Is it time for the food movement to wade once again into the messy and murky world of ethics? To stimulate a little conversation over this season of gift-giving, I’ve posted this link to a recent article by Andy Fisher and Bob Gottlieb. In it, they note how Wal-Mart loves to put “a bit of stick about,” as the English like to say, to ho-ho-ho! their way into the hearts of America’s communities.

I must say that I’ve helped more than one colleague over the years polish off a pitcher of margarita to ease the heartburn they feel from taking Wal-Mart money. These raging debates of conscience, whether held between you and yourself or among a group of colleagues are never easy conversations to have. Is a greater good gained by “dancing with the devil,” or do we never retreat and never surrender to always stay true to our principles?

Speaking for myself, who at the moment is the only one who will listen, there are two masters I must serve. The first is an application of an imprecise kind of math that asks if the pain that a company may cause, such as treating its workers badly, is greater than the benefit derived from the good I might do for those same people by taking that company’s money. If the answer is “yes,” then it seems that at the very least I’d be wasting my time by taking their money, or at worst, I’d be shamelessly serving my own interests. The second master is far crueler than the first, because it comes from my parents who hammered home the simple notion that if something you’re doing feels wrong, then it probably is. When that happens and the gnawing ache of doubt robs your sleep and twists your stomach into knots, well, no amount of tequila will help.

Let’s see what Fisher and Gottlieb have to say.