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Animal Fans' Secret Recipe Is to Boycott Restaurant

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the animal welfare group, begins a global boycott on Monday of KFC to seek an improvement in the lives and deaths of 700 million chickens who become the chain's fried meals every year.

With fat people trying to sue fast-food restaurants for helping to cause their obesity, the group hopes to tap into the growing public criticism of a fast-food diet as well as the concern over farm animal welfare. Instead of following the slow path of pushing for changes in regulations, the group wants restaurants to enforce immediate changes by telling farmers they will not buy chickens raised and slaughtered under current conditions.

I like strategies like this, which resembles campaigns to get people to stop buying sweatshop products or start buying "fair trade" coffee (as well as boycotts of Disney for its gay-friendly policies, though obviously I'm completely opposed to the goal of that campaign). The first impulse of a lot of people across the political spectrum, when they see a practice that they think is wrong, is to say the government ought to pass a law against it. This attitude invites a sort of surrender to the market's status quo, assuming that the problem is the inevitable result of market forces, and that what's needed is some outside intervention to force the unruly economy into the right shape. What PETA's anti-KFC campaign and others do, however, is to work with the market and use its built-in mechanisms to achieve a progressive goal.

I'm not saying that regulatory approaches are bad. In some cases exercising the power of demand doesn't or can't work. In others, regulation and market-based change go hand-in-hand -- for example, when the government enforces labeling requirements that enable citizens to more effectively exercise their market power for promoting organic food. But philosophically, strategies that work with the system rather than railing against it are more appealing.


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