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Investigation Reveals Shocking Truth Behind Whole Foods’ Thanksgiving Turkey
Activists Allege Fraudulent Health, Environmental and Welfare Claims by National Grocery Chain
November 24, 2015, San Francisco – Today, a team of investigators with the animal rights network Direct Action Everywhere, led by a former professor of law at Northwestern University, released an exposé and investigatory report showing fraud, violation of state environmental law, and widespread animal cruelty at a major Whole Foods turkey supplier, Diestel Turkey Ranch. The investigation has been featured in the Wall Street Journal and Washington post.
Press Call & Conference information:
What: Press call regarding investigation of major national retailer and turkey supplier
When: Tuesday, November 24, 9 am Pacific, 12 pm Eastern
Details: GoToWebinar link here, meeting ID 141-984-459. If you have questions, do not hesitate to contact us.
A separate in-person press conference will be held in San Francisco on Tuesday at 12:30 pm Pacific.
What: Press conference regarding investigation of major turkey supplier
When: Tuesday, November 24, 12:30 pm Pacific
Where: 2001 Market Street, San Francisco, CA, 94114
“They have the thieves guarding the house from bandits,” DxE lead investigator Wayne Hsiung said. “The system is set up to deceive consumers and abuse animals.”
In promotional videos and ads distributed by Whole Foods, Diestel, which slaughters approximately two million birds every year, markets itself as free of chemicals, environmentally friendly, and humane. Indeed, Diestel is one of only three farms out of over 2100 that have received the highest 5+ rating under Whole Foods animal welfare marketing program. Yet investigators found chemical agents to suppress disease or treat illness, criminal violations of air or water quality standards, and cramped, filthy sheds packed with tens of thousands of languishing birds in Diestel’s Jamestown, CA facility. Records revealed up to 7% of birds dying every week. Birds were often found with dangerously inflamed crops, open sores, crippled legs, or without feathers. A small number of animals were so sick that investigators were morally compelled to remove them for emergency medical attention.
"As a nation, we celebrate Thanksgiving without a thought for the animal on the table," said investigator and Direct Action Everywhere organizer Chris Van Breen. "It's a deadly feast, with over 45 million turkeys killed every Thanksgiving alone. We hope this investigation will bring to light the violence that's typically hidden behind closed doors every year."
Investigators in addition found that all of Whole Foods’ advertising of Diestel Turkey Ranch, which featured birds roaming on open pastures, comes from only one of its farms located in Sonora, CA. A 2013 water usage report indicated that this “showcase” farm supplied less than 1% of Diestel’s turkeys through 2011, and ceased to be a commercial turkey producer in 2012– despite its continued public prominence in Whole Foods’ advertising. When investigators visited this showcase farm posing as customers, a Diestel employee said, “All of our turkeys are raised in the same manner as our turkeys are here.”
"When Whole Foods tells consumers that its tortured turkeys come from a happy farm that doesn't exist, that's humanewashing," said investigator and Direct Action Everywhere campaign coordinator Priya Sawhney.
Investigators say the fraud at Whole Foods is systemic. Tax reports reveal that the Global Animal Partnership (GAP), the 501(c)(3) which oversees Whole Foods’ “5-Step” animal welfare rating system and uses handpicked third-party auditors to certify Whole Foods’ meat suppliers, is in fact funded 90-95% by Whole Foods itself. While GAP publicly states that it oversees nearly 300 million animals, it has a tiny staff which was paid less than $100,000 in total salary in 2014. Moreover, GAP’s former executive director served as a Whole Foods’ Global Meat Coordinator prior to being hired by GAP.
Investigators, who anticipate legal action against Whole Foods, say these facts expose the company’s “sustainable” and “humane” marketing scheme as an attempt in public relations rather than genuine reform. They further claim that their findings indict animal agriculture at large. They say that if the best “humane” facilities practice extensive violence against animals, then the entire industry deserves scrutiny. They are calling for Whole Foods to stop its fraudulent marketing and remove meat from its shelves. Protests against Whole Foods are planned this weekend in dozens of cities.
Direct Action Everywhere is an international network of animal rights activists challenging speciesism in society. We use creative protest to challenge the use of animals for food, clothing, experimentation, and entertainment. Visit Direct Action Everywhere on facebook and on our website. Follow us on Twitter @DxEverywhere.
See the investigation website deadlyfeast.com for photos, video, and more.
See a fact sheet and full investigative report here. Details include violations of Whole Foods' own animal welfare standards, a water report indicating that Whole Foods' "showcase" turkey farm isn't a farm at all, and stories of two birds - Sarah and Angie - who were rescued from the farm.
Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) is a grassroots animal rights network of animal rights activists. Starting in the San Francisco Bay Area in late 2013, DxE has since grown to have participating chapters in over 130 cities in 20 different countries. Drawing from the power of the grassroots and groundbreaking social scientific research, DxE uses creative nonviolent protest to challenge speciesism throughout society.
In January 2015, DxE released an investigation of a “Certified Humane” Whole Foods egg supplier, which was covered in the New York Times and Mother Jones among 50 other media outlets. In conjunction, DxE launched a campaign against the company, “Truth Matters”, which seeks to target Whole Foods’ false “humane” advertising, most prominent in their $20 million “Values Matter” PR campaign.
Shortly after the investigation, DxE launched its Open Rescue network, which provides open-source educational tools and resources to democratize investigatory work. The Open Rescue Network intends to serve as infrastructure for independent, grassroots teams of animal rights investigators around the world.