Fighting for animal liberation and an end to speciesism
Lee Hall’s speech at the recent London Vegan Festival, which took a hard look at the international expansion and the “Animal Compassion” rhetoric
of the organic superstore Whole Foods Market, is a magnificent study in
how certain sections of the animal rights movement caved in to
financial interests and to self interest. In personal correspondence
with the editor of the Abolitionist, Lee Hall had this to say:
“Isn’t it amazing that more progressive people have not objected that these trendy marketing ploys make as much of a mockery of ecological values
and humanitarian values as they make of animal advocacy? But in a
culture where at least 97% of people consume animals, and they are all
potential donors to animal charities, few groups choose to risk their
growth potential as the world's forests are broken for animal farms and
People have a deep-seated habit of seeing themselves as superior to other animals, with a natural prerogative to take whatever they find on the planet. Even if people don't consciously acknowledge this. And they'll
justify animal commodification and keep following along with the leaders. < End quote from Lee.
What we do to others we ultimately do to ourselves. It is a tragedy of many layers.
I do think this one issue allows for a complete study of the ills of our profit-based system and how the most fundamentally important values are
subverted through it.”- Claudette Vaughan, 24/08/2007
Backstory: Whole Foods Market has just this summer opened a massive branch in Kensington, London, across from Hyde Park. The retailer is known for its
organic produce; it’s also filled with an array of animal products
surely matched by few other marketplaces. There’s an oyster bar selling
many types of sea animals and a tapas bar selling at least as many types
of land animals. There’s a section of eggs displayed loose so that the
customer may take them in any combination. There, you’ll find eggs such
as Gladys May’s Braddock Whites (“supporting rare breeds”); various
sizes of packages for various sizes of eggs of every shape and hue:
quail eggs, duck eggs, goose eggs, ostrich eggs, and rhea eggs. Walk up
to the wine bar, and you’re greeted with an actual “ham on the bone” -- a
pig’s whole leg on a stand, complete with hoof. The very large butcher
counter has a window through which the customer can view several skinned
torsos, and at the side of this is a poster on the wall of a small lamb
in a field looking up at the photographer. Another wall, upstairs near
the store’s graphic artist’s office, are portraits of various people
with some relationship to the image which the store is projecting of
itself, such as people involved in the movement against pesticides. One
is a picture of Ingrid Newkirk, holding a chicken.
The London Vegan Festival offered a presentation by Lee Hall of the North American animal-rights group Friends of Animals on the question of Whole
Foods Market and its new trademark concept, the Animal Compassion
Foundation. This is a transcript of the presentation held in Kensington,
just yards from the new London branch of Whole Foods Market.
Whole Foods Market Opens in Kensington - How a US Corporation is About to Change Your Groceries. A presentation at the tenth annual London Vegan Festival (19 Aug. 2007,
Kensington Town Hall, London)
Paul Gravett: Thank you, everyone, for coming to this workshop. I’d like to introduce Lee Hall, who is legal officer of Friends of Animals, which is a North
American rights group that is 50 years old this year, and Lee is
actually talking about Whole Foods Market, which is opening very large,
department-store, whole-foods style health food shops in this country.
The first one is just down the road from here, so it’s quite appropriate
that this is where the workshop’s taking place. And particularly,
talking about their record on animal welfare. We’ll hand it over to Lee,
and end with a question-answer period, and we’ll finish at 3.50.
Lee Hall: All right, thank you so much, Paul. If you’re just coming in, there are some handouts at the side, on the table; somebody might be able to pass
them out? Thanks.
Well, what’s happened is, as Paul said, I’m with the group called Friends of Animals, and what’s unique about our group vis-à-vis Whole Foods Market
is that we have held demonstrations at Whole Foods Market, the largest
organic retailer in the world. They have approximately 200 – very close
to 200 stores; they’ve opened 18 new branches in the past year alone. So
they’re opening right now at a rate of more than one a month; they’re
already very well known in North America -- United States and Canada.
They’re based in Texas -- Austin, Texas -- and their CEO, a person named
John Mackey, is the richest organic grocer in the world. In 2004
they took over Fresh & Wild, and Fresh & Wild had six outlets,
and they paid -- and this is a good price -- they paid £21m for Fresh
& Wild. And the reason that’s a good price is that now they’re
converting them into Whole Foods Market, which is their Austin-based
name, and the Kensington one that’s just down the road, I invite you to
visit it, check out what’s going on there. When you get up to the
butcher’s area you’ll get a five-step Animal Welfare Rating Programme.
And it will tell you the five different levels of approval on various
animal products you can buy in Whole Foods Market and just how much
welfare there is -- what the husbandry level is that the animals are
subjected to. There’s a glossary of terms in front and it’s
animal-specific. [And example of the Animal Welfare Rating Programme
book is held up and opened to the Poultry page.] So this one is called
Poultry. And it says Abuse or Mistreatment. And here is the definition.
“Any act, wilful or otherwise, that causes pain or suffering to an
animal; animal cruelty.”
Killing doesn’t count.
Kensington expects that this will be the largest retailer of foods -- completely, organic or not -- in London. And when it opened up, Mary McCartney, the
photographer, of the famous family -- Linda’s meals by the way are now
owned by Hain Celestial which is a North American organic
super-corporation -- so there was Mary at the opening, and there the
projected sales for one year alone is up to £40m. So remember, they took
over the chain for £21m.
They’re expected to expand in Edinburgh, Bristol, Cambridge and Oxford, moving on; the highest number I’ve seen now is that they expect to have 40
stores throughout Britain, and that number I saw in The Independent; and
then they expect to go into continental Europe.
And the New York Times had an op-ed about John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods Market called "Capitalism With a Heart." About the heart. In the
United States -- because this is what’s coming, so you might as well see
what we’ve seen -- what’s going on is there’s a limited amount of
fair-trade stocks. It’s not all fair-trade, including chocolate --
things that seriously need to be fair-trade, if anything does, are
things like chocolate. So, the coffee is supposed to be better; it’s
labelled in certain ways, hard to tell. In North America there’s a
little sign called the Transfair badge and it’s not on all the coffees.
So it’s hard to tell sometimes. And as far as having a heart, when John
Mackey moved into Britain, in the only interview that John Mackey gave,
which was to the Evening Standard, Mackey was talking about people who
run little markets -- such as Portobello Market, you know, wherever
people have market stalls. And Mackey said, well, no London business has
a right to stay open for ever (and this is a direct quote): "Every time
someone comes into a market someone, somewhere is going to get hurt but
I believe in a dynamic, capitalistic economy because customers will
benefit." So as for the small markets, Mackey is saying you might be
displaced, but I believe in that, because, then that’s what the
customers want. But Mark Husson, retail analyst of HSBC in New York,
says: "The Whole Foods brand is not just a place to buy food, it's a
lifestyle brand....And there's also the element where you feel like
you're saving the planet because they're so green.” Continuing on: "It's
very interested in profitability even though it's trying to save the
So, is Whole Foods Market green? Well, in Chicago, which, like the London branch, is huge -- I’m sure some of you have visited the London branch
and know how huge it is; it’s three storeys -- so in Chicago they have a
meat smokehouse, they have a waterfall running throughout the store
hours; and you can find a cheese with the help of an expert, as you’re
sipping a glass of wine through the aisles. It’s been called the
"Disneyland of grocery stores” by its own regional marketing director
Marci Frumkin -- this was in the Arizona Republic just before I left for
England -- this regional marketing director was talking about the new
store in Chandler, Arizona, and calling it the "Disneyland of grocery
stores" and the one in Arizona has a South American meat rotisserie. Now
there are many ways in which we could question how green that is: meat,
South American; and if you go into the Fresh & Wild in Camden
[North London], where you’ll see they’re switching over to the Whole
Foods Market bags now, so it’s very clear that they are shifting over.
The first four fruits, when I just looked at what was central, there
were four, and the four types of fruits were from France, Italy, Mexico,
and Argentina. I could not find any Redwood cheeses; I asked. The
freezer was broken. This was three days ago. But they had all the
regular, animal-based cheeses. They were all out; the freezers were all
working for them. So I said, “Do you have any Redwood?” They did find me
some vegan cheese, although they couldn’t find any Redwood. Well, I’m
buying my Redwood here [at the London Vegan Festival]. And in the United
States, for example in the Arizona store, you can sit down, order a
burger, buy meats, have them cooked right in the store. They have
butchers who will advise you on the cuts of meats and so forth, and they
will work that out for you right there.
In Britain, there’s not enough organic food to go round. And of course, organic is not the same thing as vegan. But Sainsbury's is actually
paying farmers to create organic cheeses, because they don’t have enough
organics so they’re actually paying for these conversions so they’ll
have enough in two years because that’s how long it takes then farms to
convert. So here comes Whole Foods Market. In a place where, how are you
going to find the organic foods unless you search outside Britain? And
in North America they’re coming up with what are being called now
organic superfarms. And the question is whether these huge corporations
that produce on their organic farms are really producing according to
the old standards, or whether something’s being diluted here. And if you
walk into your local markets, which are now struggling for existence
because of this huge corporation -- well, let’s say in part because of
this huge corporation; they still can make it, in little pockets, but
there is competition to get customers who are now going to Whole Foods
Market, and I noticed that when you ask the proprietors for a certain
type of, let’s say, soya milk, and they only have some sugary-sweet sort
of not very good soya milk, and you ask why, and they may say they can
only get what distributed through what’s already been accepted by this
big corporation. “But don’t put be on the record for saying that!” This
is what you’ll be told; the proprietor may say, “I don’t really want to
talk about that, but, yes, we can’t get what we used to get.” So for
example, in a natural food market where I live, there was a petition
taken up for a certain sort of biscuits, because they weren’t selling
them, because they weren’t being accepted by John Mackey for Whole Foods
Market so they fell out of distribution.
Whole Foods Market in the United States owns fish processing plants. This is a quote from the Whole Foods website: "Seafood is really something
special at Whole Foods Market."
Now they have a term, “mission and core culture” -- that’s a term being bandied about; they have a “mission and core culture” that supports
local agriculture. But before their opening, the Observer ran quite an
article on them, and this was in 2006, last year, from the Observer:
"Mackey loves British cheese so much that you can eat Neal's Yard
cheddar in the cafe of his Union Square [New York] store. Stand by for
the wonderful Humboldt Fog goat's cheese from northern California." How
is that part of supporting local agriculture?
Are they compassionate? Well, they have a foundation now, and one of the articles on a business blog I just read calls it a non-profit
foundation. The Animal Compassion Foundation. And they have come up with
this five-step animal-welfare rating guides; you can pick these up. I
only took one. I couldn’t take photographs either. So I grabbed one. I
felt like a real infiltrator over there, because I didn’t have a
shopping cart; I’m thinking they’re going to kick me out of here. But
you can get one; they’re hanging at the tremendous big butcher counter.
And they tell you just how humanely your chicken or your sheep, your
lamb, or your beef cattle or your pigs were raised. And they do have a
five- level coding so for example, of course, just to get to “Whole
Foods Market Benchmark” level, there’s no abuse or mistreatment, but
killing doesn’t count, and it goes up to the second one where you get
outdoor access, and then, if you go to the third one, it’s a certain
amount of vegetative cover on the ground along with your outdoor access,
and there’s no teeth-clipping or tail-docking -- that’s for the pig --
and if you go up to level four, it’s “Animal-Centered” and that’s “no
nose-ringing of sows or detusking of boars.” And “piglets from the same
litter remain together for life.” Then there’s the “Animal-Centered Gold
Standard.” On-farm, humane slaughter required.
Paul: So that implies that the rest of them don’t have to have humane slaughter.
Lee: Well, theirs do, it’s just on what level; but the rest of them don’t have to have on-farm humane slaughter.
Paul: I see; so they could be transported elsewhere and slaughtered -- so-called humanely.
Lee: Well, but you know what, you’re right; I’m looking for “humane slaughter” and --
Paul: Well, they would argue, wouldn’t they, that that’s the law anyway, that all animals are slaughtered humanely.
Lee: You make a very good point, Paul, because that’s only on the Gold Standard; the rest doesn’t even use the “humane slaughter” term.
So, how compassionate is Whole Foods Market? John Mackey donates up to a half-million pounds a year to animal-welfare groups. At the same
time, Whole Foods Market, according to The Independent, gives £5m a year
in low-interest loans to help small, local farmers and producers of
humanely reared meat, dairy, and poultry providers. I wouldn’t say these
words if they weren’t in the paper; what’s humanely reared meat? Is it
an animal, or what? So you see, for a half of a million that goes to the
animal-protection organizations -- who, I guess, would be the people
supporting this stuff -- there’s a lot of money going into the organic
production, just as Sainsbury’s does, of animal packages. So they’ve got
an Animal Welfare page on their website and it says: “We are working
with our knowledgeable and passionate meat and poultry providers.." And
what are they doing? Going around and giving workshops, and doing a form
of animal testing. Because in these standards, there is a certain
amount of days or weeks until these animals have to be weaned, for
example, so they have to work with animal scientists to find out the
difference in weaning animals, what’s the sort of welfare difference.
And how do they gauge these things? Well, in North America, where they
came out with this idea, when it was unveiled in January 2005, they were
quite clear that those who would be assessing it would be the
producers. And of course, they can tell how many animals aren’t killed
in birth an so forth; this husbandry idea does promote the production of
more lucrative products, so you would say the producer would be in the
best position to know, and most animal producers -- animal ranchers,
farmers -- will say, we’re in the position to know how well the animals
Lobsters became an interesting example of a situation in which they were actually going to cut out animals from being stocked. Because people
were complaining, you know, live lobsters. And they said, all right,
until we can be sure they can be transported humanely, we won’t do it.
At first, they vacillated. They said, well, maybe we can come up with
this idea; it was called lobster condos. Maybe we can come up with this
good-looking living situation that will keep them away from children who
could tap on the glass, and looks rather naturalistic. And so they came
up with this idea of these nice-looking penthouses for the lobsters.
But that didn’t work out very well, and there was still the question of
transporting them to the store. So they said no, we’re not going to
stock them any more. And some of the animal-protection groups said,
isn’t that great; but if you read carefully it said until they could
figure out they could be transported humanely. So what did that leave
open? They were going to figure it out when they were in a lucrative
market. Lobsters are expensive; they’re not a high-profit animal to
sell. When they opened in a store in Maine -- a lot of tourists go to
Maine to eat Maine lobsters -- lo and behold! They could have humane
transport of lobsters. And if you read about the way they were devising
this in Maine, how humane are these little slips, upright, so that the
lobsters’ claws are on top, and the lobster’s tail is on the bottom,
these little drop slots? If you read about why these things were
invented, you find out that for lobster salespeople, they like the look
of lobsters when they don’t have the antennae bitten off by their
crate-mates. So they transport them sticking up, vertically. So if you
want to think about when they tell you they are going to have some
compassionate idea, this is what you may well get.
Question from attendee in the front of the room: Are they living, or --
Lee: Yeah, they’re live. They now purport to transport them humanely, because that’s what the promise was: Once they could transport them humanely
they would sell live lobsters. And they never discontinued the dead
ones, the frozen crabs and lobsters were always there.
When you’re looking at the animal scientists, and this began in Canada, the universities at Guelph and Laval, where they started working with animal
scientists. The particular field they work in is applied ethology. And
what they do is measure responses to various stimuli, when you do
various things to animals. This is a form of animal testing, and I would
say it’s an invasive form of animal testing.
Look at Wikipedia, the encyclopaedia on the Internet that anyone can contribute to, and they’re talking about the phenomenon known as
debeaking. And debeaking is what you do to chickens who are crowded
together in stressful circumstances, so they won’t peck each other,
sometimes to death. And of course ruin the flesh, you know. Disability
can be an ethical plus according to ethologists, because they have
figured out that a blind chicken -- there’s a strain of White Leghorn
chickens who are normally blind -- they found out that the blind
chickens don’t peck each other, and they also lay more eggs. Because of
less stress. Chickens are very visual, and they get excited and they
react. Blind chickens don’t peck each other to death or ruin the flesh
of the other chickens. So this idea came up in animal welfare science
that deliberately breeding, modifying chickens to make them blind would
be an animal-welfare plus. So this is the kind of thing you hear
people talking about when they talk about promoting animal welfare. And
don’t think that this kind of thing isn’t also being supported by people
who consider themselves animal advocates. Because it is. I’ll give you
an example. Salon.com, an Internet magazine, they had an interview with
Peter Singer -- everybody knows Peter Singer, writer of Animal
Liberation back in the 70s, is known as an animal-welfare advocate --
and one of the questions was, because birds are now a big thing in
questions of animal husbandry, they said to Peter, what if you could
breed a bird without any wings, so they wouldn’t have to worry about not
stretching them? Because the concern is how big the cages are, and they
don’t have to stretch them if they don’t have them. So what do you
think about that, if we could breed wingless birds. And Peter Singer
said I think that would be an improvement. You’d have to make sure to
eliminate any sort of phantom pain. They also ask Singer well what if
you could breed -- bring into existence
-- brainless chickens? Because then they couldn’t sense the pain at
all. And Singer says I think that would be an improvement. So the
difference between animal-protection advocacy and the multinational
animal-selling movement is not necessarily so far as one might think.
Attendee in back of the room: Peter Singer isn’t seen in most cases as an animal-rights campaigner --
Lee: Right --
Attendee in back of the room: So if you view it in that context, what you were saying, I think all of us would agree with here, I think it’s going to happen no matter what,
you would prefer the bird not to have a brain, or not to have wings, and
he’s also saying he would continue to eat meat if it was grown in
vitro, so if you consider it in that context, that it’s a very limited
context in which he provides those answers --
Lee: Okay, we’ll get more into this. But yes, Peter Singer --
Attendee in front of the room: -- is not a vegan.
Lee: No, Peter Singer’s not a vegan. But you’re right; it’s not an animal-rights perspective. So if you look at Wikipedia, under debeaking, it says,
about blindness, “This method is far superior to any other method of
controlling feather picking.”
Now back to the business blog where they’re talking about Whole Foods Market, and this Animal Compassion Foundation, and what exactly they do.
Dr. Frances Flower [British Research Associate with the Animal
Compassion Foundation] is a person who experiments with cows’ weaning
ages. And they had Dr. Flower visiting a dairy farm in Texas. And this
farmer was writing into the business blog. This is where I saw this
called a non-profit subsidiary of Whole Foods Market. And the person is
talking about “my British White cattle” there, and it’s obvious how
interested this farmer is, because someone from Whole Foods Market is
interested in the “beauty and their docile nature” of “my friendly
British White cattle.” And at the end they’re talking about Frances
Flower and these wonderful, remarkable experiments Dr. Flower does, and
the rancher says: “You may find that a T-Bone steak from a grass fed
steer isn't going to hurt your cholesterol and will provide you with a
plethora of beneficial anti-oxidants.” So here’s a person promoting this
as both a welfare and a health benefit.
Now, this came to a head. They were thinking about doing this at the very beginning in North America in late 2003. And it all came to a head in
January 2005 when it was unveiled, and then through 2006, and finally,
in October 2006, there was a big meeting in New York City. So it’s been
going at this point for close to two years, and what has been going on?
What are the various opinions in the animal-advocacy community in North
America? They called it the Humane Meat Discussion, late 2006, it was
run by Satya magazine which is no longer in existence. And they were
talking about -- well, we were there, Friends of Animals were there to
talk about the idea of co-opting “compassion” in the term Animal
Compassion Foundation and selling meat multinationally. And we talked
about how it got going. In January 2005 when they announced in the
papers that they’d hired this Animal Compassion Foundation director,
Anne Malleau, and they came out with these posters, silhouettes of cows
and pigs and chickens, and the idea that they would have their Global 5%
Day, the first fundraising day where five percent of their global
receipts from this Tuesday in January 2005 would go into this
foundation. By the way the very first one raised over £285,000 and it’s
gone up quite a bit since then. We felt that this was a form of meat
promotion. And on the day that they said we’ve hired Anne Malleau as the
director, their stocks rose up to a record high. This going to show
that the idea of selling animals’ bodies, and basing it on this humane
charity type of idea was extremely popular with the public. Whole Foods
Market gained off of it. And when they were opening Kensington [London],
they had these great big billboards, some of you might have seen them
in Kensington High Street -- they were enormous -- and they were talking
about the Global 5% Day as a form of social responsibility. So they
were getting people who are interested in social justice, who are,
perhaps, potential vegans, thinking that there’s something charitable
about going to this new place that’s about to open. So it’s part of the
advertising. What we did on that first Global 5% Day was held vigils. We
went out to the various Whole Foods Markets and we held up signs that
said: “Humane Meat? Whole Foods Myth.” John Mackey heard we were going
to protest, of course. It became a big deal. And the CEO said in a
letter, Dear Priscilla -- the president of our group -- “…What matters
most is the quality of life while we (and farm animals) are alive.”
Something like Singer would say. And Priscilla wrote back on the 20th of
January 2005: “No, John. What matters most here is that we have the
ability to decide whether to keep bringing other animals into existence
simply to be sold as food, while using up land and water resources that
could be left to animals who really could have full, free lives.”
Then, on January 24th we’re one day before the grand opening of the Global 5% Day, where people are going to shop and five percent of the global
receipts are going to go into the Animal Compassion Foundation, we see a
letter from Peter Singer. This is on the letterhead of Animal Rights
International, so you see the term “animal rights” and this is signed by
Peter Singer. [See handout, attached.]
And it says, to John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, “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 these standards
will improve the lives of millions of animals.” Signed -- and you’ll see
the Humane Society of the United States, which is the world’s richest
animal-protection organization in existence, is there. So are People for
the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Viva USA, Vegan Outreach. And this
was in response to what we had done; in fact, when Satya interviewed
Peter Singer, the interviewer said, Peter, it’s like you’re giving the
middle finger to Priscilla Feral, to Friends of Animals, and Peter said,
yes, I am giving the finger to Friends of Animals. And that’s on the
Some of these people have been in there from the beginning when this first started out. They had concocted this with Whole Foods Market. It wasn’t
just that Whole Foods Market did this on its own. They sat together at a
table. One of the people there was from Viva USA. That particular
person, named Lauren Ornelas -- and this is no secret -- was at the New
York meeting in October 2006. So here’s the person who sat down at the
table, who brought other animal advocates there, to sit down, groups
that had supported Whole Foods Market’s move more than a year in
advance. By the way, I wrote notes at the New York meeting; they’ve
never been contested; I put them up on the Satya forum and can send them
in full to anyone who e-mails me. And Lauren said -- I’m paraphrasing
now -- yes, it was difficult to get all the animal organizations to sit
down at the table and behave themselves. And Lauren Ornelas is talking
to us, saying, you should be happy that John Mackey is now vegan.
And we said, wait, it’s been in the public news that John Mackey eats free-range eggs. And it’s also been in the public news that John Mackey
likes goat cheese. But seems that you’re saying because John Mackey is
conflating the free-range movement with the vegan movement that you’re
trying to redefine something here.
And Lauren Ornelas said there’s a question about eggs if they’re free-range.
And we said no, there’s not. Since 1944, there’s been a definition. The Vegan Society has it on their website. Donald Watson and the other
people who opened the Vegan Society were very clear. It’s unequivocal.
And no, that doesn’t fit. But even if it did, let’s take an analogy: “I
don’t use the sex slaves, I don’t use the prostitutes; I just sell
them.” What do you call that? And it was quiet at that point.
Attendee in front of the room: Can I just -- I just got back from four weeks in your wonderful country, and there I found a lot of use of the phrase “pure vegetarian”
where I would have used vegan. Meaning no use of animal products --
Attendee in front of the room: -- rather than the word “vegan”; and could it be that they’ve confused vegetarian and vegan? Because some vegetarians do eat eggs.
Lee: What you’re bringing up, what you’re leading me to think when you speak about this, is that we need to be serious about the use of the word
Attendee in front of the room: Oh, yeah. Absolutely.
Lee: And that we use it, and that we don’t allow it to be diluted. When you hear somebody saying Mackey is a vegan you’re talking about someone who
eats eggs, who loves goat cheese -- I mean, it’s obvious; you can’t walk
into one of the places in the United States without seeing the goat
cheese -- and says, well the goats are humanely treated; that’s
conflating something else. I don’t know if it’s vegetarianism, Patricia
-- I’m not to call you Pat --
Attendee in front of the room: You can call me anything except Pat.
Lee: So, Patricia, I don’t know if it’s conflating vegetarianism with veganism, or, on the other hand, and I think this really might be the
key here: It’s conflating the free-range movement with veganism, which
is really quite disturbing. The Evening Standard said, and this is
recent, now: “Mackey, a vegan, founded the £3billion-a-year business in a
garage in Texas in 1978.” This is in England.
In the United States, Rocky Mountain News (July 2007): “Mackey remains a vegetarian, and in 2003, he adopted an even stricter diet by becoming a
vegan -- avoiding animal products of any kind--” Now that definition
would have been correct.
Lee: “… after researching factory farming.” Mackey, who is not a vegan, conflates the free-range movement with veganism. And another group at
the New York meeting was -- they’re not really well-known here, but
they’re very well known in the rescue movement in North America -- Farm
Sanctuary, another signatory to Singer’s letter. So the person who leads
that group was there in New York, and said, “You have to understand
business.” This was repeated several times. Well, one thing we said back
to Gene Bauston [currently known as Gene Baur], we said we know that
business as usual is easier and it’s easy to promote this sort of thing,
but nobody said animal rights is easy to achieve. We’re saying, rather,
that it needs the strength of a movement to advance it.
Now, supporting family farms, we could say that’s a way of supporting business, family values; a lot of conservative things. Right now, Ben
and Jerry’s, the U.S. ice cream company -- I see it’s in Whole Foods
Market here -- it’s ice cream, it’s actual dairy ice cream -- and the
big push is to get them to use cage-free eggs. I don’t know why eggs are
used in ice cream, but apparently they are, and this big move in the
animal-protection field is to get them to stop using the normal, battery
eggs and to start using the cage-free eggs, and that passes for a
campaign. You’re spending at least twice, sometimes as much as four
times as much for those eggs. You’re spending money to have farmers
offer expensive eggs. That fits in with some conservative business
We get to the end of this meeting in New York, and Cat Clyne, who was the editor of Satya magazine, ended it by quoting Singer, who has been
talking about how it didn’t really work out with that book I wrote in
the 70s in the way that I wanted it to, and “I think you have to start
thinking about other tactics that will lead not necessarily to a vegan
world but to a world without factory farming.”
So you see the shift: Peter in the seventies, bringing in utilitarianism. All this is not surprising from the utilitarian philosophy, although one
could argue that it doesn’t even suit utilitarianism. When you think
about it, the vegan abolitionist movement began in 1944 when Watson said
-- and it wasn’t about factory farming; it couldn’t have been, in 1944,
about factory farming. What did Watson see, on the family farm? Watson
saw free-range chickens! Watson saw free-range pigs! And the question
was, why should they be treated so sweetly, and why I should look
forward to seeing them so much, and this be my favourite uncle, and this
place be a place where I love to go, and I find out that I’m visiting
Death Row! That’s what angered Watson: the pig dying at the end, the
very end, on the farm! This was Level Five, the Whole Foods Gold
Standard: This was being “humanely killed” on the farm, by the uncle.
And that’s exactly what the vegan movement started to challenge in 1944,
when it was founded. Watson was unequivocal.
I haven’t taken a poll, but this is a vegan festival, so I doubt I’m in the minority in this room. But in the room in New York, there were the
17 groups in the majority, with us as the dissent. And we were told that
it’s hard being an activist. You have to feel like you’re accomplishing
something. So if we can get something, then we should take it. In E
magazine, the environmental magazine, I think I read that by opting out
completely of using animal products, you spare 2,400 animals in your
lifetime. You do refrain from use of over 300 animals a year, so in any
case, there’s a good number of animals you spare over a lifetime, and I
think that it’s true that over 24 years of being vegan -- and by the
way, I’m a vegan today because I met the person co-facilitating this
festival, Robin Lane, 24 years ago, and I was persuaded on the spot, and
I think of every day, of what I’ve done, and there’s no way somebody
can tell me that I don’t know, that I can’t feel, that I’m not
accomplishing something every day. And when I saw people walk past the
stall today, “Oh, yeah, I was here last year, and I did it! I became a
vegan. I’m so glad I’m here. Can I have one of your Vegan Starter Guides
so I can give it to somebody else?” They were crediting this festival,
run by Alison and Robin. We can’t measure how much they’ve done, but
it’s certainly measurable. There’s a lot of animals who weren’t eaten
because of what they’ve done over the past ten years, and everything
like this that’s been done since 1944, is what we at Friends of Animals
are trying to further. I recently became a life member of the Vegan
Organic Network. When you’re talking about what we can do, and you’ve
got all these activists going to get laws so there won’t be a certain
small measurement in the size of pig crates -- we could do that, or we
could support vegan organic growing, farming. We could support the
growth of the vegan movement. And the conclusion we’ve come to is that
veganism is direct action that you do every day. Oh, and this is a
controversial issue that we’ve become involved in, the direct action
issue. And there’s loads of people who, in North America, will argue,
and say we have to be very aggressive, very assertive. And my question
is, are you being aggressive, are you being assertive with the movement?
And typically the answer is no, they’re not taking on and challenging
the animal-advocacy community itself, and challenging the
animal-advocacy community itself to become no-nonsense and
plain-speaking as Donald Watson was in 1944. If we need to be assertive
about anything right now, if we’re serious about the idea that a true
peace movement, that truly respecting the Earth, that truly respecting
the biocommunities starts with us, then for heaven’s sake, we’re the
natural leaders right now. People who can offer understanding that
animal agribusiness is a major contributor if not the major contributor
to global warming. It’s not just meat, flesh. It’s also dairy. It’s the
whole animal agribusiness thing. And opting out is the single best thing
we can do. We should be leaders right now. The papers and the
politicians should be asking our advice; we shouldn’t be in shenanigans
with Whole Foods Market, figuring out how we can take up more pasture
per person. And when we’re thinking about the various advocacy movements
in other countries, now there’s China, the third biggest milk producer
in the world, after the United States and India. So not only are we
looking at this expansion of dairy products, which is going to be
tremendous, but also, how are we as role models? As activists? How are
other people seeing what we are doing wherever we are? And are they
saying, oh, that’s activism? To promote more pasture?
Vegan festivals are in Bristol now, they’re in Sweden. In the United States, you just came to one, Patricia; the North American Vegetarian Society
had an all-vegan festival and conference, and it seems Australia will be
coming next. So I would say that abolitionism does work. Now if people
will stop trying to interrupt it.
Paul: Thank you, Lee. [Applause.] Maybe just a couple of questions. We have to leave by four o’clock so in about ten minutes. I think the guy in the
back had his hand up.
Attendee in back row: I wholly appreciate your point of view and it’s great that we have the forum and are discussing it. I’m a staunch supporter of Farm Sanctuary,
and I’m a little concerned about your point of view, as it sounds to me
that veganism has to be a movement where everyone wants to achieve the
same thing. And if you don’t, it’s considered that it’s defeating the
vegan movement. Where my own personal view is that, for instance, Peter
Singer probably wanted the individuals in the 20th century to accomplish
more for animal rights on a global level, because he’s of the view
that, well, we’re in a world where people eat meat, people abuse
animals; what can we do to alleviate the suffering even on a minute
scale, because even on a minute scale, if you times it by billions of
animals that are being slaughtered, it really is a lot. I mean, with his
latest book that’s come out, in the last six months, even people who
have never been vegetarian are learning about where their food comes
from, and they’re putting a face to the slice of meat on the plate and
where the butcher is. So, whilst you don’t support the Whole Foods
issue, people are going to buy meat anyway, whether it’s from Tesco,
from Morrison’s; isn’t it better to provide an alternative? None of us
would eat it, but at least it’s there, it’s available --
Lee: Well, my concern is that if they can appreciate that on the moral level, on an ethical level, that we may be missing an opportunity to
talk with them at a deeper moral level.
Attendee: Don’t you think it’s incremental? I mean, I don’t think --
Lee: I think veganism is incremental; we do it one step -- one person at a time.
Attendee: Right, so isn’t the first thing to get people thinking about where their food comes from?
Lee: Yes, but I think promoting veganism does that. The idea that we do not need to eat it. We’re unnecessarily doing all this damage to other
animals, to ourselves, and to the planet.
Attendee: Right. Most humans prefer not to think about it. For instance, in Australia, where I’m from, you see animals on the roads; you see
triple-deckers and the sheeps’ heads sticking out.
Patricia: You can see that here. You can see it where I live.
Attendee from Australia: Well, in central London --
Patricia: You don’t see cattle trucks in central London, but you get on the A1 [cross-talk]; that, if you’ll excuse my saying so, is a London-centric
attitude, that you can give the impression that if you buy it organic
then it’s okay.
Attendee from Australia: No, I’m not saying that; I’m saying the way you get people thinking isn’t by confronting them.
Patricia: You don’t convert people to veganism by saying it’s okay to eat meat.
Attendee from Australia: I totally disagree, because I have converted people to vegetarianism incrementally.
Patricia: I’ve converted people to veganism, from eating meat one day to being vegan the next day. Not intending to; just by talking to them. And then I
found out later, next time I’ve seen them -- it might have been a few
months later -- that they’ve been vegan, from what I said. But I never
said, oh, well, if it’s organic it’s okay.
Attendee from Australia: I’m not saying that. It’s the better of two evils. [Cross-talk.] I totally believe in animal rights; you shouldn’t be directing anger at
me. We live in a world where people eat meat. We can’t change that, no
matter how much campaigning we --
A third attendee: We can try. [Cross-talk]
Attendee from Australia: I was outside Selfridges yesterday, and my girlfriend was wearing a duck suit, trying to convince people not to buy foie gras. The reaction I
got from people was “I don’t give an F where it came from, the more
harm that was involved, the better.” So when you meet those kind of
people, tell me how you’re going to convert them to veganism.
Lee: We might need to go outside the door -- [Laughter] because I think we’re being --
Robin Lane: We’ve got another talk in here at four o’clock. I know you’d like to carry on; it’s a really interesting subject. But we’ve got our Animals
Count presentation here in about three minutes, so -- I’m sure that Lee
would like to continue talking with you outside then.
Lee: Certainly would.
1 For further information see “Passionate Meat and Poultry Providers, Coming to a Town Near You” – Arkangel (Spring 2007); and John Alridge, “Peace,
Love and Profit - Meet the World's Richest Organic Grocer” - The
Observer (29 Jan. 2006). For other references or questions on this
article, or to track any references whose links may expire, contact email@example.com.
2 “Peace, Love and Profit - Meet the World's Richest Organic Grocer” - The Observer (see above).
3 For a reference see Patricia Dickenson, “Blind Chickens Lay More Eggs” - Guelph Mercury (Ontario, Canada; 22 Jun. 2007), quoting Assistant
Professor Gregoy Bedecarrats at the University of Guelph as calling
manipulated lighting a “management tool.”
4 This was noted by Paul Tharp, "Whole Foods Kills Them Softly" - NYPost.com (19 Jan. 2005).
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