Friday, February 3, 2012

Relating Qwikster, Komen, and Factory Farms

It's happened again. A giant and powerful party reversed a landmark decision, and the only reason I can see is that the move was so unpopular. I'm talking about Komen, their recent decision to cut funding to Planned Parenthood, and the reversal thereof.

Some other examples from the past few months:
  • Netflix and Qwikster
  • Bank of America and the $5 debit card fee 
  • SOPA, the anti-piracy bill that Wikipedia and other services protested with blackouts of their websites
  • Egypt's government
  • Donald Trump running for president (again) 
And now Susan G. Komen. 

I could be wrong; maybe these types of reversals, back-outs, and we-didn't-mean-it's have always happened without my noticing them. But it seems like the popularity of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have allowed news to spread like wildfire. Even to people like me, who otherwise would not have been paying attention. 

This is actually good. It means that it's easy to share information about decisions made by powerful corporations. If a bunch of us vehemently disagree with these decisions, especially those with questionable intentions like gaining money, power, or political foothold, we can actually do something about it. The bad news, however, is that the line drawn from "Decision" to "Money, Power, or Political Foothold" has to be fairly short for most of us to be vocal about it. The Komen decision was likely motivated by both politics and finances, although both organizations appear to be winning now since they are each receiving more funding than usual.

This business of being able to make a connection between cause and effect is probably why we aren't en masse protesting the treatment of pigs on most farms. It's why we aren't furious over corn subsidies which make corn syrup cheap and high fructose corn syrup even cheaper. And it's why we're all ho-hum about the chicken we buy, which has probably lived most of it's life in a poop-filled crate that *never* gets cleaned. Soda companies are clearly motivated by profit and not the well-being of their consumers, as are giant pig and chicken farms, but the line drawn from sick pig to sick person is too long to rouse suspicion. There are too many links in the chain between a lifetime of drinking soda and getting cancer.  Grocery store chickens are simply not covered in poop. 

Note that I am not claiming drinking soda equals getting cancer. That would be too easy, and if that were the case the Twitterverse would have squashed Big Soda faster than Qwikster. What is probably true though is that drinking soda can put a person on the path to other bad habits, like eating lots of processed foods which leads to feeling sluggish, and later, reduced physical activity. While individually perhaps not that harmful, these all add up to increase susceptibility to things like diabetes, weight gain, and (surprise) cancer. From cancer.org: "Each year, more than 572,000 Americans die of cancer; about one-third of these deaths are linked to poor diet, physical inactivity, and carrying too much weight." 

What about our consumption of those sad pigs and chickens? Bacon is delicious, and it's hard to care about how miserable your fried chicken was during it's lifetime. We as consumers never drive out to a Perdue farm for the weekend to see what we are eating (which Perdue is thrilled about, I'm sure). I suspect there is a link between consuming high amounts of factory farm meat, as many of us do, and getting sick later on, but unfortunately nobody can say for certain. It's a relief to know that we as Eaters have the power to change things if we desire, but until a revolt of factory farms goes "viral", they and their profits will continue to thrive.

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