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First-Ever DxE Demo in Mexico City

First-Ever DxE Demo in Mexico City

By Saryta Rodriguez and Juan Carlos Fraga

 

En Julio 2015, la primera demostración de DXE en la Ciudad de México se llevo a cabo. Al enterarse de esta emocionante noticia, me acerqué a la activista con sede en México - Ciudad Juan Carlos Fraga para más detalles. Este fue un evento verdaderamente inspirador, y es un placer para mí compartir puntos de vista de Juan Carlos con ustedes. Disfrute! (Y muchisimas gracias, Juan Carlos!)

In July 2015, the first-ever DxE demo in Mexico City took place. Upon hearing this exciting news, I reached out to Mexico-City-based activist Juan Carlos Fraga for details. This was a truly inspiring event, and it is my pleasure to share Juan Carlos’s insights with you. Enjoy! (And many thanks, Juan Carlos!)

SR: Dondes estaban? (Where were you?)

JC: La acción se llevo a cabo en el centro de la ciudad en una calle en la que hay mucha gente y hay más de 10 restaurantes de comida rápida que venden cuerpos de animales como comida. Logramos hacer la acción en 12 lugares en algunos desde afuera y en otros entrando, estos lugares eran KFC, Mc Donalds, Burger King, Pizzas Hut, Carl's Junior y otros menos conocidos.

The action took place in the city’s center, on a street where there are many people, as well as over ten fast-food restaurants that sell animals’ bodies as food. We ultimately performed the action in 12 locations— some outside and some inside. These places included a KFC, a McDonalds, a Burger King, a Pizza Hut, a Carl's Junior and other lesser-known restaurant chains.

Left to right: Sujeto X, Jelly Mizery, Pako, Nut, Laura, Nelly, Perla, Marce, Fany, Kitty, and two more amazing activists!

Left to right: Sujeto X, Jelly Mizery, Pako, Nut, Laura, Nelly, Perla, Marce, Fany, Kitty, and two more amazing activists!

SR: Cuantos gentes llegaron para participar? (How many people showed up to participate?)

JC: Esperabamos ser menos, pero fuimos muchos— un poco más de 30 personas!

We expected to be few, but wound up being many— just over 30 people!

SR: ¿Cómo la gente viendo reaccionan? Aggresivo? Simpático? Confundido? (How did the people watching react? Aggresively? Sympathetically? Confusedly?)

JC: Algunas personas nos ignoraron e hicieron como que no nos escuchaban, pero fue muy buena la experiencia en un restaurant muy pequeño con solo 4 mesas en el que al terminar, las personas se quedaron muy pensativas y nos aplaudían cuando nos fuimos. En un Burger King, cuando el personal de seguridad intentaba sacarnos una señora les dijo que no nos sacaran que nos dejaran terminar. Lo que fue una experiencia muy buena, y además la señora logró que el policía dejará de molestarnos y nos dejara terminar el speech por lo que, en general, la actitud de la gente fue muy buena, ya que nuestra actitud hacia ellos en todo momento también lo fue. Esperamos haber dejado un mensaje que no olvidarán y que ojalá tomen en cuenta la siguiente vez que van a comer.

Some people ignored us and acted as though they were not listening to us, but we had a great experience in a very small restaurant with only 4 tables in which, at the end, people were very thoughtful and applauded us as we left. In a Burger King, when security personnel tried to kick us out, a lady told them not to do so and to let us finish. It was a very good experience, and the lady also convinced the police stop bothering us and let us finish our speech. So, in general, the attitude of the people was very good, and our attitude towards them at all times was also. We hope to have left a message they will not forget and will hopefully take into account the next time they go to eat.

SR: ¿Qué dijeron la gente que hablaron por los animales? (What did the people who gave speak-outs say?)

Read speak outs here.

SR: Comos te sentiste durante el evento? (How did you feel during the event?)

JC: Al principio me daba un poco de miedo sobre lo que podría hacer el personal de seguridad con nosotros, pero después de que lo hicimos por primera vez fue más fácil. Cometimos muchos errores que seguramente en las siguientes acciones iremos corrigiendo, muchos errores en el speak out pero cada vez los estaremos diciendo mejor!

At first I was a little scared about what security might do to us, but after the first disruption it was easier. We made many mistakes that we will surely correct in future demonstrations, many errors in the speak-out but each time we said it, it got better and better! 

Left to right: Laura, Juan Carlos, Nut, Mimi, Nelly, Kitty

Left to right: Laura, Juan Carlos, Nut, Mimi, Nelly, Kitty

SR: ¿Hay algo más que te gustaría compartir con nosotros acerca de su experiencia? (Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about your experience?)

JC: Me encanta DxE, y también me encanta el compromiso de cada uno de los activistas que he conocido. Me encanta el compromiso de Kitty. Sin ella, y sin el apoyo de Wotko Tristan, ninguna de las acciones que hemos echo habría sido posible. Otros activistas como Chris Van Breen y Priya Sawhney han sido una gran inspiración para nosotros y para quienes quieren unirse a DxE en México D.F. Me encanta también la comunidad que DxE promueve sin importar que tan lejos estemos o nuestras diferencias, siempre y cuando creamos en la justicia y en los derechos para todos los animales. Quiero conocerlos a todos!

I love DxE, and I love the commitment of every one of the activists that I have met in it. I love Kitty’s [Kitty Jones’s] commitment. Without her, and without the support of Wotko Cristan, none of the actions we did would have been posible. Other activists such as Chris Van Breen and Priya Sawhney have been a huge inspiration to us and and for those who want to join DxE Mexico City. I also love the community that DxE promotes: No matter how far apart we are, or how different we are, as long as we believe in justice and rights for all animals. I would like to get to know all of them!

Confronting Chris Christie for the Animals

By Matt Johnson

On August 22, 2015, a group of Direct Action Everywhere activists questioned presidential candidate and Big Ag ally Chris Christie during a Q & A session at the Iowa State Fair.  Their question: Why torture and kill some animals, such as pigs, while respecting others as family, such as dogs?  The activists then took to the stage with a banner and a message of animal liberation, and were promptly removed by state patrol officers.  The action received nationwide press and has breathed life into an area not known for animal activism.  Below, one of the activists, Matt Johnson, shares his story.

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I vividly remember the sinking realization that I was eating the body of an animal at age four.   I left that sandwich on my plate, one bite consumed.  I later told my family that I didn’t want to eat animals— not “meat” or “venison,” but individuals who wanted to live. 

With the best of intentions, people around me consistently reinforced notions that God gave us animals for food and that not consuming animals leads to both physical weakness and generalized poor health.  It seems Big Ag’s insidious misinformation was even more pervasive before the Internet came along.

I settled on vegetarianism, without knowing of such a word.  I was unsure of how to explain my unusual dietary choice, or even if my motivations ultimately made sense.  I felt ashamed, and took major steps to keep this secret.  I attended the same school district from kindergarten through high school, yet even my closest friends never knew.

As an adult, I came to recognize the grasp of conformity and propaganda.  By consuming eggs and breast milk, I was supporting the same ugly, oppressive machine that fuels the consumption of animals’ bodies.  20+ years a vegetarian, I finally cut out the rest of the injustice.  As I did more research, I quickly concluded that mere non-participation was not enough.  Action is what’s required.

Organizing in Iowa with DxE has been a rewarding learning experience.  Animal agriculture is widely regarded as a wholesome and noble pursuit, with its ugly reality kept comfortably out-of-sight.  There are those who side with the victims, yet it is challenging to inspire confident dissent in a setting in which most have family and/or friend ties to animal exploitation. 

I was intrigued when I saw Zach Groff’s disruption of US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.  He had been governor in Iowa and is a major ally of Big Ag.  Zach and I stayed in contact, weighing the idea of a similar disruption in Iowa, which sees lots of political traffic during presidential campaigns.  Chris Christie, also a high-profile villain to animals, was to speak at the Iowa State Fair, which is basically a giant celebration of animal exploitation.

We decided we had to act, and we quickly hammered out a plan.  In the days prior to the event, I had trouble sleeping, feeling both worry and excitement.  Vanessa stepped up to help, but we had no other activists to work with locally.  We then resorted to activists from greater distances: Araceli Rodriguez, Aaron Feigen, and Darla Juergens dropped everything at the last minute and drove through the night to make this happen.  Their dedication is a true inspiration. 

We arrived at the fair around 7:00 AM in advance of Christie’s 11:00 speech.  We secured our front-row seats.  Over the next few anxious hours, we stayed in constant contact via text messaging, working out every detail.  When Christie finally came out, he surprised us by forgoing a speech in favor of a question-and-answer session.  I immediately thought back to Zach's questioning of Tom Vilsack.  Similarly, I was presented a great opportunity to make a connection by telling an animal’s story before the disruption and inevitable hostility.

When the time was right, I took a deep breath and raised my hand.  Per Zach’s insight, I had prepared a “Christie 2016” sign, which I proudly presented with the pleasant smile of a loyal supporter to call on.  (In the video, you see Christie hesitate when he first looks at me, then points to me.)

As I confronted this violent person, my voice shook a bit, and I initially had to avoid eye contact to keep my bearings.  I delivered my lines, which I had rehearsed hundreds of times.  I was actually a bit relieved when he cut me off, as I didn’t really have a coherent question in mind.  Then the others joined me flawlessly as we followed through with the disruption.  The officers seemed confused at our satisfaction as they walked us out of the fair.  (One accused us of “trying to wrap (Christie) up with the banner”.  We couldn’t help but drop the “respectfully decline to answer questions” script, and laughed involuntarily.  We informed them that such was not our objective and that we have plenty of cameras to back us up.)

With the support of this network and determined fellow activists, the Christie disruption has grabbed massive media attention, bringing our message to tens of millions around the world.  I know that we will use this momentum to fuel bigger and bolder things.

Looking back, I consider the four year-old version of myself a personal hero.  Doing a public demonstration in an unwelcoming setting is made much easier with the unwavering knowledge that you are on the side of justice, and of history.  Knowledge I lacked for many years.

We can all find our voice.

The Evidence Bros

THE EVIDENCE BROS

By Zach Groff

All opinions expressed in this piece are my own, and are not intended to represent my employer.

The animal liberation movement has an evidence problem. No, I don't mean the lack of evidence - though that's a problem, too, and any academic researcher willing to take on the task of studying effective activism could do our movement a tremendous favor. I mean a bro culture that treats as settled science what is very much not, and dismisses any argument to the contrary.

The most recent example of this was a post by the "Vegan Bros" advising DxE activists to lie down in a busy street. This is part of their schtick, and I agree that humor is vital for both satire and comic relief. But this unfunny joke reveals, I believe, an insidious dynamic in the modern animal liberation movement.

Activists, frequently men, use “logic” and “science” to quash counterarguments even when these are actually shakily masking common wisdom. For readers of Paul Krugman's blog, this is akin to the Very Serious People: those who present themselves as bold contrarians and demand austerity in the wake of an economic crisis as being what logic demands when in fact there is substantial evidence pointing in the other direction. These Very Serious People portray themselves as evidence-based contrarians when in fact they are the opposite: followers of public opinion that defies much of the evidence. In the animal liberation movement, supporters of "evidence" repeat the words "evidence" and "science" endlessly in response to disruptive or confrontational tactics with the assumption being that serious, evidence-minded people can resist the emotional pull of these protests.

I should note that I am myself a very evidence-minded person. I work at one of the leading research institutions on solutions to global poverty, one that is frequently cited by GiveWell in its charity recommendations. I identify as an Effective Altruist, I have donated substantially to GiveWell top-rated charities, and I believe that evidence should be the primary determinant of what strategies we pursue. I would add that there is a debate to be had over confrontation, but an evidence-based debate would look very different from the discourse of the modern animal liberation movement.

Having an appreciation for evidence means having an appreciation for the uncertainties, weaknesses, and qualifications of specific pieces of evidence. In the case of the animal liberation movement, this means being very careful when we specify precisely how many animals a particular action will save. It also means being open to multiple forms of evidence, provided we account for their underlying assumptions, and being aware of our tendency toward measurability bias: overweighting short-term, direct effects that are concrete and measurable and underweighting longer-term and more diffuse effects.

The case for collective action depends on these longer-term and more diffuse effects. In the immediate term, political scientists have found, voters broadly agree in their hatred of protesters. But conflict inspires activists to join in, attracts readers and attention, and then once a movement builds, 100,000 loud, obnoxious people are not to be mocked and dismissed— they are to be reckoned with and pacified by acceding to their demands. This is not to mention the subtle shifts in opinion that occur when a position begins to be portrayed as a common or significant one by a powerful movement rather than a fringe group.

Political scientists recognize this, as do sociologists and economists. But focus narrowly on the near-term, and all you will see are immediate, negative reactions. Look only at survey data to figure out what appeals to people, and you will miss out on the powerful social norms and emotional context that frame survey responses. Use studies with bias built in to the design, and you can easily find a life-saving impact of leafleting whether or not it exists.

The use of evidence by the "Vegan Bros" and others often commits the oversights mentioned above. At the Animal Rights National Conference, speakers cited debunked studies on leafleting and assumed causality in a downward trend in animals slaughtered that, according to the HSUS's own statistics, has at least stagnated. Yet despite the weakness of this evidence, the effectiveness of strictly accommodationist tactics— tactics that defy historical precedent— retains a stranglehold on the movement, while confrontation, despite a fair amount of research touting its potential (nicely summarized in this blog post), is regarded as freakish.

It is no coincidence that one of the most aggressive promoters of this "evidence" is the Vegan Bros and the bulk of the “evidence” crowd is largely cisgender and heterosexual men. This knee-jerk invocation of "evidence" to guard the prevailing wisdom conforms to narrative that has a long cultural history. From the Book of Genesis to Virgil's Aeneid, Western culture often portrays masculine reason as contrasted with feminine emotion and praises those who dispassionately do what logic demands despite the pull of their heartstrings.

Unsurprisingly, scientific and mathematical fields have a well-documented problem with gender balance. This is problematic in its own right, and as a movement, we stand a risk of alienating women, LGBTQ people and the broader, feminist left. Controversy over this problem is rife, and there's cause for concern about its effects: a peer-reviewed literature review suggests that men have a more autocratic approach to leadership, suggesting that male leadership on the movement's assessment of evidence puts us at risk of discounting alternative views— as seen, for instance, in our movement's all too common disregard of tactics viewed as emotional.

People are motivated not just by facts, but by emotion, and the most effective tactics must take this into account. The emotional content of an action is not a roadmap to its ineffectiveness. Instead, in the context of nonviolence, emotion is part of what makes the action work. Those who dismiss the effectiveness of provocation despite its emotional appeal make a fatal error, for that emotional appeal gives nonviolence its potential, and there is evidence behind this.

The irony is this: people often avoid nonviolent direct action because of their emotions— a desire for popularity, a discomfort with conflict, an inclination to conform. So it is perhaps the bros who are the most emotional of all, despite their attempts to hide this in the guise of reason. This is troubling for a bro, because undertaking nonviolence requires admitting the possibility that evidence and emotion are on the same side, and that those of us who care about the former should get comfortable with the latter.

Why activism, not veganism, is the moral baseline

Activists across the world took action this weekend for animals as part of the international event: #LightThePath (Credit: Pax Ahimsa Gethen)

Activists across the world took action this weekend for animals as part of the international event: #LightThePath (Credit: Pax Ahimsa Gethen)

Why activism, not veganism, is the moral baseline

In the aftermath of the Francione debate, DxE’s cofounder explains why veganism is not enough.

by Wayne Hsiung 

In yesterday’s discussion, Gary Francione repeatedly stated that DxE is “anti-vegan” – implying that we condone the use of animals. This is false. At DxE, we believe that it’s important to avoid personal contributions to animal exploitation, and we have strong norms against using animal products within our community. (Indeed, many of our organizers – including me – take this a step further and refuse to eat with others who are eating animals. Here’s Lauren Gazzola explaining why at last year’s AR conference.)

The difference between DxE and Gary is that, at DxE, we also believe that our personal actions are not enough. That if veganism is a political principle and not a personal choice, we must live out that difference in action.

Let’s use a hypothetical to explain the difference.  

Suppose you come across a mob of people beating a child with a stick.

In the face of nightmarish violence, a global movement for animals grows. #LightThePath to liberation.

“Join us,” they say. “It’s fun.”

The first response to the mob is, “Everyone else is doing it, so I might as well, too. And who knows, maybe they’re right that it’s fun.” This is the unthinking reaction that most people give to the brutal violence raging against animals. While we often condemn them for this choice, moreover, it’s important to note that most people don’t make a real choice. They never say to themselves, “Between torturing and slaughtering billions of gentle baby animals, or not torturing and killing… I choose torture.” As with other historical participants in atrocity, they simply accept the way things are; they are products of the system to which they were born.

Our most basic perceptions of the world – even something as simple as the length of a line – can be hugely distorted by cultural or social influence. And it’s difficult for ordinary people to see atrocity as atrocity, when it has been “made normal.” So yes, participating in mass violence is a shameful and unethical choice, but let’s always keep in mind that, ultimately, this participation is a systemic and not individual problem. (See the recent talk we gave at Northwestern for more on this distinction.)

The second response to the mob is, “I’m not comfortable with beating a child. It’s wrong. So I’m not going to join you.” This is veganism – non-participation in a violent practice. And while it’s certainly preferable to beating the child ourselves, it still falls far short of the moral baseline. Because where we have the power to take some action to help someone who is being abused – whether a human or non-human child (and note that virtually all animals killed by humans are, in fact, children) – we have a duty to do so. Indeed, many jurisdictions make it a crime when we fail to act to assist a helpless person in need.

This is especially true when we have benefitted in some way from the victim’s abuse. For example, while ordinary citizens do not have a duty to intervene in or report violence, if someone joins and partakes in the benefits of such a criminal conspiracy, the law requires them to take action to stop that conspiracy.  For example, suppose that you have been paid to be the getaway driver in an armed robbery. It’s not enough to say, “I won’t participate” after you’ve already been paid. After all, if you have benefitted from the crime, you have a responsibility to stop it.

As beneficiaries of 10,000+ years of human supremacy, and of continuing violence against animals both in captivity and the wild, we are all in this position. We are beneficiaries of a violent conspiracy. Our homes, our gadgets, our streets, and, yes, even our vegan food are products of violence against animals.  (For every animal humans kill for food, there are perhaps 1,000 who suffer and die to habitat loss and climate change.) And simply attempting to remove ourselves, when we continue to benefit from this system of violence, falls far short of our moral duty. So yes, participation in violence is shameful and unethical, but so too is inaction in the face of violence. So too is veganism without action.

But then what is the moral baseline? This brings us to our third response to the mob: action.  “Hey, stop what you are doing!” we might say to the men who are beating the child. Those of us who can muster the courage might try to physically shield the child from the blows. We might call 911, or try to rally other neighbors to help us save the child. We might even use physical force to defend the child and take away the stick. But if we truly seek to fulfill our moral duty in the face of the largest atrocity in history, we must do something beyond inaction.

But if activism is the moral baseline, why do so few vegans take action? There are at least three important reasons. The first is that they have not been taught to do so. Partly due to pseudo-scientific research, our movement is so focused on personal consumer behavior that it loses sight of its reason for existence: not vegan food, but the animals. I’m distressed by the number of conversations among AR activists that start with the tone and color of justice, and end with the tone and color of a vegan cupcake. But this is not a personal but a movement flaw. We need to collectively stop talking about where we can get vegan French fries, and start talking about animals and their lives. We need to make action for animals, not vegan consumerism, the unrelenting focus of our movement.  If people are not taught to act, they will not.

The second reason is that people have no idea what action to take. There is extensive research showing that, if people are presented with too many options, and those options have uncertain effects, they will often be paralyzed by indecision. “I want to help animals, but how?” Anyone who says they have a 100% clear answer to this question “What action?” is deceiving us, but there are big picture insights, from both the practice and scholarship of social movements, that should inform our decisions. One of those big picture insights is that movements rise or fall on the basis of their ability to mobilize and sustain nonviolent direct action. It turns out doing so is rather hard because early movement adopters face ridicule, rejection, or even repression. But it’s not nearly as hard as one might think. In fact, all you need is 3.5% (and probably far less). If you can mobilize 3.5% of the population in sustained and nonviolent civil resistance, you win. Every single time.

DxE's model in one simple infographic. 

This is the reason for DxE’s existence. We don’t need to convince 100% of the public to “go vegan.” We need to inspire those who are already vegan to take action. To give people the mentorship and support they need to speak and act strongly and publicly for animals. To build the organizing capacity, the social institutions, and perhaps most importantly, the culture that our movement needs to change the world in one generation. To create activists, connect them in networks, and inspire those networks to take nonviolent direct action.  

But can we actually succeed? This brings us to the third reason for vegan passivity: hopelessness. Recall the hypothetical we started this discussion with, of a mob attacking a child. While morality requires us to intervene, where we can, it does not and cannot require us to intervene if there is no way to actually stop the violence. Morality cannot require the impossible.

If the raging atrocities against animals are unstoppable, then, we have no obligation to take action. Action requires hope. And hope, in our movement, is seemingly in short supply. Many advocates suggest that the end of animal exploitation might occur hundreds, if not thousands of years from now. They say, with confident regret, that people will most likely always exploit animals. We’ll never get to 3.5%.

But this is nonsense. Indeed, it is a cognitive bias that a distinguished psychologist at Harvard calls “The End of History Fallacy.” Because it turns out, change does happen, and it happens far faster than any one of us can predict. Just a few decades ago, marriage equality would have been unthinkable. Only 1 in 4 supported it, and even progressive politicians rallied to “defend marriage” against the insidious influence of “the homosexual agenda.” A professor of mine in law school, one of the most distinguished progressives in the legal academy, said that, when he started as a professor decades ago, the term “gay rights” sounded like a criminal conspiracy. Yet 20 years later, the tides have turned. Over 60% of the population now supports marriage equality (and a much higher percentage of young people), and it has been enshrined as a constitutional right. Gay rights is no longer a criminal conspiracy. It’s what every upstanding American citizen believes.

We will achieve the same progress for animal rights. Indeed, a recent Gallup poll showed that 32% of the populationhigher than the percentage who supported LGBTQ equality in 1996 – currently believe that animals should have the “same rights as people.” Moreover, this percentage is increasing quickly…. while animal exploiting industries get smaller. (Agriculture, for example, is a vanishingly small percentage of the American economy, and our calculations show that it would take a mere 1-2% of US GDP to rescue every single animal currently in captivity and place them in a sanctuary for the rest of their lives.) Further, animal issues are blowing up in our broader culture. The Dodo founders have pointed out that animals are among the most shared subjects on social media, and an astonishing 79% of people in America say they must be protected from “all suffering and harm.” As Frank Bruni of The New York Times points out, windows into the world of animals are growing, both big and little. And the more we see of animals, the more we realize: they are us. They are our family members, our children, our friends. And when we see they are us, we see, too, our duty to defend.

In the face of all these incredible reasons for optimism, it’s time for us to discard our cynicism and doubt. It’s time for us to be inspired, not to lonely inaction, but empowered activism. And it’s time for our movement to take a new and more confident tone: That we are strong. That we are smart. And that we are inspired.

And we will succeed. 

 

 

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. 


Connecting with the Cause

Connecting with the Cause

By Abraham Santamaria

Abraham Santamaria speaks about animal rights with other inmates after being thrown in prison and violently assaulted at a circus protest.

Abraham Santamaria speaks about animal rights with other inmates after being thrown in prison and violently assaulted at a circus protest.

Original, unedited submission (translation below):

nunca me habia sentido tan solo y privado de mi libertad, me iso sentir mas conectado con la causa que  estoy luchando, cada sonido y grito que escuchaba abeses eran de miedo, y aunque no se compara por lo que los animales pasan, me imajine el terror que vivien cada segundo de su vida,  a acada minuto preguntas y metomaban mis huellas, puerta tras puerta, de un cuarto a otro, privado de mi libertad y ay no acabo todo, cuando me dijieron que me desnudara no lo pude kreer, y no solo eso tube que exponer cada parte de mi cuerpo, me senti violado de mi privasidad, ni si quiera puedo imajinar lo que sienten los patos conejos y cada animal que son desplumados y arrancados de su piel, cuando todavia todavia estan vivos, que horror an de sentir, y al final de pasar tantas puertas y estar enserrado, lo unico que que me dio algo de felisidad fue los gays que estabas encarselados, no pude kreer que tengan energia para sonreir, pero cuando estaba empesando a sonreir, llego la primer comida yu no pude evitar derramar mi lagrimas, solo me imajine lo que estas personas me ivan dar para comer, cuando me dan mi plato exactamente lo que me imajine, ub pedaso de carne medio raro ni siquiera pude imajinar que animal seria, con leche y pankekes, oatmel y una naranja, mi companero de carcel se comio la carne y los pankekes y la leche y me regalo su naranja, nunca boy a olvidar esas fueron las 2 mejores naranjas que comi en mi vida, despues abrieron la puerta de la celda para salir con los demas presos, para mi sorpresa todos fueron muy amables,. cuantas historias que no se an contado, y que algunas nunca se contaran, pero cuando pense que las cosas se estaban calmando, el guardia nos grita ala pared es hora de comer, lo primero que me bino ala mente fue boy a morir de hambre, solo imajinaba lo que nos iban a dar de comer,  cuando nos dieron los platos no pude contener mi llanto y asco, el cuerpo de otros earthling leche que no nos pertenesia a los humanos, y jelatina que probablemente tenia huesos de animales que fueron torturados, lo peor que todos los companeros ansiosos esperban que les diera mi comida, lo unico bueno que me dieron una copa de frijoles, y los tube que lavar con agua x que no sabia con que los abian cosinado, fue una tortura no poder levantarme y comer solo, tube que aguantar con horror mientras todos comian, an pasado un par de anos que no me abia sentado a comer,  con alguien que comiera el cuerpo de animales inosentes en la misma mesa que yo,. Espero que sea la ultima bes que tenga que pasar esa esperiensia, aunque sorprendentemente cuando nos trajieron la comida varios de los compañeros de carcel me empesaron a preguntar que es lo que iba acer, incluso algunos empesaron a decir que si iba a ser una protesta ai adentro de la carcel, o que si me iba a amarrar con cadenas asta que me dieran vegan food, o que nos dieran a todos vegan food, y la reaccion de los que se sentaron en la misma mesa que yo fue muy sorprendente la forma que reaccionaron,  cuando les empese hablar de la realidad de sus platos, y sbre todo el sufrimiento que pasaron desde que nasieron asta el ultimo dia de sus muerte, asta incluso un compañero que tubimos una comversasion sobre los animales y que a el le daban carne especial por que uno de sus apeidos es judio, le tenian que dar kosher meat, y como el tenia control de las comidas que le traian a el, y despues de la comversion que tubimos le pregunte, que si a el le gustaba estar enserrado en la carsel, me dijo no kreo que aya nadie en este mundo que le guste estar enserrado, fue la mejor respuesta que me pudo dar, y le conteste EXACTAMENTE¡¡!!!!!!!!!!!! EXACTAMENTE!!!!! TU LO AS DICHO NADIE PERO NADIE LE GUSTA ESTAR ENCERRADO Y PRIVADO DE SU LIBERTAD, NADIE!!!!! LOS ANIMALES SE SIENTEN DE LA MISMA MANERA, Y ELLOS SON TRATADOS DE UNA MANERA TAN HORRIBLE QUE DESDE EL MOMENTO QUE  NACEN CADA MOMENTO DE SUS VIDAS ASTA EL DIA QUE LES QUITAMOS SUS VIDAS,  Y LO PEOR QUE ELLOS NO ISIERON NADA MALO, SU UNICO CRIMEN DE ELLOS FUE NACER DIFERENTE,  TU PIENSAS  QUE ELLOS LES GUSTA PASAR X ESO, ME RENPONDIO NO KREOO QUE LES GUSTE, LE RESPONDI  TTIENES  TODA LA RASON, A ELLOS NO LES GUSTA, Y ELLOS NO MIRAN LA LUZ DEL TUNEL, ELLOS NUNCA SON LIBRES DESPUES QUE FUERON TORTURADOS TODA  SUS VIDAS, ELLOS NUNCA  TIENEN  O VAN  A TENER ESE MEMENTO DE FELISIDAD  Y SER  LIBRE, al terminar la comversasion  le dije CADA VEZ QUE TENGA QUE COMER PIENSE EN LA MISERABLE VIDA QUE ESTOS ANIMALES VIVIERON, as lo que otros quisieras que isieran  x ti si ubieses  vivido una vida  asi, y cuando estabamos comiendo, se acerco ami y me dijo que si queria su cabbage, quee no tenia ningun dresing solo cabbage, le dije que muchas gracias la puso en mi pllato y que cuando yo saliera de la carcel que no se como la carne y que se coma la cabbege, y para ser honesto no boy a negar que senti temor antes de ablar y decierles que lo que estan asiendo no esta bien y que  que injusto lo que le asemos a estos animales,  la mayoria de ellos an estado en la carcel mas de 3 veses, pero asta parece broma de la vida, que la jente que a sido mas violenta son los que estan afuera de la carsel y no adentro.  let's not forget that what happen to me does not compare to any animal that is raised by the meet industry, or any animal that his skin has been stolen from them, or a animal that lives a whole life forse to entertain people,  or a dog and cats that never found a forever home, or the one who lost their family and never found them back, and cats and dogs that try to survive every day on the streets, and every animal that is surviving in this planet, that we are destroying, we have to make the best of every action, and not to ever give up,  siempre luchar, por que si nos asemos las víctimas los animales pierden.

Translation:

I had never felt so alone and deprived of my liberty, but this made me feel more connected to the cause for which I am fighting. Every cry and scream I heard…At times they were of fear, and although this did not compare to what nonhuman animals go through, I imagined the terror they live in for every second of their lives, wondering every moment as I made tracks through door after door, from one room to another, deprived of my freedom— and that’s not all. When they told me to take my clothes off I could not believe it; I had to expose every part of my body. I felt my privacy being violated, and I can’t even imagine how ducks, rabbits and other animals who are plucked and skinned feel, as this happens to them while they are still alive.

What horror I felt. At the end of passing through so many doors and being imprisoned, the only thing that gave me any sense of joy was the gays who were incarcerated. I couldn’t believed they had the energy to smile, and just as I was starting to smile my first meal was served to me and I couldn’t help but cry. I imagine what these people were going to give me to eat, and when I get my place it is exactly what I imagined—a piece of medium rare meat which it is hard to believe was once a serious animal, with milk and pancakes, oatmeal and an orange.

My fellow prisoners took the pancakes and milk, and one gave me his orange. I’ll never forget it; those were the two best oranges I’ve ever eaten.

The door was opened so we could exit the cell and, much to my surprise, everyone was really nice. So many stories that have not been told, and some that will never be told. Just as I was thinking things had calmed down a little, the guards scream at us to line up against the wall because it’s mealtime. I was starving, but imagined what we would be served, and when we got the dishes I could not contain my tears and disgust. It was the body of another earthling, and milk that does not belong to us. The gelatin probably had the bones of tortured animals in it. Worst of all, my companions were hanging around, eagerly anticipating that I would give them my food.

The only good things they gave me were a cup of beans and a tube to wash them off with water (I didn’t know what the beans had been cooked with). It was torturous for me to not be able to get up and eat alone; I had to take it, with horror, as everyone around me ate. It had been a couple of years since I’d sat to eat with anyone who was eating the body of an innocent animal at my table. I hope that’ll be the last time I ever have to do so.

Surprisingly, when they brought us the food, some of the other inmates started asking me what I was going to do. Some even suggested that I might protest inside of the jail, asking if I was going to tie myself up in chains until they gave me vegan food, I was also surprised at how some of the inmates began to discuss the reality of their dishes, and above all, the suffering the animals had to endure from birth until the day of their deaths.

There was one inmate with whom I had a conversation about animals to whom was given special meat because his last name is Jewish, he had to have kosher meat. We talked about how he had some control over what was given to him. I asked him if he liked being in prison and he said he didn’t think anyone in the world liked being in prison.

I responded: EXACTLY! EXACTLY! No one likes to be imprisoned and denied their liberty, NO ONE! Animals feel the same way, and they are treated so horribly from the moment they are born until they day on which we take away their lives—and the worst part is that THEY DID NOTHING WRONG, their only crime was being born different! They are never free after they are tortured for their entire lives, they never have or will have a moment of joy or liberty.

At the end of the conversation, I told him, “Every time you have to eat, think about the miserable lives dead animals have lived, and imagine if you had to live a life like that.”

As we ate, he offered me his cabbage, saying there was no dressing on it. I said “Thank you very much” and put it on my plate. I asked him to eat the cabbage and not the meat when he got out of prison.

I’ll admit that I was afraid before I spoke and told everyone that what they were doing was not good, that they were committing an injustice against animals. Most of them had been in jail more than three times, but it seems like one of life’s jokes that some of the most violent people are found outside of prison, not in it.

Let's not forget that what happened to me does not compare to what happens to any animal that is raised by the meat industry, or any animal whose skin has been stolen, or an animal who lives a whole life forced to entertain people, or a dog or a cat that never finds a forever home, or ones who lost their family and never found them, and cats and dogs that try to survive every day on the streets, and every animal that is surviving on this planet that we are destroying.

We have to make the best of every action, and not ever give up.

Siempre luchar, por que si nos asemos las víctimas— los animales— pierden.

Always fight, because if we don’t, the victims— the animals— lose.

Turning Crisis into Opportunity

Turning Crisis into Opportunity

In recent weeks, DxE has been bullied, bludgeoned, and even betrayed. But the Chinese word for crisis shares a common character -- ji or  -- with the Chinese word for opportunity. Following that ancient parallel, here’s how we can transform crisis into opportunity.   

by Wayne Hsiung

Punched in the face at a demonstration in May 2014, but still smiling! 

Nearly one year ago to the day, I was slugged in the face by an angry man at a Chipotle protest in San Francisco.

The man was not initially violent, laughing and yelling “Meat! Meat! Meat!’ as he passed our #ItsNotFoodItsViolence protest. But when one of my co-organizers, Priya, began to film him, he became irate.

“Turn that camera off!” he screamed. Priya ignored him.

The man then proceeded to shout at virtually everyone around him that he wanted the camera off. He yelled at passers-by, who scurried away from him. He yelled at the building security guard, who had until that point been quite hostile toward the protest. He even went inside the Chipotle and yelled at store employees, apparently failing to realize that Chipotle management would have no control over…. protesters.

And so he came back outside and proceeded to scream his head off at Priya. But Priya continued to quietly record the man. And before we knew it, he charged her head first, tackling her and throwing her against the plate glass wall of the Chipotle as he fought to get his hands on her iPhone.

I had been talking to a group of 3 passers-by about Chipotle’s humanewashing when it happened. But out of the corner of my eye, I saw that the incident was about to escalate. And when things went bad, I was immediately ready to rush forward, as one of the individuals at our protest who was designated to nonviolently defend our protesters. I pulled the man off of Priya, and did my best to secure her iPhone, which the man had seized from her hand.

“You can’t do this, friend,” I repeatedly said.

But he was in no mood to listen, so after a brief tussle, he threw the phone at me, shattering it when it hit the ground. As I reached down to pick the phone up, he slugged me in the face. He then ran off down the street.

Astonishingly, the first person to run up to me was the Chipotle security guard.

“You want me to go after the guy?” he asked.

“No, no. It’s all right,” I replied.

For the rest of the protest, the security guard, who had been aggressively harassing us and demanding that we leave, became our defender, patrolling back and forth along the protest line with a watchful eye on any potentially violent passers-by. “Is everyone ok?” he asked.

Our adversary became our protector.

Priya, who was unscathed from the incident other than a shattered phone, went right back to protesting. As for me, other than a fat lip and a little blood, I was good to go. I walked back to the three people I had been talking to before the incident and said, “Where were we again?” Mouths agape, they listened even more intently than they had before.

While crisis poses three serious challenges to our network, it also offers 3 important opportunities.

There have recently been far more serious incidents of violence, misconduct, and even betrayal in the DxE network. Activists have been attacked, deceived, and harassed by employees or the police (and, more distressingly, by one another). At moments like these, it’s important to step back and ask, as we asked after the Chipotle incident last May, “How do we handle a crisis?” While crisis poses three serious challenges to our network, it also offers 3 important opportunities.  Let’s break things down.

Challenge #1: Keeping activists safe.

Whether violence at a protest, or misconduct by a member of the community, crisis threatens to cause immediate harm. The first challenge we face, therefore, is to protect those who have been, or will be, victimized. At DxE, we recommend that all chapters have activists trained to be legal observers/representatives, lawyers in place in case something goes wrong, and nonviolence-trained “defenders” in the unlikely event that a protest becomes dangerous. (It's important to point out that, out of hundreds of protests across the world, only a tiny handful, significantly less than 1%, have resulted in violence.) We also have a conflict resolution team, including two members designated to receive misconduct concerns, to immediately intervene in the event a conflict between community members takes a downturn.

The truth is that no matter how good your culture and policies are, crisis will still erupt. When our activists in Southern California were attacked (twice in the past two months), all of them were following standard protocol that we at DxE have been using for over two years without incident. When one of our organizers admitted to a serious breach of trust, even those closest to him were stunned by the confession. In such cases, all we can do is move quickly to ensure that those who are harmed are immediately given support and defense.

Challenge #2: Maintaining confidence in the network.

Crisis also threatens a network’s culture and integrity. As grassroots activists, we rely entirely on the faith that activists hold in the network, and one another, to sustain our commitments. When activists feel unsafe, uncomfortable, or distrustful, we lose our movement’s most important asset: confidence. The key to maintaining this confidence, in turn, is integrity and transparency.

At DxE, we focus on integrity by asking all of our organizers to sign a strong statement of values. These values, along with a clear conflict resolution process, help us ensure that our public faces and voices maintain the honesty, responsibility, empathy, and humility -- the integrity --  that are so key to maintaining confidence within a network.  

We further insist on transparency in all our decisions. Every week, we check in with our community members and ask them for critical feedback at our DxE Meetup. We do the same on an international basis on monthly strategy calls. We open ourselves up to private feedback. And when we become aware of conflict, we do our best to directly and openly address it (while respecting privacy concerns), rather than let it fester in rumor and innuendo.

Challenge #3: Mitigating conflict.

Crisis, because it involves pain and emotional intensity, often leads to conflict even among once close allies. Because we are vulnerable in a moment of crisis, we look for support from our community and friends. And if they do not respond as we would like them to respond, the hurt caused can be both significant and difficult to overcome. Disagreement quickly becomes perceived betrayal.

Did my friends respond swiftly enough? Did they respond strongly enough? Could they have done something to prevent the crisis from happening? These questions naturally go through our heads. And the discord sown by such thoughts can be fatal to a movement.

Jacob Ferguson was an informant who incited his fellow activists... then turned them over to the FBI. 

Worse yet, crisis is a moment of opportunism for those who seek to bring a network or movement down. The classic example is infiltrators. Whether on the payroll of a corporation or the government, a few rumors by a well-positioned activist can send a conflict spiraling out of control. (One of Cointelpro’s specialties in the 1960s was sexual innuendo, e.g. claiming that various activists were gay, which was seen as a mark of shame in that time period.) Others may use crisis to defend or deflect from their own behavior. It’s notable that, in recent controversies involving sexual misconduct, many of the loudest voices condemning other activists have been those who have something to hide, e.g. prior histories of misconduct. (We know this because community members have privately raised concerns about some of the most ostentatious critics.) Finally, even the most well-intentioned activists can sometimes devolve into hatefulness when caught up in a fit of righteous indignation. The New York Times wrote a wonderful piece on this phenomenon just a few days ago, When the Cyber Bully is You.

Some of the greatest activists in history have noted that their movements rose or fell largely on the basis of their ability, not to confront the oppressor, but to productively resolve conflict. (King’s famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail was a response to an attack, not by opponents of civil rights, but allies in the anti-racist struggle!) The beauty of grassroots movements -- their ability to scale up by attracting ordinary people from all walks of life-- becomes their curse when the lack of centralized authority allows conflict to rage throughout the network. Instead of focusing on collective action against systems of oppression, activists devote their time and energy to trying to destroy one another, whether due to real or perceived slights. A large nonprofit, of course, can simply fire discontented employees and force everyone else to get back to work. Grassroots movements have no such power.

So how do we prevent in-fighting from destroying us? There are at least three important mechanisms we use at DxE. First, we focus on creating a culture of nonviolent communication and restorative (rather than retributive) justice. Instead of assigning blame and “calling out,” we focus on restoring harm and “calling in.” No matter how terrible the transgression, we always offer to sit down and talk. Second, we ask our organizers to use private dispute resolution, pursuant to pre-agreed polices, as a first step in managing any conflict. When they deviate from this, we ask them to look to the values they’ve agreed to, and ask them whether they’ve lived up to those values. Third and finally, we always emphasize our shared purpose. The truth is that some conflict cannot be resolved. Whenever you bring together a large group of people, many will have tactical, strategic, or even ethical disagreements that endure despite our best efforts. Learning to live with conflict, by emphasizing shared purpose and opportunities for collaboration despite conflict, is key to effective organizing in the grassroots. (Sometimes, this means stepping apart from one another and working in parallel, rather than as part of the same network or team.)

Rising up to these three challenges -- keeping activists safe, maintaining confidence, and mitigating conflict -- is absolutely crucial to a movement’s vitality. But while the work we do to overcome these challenges can often seem frustrating, depressing, or pointless, it’s important to also see that crisis can also provide opportunities that, in the long term, benefit a movement’s strength and growth.  

Opportunity #1: Crisis teaches us.

One of the most famous mantras of the startup world is that you have to fail to succeed. The idea is quite simple -- that the only way to avoid mistakes is to avoid doing anything at all. The key, then, is whether you learn from a mistake. Indeed, some of the greatest success stories in history, e.g. Steve Jobs and Apple Computer (which was brought to its knees in the 1990s by Microsoft before being revitalized in the 2000s with the iPod and iPhone) were grounded in terrible mistakes.

Crisis presents a powerful teaching moment for us, both individually and collectively. Our attention is paid to an issue. We can look back through time and ask if we could have done anything better. And we have the energy and willpower to change our practices and policies. The physical attacks on activists, for example, have induced us at DxE to make knowing your rights and security culture a more prominent and accessible part of our activist resource database. We’ve made concerted efforts to develop a network of volunteer lawyers across the country. Sexual harassment in the network, in turn, has caused us to put together a clear and visible process for handling sexual misconduct. We’re also offering training and resources for both women and men in handling such difficult situations. Perhaps most importantly, crisis offers a moment for all of us, individually and as communities, to reflect on our own behavior. In the long term, the learning from these moments will help us build a stronger movement.

Opportunity #2: Crisis tests us.

When I was a child, I played basketball on a five foot hoop across the street. While scoring was incredibly easy, it also provided no challenge -- and no proof that I was actually any good as a basketball player. (It turns out I wasn’t any good. I never made the basketball team.)

In times of difficulty, it’s important to remember this. If we don’t face challenges, then we won’t have any opportunity to prove that we can rise to the challenge. This is important not just for the learning function a challenge provides, but because it builds our internal confidence and our external credibility. After recent incidents with violence and police misconduct, for example, my hope is that our activists in Southern California and Tucson feel even more confidence in our ability to swiftly provide support in the event that something goes wrong. Similarly, Priya, who took the lead in handling recent sexual misconduct within the network, has heard countless encouraging stories from women who feel empowered by the fact that DxE took action when we learned of sexual misconduct. While crisis hurts in the short run, then, it also presents an opportunity to test our mettle, and bolster our confidence and credibility, if we can rise to the challenge.  

Remember, if movement building were easy, it would have already been done!

Opportunity #3: Crisis ties us in bonds of solidarity.

Journalist Sebastian Junger, who has reported on war zones across the world, makes a startling observation that individuals who go through horrendous episodes of violence (leading to depression, anxiety and PTSD) often enthusiastically return to the war zone even in the face of debilitating fears. The reason? The shared experience of facing crisis together creates powerful bonds of solidarity. Individuals who have experienced war together feel compelled and even inspired to return, because they care so much for their team that they are prepared to risk their own lives to support their friends.

The attack on DxE activists in Southern California helped us build our confidence, perseverance, and solidarity. 

This is, in fact, one of the most powerful mechanisms of nonviolent direct action. Enduring a difficult situation with fellow activists ties us together in a way that less challenging activism simply does not accomplish. When we collectively speak in difficult social environments, we feel we’ve accomplished something that we would not have been able to do on our own. That empowers us, and our community. And, in a movement that suffers from astonishing rates of burnout, this is a powerful and important effect.

The support shown for Abraham (the gay person of color who was assaulted with homophobic slurs and targeted by the police)  in the wake of the physical violence in Southern California has been absolutely inspiring. We’ve united against a common adversary -- animal abusers -- and offered our moral, physical, and economic support for activists who have been wrongly targeted in a time of crisis. These ties will hold us together as we face even more difficult challenges in the future. And while the road is bumpy -- and some may even drop out on the way there -- taking the difficult road together will ultimately make all of us stronger and more committed to the movement, to the animals, and, yes, to one another.

---

The first time I was attacked a protest about a decade ago (by a police officer, no less), I was shaken to the core. I was at a one-person demonstration on a cold Chicago street, outside of a fur store. And when my face was shoved down onto the cement, I could hardly even believe what had just happened. When I sat in an isolated jail cell afterwards, nursing my scratches and wounds, I could hardly hold myself back from breaking down into tears. I was uncertain about what I would be charged with, stunned by the seeming corruption in the police department, and hopeless about the prospect of continuing as an activist in the face of overwhelming odds.

When I was slugged in the face last year at Chipotle, however, things could not have been any more different. Both Priya and I received immense support and comfort, not just from fellow activists at the demonstration but from the entire DxE network. We talked openly within the community about what we could do to prevent such a future occurrence, or at least ensure that those attacked would be prepared in the face of violence. And instead of pointing fingers at one another -- “Why did you incite him?” or “Why didn’t you move to help more quickly?” -- we focused on our shared purpose, even as we discussed what steps each of us could have taken to ensure that such an incident would not repeat itself.

In the long run, getting slugged in the face in May 2014 became one of the most positive experiences of my activist history.

The Chinese word for crisis shares a common character — ji or 机 — with the Chinese word for opportunity.

This is a more general principle. The Chinese word for crisis shares a common character -- ji or -- with the Chinese word for opportunity. And there is truth to this ancient parallel. If we can rise up to the challenges of crisis, and see them as opportunities to teach us, to test us, and to create ties of solidarity, we can transform even the most painful moments into opportunities to learn, grow, and flourish. 

Why Farm Country Hates Whole Foods (Radio Interview)

Why Farm Country Hates Whole Foods (Radio Interview)

By Wayne Hsiung

The imaging on Whole Foods's cartons shows green pastures. Google Earth reveals the truth: a massive industrial facility. Note the huge latrine pit in the top left (and compare it in size to the semi trucks in the bottom right). 

We went on a radio show in Sonoma County (home of the Whole Foods farm) expecting hostility... but instead got incredible support. The Press Democrat of Santa Rosa, the paper local to the farm, also gave us surprisingly good front-page treatment. What exactly is going on? 

One way to explain it is that press in farm country has less of an interest in defending Whole Foods. The company makes its money in the urban metropolises of the world -- not rural, farm country -- and it spends most of its advertising dollars there, too. That may affect coverage in urban areas. James McWilliams recently took the New York Times to task, for example, for its biased coverage of our investigation. (I'll give my take on that blowup in a future blog post.) One can't help but wonder: How much is the Times's coverage being influenced by Whole Foods's just-announced $20 million advertising campaign

The other key point here is that the press in farm country already knows what our investigation reveals: the company is a fraud. When you drive through farm country, and see the massive industrial sheds instead of the idyllic mythology that Whole Foods portrays to the public, it's impossible to fall for the company's lies. My friend Jon Spear pointed out one vivid example -- the horrible smell of excrement that fills the air near a so-called "cage-free," "organic," "certified humane" facility. Indeed, the very facility we investigated has a latrine pit that is probably larger than a few football fields, and the smell from it is stiflingly bad. (Even the latrine pit, however, cannot compare to the smell from inside one of these facilities. As our videographer pointed out, it's so bad that we wore breathing masks... and still had trouble breathing.) 

There are two lessons to be taken from this. First, don't underestimate farm country. Those who are direct witnesses to the horrendous violence (including environmental violence) done by industrial agriculture are often the first to decry corporate lies. Second, concern over abuse of animals truly is everywhere. Steve Jaxon was as concerned with violence against animals (you hear him audibly gasp a few times as I'm describing what's happening to animals) as he was with corporate fraud. And he is channeling exactly what his listeners feel. Indeed, that is his job. And his reaction to our investigation should give us hope for the world.