Magazine article Tikkun

Justice at the Checkout Counter

Magazine article Tikkun

Justice at the Checkout Counter

Article excerpt

Each time we pass cash from our hand to the hand of a checkout clerk we are participating in a global process that shapes our collective reality. When we buy products that are made in sweatshops, we affirm and support the legitimacy of that exploitive production process. When we buy products that have been produced through the inhumane treatment of animals, we fund the continuation of that cruelty. When we buy products that are made at the cost of environmental degradation, we fund the worsening damage to Creation.

Though we collectively exert an enormous influence at the checkout counter, we typically do not base our purchases on our value systems. We often don't realize the power we do have to change the world through what we buy. Even if we do, as consumers we do not usually have adequate information about the working conditions, treatment of animals, or environmental impact that went into creating the products we see at the store. What incentive do stores have to provide us with this information? The fact is, they have a disincentive, due to the efforts of organizations such as the WTO and multinational corporations who actively seek to suppress information about production processes.

For many of us, knowing how the products we buy were made is increasingly essential in order to allow us to live by the values that our ethical or religious traditions require. For example, over the centuries Jews have developed a special certification system to insure that foods are produced according to biblical and rabbinic standards. Most grocery stores carry these "kosher" food products. However, the word "kosher" does not just apply to food. "Kosher" means "proper to use" and can be applied to other kinds of products one does use. just as "kosher certification" tells Jews which foods are permitted according to the dietary component of Jewish law, Jews now need some parallel or enhanced system of "kosher certification" to address biblical imperatives pertaining to the humane treatment of animals, environmental protection, and workers' justice.

For example, it is well known that many sports products such as soccer balls are made under conditions that are dangerous and exploitive of workers. Orten young children are the workers in this production process, and their health and well-being are severely diminished as a result. We need to develop a system of Ethical Kashrut in order to provide practitioners of the Jewish tradition access to essential information about products like soccer balls, so that conscience can be joined with consumption. …

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