When activists design campaigns and craft their slogans, they should pay more attention to the message they put out. When I walk around our neighbourhood these days, I see a lot of lawn signs telling us to say no to Nestles. That’s good. I’ve been saying it for a long time. I think the signs are to promote the campaign to stop excessive water-taking for the Nestles bottling facility in Aberfoyle.
As a corporation, Nestles had been on my shit list since the late 1970s. That was when it became increasingly clear they were poisoning babies in the third world. The company gave away free samples of baby formula in villages throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America. It sponsored publicity campaigns convincing young mothers that baby formula was healthier than breast milk. The quality of baby formula sold in developing countries was lower than that sold here.
I was selective in which of their products I’d buy, and which I wouldn’t. It’s hard to avoid all of it because they are everywhere. The modern food chain is centralized, and ownership is concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. Full avoidance is still a worthy goal. Until recently, I’d still buy one of their chocolate bars, or a can of San Pellegrino fruit juice.
The chocolate industry is depleting the world’s available supply of palm oil. It doesn’t have to be used in chocolate bars, but it still is. As a result, the population of orangutans in Borneo is threatened. These are very well-developed animals with a developed social structure. The name is derived from the Indonesian words for people of the forest. Their DNA is about 97 per cent the same as human DNA. Once again, Nestles has its fingers in the pie. There are better chocolate bars available that use fair trade cocoa and no palm oil.
There is a resolution put before the UN by Ecuador. It is intended to promote the use of breast feeding over manufactured baby food. The American government is opposing it and threatening to punish Ecuador if it doesn’t withdraw the resolution. Donald Trump put out a tweet saying “The U.S. strongly supports breast feeding but we don’t believe women should be denied access to formula. Many women need this option precisely because of malnutrition and poverty.” Breast feeding is natural, healthy and free. It fights malnutrition and poverty. Nestles once again has its dogs in the fight.
There is no shortage of good reasons to say no to Nestles. “Now more than ever” sends a strange and unfortunate signal. It tells me that it’s one thing to poison innocent African babies, and to rid the world of orangutans, but now they are draining the Aberfoyle aquifer. This is a step too far over the line.
I’d rather see the lawn signs carry the message: For all they’ve ever done, say no to Nestles.