How to boycott Bush
George W Bush
Why? Kyoto, farm subsidies, Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay, the death penalty, anti-abortion legislation, restricting stem-cell research, pro-Israeli bias, snubbing the International Criminal Court, unfair tax breaks, complicity in corporate corruption, rejection of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty ...
To those frustrated at not being allowed to vote Bush out of office, boycottbush.net, endorsed by Michael Moore, suggests the next best thing: a boycott of the Republican Partyâ€™s biggest sponsors. To this end, the campaign website, www.boycottbush.net, was established in April 2001 in response to Bushâ€™s withdrawal from the Kyoto treaty. Based on donations from 1999 to 2003, it lists its top 10 UK con- sumer brands to avoid: Esso, Max- well House, Microsoft, MBNA credit cards, Lucozade, Asda, Hotpoint, AOL, Budweiser and Walkers Crisps. “Although Bushâ€™s government acts as if it is unconcerned by opposition from global public opinion,” says the website, “the companies funding Bush and his Republican Party are not in quite the same position”.
The White House says: “Weâ€™ll get back to you.” They didnâ€™t.
Why? Evicting indigenous people.
There is probably no company more sensitive to allegations of putting profit before compassion and trampling the rights of indigenous peoples. But the Benetton family, which owns the worldâ€™s 100th biggest private fortune, bought vast expanses of Patagonia in 1991 at a time when the Argentine economy had been liberalised and land prices were at rock-bottom. Much of the wool in Benetton sweaters comes from sheep reared on the Patagonian estates.
This week chairperson Luciano Benetton was forced to defend himself against charges that his family evicted Mapuche Indians from this land. In a searing open letter, Argentine Nobel Peace Prize-winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel accused Benetton of behaving “with the same mentality as the conquistadores”. After the hearing, in which a judge ruled against the evicted Indian family in favour of Italian billionaire Mauro Millan, an indigenous leader said: “Laws are for the huincas [whites]. For us, democracy has yet to arrive.”
Benetton answered: “In this earthly and now globalised world, physical property, like intellectual property, belongs to whoever can build it up with skill and industry, favouring the growth and development of others.”
Why? Allegedly assassinating union leaders in Colombia.
Since being called last July by the Colombian food and drinks workersâ€™ union, Sinaltrainal, this boycott has become a global concern and is now supported by the World Social Forum and two of Colombiaâ€™s main union federations. Sinaltrainal alleges Coca-Cola has been complicit in the murders of eight union representatives since 1990, and has pursued the matter through the courts in Colombia and in the United States, with the help of the United Steel Workersâ€™ Union. Coca-Cola, they claim, has refused to cooperate and is suing for defamation in response. Tim Wilkinson, public affairs and communications director of Coca-Cola in the United Kingdom, says: “The Coca-Cola company and its bottling partners strengthen communities around the world through direct investment, employment and support for local organisations and worthy causes. We believe calls for boycotts of our products are not the appropriate way to further any cause, as they primarily hurt the local economy.”
Why? Keeping orcas in captivity.
The US brewer of Budweiser, Anheuser-Busch, also owns the SeaWorld chain, home to several performing killer whales. British-based Born Free believes it is cruel to keep such animals in captivity. The most prominent case is that of Corky the orca, currently living at SeaWorld San Diego. For more than a decade Born Free has advocated a boycott of Budweiser and Michelob as a way of putting pressure on Anheuser-Busch to release Corky and other orcas.
A spokesperson at Anheuser-Buschâ€™s headquarters in St Louis says: “The proposal to release Corky has been scrutinised by independent scientists and found to be deeply flawed. The plan would almost certainly end in her death. No institution in the world today rescues, rehabilitates and returns to the wild more marine animals than SeaWorld. Unlike advocates of this proposal, we know precisely how difficult returning an animal to the wild is.”
Why? Mistreating kangaroos.
Despite sportswear manufacturersâ€™ apparent love of anything that smacks of science, Adidas still uses good old-fashioned kangaroo leather to make many of its football boots; in fact, Adidas is the kangaroo leather industryâ€™s biggest customer. Australian regulations say kangaroos must be killed instantly with a single shot to the head, Australiaâ€™s RSPCA says 100 000 of the animals are killed inhumanely each year. Adidas could make its boots perfectly well from synthetic fabrics, claims Vegetarian International Voice of Animals (Viva!), calling for a boycott of all Adidas products until the company mends its ways.
Adidas referred us to a statement on the companyâ€™s website: “Adidas does not source leather from any endangered or threatened species. Nor do we accept the use of leathers in our products which have involved the inhumane treatment of animals. Based on previous meetings and the current information supplied to us, we have concluded Viva! is misinformed and its claims misleading. We trust the Australian governmentâ€™s assurances and expertise in this matter.”
Why? Counter-revolutionary activities.
It has been a bad couple of decades for the Marxist dream, but the Revolutionary Communist Group (RCG) doesnâ€™t give up easily. It says that ever since Bacardi rumâ€™s Cuban assets were forcibly nationalised by Castro in 1960, the company has covertly financed repeated US plots to overthrow him. The RCGâ€™s campaign, with its roots in Britainâ€™s student body, is called Rock around the Blockade (RATB). It calls on revellers not to drink the companyâ€™s products and to mock its frontman, former footballer Vinnie Jones, whenever possible. “Bacardi shares the responsibility for the suffering imposed on Cuba over the last 40 years,” reads the RATB website.
A spokesperson for Bacardi UK says: “We became aware of this group about five years ago, and we have discussed the matter with the UKâ€™s National Union of Students, who understand our point of view and continue to trade with us.”
Why? Producing a travel guide to Burma.
The junta that rules Burma, in defiance of an election result against it, is a particularly nasty one. According to Burma Campaign UK, tourism is an important source of income to the regime, while many of the countryâ€™s tourist facilities were developed using forced labour. By producing a guide to Burma, says the campaign, Lonely Planet encourages visitors, thus contributing to the dictatorship. The Burma Campaign advises that people should not buy Lonely Planet guides, opting instead for publishers such as Rough Guides, which do not cover Burma.
Andy Riddle, sales and marketing director for Lonely Planet Publications Europe, says: “Lonely Planet supports the aims of Burma Campaign UK. This is a disagreement about tactics. We provide objective information to travellers so they can make informed decisions about whether to travel to Burma, including explicit condemnation of the abominable regime. We show people who decide to visit the country how they can travel responsibly.”
Why? Exploitative trade practices.
The Finnish Centre for Health Promotion points out that drugs — and cocaine in particular — are not only harmful and illegal, they are also unethical. Coca farmers are often coerced into the trade and usually receive less than 1% of the retail price of a gram of cocaine. The Finns began a campaign in 2002, entitled Huume Boikotti, which calls for everybody to shun cocaine on the grounds that it harms the environment, supports the abuse of human rights and threatens many Andean Indiansâ€™ traditional way of life. Boycotting is not enough, they add; you should also buy fair-trade products where possible. “The idea is to bring a new perspective to the discourse on drugs, to expose the problems and inequities relating to drug traffic,” says the website, which has so far raised about â,¬2 500 “to support the traditions of Qâ€™eros and other Andean peoples”. No representative of the cocaine trade was available for comment.
Why? Banning gay sex.
Under a law passed last month by the Zanzibar government, men found having gay sex on the semi-autonomous Tanzanian island can expect to receive a 25-year life sentence. The legislation would also jail any woman convicted of lesbian sex for up to seven years. In response, the gay rights organisation OutRage has called for gay people not to visit the island. “I would hope both gay and straight travellers will boycott Zanzibar,” says British gay activist Peter Tatchell.
A spokesperson at the Tanzanian embassy in London says: “Culturally, homosexuality is not normal for the people of Zanzibar. Gay people from other countries are welcome to visit, but they must respect the laws of the country.”
Why? Allegedly censoring films and driving small retailers out of business.
Naomi Klein made these accusations in her book No Logo and they have since gained some loose, anecdotal ground. Because of its sheer size, the argument goes, Blockbuster represents such a large slice of any movieâ€™s profits that the chainâ€™s family-values policy and disregard for anything outside the mainstream deter film investors from anything risquÃ