Are boycotts effective means of social change?

Hanine El Mir
Copy Editor

Boycotting comes about when an individual’s conscience is rendered unable to handle being responsible, even if indirectly, for injustice. Examples of this include the harming of people within oppressed societies, powerless and voiceless animals, or the decaying planet.

It usually hapPens on an individual level for the most part. One chooses to stop using or consuming an item, or listening to an artist, or watching a film, because it does not align with their ideologies.

The individual deems the people behind the brand or movement they are boycotting to be in the wrong and stops giving them support – whether financial, social or other forms of support. The point of that is to put a strain on the culprits to pressure them into changing their wrongful acts. Seeing as it lies on a rather individual level, the effect is often not ultimately as strong as we would wish for it to be, and it takes a very long time for results to show.

Some speak up about their boycotting to shed more light on the issue and reel more people into the cause, building a community of people who boycott the same products. This sparks a movement among the people who share the same beliefs and ideologies, causing strikes aimed at making their boycotting loud and clear. Logically speaking, the bigger the community that is going on a strike, the more attention it gets from the people responsible.

Taking the example of animal rights and veganism in Lebanon, we see that 10 years ago, animal lovers could only dine in a few restaurants and had to choose only between mezza and appetizers. This year, in the month of November alone, five Lebanese restaurants announced vegan-friendly menus. They also had only one brand of cruelty-free cosmetics to choose from the past decade while now they have over five. Demand is growing.

In March 2016, in the United States, Seaworld announced that they would no longer be breeding new Orca whales in captivity, following the growing number of boycotters. Before that, in June 2015, activists for the Palestinian cause succeeded in getting G4S to end its Israeli prison contract, through the BDS movement (Boycott-Divest-Sanction).

In short, I believe boycotts start mostly as a way to feel at ease with oneself, and to feel like as though we are not active participants in the bystander effect. It helps us feel like we are not standing silent as certain events unfold in front of us and instead we are doing something to effect change.

Does that mean I would stop doing it? No. Communities are growing. The change is small but it is happening. Some movements take longer than others to spark and while the input may seem minimal at first, it might lead to something much more powerful in the future.

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