LOVAL VIEW | Tears Show Why We Need COOL

by Sally Herrin
Lincoln Journal Star

This time of year, nothing brings a tear to the eye like a suffering child. Think Tiny Tim and the Little Match Girl. Some Christian faiths celebrate the Feast of the Holy Innocents on December 28, the Fourth Day of Christmas, to remember the massacre of children--some call them the First Martyrs--by King Herod in his attempt to kill the infant Jesus.

The news that much of the shrimp we eat is processed using child slave labor in Southeast Asia has our attention. Wonkette said it nicely yesterday: Your Never-Ending Olive Garden Shrimp Bowl Sauteed In Never-Ending Child-Slave Tears.

Most of us probably would prefer not to feed our families shrimp cleaned by child slaves. So do we give up shrimp? Really? Maybe we just buy shrimp farmed or caught in the USA? Where can we buy domestic shrimp? What about in restaurants? Should we boycott WalMart and Red Lobster?

What we NEED is country-of-origin-labeling. The U.S. consumer market is the greatest, most affluent in the world, and if we pay attention to how we spend our money, we CAN make an impact on labor practices around the world. (Ditto environmental sustainability.)

We CAN refuse to buy from countries which allow child labor, slave labor, pollution, gross animal cruelty…name your poison, so to speak. In the global economy, how you spend your money speaks loudest of all.

That is, we can make distinctions IF we have good information. That is, we COULD. In fact US consumers have been protected by federal law for some years. Mandatory country of origin labeling for muscle cuts of beef, pork and lamb sold in the US became law in 2002. Gradually, other foods have come under similar rules. In 2005, the rule for fish and shellfish came into effect.

Multinational food processors have battled this common sense consumer protection for decades. Their argument is "equivalency," and they claim that their cheaper third world product is "the same" as foodstuffs, grown, born, raised, and processed in the USA. Now, the same meatpackers that lost the fight to repeal COOL in Congress in 2008, that lost the fight to repeal COOL in the U.S. court system in 2013, have convinced Congress to help them repeal COOL by hostage-taking--like the terrorists which at heart these corporations are--by including amendments to repeal COOL in the must-pass 2016 omnibus spending bill. If the omnibus bill does not pass, the US government will shut down.

Though this repeal--the vote comes Friday -- pertains only to muscle cuts, history shows the rest of the menu will follow, like dominoes. Thanks to First District Nebraska Congressman Jeff Fortenberry for his principled opposition to COOL repeal. As for Rep. Adrian Smith and Rep. Brad Ashford, who caved to the meatpackers, #Odds-makers@NorthPole is offering 10 to 1 those bad boys find lumps of coal in their stockings on the First Day of Christmas, December 25.

Repeal proponents argue that consumers have not demonstrated that we WANT country-of-origin labeling. If my tone seems harsh, good. I don't want you to shed a sentimental tear beneath the holiday lights. I want to make you angry, enough to let your elected members of Congress know.

Sally Herrin of Lincoln is a writer and educator.

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