Editorial: Pepsi Gets the Point

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2000:

The statement Pepsi-Cola gave to Garo Alexanian of the Companion Animal Network in late November 1999 was terse, to the point, and just what Steve Hindi of SHARK had demanded from Pepsi since June 1998:

“Pepsi-Cola Company does not sponsor or support bullfighting, nor do we endorse any kind of animal cruelty. Our Mexico City office has told us that Pepsi advertising is in the process of being removed from arenas in Mexico. And in the next few weeks, we will be sending officials from Pepsi headquarters to verify their progress.”

Hindi and SHARK are already verifying Pepsi progress. They verified first that Pepsi signs were removed from the Puebla bull ring, where Hindi took much of his graphic undercover video footage of bulls being tortured in front of Pepsi logos. Vendors in Pepsi aprons are still prominent, selling drinks of all sorts in Pepsi cups, but the signs––visible in every televised bullfight––have disappeared.

Also gone, at least for the moment, are all of the other ringside billboards. Apparently, when Pepsi pulled out, other multinational companies got the message. Global companies are vulnerable to global consumer pressure, dollars are votes, and recent polls show that bullfighting is unacceptable to between 75% and 90% of the public not just in the U.S. but also in Beijing, Madrid, Montreal, and Mexico City.

Pepsi-Cola is a $28-billion-a-year conglomerate. Hindi is an unpaid volunteer; SHARK has no fulltime paid staff, no significant assets, and often runs on Hindi’s personal credit. Only one publication, ANIMAL PEOPLE (which often runs on our personal credit), covered Hindi’s campaign against Pepsi before it was almost over, and among the major animal protection groups, only Last Chance for Animals materially assisted. Friends of Animals actually tried to dissuade Hindi from attacking Pepsi.

The strongest institutional voices urging Pepsi to get out of bullfighting, until midNovember, were individual Pepsi distributors around the U.S., some of whom were upset by still frames from Hindi’s video before he ever took the campaign to the public, and PETsMART, the for-profit pet supply chain which sponsors PETsMART Charities and is also under contract to sell Pepsi products.

“Our business with Pepsi is important to our customers and us,” PETsMART senior vice president for merchandising Neil Stacey told Pepsi-Cola on November 4. “But more important is our mission to eliminate cruel and unusual treatment of animals.”

At about the same time, Hindi became acquainted with Maneka Gandhi, of India, to whom he was introduced via the Internet by ANIMAL PEOPLE and our mutual friends Bonny and Ratilal Shah. Maneka not only founded People For Animals, the largest animal welfare organization in India, but is also the Indian federal cabinet minister for social justice and empowerment.

Pepsi has long coveted the Indian soft drink market: more than 330 million of the one billion people in India consume soft drinks on a regular basis. But as Maneka reminded Pepsi CEO Enrico in the open letter published in our December edition, India has a 3,000-year history of practicing compassion toward animals, and cattle are especially esteemed.

“I have two television programs on national networks about animal issues,” Maneka told Enrico. “I propose to feature PepsiCo’s presence at bullfights in both.”

Alexanian got the Pepsi statement just a few hours after Maneka faxed her letter.

The WTO battle in Seattle

The Pepsi renunciation of bullring billboards demonstrated global consumer power on the eve of the anti-World Trade Organization protests that rocked Seattle.

WTO tribunals have repeatedly ruled against U.S. and foreign laws which purport to protect children, animals, workers, and habitat by imposing “process standards” that require imported goods to be produced in a specific way. Of particular concern to the animal protection community, heavily represented in Seattle, were WTO rulings against the former U.S. “dolphin safe” tuna import standard and the U.S. law which requires shrimp-netting vessels to use turtle exclusion devices, better known as TEDS.

The “dolphin-safe” standard was amended to be WTO-compliant––with the support of many major U.S. animal and habitat advocacy groups––in 1997. The new standard better protects endangered sharks and sea turtles at the possible expense of dolphins. A N I M A L P E O P L E and most of the advocacy groups who opposed the new standard are critical not because it abolished the old “process standard” against netting tuna “on dolphin,” which tended to discriminate against foreign fleets, but rather because it raised the ceiling on allowable dolphin deaths during tuna netting from zero to 5,000. This is still just a fraction of the pre- ”dolphin safe” toll, yet netting tuna “on dolphin” can be done without killing any dolphins (though it usually has not been), and there was accordingly little reason other than political convenience to raise the ceiling at all, let alone by so far.

The U.S. TED rule has from first imposition in 1986 represented a politically problematic trade-off––not least because it completely bypassed the threat to sea turtle nesting habitat from beach-users. Forced by court rulings under the Endangered Species Act to do something to save endangered sea turtles, Congress and the Commerce Department focused on shrimpers because as strongly as they fought TED-pulling, they were and are a much smaller and narrowly distributed constituency than beach-users.

The U.S. shrimp industry grudgingly accepted TEDS in exchange for the pledge that U.S. shrimpers would be protected from foreign competition. The strongest competitive threat came from coastal shrimp farmers in India, Malaysia, Thailand, and Bangladesh, whose habit of logging former mangrove swamps to start shrimp plantations is immensely ecologically harmful, yet does not involve drowning sea turtles. The U.S. TED rule excluded the Asian producers even though it had little application to their production methods. This protectionist aspect is the rationale for the WTO finding against the U.S. TED rule.

Maneka Gandhi was not yet part of the Indian cabinet when the governments of India, Malaysia, Thailand, and Bangladesh filed the complaint with WTO which resulted in the August 1998 ruling. Neither had the present Indian government been elected. Her government, however, maintains the objection of its predecessor to the U.S. TED rule––even though, as reported by ANIMAL PEOPLE, it is well into the process of imposing a TED rule itself, to defend sea turtles against the increasing depredations of mostly foreign trawlers. The trawlers have killed tens of thousands of sea turtles off the Orissa coast in recent years, ignoring the existing Orissa state TED law because Orissa lacks enforcement capacity.

Especially since the loss of coastal mangrove swamps helped cause more than 10,000 human deaths and 200,000 animal deaths during the October 29 cyclone that hit Orissa, the Indian government also seems ready to crack down on ecological abuse by shrimp farmers.

India lags somewhat behind Malaysia, Thailand, and the U.S. in protecting sea turtle nesting habitat. But the U.S. only moved to protect nesting beaches in a decisive way as the result of further lawsuits under the ESA. Especially noteworthy are the series of cases brought by private citizens Shirley Reynolds and Rita Alexander of Daytona Beach, Florida. Legal resistance continues from both local governments and private property owners.

India has the oldest tradition of animal protection in the world, and no formal opposition to protecting sea turtles. Both Thailand and Malaysia have strong sea turtle restoration programs. The Thai tradition of animal protection is nearly as ancient as that of India, sharing common origins, while Malaysia recently adopted the strongest animal protection laws of any predominantly Islamic nation.

Working from that foundation, the U.S., India, Malaysia, and Thailand, together with Bangladesh, should be able to work out a mutually acceptable WTO-compliant format for protecting sea turtles––if they have the political will to do so.

Blaming the WTO may be easier for U.S. activists and regulators than engaging in another all-out fight with the shrimpers while still fighting the beach-users.

But sea turtles still need help.

“Think global, act local”

Meanwhile, the most certain way within any person’s means to protect sea turtles, mangrove swamps, and dolphins is to stop eating shrimp and tuna, as part of adopting a vegetarian diet with countless other benefits for animals, habitat, and personal health.

The greatest power to make change is always through conscientious individual choice, multiplied as positive example inspires emulation.

The success of the Pepsi boycott reinforced an old lesson for animal defenders, who have almost always won victories in the marketplace before winning legislative ratification.

Ten years ago, for example, before any law protected dolphins on the high seas, a boycott led largely by schoolchildren induced Heinz and Starkist to voluntarily adopt the “dolphin-safe” policies that Congress soon aferward codified.

Twenty years ago, before any legislation encouraged manufacturers to stop animal testing, the late Henry Spira used the threat of boycott to persuade Avon and Revlon to lead the cosmetics industry in abandoning animal tests.

Boycotts are not the answer to all problems. Boycotts are difficult to mount on a successful scale. If the alleged offense is insufficiently egregious to outrage the public, and the boycott target has a strong defense, even the most vigorously promoted boycott can fail. A case in point is the boycott of Procter & Gamble waged over animal testing since 1984 by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the Humane Society of the U.S., and In Defense of Animals. It failed because P&G meanwhile spent more than all other companies combined to develop and implement replacements for animal testing. HSUS finally dropped the P&G boycott in 1997; PETA dropped it earlier this year.

Some offenders seem invulnerable to boycott. Fifteen years ago, an international boycott of fish from Atlantic Canada brought a 10-year suspension of the Atlantic Canadian offshore seal hunt––but the hunt resumed, bigger than ever, after the Canadian government allowed both Atlantic Canadians and visiting foreign fleets to fish the Grand Banks cod stock to commercial extinction. Since 1995 the companies and communities involved in sealing have marketed nothing more lucrative than seal pelts and penises [used as aphrodisiacs in some parts of Asia], for which the market is already severely limited. The massacre continues less for money than for revenge, as frustrated fishers insist that seals rather than their own voraciousness caused the cod stock to crash.

But boycotts are also not the only tool available to animal defenders who develop a global perspective. Better networking can by itself either solve or prevent many a crisis.

An example of special interest to cat-and-dog rescuers is the advent of neuter/return, which with better networking could have come decades sooner. The British-based Universities Federation for Animal Welfare and the Kenya SPCA developed neuter/return to control feral cats in the mid-1970s, 10 years before the method spread to Britain and almost 20 years before it caught on in North America.

As a second example of networking failure, Switzerland used oral rabies vaccination pellets to eradicate fox rabies nearly 20 years ago. Misinformed fear of the technology was exploited by hunters and trappers who feared that they might lose a pretext for killing wildlife. Thus oral rabies vaccination of wildlife did not reach the U.S. and Canada until under 10 years ago. Oral rabies vaccination has now either stopped the spread of rabies or wiped it out in countless places, and is strongly endorsed by rabies experts worldwide, yet is still far from universally accepted by regional authorities. Neither is the humane community (with some exceptions) adequately pushing it, including as a means of quickly eliminating the rabies threat from street dogs all over the world.

We are asked often why ANIMAL PEOPLE roams so far abroad, eschewing a consistent regional or national perspective, and why we divide our page space among coverage of wildlife issues, domestic cat-and-dog issues, animals used in research, testing, and teaching, and matters pertaining to species who are usually eaten. We are told that a narrower focus might better hold reader interest, and lead to increased readership.

It is true that there are more people interested in one aspect of animal protection, such as companion animals or wildlife, than are interested in the welfare of all animals. Yet themes in animal protection are as ubiquitous and indifferent to human boundaries as animals themselves. If the collaboration of American and Indian activists to force Pepsi out of Mexican bullrings and the uproar over the WTO illustrate any common lesson, it is that people who care about animals must learn to recognize the issues––and potential response––in all of their international dimensions.

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