Published on
July 16, 2015

What Is Whole Foods Hiding? Portland activists detained by police, banned from all stores

What is Whole Foods Hiding? Portland activists detained by police, banned from all stores

By Ana Hurwitz

Mei Hua was barely clinging to life when she was rescued.

She is a hen whose name means "beautiful flower.” At the time of her rescue, Mei suffered traumatic head injuries, could not stand on her own two feet, was struggling to breathe, paralyzed from fear and helplessness, and only survived by eating the excrement that covered her while she was locked inside of a Whole Foods farm. Because of what she has endured, Mei has slowly had to relearn how to eat and how to walk.

This Whole Foods farm is a "humane" (humane-certified) farm where all chickens are "cage-free." It enjoys the approval of animal welfare non-profits like the Humane Society and ASPCA.

"Humane" is a word often understood as synonymous with compassionate. Yet the truth is that the living conditions on Whole Foods's "humane" farms, if inflicted unto any of us or our loved ones, would be considered crimes against humanity.

Animal abuse is not uncommon among humane farms, as a recent investigation into a Los Angeles Foster Farms shows. Whole Foods's animal welfare certification permits the slicing off of hens' beaks with hot razors as the company makes billions of dollars from selling murdered animal bodies— bodies of animals like Mei, who just want to live— and calling it compassion.

Earlier this year, an open investigation by the international animal rights network Direct Action Everywhere revealed the horrific conditions in which animals used by Whole Foods are forced to live. The investigation was part of a targeted campaign called "It's Not Food, It's Violence," which aims to expose to the public the realities of (so-called) humane farming.

Since the campaign started, an entire activist chapter in New Haven, Connecticut has been banned from all Whole Foods stores. Sixteen nonviolent demonstrators in Glastonbury, Connecticut were banned. Activists in Tucson, Arizona were served with citations and banned. Several people have been arrested for leafleting.

Now two activists in Portland, Oregon were detained by police, threatened with arrest as well as possible criminal charges, and banned from all Whole Foods stores. Portland activists were also banned from all Safeway stores just days later, for speaking out against animal abuse (Safeway has a similar “humane” animal welfare certification program).

Police were called at a Whole Foods market in Portland after animal rights activists staged a nonviolent protest inside the store with a message of animal liberation, carrying bullhorns and disseminating vegan leaflets. The Day of Action was coordinated with at least forty-four cities across the world. One activist declared, "We are all animals!" as another held a photograph of a (“veal”) calf on a farm and said: "It is time we live our ethics! It is time we widen our circle of compassion!"

So, what is Whole Foods hiding? These places are supposedly open to the public. Yet Whole Foods is clearly willing to use the police as its own armed security force, to protect its profits from the ways this campaign is exposing the blood on their hands. But for all of its guns and money, this international campaign is armed with something even stronger: the truth.


Ana Hurwitz is an organizer with Direct Action Everywhere Portland. She is a Jewish white and visibly disabled woman. She has been active with various revolutionary organizations and is a volunteer with Food Not Bombs in Portland, Oregon. Formerly, she was an organizer with an animal liberation group in Portland, contributor to Sister Species Solidarity, and and an anti-domestic violence and sex worker advocate. 

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