Last year, Whole Foods Market made waves by
establishing the Animal Compassion Foundation. A handful of
animal activists were invited to join meat producers, animal
welfare experts and executives to devise the best living conditions
possible for farmed animals raised and slaughtered for the
display cases of Whole Foods. This move was embraced by many
animal rights and protection organizations.
On January 25, 2005, Whole Foods donated five percent
of their total sales to jump-start the foundation. In
the PR section of their website,
Whole Foods has a letter dated January 24, 2005, from Peter Singer on
Animal Rights International letterhead signed by 17 different animal
rights, animal protection and vegan advocacy groups who “express
their appreciation and support for the pioneering initiative being taken
by Whole Foods Market in setting Farm Animal Compassionate Standards.” [See
When we at Satya discovered this letter it gave us pause. And
made us ask questions and investigate.
Eventually we will see animal products sold in Whole Foods with the Animal
Compassion logo on them. What does it mean when body parts of dead animals
are emblazoned with some of the words most precious to the animal rights
movement? Humane. Compassion. Free.
What does it mean when animal protection organizations publicly endorse
and direct resources into supporting such programs?
What does it mean when a major corporation like Whole Foods uses this
endorsement and involvement to promote their efforts?
Walk into any meat or dairy section of your local grocery or natural
foods store and you’ll notice the labels: “Certified Humane,” “Naturally
Raised,” “Cage-Free,” “Organic,” “Free-Range” and
so on. These give the vague impression that the animals used or killed
are given a certain level of consideration, allowed a somewhat natural
life. While a handful of these labels adhere to solid guidelines, many
of them are simply marketing ploys designed to help consumers feel good
about the products they are buying—animal exploitation with a smiley
If the label says it’s okay, is that when the critical thinking
More and more we’re hearing “What about ‘humanely raised’ meat?” or “I
used to be vegetarian…” or “It’s okay, I only
buy free-range…” And over the past few months there has been
a flurry of books and articles exploring similar sentiments. Part of
this indicates our success: people are talking about and examining their
food choices. But it’s the solutions they seem to be grabbing on
to, their conscientious carnivorism, that makes us take notice.
Are we somehow sending mixed messages to the general public, perhaps
even giving them excuses to keep eating meat?
James LaVeck, co-founder of Tribe of Heart, observes, “To make
good for the long haul, each of us must consider the possibility that
our choices, however well motivated, may have unintended consequences
none of us desire. Success in the monumental work we have taken on will
only come when our vision of a transformed world is brought into harmony
with the means we use to make that vision come to life.”
No one is disputing whether animal activists care. Anyone working to
reduce the suffering cares. It’s the question of strategy and direction
that is in debate.
This is not about Whole Foods. It’s not the over-simplified animal
welfare vs. abolition argument. This is about the consistency of our
messages and actions and their consequences. It’s about the 10
billion animals killed for meat each year in this country—humanely
raised or not—and what we’re doing to stop that.
In this issue and the next, Satya explores what has until now
been quiet rumblings. Readers will be exposed to many sides of the debate.
We encourage readers to continue the dialogue beyond our pages and invite
you to participate in our online
discussion forum. The more we discuss the issues, the more likely
we are to discover common ground and develop solutions. The animals are
counting on us.