Thursday, 11 October 2012


Boycotts sometimes seem to be the first port-of-call of the angry person.

A product or publication you don't like? Clearly the first thing to do is to boycott the store or magazine! Boycott the whole organisation!! Boycott the entire country and all its exports!! And have an angry march about it !! Grrrr!!

That'll learn 'em!

But let us just pause there for a moment and think about the breadth of what "boycott" may mean.

Ethical Boycotts
One form of boycott is where people avoid a specific product (or type of product) because these is an ethical concern with it, or with one of its ingredients. Examples of products that might be targeted in this way of this include type of boycott is Some people boycott companies, or indeed countries, because of specific, long standing issues. Examples of this are the the boycott of Tuna (concern about bycatch) or Eggs laid by caged hens (concern about animal welfare)

Religious Boycotts
One could argue that when Jews avoid pork products, or Hindus avoid beef they are essentially boycotting these products on religious grounds. Now, while a steakhouse may view Hindu custom as essentially a lost cause, other food producers may choose some of their ingredients, such as gelatine, with an eye on how the Hindu community might react in terms of purchasing or not purchasing the final product.

Political Boycotts
Perhaps the most publicised form of boycott is that where an entire company is targetted becasue of what one part of it has done. Perhaps the most famous of these is the boycott of Nestle because of its promotion of baby formula milk as being better than breastmilk. In other examples, boycotts can take a political, with a big "P" dimension, when whole countries are boycotted, usually for the actions of the government. The boycott of Apartheid South Africa (or Sith Ifrica, as BFTF feels he ought to pronounce it) in the 1970s and 1980s is a classic example of this.

Geoffrey Boycott
Of course, the repeated use of the word "Boycott" does rather remind one of the legendary English opening bat Geoffrey Boycott and he perhaps deserves a mention at this point - however, since he was largely a grumpy right wind Yorkshireman, BFTF is going to instead give you the opportunity to watch a clip of the equally legendary, contemporaneous and rather wonderful Viv Richards...

So what DO you want to buy??
It is noteworthy that those who call for boycotts do not generally say where people should buy their products from instead. For example, while their is not doubt that Apartheid Sith Ifrica was run by a vile regime, why didn't its detractors ever say which countries had really good records on equality, perhaps suggesting that we should promore trade with Sweden, or Dominica?

Why not let them know?
Another thing that BFTF find surprising is that people will sometimes go to extraordinary lengths to organise boycotts - but then fail to tell the company concerned what is being done. How is the company supposed to know that their sales are falling because of a boycott unless people write in and tell them why they are taking their custom elsewhere?

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