An Open Request to PETA, Farm Sanctuary, Viva!, and Others

You all claim to reject “happy exploitation.”

But John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, claims that you (and possibly others) were “stakeholders” in the actual creation of the Whole Foods “happy exploitation” standards.

You can listen to Mackey speak here.

Mackey claims that you worked with the meat industry to set the “happy” standards “a species at a time.”

If Mackey’s claim is accurate, you not only expressed your written “appreciation and support” for these supposedly “pioneering” standards of animal exploitation, but you actually helped to create them.

You cannot simultaneously reject “happy exploitation” when you not only expressed support for the Whole Foods program but actually help to set standards for “happy exploitation” and thereby facilitate the sale of these animal products by Whole Foods.

So unless Mackey is in error, you are not only supporting “happy exploitation” but you served as architects of the Whole Foods “happy exploitation” program.

I call on you and all of those who signed that infamous and shameful letter to Mackey, which inaugurated the modern “happy exploitation” movement, to state publicly and unequivocally that your expression of “appreciation and support” for the Whole Foods Program was an error, and your involvement as “stakeholders” who actually set standards for animal exploitation “a species at a time” was very, very wrong.

Thank you.

Gary L. Francione

ADDENDUM: Viva! Replies

In light of my exchange with Viva!’s co-founder, Tony Wardle, in London on October 11, I had previously posted about this matter as it concerned Viva! on the Abolitionist Approach my Facebook page. Tony Wardle of Viva! replied:

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Here is my reply:

Come on, Tony.

I asked you a question: Who was not stating the truth? Was it Mackey when he said that Viva! was involved in discussions with industry to set “happy exploitation” standards? Or was it you when you said that Viva! does not promote “happy exploitation”?

You did not answer my question although you are, it seems, admitting that Viva! was at those meetings to which Mackey refers.

I asked you about Viva’s participation in the meetings that set animal exploitation standards for the Whole Foods program. The fact that Viva! subsequently closed its U.S. office after apparently participating is completely irrelevant. And what does it mean to say that you participated in setting those animal exploitation standards but that’s acceptable because you had someone there to give a “vegan perspective”? A “vegan perspective” would mean you would not participate in setting exploitation standards. A “vegan perspective” would mean that you would not have expressed your “appreciation and support” for the “pioneering” Whole Foods standards of animal exploitation, as you did.

Why don’t you just withdraw the support of Viva! from the endorsement of the “happy exploitation” program that you provided and admit it was a bad idea for you to do that and for you to sit down with industry to formulate standards for the exploitation of animals?

Isn’t that the very least that you owe to the animals?

As for these comments about Rutgers, I am delighted to say that there are more vegans every year and more vegan food on campus every year. Rutgers does animal experimentation—quite a bit of it—and I am sure that everyone knows and appreciates that a faculty member in one part of the University does not get to shut down departments in other parts of the University. Similarly, the vivisection community is unable to stop my teaching and writing about why vivisection is morally unjustified and scientifically unsound although they are as unhappy with me as I am with them.

Let me add that at Rutgers, as everywhere else, the efforts of those of us who promote veganism could be far more effective if there were not groups like Viva! that are telling everyone that it’s fine for them to do less than go vegan. You endorse reducetarianism on every page of your website. On every page of your website, you reinforce the idea that meat is different from other animal products.

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You sell cookbooks that have non-vegan recipes. You tell people that eating foie gras is somehow different from eating other animal foods, or that it’s worse to use the flesh of kangaroos to make shoes than the flesh of cows.

You have made a business of selling excuses to people so they can continue to exploit animals. That’s clear.

Gary Francione

P.S. I am still waiting for you to give me the support for your statement at VegfestUK about welfare reform leading to reduced numbers of animals being killed. I have asked for that at least three times. Thanks.

ADDENDUM: More from Viva!

Tony Wardle of Viva! sticks his foot further down his throat:

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My reply:


Viva! is promoting animal exploitation. In fact, Viva! sat down with the meat industry and helped to formulate actual standards of exploitation. You got called on it. You have no reply because there is no reply. So you behave like a pugilistic school child. I am sorry you feel compelled to do so.

As for your supposed skills as an investigative journalist, I am not a governor of Rutgers University. I am a Board of Governors Professor. That’s just the title of the academic position I have. I do not hold and have never held any administrative position at Rutgers. I have, however, turned generations of students on to animal rights and the vegan philosophy and we now have many more vegan options. It’s hard when we’re up against groups like yours, which tell the students that they can discharge their moral obligations to animals by eating cage-free eggs or wearing cow leather rather than kangaroo leather.

I am just one person, Tony. I don’t have a corporation or a “donate” button. I don’t have a PR budget. I don’t have celebrities that promote me. I am just one person making an argument that people are increasingly recognizing as sound–that welfare reform is ineffective and counterproductive, and that the “happy exploitation” you support and the standards for which you help to formulate, is obscenely immoral. Many people are coming to see that foie gras campaigns, and campaigns that declare “victory” when Tesco does not sell live turtles but, instead, kills them somewhere else, are nothing more than fundraising ploys. People are beginning to see that bloated charities like yours are doing more harm than good and that you are selling out the interests of animals. The better position will prevail. And I have no doubt what that position will be.

Gary L. Francione