Alcohol Problems on Pine Ridge: Just How Much Does A-B InBev "Care"?

OglalaIn February 2012, the Oglala Sioux Tribe filed a lawsuit against Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI), SABMiller, Molson Coors, MillerCoors LLC, and Pabst, alleging that they knowingly contributed to devastating alcohol-related problems on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. On the reservation, as many as two-thirds of adults may be alcoholics, and one of out four children is born with fetal alcohol syndrome. The Oglala Sioux Tribe has prohibited alcohol on the reservation for the last 180 years. Yet the alcohol continues to get funneled right into the hands--and lives--of tribal members, and ABI is giving a standard denial for playing any role in the resulting harm.
Just outside the reservation’s borders, the tiny town of Whiteclay, Nebraska (pop. 10) sells more than 4 million cans of beer and malt liquor annually. The town seems to exist solely to sell alcohol to Pine Ridge residents. Alcohol (including ABI brands such as Hurricane malt liquor and Budweiser) is either smuggled into the reservation, or simply consumed on the streets of Whiteclay. When New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff visited recently, he witnessed “men and women staggering on the street, or passed out, whispers of girls traded for alcohol.” 

Kristoff's visit to Pine Ridge and Whiteclay, combined with his knowledge of the industry’s tactics, led him to declare that “Pine Ridge’s alcohol problem is matched only by Anheuser-Busch’s greed problem. Brewers market beers with bucolic country scenes, but the image I now associate with Budweiser is of a child with fetal alcohol syndrome.” He declared a personal boycott on A-B InBev’s beers and asked other Americans to do the same.
Whiteclay-NYTDespite refusing the comment for months while Kristoff was writing his column, ABI hit back immediately after it was published with a pat letter to the editor in which they claimed to “care about the tragic problems of tribal members on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and [be] greatly concerned about alcohol abuse there and anywhere.” Not surprisingly, ABI denied any responsibility for the gross overabundance and availability of its products in Whiteclay and the nearby reservation. 
If they really cared about the harm their products cause the Sioux Oglala tribe, ABI--and the other alcohol producers--would stop selling their products in Whiteclay. Instead, per usual, ABI is raking in the profits while denying any responsibility for the repercussions.

NH Senate Committee: HB 1251 "Inexpedient to Legislate"

NHNew Hampshire public health advocates are celebrating the state Senate Ways and Means committee's recent decision to kill the progress of a bill that would have allowed non-state retailers to sell spirits in addition to state liquor stores. House Bill 1251, supported by Big Alcohol and many House Republicans, would have dramatically expanded retail distribution by allowing the 1400+ grocery and convenience stores in the state to sell spirits. New Hampshire's current requirement that spirits can only be sold in its 78 state-run liquor stores is a precaution that can reduce consumption of spirits by as much as 14% and lower the rate of alcohol-related fatalities among youth. This victory comes after intensive advocacy efforts on behalf of public health organizations like New Futures and impassioned testimony from community groups.


An Open Letter to Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI) Shareholders

April 19, 2012

An Open Letter to Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI) Shareholders

RE: Opposition to Sponsorship of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)

Dear Shareholder:
As fellow shareholders and as public health advocates, Alcohol Justice (formerly Marin Institute) asks you to vigorously oppose ABI’s sponsorship of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the world’s largest promoter of violent cage-fighting events.
We believe ABI’s sponsorship of UFC must come to an end as there is a very tangible risk to the bottom line of dividends and stock price value as well as long term bad press as the relationship of this patently brutal blood sport to predatory marketing of Bud Light to underage youth are played out on the global stage of public opinion. It’s already being called “Blood Light.” This cannot be good for business, sales, or long-term profitability.
Alcohol Justice, the alcohol industry watchdog, has served as a leading research and advocacy institution for over 24 years. We monitor and expose the alcohol industry’s targeting of youth and minority populations, as well as the industry’s adverse effect on public health and the environment globally.
There is compelling evidence that exposure to alcohol advertising and marketing increases the likelihood of underage drinking. Since 2001, at least seven peer-reviewed, federally funded, long-term studies have found that young people with greater exposure to alcohol marketing — including on television, in magazines, on the radio, on billboards or other outdoor signage, or via in-store beer displays, beer concessions, or ownership of beer promotional items or branded merchandise — are more likely to start drinking than their peers.
As the primary sponsor of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI) is delivering harmful content to millions of underage youth. At center stage is the ever-present Bud Light logo, imbued throughout all of UFC's violent events, including live fights, Pay-Per-View, and television broadcasts that reach 354 million homes worldwide. These homes are filled with children!
In addition, millions of UFC fans of all ages have access to live streaming of fights via Facebook, and limitless YouTube videos of bloody fights, promotions, and "pornohol" such as Bud Light Lime ads featuring UFC "Octagon Girl" Arianny Celeste topless, underwear-clad and rolling around in a bed of limes.
UFC President Dana White has been quoted as saying “our targeted audience is anywhere from age 17 to 35.”  He and a number of UFC athletes have recently come under fire for sexist, homophobic, violent and derogatory remarks, including jokes about rape and sexual assault. As A-B InBev shareholders we should be outraged by this behavior.
Given that alcohol is the number one drug of choice among America’s youth, and the U.S Surgeon General estimates that approximately 5,000 people under age 21 die from alcohol-related injuries involving underage drinking each year, board members, shareholders, and consumers will become more aware of the ethical ramifications that continued sponsorship of UFC will have on ABI. Do we really want Bud Light ads to be condemned for irresponsibly delivering harmful content to millions of youth, exposing them to people beating one another to a bloody pulp?
We believe this will lead to mounting litigations, inevitable regulatory and legislative actions, and growing concerns about the safety of youth exposed to harmful content by viewing UFC promotions. All of this can only hurt ABI’s reputation as a corporate citizen and its robust revenue.
As shareholders we have an obligation to help protect stock value by holding the corporation to higher standards of responsibility, especially those related to underage consumption and harm.  We can insist that management address these ethical issues with more integrity by pulling its support of this graphic, violent, bloody sport.  While the world may still want to enjoy a Bud Light, it does not need “Blood Light.”

Bruce Lee Livingston
Bruce Lee Livingston, MPP
Executive Director/CEO