Two grandmothers, Pat Showalter and Celeste Bishop, are square in the middle of the war against pure beauty and health products as a result of their website being on the Goliath Internet venue Etsy, an online Farmer’s Market.The Etsy Policy Update dragnet is sweeping up numerous small shops such as theirs. According to Fortune Magazine the Etsy giant sold $62.8 million worth goods in March 2012, up 41.5% from the same time last year, from handcrafted artisan’s advertising on their venue. Etsy’s new policy was dropped like an e-bomb from the Etsy Integrity Department, with no notification that is was coming, though it had been in the works for months, and likens Pat and Celeste’s company, Shepherds Heart, to criminals trafficking in illegal drugs by making “illegal drug claims about their products”. When Etsy contacted Shepherds Heart on August 9, 2012 they were told that the email was “a private conversation between you and Etsy. Please respect this confidentiality and refrain from distributing this communication without permission from Etsy.” Their plea for ‘confidentiality’ was nothing more than an ill-fated attempt to discourage vendors from comparing notes. There are other troubling changes in Etsy’s policy such as their “Snitch Program” where others are encouraged to turn in non-complaint vendors and “ Flagging” which Etsy claims is “akin to neighborhood watch” but is more like the “Report Suspicious Activity” in the Patriot Act with dozens of cadres formed to rat on one another. Another disturbing indicator is that no date for compliance was given to vendors but upon further communication a deadline of 7 days was demanded. Bishop says, “This comes at our busiest time of year when we are at Farmers Markets and Festivals, not to mention visitors and vacations, kidding season and preparing our farms for harvest. We pleaded for an extension to Etsy’s compliance date to no avail,” remarks Pat. When Celeste and Pat went to review Etsy’s new policies they found that they were updated and implemented on August 8, a mere day before vendor dragnet, with demand to comply. Most vendors find the new policy extremely vague and subjective. Dropping this new policy on Shepherd’s Heart and other vendors the way Etsy did has thrown many into a state of confusion which Etsy almost seems to be encouraging.
Celeste & Pat with George Noory of Coast to Coast
We were on the Coast to Coast Show talking about the dangers of agricultural RFID spy-chips on March 16, 2006
Fifteen years ago two Pat and Celeste met. Inspired by the gentle Kinder goat, desiring to serve the community, share the fruits of traditional farming, and noting that pure beauty and health products with real ingredients were disappearing from stores shelves, they founded Shepherd’s Heart. Shepherds Heart has built their company on the pillars of pure products without ingredients whose names one cannot pronounce, continuing education for themselves and for their clientele to bring them the highest quality products on the market. They maintain an agricultural awareness website which includes lobbying on small farm issues. They create beauty and bath items produced within the highest traditional moral and ethical standards, and “truth in labeling.” According to Pat, “We provide our clientèle with all the information that they need, including scientific peer-reviews, so that they can make educated decisions on what they will put on their skin, the largest organ on their body, and into their bodies. We feel they deserve that information.” It is ironic that in Etsy’s policy statement their # 1 rule in regard to posting is that it not be “false, inaccurate or misleading”. By not telling the public about the historical/traditional benefits of the ingredients in Shepherd’s Heart products, the company would be violating Etsy’s policy and deceiving Shepherd’s Heart clientèle.
Consumer’s were delighted when Shepherds Heart opened for business bringing them over 400 wholesome products made from pure ingredients like raw goat milk, virgin olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil. Shepherds Heart health artisans then add high quality essential oils which historically have treated various afflictions, clays for color and to draw out toxins (including radiation), and accents of herbs and florals grown in our own pesticide-free gardens, or wild-craft gathered flora, which add beauty as well as healing. “When our original webmaster was unable to handle our volume we sought out another venue for our extensive line of products which includes handcrafted goat milk soaps, Castile soaps, creams, lotions, lip balms, and other bath products.” “Demanding that our company cease from sharing the goodness of natural healing is the crime. How will we teach the next generation the healing arts if we are forbidden from sharing what ingredients have traditionally and historically been able to accomplish?” asks Celeste. We believe that our customers are perfectly capable of analyzing the information presented and making decisions for themselves.
When Shepherd’s Heart was contacted by Etsy’s ‘Integrity’ Department they claimed, “That one or more items in your shop appear to make medical drug claims.” Such claims link a product to the cure or treatment of a health condition or disease. Medical drug claims are prohibited on Etsy. We require that you remove these claims from the presentation of you shop listings.” Etsy continues, “Please note that this includes any historical references to medical drug uses for a given item, even if such claims are no longer widely believed. Furthermore, the presence of a disclaimer that the item is not FDA approved, will not make a medical drug claim meet our criteria. By agreeing to Etsy’s policies, our sellers agree to follow all applicable laws related to their items and the use of our services.” Etsy reserves the right to change their policy anytime so this is another case of a living document that continually evolves and the average person never knows what the law really is. What is really annoying is that vendors have to pay whatever they do. Etsy clarified their policy from: “Drugs, medical drug claims about an item, drug paraphernalia: We have clarified the previous language from “drug-like substances” to now be “medical drug claims about an item.” When asked what laws or regulations Shepherd’s Heart was in violation of Etsy has remained silent. We are on the edge of a precipice states Pat. “We need to take a stand now against this continuing nonsense.”
Not only were Pat and Celeste shocked and horrified but countless other vendors were also negatively impacted and are irritated that they must click their heels to Etsy’s new policy or the door will close on this venue for them. For Shepherd’s Heart and others this means the loss of countless hours of creating their own unique websites and a disruption in sales and business as they find other venues for their products. The Internet is a buzz about the new Esty scheme.
Etsy admits on their blog that, “In many cases, items on the prohibited list may be subject to complex legal regulations or restrictions that vary greatly by location. But beyond that, when it comes right down to it, some things just aren’t in the spirit of Etsy. While we understand that it is possible for certain items to be carefully and legally bought and sold, Etsy is just not the right venue for them.”
Where do we go from here? Within each of us there is immense power to stand firm on principles of true integrity, honesty, and what we know to be morally and ethically right. Shepherds Heart refuses to comply with a system that attempts to crush those who bring the healing arts and quality products to consumers. Pat and Celeste say, “We will take our product to other venues that support the integration of therapeutic ingredients into beauty products. We also want to reassure the public that these two grandmothers are certainly not engaged in the illegal drug trade.” The day may come when the FDA does make it a crime to sell healing beauty products but we can be thankful that we are not there yet. But in order to maintain our freedom of choice, we all need to get involved – farmer and consumer - united. Hand in hand we can, and we will, make a positive impact for our health.