Let’s be honest: It’s highly enjoyable watching the civil wars underway among both the Republican and Democratic parties in their presidential primaries. Although the candidates are supposed to be on the same side ideologically, they spend an inordinate amount of time — and money — ripping each other apart.
As a spectator sport, it’s highly entertaining: The name-calling, the vitriol, the personal attacks that hit home in the meanest, most humiliating way.
You gotta love it.
Now, there’s another chapter being written in a civil war between two organizations most people assume are linked together in promoting “alternatives” to conventional American food choices: Whole Foods Market vs. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Their clash is as satisfying, as entertaining, as thoroughly enjoyable as Trump vs. Rubio or Bernie vs. Hillary.
The issue? Whether Whole Foods is actually selling “humane meat.”
Here’s what Whole Foods tells its customers:
“The more you know about our meat, the better. We work with the Global Animal Partnership to certify our producers’ animal welfare practices. There are no crates, cages or crowding. Animals are provided with an enriched environment, with outdoor access. They get to forage, to wallow, to roam. They live their entire lives on one farm, and well-being is the primary focus; efficiency and economy is secondary.”
That has to sound pretty persuasive to the smart, affluent shoppers cruising the aisles at their neighborhood Whole Foods supermarket, right?
Not to our pals at PETA.
Accusations R Us
Here’s how PETA responded — as part of an over-the-top street scene protest, of course, complete with costumed pigs, giant posters and the usual bunch of earnest white people harassing the joggers, tourists and office workers as they passed by the swanky Fairmont Hotel, where Whole Foods was staging its annual shareholders meeting:
“Shareholders were in for a surprise when they arrived for the grocery chain’s annual meeting this week,” the group boasted on its website. “PETA members — including PETA’s pig mascot — were on hand outside to remind shareholders that Whole Foods’ ‘humane’ pork is nothing of the sort. Inside, a PETA staffer asked the critical question: ‘When will Whole Foods stop misleading customers and stop marketing meat as humane?’ ”
Yeah! When will Whole Foods respond to that accusation? When will they cave in and stop selling any animal foods whatsoever?!!
You go, PETA.
Their angry screed went on to “expose multiple discrepancies” between Whole Foods’ 5-Step™ animal-care standards and the reality for pigs at one of the grocery chain’s supplier facilities, the Sweet Stem Farm in Pennsylvania.
“Some pigs were given only five square feet of space on a concrete floor, and none of them had access to the farm’s lush green grass,” PETA claimed. “They were left to suffer from fever, lameness, bleeding rectal prolapses, and other conditions for weeks without being examined or treated by a veterinarian — [and here’s the best part] — “to the eyewitness’s knowledge.”
Wait a second. PETA had an “eyewitness” observing the operation for weeks? That sounds exactly like the kind of “discrepancy” of which they’re accusing Whole Foods.
But let’s get back to the name-calling.
“Marketing meat as ‘humane’ perpetuates a lie and attempts to create a positive impression of certain segments of the meat industry. But in reality, well-intentioned customers are just being misled into paying higher prices for meat from animals who were raised under standards that differ little, if at all, from the rest of the industry’s cruel practices.
“Whole Foods should require higher standards simply because it is the right thing to do — but using them as a marketing tool is deceitful and unethical. Whole Foods’ ‘humane meat’ claim is a sham — and PETA is making sure that its shareholders know that the only way to eat truly humanely is to eat vegan.”
If you’re a born-again veggie believer, PETA wants you to join in the bashing. Log onto their website and sign their petition urging Whole Foods to “Stop duping consumers with dubious ‘humane meat’ claims, and avoid all animal-derived foods, even so-called ‘humane,’ ‘organic,’ and ‘free-range’ meat, eggs, and milk.”
I hope as many people as possible join in the attack on Whole Foods, because virtually every one of them is in the exact demographic that shops in its stores, the oh-so-enlightened consumers willing to pay premium prices for natural or organic knock-offs of conventional food products.
The industry haters are fighting among themselves, and that’s a beautiful thing.
Dan Murphy is a food-industry journalist and commentator