The following letter from Priscilla Feral is in response to a letter from Whole Foods CEO John Mackey. Mackey’s original letter follows the FoA response below.
January 20, 2005
Thank you for you reply. You write that you are sorry we are so unhappy about what Whole Foods is trying to do to help farm animals, and you assure us that you are a vegan. But is it vegan to reassure the consciences of concerned shoppers by encouraging them to consume certain kinds of flesh?
You tell us that it is beyond your power to coerce other people to share your vegan philosophy against their will.
It seems that your financial success has led to some cognitive dissonance. It doesn’t seem to be beyond your power to coerce animals to share a meat-eating philosophy.
You inform me that “[e]verything that is alive will die including you, me and all farm animals.”
True indeed. But you and I aren’t spending the primes of our lives being sautéed. We don’t die in the manner and at the moment that someone else decrees. We aren’t procured by people who insist on speaking for us in order to prove the point that selling our bodies can be an ethical choice while we have no choice about anything at all. We aren’t brought into existence for the sole purpose of enhancing some corporate bottom line.
You say, “What matters most is the quality of life while we (and farm animals) are alive.”
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 free and full lives. Ironically, some of the welfare groups agreeing to make the Whole Foods meat section look good are the very same people who decry the slaughter of the free-living horses and other declining species.
You agree that “it would be better if human beings would stop killing, eating, enslaving, and exploiting animals” and yet you, John, with your Animal Compassionate Standards, are investing millions so that those human beings can think in precisely the opposite terms. You are sugar-coating, and thus promoting, what you personally acknowledge as enslavement.
Evidently, you don’t expect your customers to develop the resolve to stop killing, eating, enslaving, and exploiting other animals. Even if they don’t, John, that doesn’t mean you and your business must become part of the exploitation. Yes, we are fully aware that other grocers sell flesh. Indeed, you’ve found a niche market by pointing to their business practices as a foil. It’s a poor reflection on the decisions of Whole Foods Market when the CEO defends them by arguing that there are worse grocers.
Surely, no matter what conditions we see, there could always be something worse. The worst conditions and the most hideous abuses are only permitted because most people — including you and those pious welfare experts who go along with you — think of other animals as commodities in the first place. Animal exploitation — no matter how pretty the package and how high the mark-up — perpetuates the concept that dominating other animals is our right.
Yet you tell us that Whole Foods is going to “help improve the quality of life for millions and perhaps eventually billions of farm animals.” That might be a CEO’s dream, but we view it as an ethical nightmare.
Just as surely as any other meat market will, Whole Foods Market will continue supporting an industry that leads inevitably to deforestation, drought, famine and ultimately war, demonstrating the truth of Tolstoy’s warning that “so long as there are slaughterhouses there will always be battlefields.”
Perhaps Sam Walton wouldn’t understand that. But you, John, really ought to know better.
Very truly yours,
President, Friends of Animals
John Mackey letter to Friends of Animals
January 19, 2005
I’m sorry you are so unhappy about what Whole Foods is trying to do to help farm animals be better treated while they are alive. I am personally a vegan, but it is beyond my power to coerce other people to share my vegan philosophy against their will. I believe you will find the same thing to be true for yourself and that judging and attacking others who differ from you will not help animals. Everything that is alive will die including you, me and all farm animals. What matters most is the quality of life while we (and farm animals) are alive. It this spirit of improving the quality of life for farm animals and helping them to flourish while they live that is the motivation behind Whole Foods work with our Animal Compassionate Standards and our Animal Compassion Foundation. I agree with you that it is not ideal or perfect. I agree with you that it would be better if human beings would stop killing, eating, enslaving, and exploiting animals and I’m personally committed to that very philosophy. However, until everyone becomes a vegan (and that seems highly unlikely to me) we still have to deal with the reality of farm animals lives and how they live while they are alive. What Whole Foods is doing is going to help improve the quality of life for millions and perhaps eventually billions of farm animals. That will be no small accomplishment.
Do you honestly prefer the Factory Farm system that exists today to the more compassionate model that Whole Foods is trying to develop? If so, then why? If not, then why are you attacking us? Why not direct your energies in opposition to Safeway, Kroger, Albertson’s, and Wal-Mart instead of Whole Foods? Surely you know that 100% of the animal products these companies sell have come from Factory Farms of horrible exploitation and cruelty. Isn’t that a better target to go after than Whole Foods who is dedicating millions of dollars to try to improve the quality of farm animals lives?
To view the press release which generated this exchange goto:Whole Foods Promotes “Responsible” and “Compassionate” Flesh Foods