If one person questions a country and boycotts it, then that is a personal choice.
If they criticise the company, that is one person's view.
If one hundred people boycott a company, if a hundred people speak out, then that is political action.
Growing up, I was a consumerist's dream. I would spend every day after school tuned into popular children's networks such as Cartoon Network, Jetix, and Nickelodeon where companies would target young children into buying their products, highly aware of a child's pester power on their parents.
Health food and drinks weren't widely available and Coca-Cola was the best beverage to imbibe for us kids. It was even better washed down with a?McDonald's, which came with a free toy in the Happy Meal.
I was born to be a consumer for life, as Naomi Klein would say.
Morgan Spurlock's documentary Super Size Me caused damage to the reputation of McDonald's. During his period of solely eating McDonald's food for breakfast, lunch and dinner (not to mention snacks), Spurlock consumed in excess of over 30 pounds of sugar and over 12 pounds of fat from their food with a third of his calories coming from sugar.
He was consuming an average of 5000 calories a day. The average man only needs 2,500 and women 2,000.
Subsequent to the showing of the film at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival, the supersize portion of fries and the supersized drinks were retired from the menu and McDonald's replaced them with somewhat healthy alternatives.?
One in five children at the age of 13 are obese, and 57% of adult men and women are either obese or overweight.
We could put this down to the rising inactivity of youngsters and the change of people and their lifestyles, but surely the amount of fast food that is around, but how many fast-food restaurants are in our city?
After Supersize Me a large globalised boycott of McDonald's occurred, but not just for health reasons. McDonald's is accused of being a major corporate partner of the Jewish National Fund which "...works to maintain American military, economic and diplomatic support for Israel; monitors and when necessary, responds to coverage of Israel."
McDonald's presence in Israel supports the Israeli economy, therefore some of the money will go to tax somewhere down the line and a significant minority of that tax could go towards funding and therefore helping the Israeli military, who spend a lot of their time and resources on hostilities with Palestine.
The most recent conflict at the end of last year saw thousands of people dead and Israel come under scathing review from their Western counterparts for their use of white phosphorus bombs on the Palestinian population.
This isn't to mention the fact that McDonald's is the largest cattle farmer in the world and has also come under criticism for their destruction of the Amazon rainforest through deforestation.
McDonald's isn't the only American company suffering losses due to their questionable political, social, and humanitarian views and morals abroad. Coca-Cola is another pin-up company for US consumerism and this is the question that I'm asking: is Coca-Cola the new McDonald's?
Coca-Cola own bottling companies and factories all over the globe, has been voted the best brand for years in a row and is also the world's most popular soft drink. It's the world's most loveable company for many of us, the red Santa that we see advertising this brown, fizzy sugar water is instantly recognisable; one of the main pinnacles that marks the Christmas holiday along with the Radio Times Christmas issue.
Its fashionable ads and wide publicity speaks for itself, as well as the popular "Drink Coke" which, much like McDonald's "I'm Lovin' It"?has been translated to fit the global village. Tailored, fitted, and measured so that it can apply to all six billion of us around the world.
A link has been shown between Coca-Cola and osteoporosis in older women, its cocktail of sugar and caffeine is highly addictive, and it's associated with a high risk of tumours as found by the Ramazini Foundation in 2006. In India this famous drink had 36 times more pesticide in its drink compared to its levels in the coke in the EU, which was unveiled to large horror to the one billion people that live in India.
Coca Cola lost 15% of its market in India, and has also reportedly been severely damaging the water table with its utilisation of local water, already a scarcity, by using it in its plants. This posed an all too real danger and threat to the local people in India and in the month of March, 2004, local officials in Kerala shut down a $16 million plant, blamed for a drastic decline in both quality and quantity of water readily available to local farmers and villagers.
However, on the other side of the world in Colombia, it is alleged that Coca Cola allowed paramilitary mercenaries to murder union members. The workers at the plant were subject to bullying, harassment, and intimidation for joining the union. Unions internationally are a human right, according to the UN.
Many others were killed in direct negotiations in the bottling plant, and many others threatened, even Adolfo Luis Cardona, a trade union organiser was chased in broad daylight who fled to the US and was granted asylum.?
Seven people have been shot dead in Columbia for being either a part or working with the trade union that aims to safe guard worker's rights in the bottling plant, with many more fleeing from their home town of Bucaramanga with their families after seeing their co-workers and friends shot.
During the month of January in 2004, a bunch of New York officials went to investigate this for themselves, and here are their findings:
“To date, there have been a total of 179 major human rights violations of Coca-Cola's workers, including nine murders. Family members of union activists have been abducted and tortured. Union members have been fired for attending union meetings. The company has pressured workers to resign their union membership and contractual rights, and fired workers who refused to do so.
"Most troubling to the delegation were the persistent allegations that paramilitary violence against workers was done with the knowledge of and likely under the direction of company managers. The physical access that paramilitaries have had to Coca-Cola bottling plants is impossible without company knowledge and/or tacit approval...”
Although Coca-Cola claimed that these were fabrications, many trans-national corporations are reported to have subjected their workers (including textile companies such as Top Shop, Nike, Gap. . .) to human rights abuses. This is a problem that isn't going away, the corruption of the Columbian state which is well known for its own human rights abuses and the use of violence against their people.
A landmark ruling saw District Court judge Martinez ruled that the case against the bottling company and America can go ahead. This is the first time that an American judge has allowed such a large case against a company for alleged human rights violations abroad under a little-known law known as the Alien Tort Claims Act or ATCA of 1789, which allows people globally to prosecute a US company under US law if their own country has failed to serve justice.
Even before the Columbian fiasco, a similar series of incidents occurred at a factory in Guatemala where workers were killed (Coca Cola didn't take responsibility there, either) but Coke company still were coming under scrutiny for their business abroad.?
Coca-Cola kept working in Germany when Adolf?Hitler and his Third Reich came to power and ignoring the practice of eugenics, and anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany... Coca-Cola top executives were prominently active members of the National Socialist German Workers Party; also known as. . .The Nazi Party!?[It is true that Coca-Cola continued to operate within Germany during WWII and co-operated with the Nazi government but the operation had no contact with Coca-Cola in the US. Max Keith who ran the German Coca-Cola operation was not a member of the National Socialist German Workers Party - Sub-Ed].
Boycotts of Coca-Cola are happening globally. People in the Middle East are boycotting coke for their policy in Israel where according to the Friends of Al Aqsa peace group where Coca-Cola is a staunch supporter of Israel and even as early as 1966, Israel acknowledged Coke's support (a statement appeared on the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs website). In October 2005, Coca-Cola increased its investment in Israel by buying a 51% controlling interest in the Israeli Tavor winery company.
Out of this boycott a soft drink was born and soon started the brand Mecca Cola?to?protest against the American foreign policy in the Middle East, it was a way to combat America's imperialism. Coca-Cola claims sales dropped ten to fifteen percent after it was discovered that they were supporting Israel in the Middle East.
The trade union of the Colombians killed called for an international boycott of Coke's products, which was highly successful.
A boycott was started in Ireland and soon spread across the channel to us. Leeds, York, Middlesex and Bristol University no longer sell the soft drink; the word is spreading. However, all have been outdone by the Venezuelan government who supported ex-employees shutting down Coca-Cola distribution centres, while they investigate the extent of the company's tax evasion. Even Amnesty International have boycotted Coca-Cola and all of its products.
Still want to drink Coke?
Here's what I don't understand. If so many things have happened under Coke's eye including murder, the rape of a country and its water company, not to mention how unbelievably harmful it can be and the scary influence that it has on things even as large as governments, why is Coca-Cola still allowed to be sold in our schools? All over Cardiff, the shiny Dynamic Ribbon red of Coca Cola and its products are sold, Coca-Cola, Diet Coke and Coke Zero.
Coca-Cola reported a loss of three billion dollars, but for me, that's not enough for what it's done, for the lives it has claimed, the people it has threatened and even the ones that will be in harm in the future under the flag of American consumerism.
We're all for healthy eating in schools, aren't we? The ready availability of salads and cold pasta dishes has increased, but this ugly red blimp, dyed red by the blood of dead union leaders, parades itself all over the world, and each day I see it smugly smiling at me. I wonder why it's there, and if it will be there to stay.
I'm calling for a boycott of Coca-Cola products in vending machines, schools and other public institutions in Cardiff.
For future reference, here's a list of ALL the products Coca-Cola runs or is affiliated with in the UK:
- Dr Pepper
- All forms of Coca-Cola
- All types of Fanta
- Bacardi Mixers
- Minute Maid
- Glacau Vitaminwater
For more information on Coca-Cola and its conduct abroad, please visit www.killercoke.org.
Please note that the statements and comments made above should be regarded as personal and not necessarily those of theSprout or any constituent part or connected body.
IMAGE: Michael Scheltgen