditions. I thought sewing my own was the answer, but where does the fabric in my local fabric shop come from…? I’m doing a bit of remaking with op-shop things, but I love pretty shiny new fabric sooo much!

    Reply

  7. Posted by Judi on October 4, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    I’ve been boycotting Nestle for years – with ine exception, Milo. Everything else is left in the shelves. We now have to miss out on Branston Pickle and my biggest disappointment was when L’Oreal bought into The Body Shop. Dh still shops from them on the basis that change from within could be a good thing. There are so many brands to avoid if you are determined to boycott the entire group of Nestle companies, so look around as they are everywhere! Cadburys are making an effort to get Fair Trade chocolate going. Also look for Green & Blacks and Divine – small brands, but doing their best. You can also support the work of aid agencies like the Red Cross who are educating mothers in the third world to mix up the formula they’re given by Nestles and drink it themselves _then_ breastfeed.

    I’m also pregnant with my first, but boycotting Nestles has become a way of life, so I hope that steering my child in an ethical direction will become second nature. Who knows, we’ll see.

    Thanks, Deb. It’s good to see that the message is continuing. If I can find the list of companies owned by Nestles that we have around here somewhere, I’ll email it to you. Hugs to Big Girl & and Baby Girl (oh, and Al too, I guess).

    Judi

    Reply

    • FYI, Green & Black were bought out by Cadbury. Currently I think only their Maya Gold flavour is fair trade – the rest are not.

      I made a very sad face when I learned that.

      Reply

      • Posted by Claire in Tasmania on October 22, 2009 at 7:32 pm

        Every Green n Blacks block I’ve ever seen has a Fair Trade logo on it – but maybe I’ve never seen anything outside the Maya Gold range? dunno…

  8. Posted by plahski on October 4, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    My mum has always boycotted Nestle and it follows that I do too. My husband never knew anything about it though. I think I took for granted the fact that I grew up with the boycott and he didn’t so I don’t think I have ever really explained it to him. So when he shops an occasional item sneaks it’s way in!

    Thanks Deb – this post will make it a lot easier for me to properly explain it to him! (not that he is being recalcitrant about it – I’ve just never fully explained my position on the subject)

    Good post!
    LOVE!

    Reply

  9. Advice I like to give when people feel they want to join the boycott but find it overwhelming: start with coffee. Coffee is Nestlé’s single biggest product range – so start there. Stay away from Nescafé.

    It is overwhelming. I’ve been boycotting Nestlé for years, and I still get caught out.

    I also think about it less in terms of ‘making a difference’ – as a single consumer, it’s true that my own efforts don’t count for much. It’s also true that my efforts along with everyone else could make a huge difference, and I hold on to that hope. But for me it’s more personal – I do not want to give money to such an unethical company. It’s my money, so I will choose where it goes.

    Reply

  10. Great post! I used to boycott Nestle and then became a little apathetic. Thank you for reanimating my social conscience!

    I only regularly by 1 Nestle product so it won’t be too hard. But I am really disappointed about the Body Shop and L’oreal! I’ll be looking out for a new moisturiser and shampoo and conditioner :<

    Reply

  11. […] it’s not just a dirty water issue.  Please don’t get hung up on formula and forget the child slaves or water rights.  And their timeline is basically backwards, implying that there were already large social media […]

    Reply

  12. Someone mentioned Divine Chocolates as Fair Trade– you can find US places to buy, or an online portal here: http://www.divinechocolateusa.com/buy/list

    For UK /World, go to http://www.divinechocolate.com

    I know it doesn’t help the last minute linge urge, but it’s something. AND – I also struggle with the consistency and gifts issues… glad to hear there’s others in the same boat. We’ll get there eventually, as long as we keep trying, right?

    Reply

  13. Thank you so much for this.

    Reply

  14. Nestle is so sneaky, because there are different brands. I don’t plan to ever buy formula or bottled water though. Someone before me mentioned Gerber and that is easier to avoid because they are under the one name. (I am avoiding Gerber except for secondhand items, which the company doesn’t profit from.)

    But really what I’m thinking right now is I really don’t want to Google the Body Shop’s practices…

    Reply

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