Last month, activists from Direct Action Everywhere went into a certified “humane” chicken farm that provides eggs to Whole Foods Market and Organic Valley. What they found was anything but humane. Their video shows chickens in tightly crowded conditions with thick dust and soot, chickens who lost feathers due to stress, and birds trapped in pits of manure. They rescued a chicken named Mei, who was found to have head trauma, dehydration, and suffering from starvation. The facility they entered was Petaluma farms, located in California. The farm, of course, claims these conditions were exaggerated.
Is Humanely Raised Meat a Myth?
The term “humane” itself, even when not applied to the slaughter of animals, can be a bit Orwellian, in my opinion. I once heard someone say that torture is very humane as humans are the only living species that consciously engage in this horrendous practice.
As far as raising animals for food goes, there are a few different organizations, with different standards, that determine if animals are treated humanely. I’m not aware of any animal that wants to die so humans can dine on their flesh. Again, this takes the term “humane slaughter” right out of George Orwell’s 1984.
But let’s focus on the animal welfare standards at Whole Foods. They allow the castration of piglets and debeaking of chickens without the use of any painkillers. Their Global Animal Partnership’s 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating system only applies to meat, not dairy or eggs. And now, they are now selling the slaughtered flesh of rabbits in some of their stores. An article by Alicia Graef points out the many problems with WFM being able to properly assure if the rabbits are being treated humanely or if it’s even possible at all.
Why Target Whole Foods? Aren’t They Highly Vegan Friendly?
Whole Foods undoubtedly sells a lot of plant based products and I think it goes without saying most vegans and animal rights activists appreciate WFM for that reason. But, that doesn’t make the fact that this corporation participates in animal suffering and abuse acceptable. That’s like turning a blind eye to the animal abuse at the circus if they were to serve an all vegan menu.
Money talks and WFM is buying portions of the animal rights/welfare movement to keep them quiet while increasing their bottom line. Brian Burns says it best:
“Despite its horrible record of animal abuse, some of the most prominent figures and groups in the movement, including Peter Singer, publicly thanked Whole Foods for its compassion towards animals. Whole Foods CEO John Mackey even sits on the board of the largest animal protection group in the country! This is an invasion of the movement snatchers. And we can’t let them succeed. Because if they do, they will have bought out our movement’s greatest strengths: our integrity and our soul.”
Or, as James LaVeck puts it in his essay Compassion for Sale?, “caused based marketing” is based on perception and not by actually practicing compassion toward animals. This a great tactic to increase sales while keeping the animal rights activists standing down.
Whole Foods Has a History of Deception
As an organic and non GMO activist, I’ve been criticized for exposing the lies of Whole Foods. First of all, as journalist/radio host/writer/activist it is my responsibility to report on information as it is. Just because a corporation is doing better in the world organic, in comparison to their perceived competition at least, doesn’t give them a free pass from me. Just because Whole Foods is ahead of the game on GMO labeling (if they were really a company based on conscious capitalism, they would ban GMOs from their stores), doesn’t make it acceptable for them to fool consumers with a highly deceitful “animal welfare” program.
Have we already forgotten why WFM changed their tune on GMO labeling? This happened only after a group known as the Organic Spies went into Whole Foods with hidden cameras and caught over 20 employees denying there were any GMO products in their store! It was later confirmed by a former Whole Foods team member that in the new employee training program they were told specifically that the store carried no GMOs. WFM team members have also been caught lying about the toxic heavy metal load in many products they sell containing brown rice protein.
And, if the above weren’t enough, what about the time when John Mackey, Whole Foods co-CEO and co-founder, was posting on Yahoo Finance under a pseudonym playing cheerleader for Whole Foods successes while defaming Wild Oats, it’s competition at that time? Oh, how soon we forget! Mike Adams even reported, “Mackey even used his fake blogger name to — get this — admire himself! “While I’m not a ‘Mackey groupie,’ I do admire what the man has accomplished,” he wrote about himself. (Seriously.)” Wow. I would love for Whole Foods Market to be a strong ally in the alternative health world, but, sadly, it’s a company that has been caught deceiving their customers over and over again.
Whole Foods Leaked Orwellian Internal Memo
I recently received a leaked internal memo from a WFM team member. Obviously, the company was well aware of the planned protest from Direct Action Everywhere. In the memo was a few bizarre and slightly disturbing statements.
“The group [Direct Action Everywhere] is using our well known brand to push their own anti-meat agenda; they do not care about animal welfare but rather an end to animal agriculture.”
Does Whole Foods really expect us to believe that telling their employees people who want animals living their full, natural lives do not care about animal welfare? But, rather grocery chains that raise animals for slaughter and sell their flesh for profit are the ones who do? Do they really think that ending animal agriculture is not for the welfare of the animals? Does Whole Foods also tell their employees that 2 + 2=5?
“Local facebook pages for each city will provide information on timing and number of participants, so we encourage you to proactively monitor.”
I wonder if this was in the job description when the manager at your local Whole Foods got hired. Not that I think this is a completely unreasonable response, but I’m not sure management at a grocery store should be fine with the corporate brass asking them to play CIA operative.
Whole Foods Is The Grocery Market Trendsetter
The reason Whole Foods needs to be targeted for humane-washing is because they set the trend in the grocery store market. If it wasn’t for Whole Foods, there would likely be no organic products being sold in conventional grocery stores, let alone some of these chains having dedicated “natural” aisles (although, these aisles still carry a lot of junk that are very far from natural).
There is a huge and ever growing market for people who care about what they put into their body and that market is slowly, but surely turning into “conscious consumers” or people who care about the karmic footprint their purchases leave. Whole Foods knows this and other major grocery chains will certainly follow their lead.
In a sane society based on love and compassion, no living, breathing creature deserves a life of pain and suffering. And, I’m not sure any company who’s business model is to maximize profit by selling as much flesh, excretion or eggs from animals as they possibly can will truly live up to any legitimate humane standards.