The Opposite of Yum!

The Pope poses with a KFC bucket

Last week, KFC asked the Pope to bless its new Fish Snacker(tm) sandwich. It’s Lent, you see. Many Catholics have begun to fast for forty days. It’s forty days without meat. It’s forty days with more fish. And it’s forty days of profit opportunity for the food company with the right connections.

This isn’t, incidentally, the first time that the Vicar of Christ has been asked to vouch for unsavoury food product. In 2002, the US was having a hard time persuading Zambians to accept Genetically Modified food aid. In response, Colin Powell requested an altogether earthly intercession from Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, the Vatican foreign minister. (More here.)

There are parallels between General Powell’s call to the Vatican, and the KFC Colonel’s. When the former Secretary of State did it, he was hoping that the Vatican would be able to persuade a large Catholic population (either directly, or through divine means) to accept a food about which they were reasonably sceptical. KFC is hoping that the Pope’s pull with bring US Catholics, who form 25% of the population, to KFC restaurants as Lent begins. (Listen to the NPR Report here. )

The Lord doesn’t seem to smile on such requests, though. Despite Powell’s efforts, Zambia not only survived its famine without GM food aid, it managed to set in place sustainable agriculture to get it beyond its need for food aid. And KFC has had its prayers tossed out rather quickly. (The Vatican, by the way, declined to respond to KFC’s request.)

Instead, this morning, with divine timing, several news sources share the Associated Press story about these gourmet chow hounds:

rats on a kitchen floor

Apparently, just as Lent begins, rats are running wild in New York City KFC and Taco Bell.

If it seems like a coincidence that the rodents should go after both a KFC and a Taco Bell, there’s an easy explanation. Both the Colonel and the Chihuahua are part of Yum! Brands, the world’s largest restaurant chain (if you’re counting restaurant units), which owns KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and Long John Silvers.

The biggest rats in this story aren’t on the company floor. Their in the corner offices. Yum! Brands is the company that refused to pay its poorest workers a decent wage. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers brought international attention to their conditions of slavery. Many earn less than $8000 a year. Although Taco Bell have negotiated with them, they’re still fighting for the dignity and income they deserve, as this lovely tone poem suggests:

This Lent, rather than giving up meat, why not give up food grown with slave labour instead? There’s more about the CIW’s Campaign for Fair Food, and much more, here.