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Advocacy-Industry Collaboration

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Deconstructing the Myth

Authored by Utilitarian philosopher Peter Singer, this letter put the credibility of 17 animal advocacy organizations behind a new set of standards for the use and killing of animals, thereby providing Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, one of the nation's largest meat sellers, with a significant marketing boost.

Can initiatives like this have unintended consequences, such as short-changing the ethical development of the very people who are being targeted as customers by Whole Foods because of their concern for animals? Did this letter, which was displayed at the cash registers at Whole Foods and made available to the media as part of a Whole Foods public relations campaign, contribute to a misleading and falsely reassuring message about what animals actually go through in order to satisfy buyers' appetites for their flesh and by-products?

Regardless of their good intentions, if participating animal advocates end up helping make the use and killing of animals both more acceptable and more profitable, are they at risk of engaging in a conflict of interest?

A glance at some of the details of these "animal compassionate" standards highlights the irony of idealistic organizations collaborating with a large corporation that derives significant profits from selling animal products.

From the Whole Foods Market Natural Meat Program and Animal Compassionate Standards for Pigs: "If an illness or injury is serious enough for the animal to be killed, the animal must be promptly and humanely euthanized on the farm. Although at this time there are few alternatives to blunt trauma for piglets, there is research being conducted to develop more humane euthanasia possibilities for neonates."

In the real world of animal agribusiness, which is ultimately governed by the laws of economics, this language could be translated roughly as follows: "If an animal gets sick, and treating them will cost more than their cash value, we will kill them in the nicest way we can, as long as it doesn't cost too much. In the case of baby pigs, this means bashing them in the head with a blunt instrument. But we're looking for a nicer way to do it."

Even several years after publication of the Whole Foods letter, not even one of the "animal compassionate" standards was ever put in place in the US. Yet Whole Foods reaped all the benefits from a widespread public perception that it is "animal-friendly." This raises even more questions about why so many organizations would lend the power of their good names to a corporation that had done little more than express an intention to make things somewhat better for the animals used and killed for its profits.

To learn more about the politics of the Whole Food's letter, read Compassion for Sale? Doublethink Meets Doublefeel as Happy Meat Comes of Age

To learn how the agenda of large corporate animal charities and that of one of the largest meat retailers in America merged, ushering in the "happy meat" era during which self-described vegans began developing and promoting "new and improved" animal products, view the 12 minute video,"Breaking Veganism"

To see how the reputation of formerly respected animal advocates, along with the credibility of large animal protection charities, are currently being put in service of developing and promoting misleading "humane" labeling schemes which serve to increase profits for animal-exploiting mega-corporations like Whole Foods, view the 9 minute video Putting the Happy in Happy Meat

"In matters of conscience, the law of the majority has no place."

-- Gandhi


Letter from 17 Animal Advocacy Organizations Endorsing Whole Foods' "Animal Compassionate" Standards

Regardless of their good intentions, if participating animal advocates help make the use and killing of animals both more acceptable and more profitable, are they at risk of engaging in a conflict of interest?

Source: WHOLE FOODS WEB SITE   Jan 2005   1/24/2005
Click here for direct link to source

The text of the letter is as follows:


John Mackey
Chief Executive Officer
Whole Foods Market
500 Bowie St.
Austin, TX 78703

January 24, 2005

Dear John,

The undersigned animal welfare, animal protection and animal rights organizations would like to express their appreciation and support for the pioneering initiative being taken by Whole Foods Market in setting Farm Animal Compassionate Standards. We hope and expect that these standards will improve the lives of millions of animals.

Animal Rights International (ARI)

Animal Welfare Institute

Animal Place

Animal Protection Institute (API)

Association of Vets for Animal Rights (AVAR)

Bay Area Vegetarians

Christian Vegetarian Association

Compassion Over Killing (COK)

Doris Day Animal League

East Bay Animal Advocates

Farm Sanctuary

Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PeTA)

Mercy for Animals

Northwest In defense of Animals

Vegan Outreach

Viva! USA


Peter Singer
President, Animal Rights International

[HM entry note: This letter was displayed on the Whole Foods web site for nearly three years, and then was removed in the fall of 2007. Mention of the letter, referred to as a "statement of support", can be found in a Whole Foods press release dated January 26, 2005. Also one can read an article about how the letter was prominently displayed at Whole Foods Markets' checkout counters.]

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