Breastmilk battles: Pork Board down, Wal-Mart to go
Should you ever doubt the power of the blogosphere, just read this heartwarming tale of the blogger who got the National Pork Board to cry Oinkle.
Jennifer Laycock is an Ohio mom who promotes breastfeeding awareness and acceptance — or as she calls it, babies' right to eat in public — on her blog the Lactivist. She also sells pro-breastfeeding t-shirts through Café Press with eye-catching slogans such as "That's my baby's lunch you're staring at" and "The other white milk."
The National Pork Board, which represents hog farmers everywhere, didn't like that last one so much, and sent her a cease-and-desist letter saying it violates their trademark on the phrase "the other white meat." (That advertising campaign is funded by the pork "check-off program," which hog farmers have to pay for, whether or not they like it, as it's considered "government speech.") Apparently riffing on a trademark could mean pun-nishment. The letter also got all prissy and weird, suggesting that Laycock's various t-shirts somehow
promote the use of breastmilk beyond merely for infant consumption, such as with the following slogans on your website in close proximity to the slogan "The Other White Milk." "Dairy Diva," "Nursing, Nature's Own Breast Enhancement," "Eat at Mom's, fast-fresh-from the breast," and "My Milk is the Breast."
Well, Laycock sent out the call, and the blogosphere got buzzing like a beehive someone whacked with a stick. In a follow-up post last weekend, she wrote that thanks to all the publicity — and the pro-bono lawyer and media rep she got as a result of it — she's had a personal apology from the CEO of the Pork Board and they're working out a "resolution."
In a related note — breast milk is the ultimate SOLE food, so don't roll your eyes, Ethicureans — Wal-Mart is teaming up with the makers of Similac infant formula in a rather questionable marketing campaign. A friend at the California WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) Program forwarded me a message about the “nutrition and feeding seminars” dubbed "All Things Baby" that Wal-Mart will host in its baby departments, starting last weekend. The WIC breastfeeding coordinator called several Northern California stores and was told that the seminars were basically "baby showers" with cake and juice and gift baskets.
Hmm, wonder what's in those gift baskets? Well, managers didn't want to say, but the Wal-Mart press release says they have samples from sponsors. Formula samples would violate Article 5 of the World Health Organization's International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, which the U.S. actually signed in 1994 but rarely enforces.
I'm not saying formula is bad. Some people want to but simply can't breastfeed, complain my friends who are new mothers, and it's worth noting that Similac has introduced an organic option for its formula. But I seriously doubt that Wal-Mart and Similac are interested in whether mothers do or don't want to breastfeed. Their corporate interest is to get as many people as possible to buy formula.
WIC, meanwhile, explains in its call-to-action email that "formula promotion undermines the intent of the families we serve to successfully breastfeed. In California, more than 83% of new moms enter the hospital wishing to breastfeed, yet only 40.5% of those women leave the hospital breastfeeding exclusively and the rates continue to drop off precipitously as mothers are encouraged to introduce formula to their infants."
WIC would love it if breastfeeding moms would sign up for upcoming "All Things Baby" seminars, then show up and breastfeed. Maybe you could do it wearing one of the Lactivist's awesome t-shirts…
[Thanks for the tips Renata, Fred, and Martha...]
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