Around three years ago, during your standard Wikipedia trawl, I stumbled across the term ‘Nestlé Boycott’. This wasn’t something that I knew much about so I did a wee bit of research, encouraged by an old friend who had personally boycotted Nestlé the previous year. After hours of research and article reading, I came to the resolute conclusion that I would never give a penny of my money to Nestlé again. Now I am attempting to boycott them on behalf of Southampton Univeristy: I will be taking my motion to Union Council on January 17th and I hope you will stand with me.
Nestlé own a third of the entire world’s market for formula milk, the alternative to breast feeding. This is the sort of thing that we in the west are wary of; we have all been brought up hearing our mothers chime “breast is best” and so we take for granted that the right way to nurture your child (excluding any rare instances) is to breastfeed them. This, however, is not the case in many developing countries, like areas of Africa or India. Due to a lack of education, women are ignorant to the invaluable protection and nutrition provided for their babies by breastfeeding. They are unaware that 4000 babies die each day because they have not been equipped with the immunity to disease that breastfeeding would have kindly provided them with (UNICEF). They are unaware that Nestlé make billions in profit from their manipulation. They are unaware that by welcoming Nestlé formula milk into their homes, they are putting their babies at a great risk: such a risk, that they are in fact 25% less likely to survive than if the formula milk had been rejected.
Nestlé know that they could not manipulate us like they can manipulate desperate, impoverished, uneducated mothers elsewhere. Nestlé give away free samples of their formula milk to hospitals so that when mothers give birth, their babies are instantly latched onto this substitute under the illusion that it is encouraging growth and helping with survival. The hospitals cannot afford to not accept Nestlé’s help, as they are heavily reliant on them financially, through sponsorship deals that Nestlé strike up in return of the hospital’s promotion of their product. When the babies leave the hospital, the problems start to occur. Firstly, parents cannot afford the formula milk, which means they use less than the recommended measurements per each bottle to make it stretch further. This means that babies are being given insufficient levels of nutrition. Secondly, the water that they mix it with is at risk of being contaminated and unlike in a hospital, most people do not have the capacity to reduce this risk by boiling the water, as they lack gas or electricity. Thirdly, because the babies have been introduced to this milk, it has severely damaged levels of lactation in the mother during that vital period, meaning that the families have no choice but to continue using the formula milk, which they cannot afford.
By relentlessly promoting their product, Nestlé actively and directly discourage breastfeeding which leads to 1.5 million unnecessary deaths a year. Breastfeeding provides levels of immunity from diarrhoea, meningitis, ear infections and many other infections that kill babies if unprotected. Breastfeeding is also a natural method of birth control: the hormones that are involved in breastfeeding can assist in staggering pregnancies, something which developing countries are in desperate need of. They also use the language barrier to their advantage: by labelling their formula in English, not only can the majority of people not read them, but they appear to hold authority, as if the product being from the UK or USA means that they couldn’t possibly be bad… Could they? Nestlé are perfectly aware of all this: they have been boycotted all over the world since 1977 (73 instances of boycotting can be found from British Student Unions, including Oxford, Cambridge, Sheffield, Edinburgh, Warwick, Durham, Exeter…) and are constantly faced with tirades by charities such as UNICEF, International Baby Food Action Network, World Alliance of Breastfeeding Action and Save the Children.
Every day we buy Nestlé products, unaware of what our money is funding. This needs to stop. Would you find Nescafé so tasty if you knew that every time you provided that company with money, it was responsible for a thousand deaths? There are so many alternatives, we must stop and think about what it is we are consuming and condoning. By boycotting Nestlé, you send out a clear message: not only to Nestlé but to the millions of others who stand in unison, that you do not accept Nestlé’s sadistic and money-hungry manipulation of the vulnerable. If this was going on in Britain, there would be outrage. But because it’s miles away in a country that a lot of people have never been to, the majority of people turn their backs in ignorant bliss. The unnecessary deaths of millions of babies is unfathomable and we must stand as a group, 20,000 people strong, and say NO to Nestlé.