By Bob Cesca: I’d like to defensively preface this column by making it abundantly clear that I’m both a supporter and participant in the boycott of Chick-Fil-A due (in part) to CEO Dan Cathy’s contributions to paleoconservative anti-gay organizations. It’s not surprising, and more than a little obvious given Cathy’s evangelical Christianity and Chick-Fil-A’s well-known symbiosis with religious zealotry.
Not to sound like one of those hipsters who always claims to have discovered a cool rock band before everyone else, but I personally haven’t stepped foot into a Chick-Fil-A location since the 1990s — and not just because of its ideological affiliations or the unavoidably creepy Happy Young Christian musak that’s piped into its dining areas.
Mass produced fast food is, in a word, bad, bad, bad. And on multiple levels. Therefore liberals who care about civil rights, the climate crisis, healthcare, worker rights and safety, animal cruelty, exploitation of illegal immigrants, genetically modified food, consumerism and corporate greed (you know, many of the marquee liberal causes) ought to be boycotting all fast food restaurants full stop.
I’m not exactly sure why Chick-Fil-A has been singled out, given what other fast food companies have been up to. But if Chick-Fil-A is boycott-worthy, so too are the others — times a thousand.
Let’s start with the same-sex marriage issue. In the 2004 election, you might recall that 11 states passed ballot initiatives banning same-sex marriage. It was a clever Rove-conceived strategy to get anti-gay right-wing evangelicals out to vote, and many analysts believed it tipped the election in favor of re-electing former President Bush.
One of the many religious organizations that helped finance and promote the anti-gay ballot measure in Kentucky was a right-wing anti-gay evangelical mega-church from Lexington, Kentucky called the Southeast Christian Church. Among other things, the church literally bussed congregants to the state capital to lobby for the initiative to be included on the 2004 general election ballot. It was, and it passed.
On its official website, the church purports to love “homosexuals” but suggests they require “redemption” for their lifestyles. The church also facilitates a program called “Journey to Freedom” that claims to help women “free themselves” from lesbianism. I’m not making that up.
So during that insane 2004 election year, two noted members of the Southeast Christian Church, David C. Novak and Gregg Dedrick were also the top executives at the Yum! Brands corporation. To this day, Novak remains the chairman and CEO of Yum! and a member of the church. Dedrick has since left the corporation, but remains active in the church.
You’ll probably recognize Yum! Brands by the fast food chains it controls and operates: Taco Bell, KFC (Dedrick ran KFC) and Pizza Hut, while also formerly controlling A&W Restaurants and Long John Silver’s. So yes, all of these companies are operated by right-wing evangelicals affiliated with a vocally anti-gay church.
By the Chick-Fil-A anti-gay standard, shouldn’t liberals be boycotting Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut, too?
Other fast food companies with evangelical, anti-gay or anti-choice affiliations (did I mention they’re also anti-choice?) include In & Out Burger, White Castle, Waffle House, Carl’s Jr. (including its Hardee’s brand) and Domino’s Pizza (which, by the way, happens to be owned by Bain Capital).
Oh, and there’s also Papa John’s. Its founder and CEO, John Schnatter, is coincidentally a member of the Southeast Christian Church and his golfing partner is the church’s pastor Robert Russell who said that Schnatter is a big contributor to the church.
But let’s say for the sake of argument that these CEOs and corporations don’t explicitly hate members of the LGBT community. What else?
–Mass produced, factory farmed beef is not only responsible for deforestation, but it also contributes to around 10-20 percent of CO2 emissions. This is reason number one, as far as I’m concerned, why everyone, especially liberals, should severely cut back our fast food consumption.
–Fast food is contributing to obesity-related healthcare problems. Meanwhile, unhealthy food like the crap that includes toys is also contributing to the prevalence of ADHD and other childhood health problems.
–Stressed, diseased cattle are routinely pumped with bovine growth hormone and antibiotics. The latter is leading to a serious healthcare crisis here and abroad due to immunity and the rise of drug-resistant diseases.
–Taco Bell and others have been pedaling “meat” that barely contains any actual meat.
–Meat packing facilities in the midwest routinely bus illegal immigrants into the country as cheap labor and many end up with crippling injuries without any legal recourse for fear of being arrested and deported.
—McDonald’s opposes the pro-union, pro-labor Employee Free Choice Act and, in 2008, issued a memo to all of its franchisees urging them to “actively participate in the opposition to EFCA.”
–Independent farmers are forced deep into debt because of an endless cycle of expensive equipment requirements handed down by Big Ag corporations.
–GMOs are in everything, and corporate giant Monsanto has a virtual monopoly on worldwide agriculture.
–Try staying in business with a mom and pop eatery when a KFC/Taco Bell joint pops up across the street due to political kickbacks and ridiculously huge tax incentives.
–And finally, do I need to get into corporations and how they control nearly every aspect of our lives including and especially our least expensive, least healthy and most readily accessible food sources?
Chick-Fil-A is not the only villain at shopping malls and highway pull-offs. If you need more evidence, watch Food Inc. or read Robin O’Brien’s website or read Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation. It’s all right there: dozens of reasons why liberals who are boycotting Chick-Fil-A should also be boycotting fast food companies across the board. Otherwise it’s just easy/selective outrage and, at the very least, utterly nearsighted.