Sunday, August 09, 2009

Dunkin' Cruelty Vegtalk Interview

Erik Marcus at interviewed Erica Meier of Compassion Over Killing (COK) the other day about COK's new campaign targeting Dunkin' Donuts. Take a listen here.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Food Inc. Unpacked

In response to the cinematic success of Food Inc. - a documentary by Robert Kenner about industrial agriculture - Chipotle is sponsoring free screenings of the film across the country as a part of their Food With Integrity campaign. Their stated goal is to “start a discussion” about food production in America. I went to one such screening in Chicago with a fellow StAR blog contributor.

With animation and color as artificial as the tomatoes in a grocery store, Food Inc. peals back some of the layers of industrial food production, examining health concerns, workers’ rights abuse, animal exploitation and the dirty politics behind it all. In this film where corn is the villain and every head of federal food policy is in bed with Monsanto, an old-fashioned farmer emerges as the Beatrice in an inferno of food. His farm is the idyllic vision one imagines while reading Charlotte’s Web. The animals on his farm approach him when he enters the pen rather than run in fear at the sight of a human hand.

Veganism is by no means implied in the message of the film. Though there are somewhat graphic images of slaughterhouse production, the assumption of the film – and of Chipotle – is that there is such a thing as “naturally raised” or “humanely raised” meat. The takeaway message, then, is that we should buy local and vote with our dollars. This message seems on shaky ground after the film has depicted the dilemma of a financially-stifled Los Angeles family for whom it is an economically-wise decision to buy a $0.99 McDonalds burger rather than a head of lettuce. As my skeptical vegan friend pointed out, the ‘vote with your dollar’ slogan implies that some people get more votes than others. In the Al Gore documentary style, Food Inc. presents problems with only an afterthought to the solutions, which are given a few seconds preceding the end credits. One is left with a sense that they are not much freer in their food choices than the battery-cage hens.

Those who see the film courtesy of Chipotle may be left with the assumption that Chipotle’s food is the solution to this harrowing problem. A Chipotle representative provides an opening disclaimer to the film saying that they are “a pioneer in changing the way people think about and eat fast food,” and that they serve “nutritious ingredients from local and family farmers who are committed to sustainably raising antibiotic and hormone-free meats and organic vegetables.” Despite Chipotle’s claim that their Food with Integrity campaign is not “merely a marketing tool,” there is no doubt that this organization—whose foundations are built on funding from McDonald’s Inc.—is catering its menu and discourse to shifting consumer preferences that are concerned with the environmental and social impact of food. My primary “beef” with Chipotle’s marketing package—and of the film in general—is that there is no honest deconstruction of the many buzz words that have come to be nothing more than marketing ploys, such as “hormone-free,” “humane meat,” or “organic.” Instead, they continue to use these terms as shiny consumerist solutions to a problem inextricably linked to overconsumption, overproduction, and faulty demand signals.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Ask Michael Kors why he uses fur!

Please take a moment of your time to submit questions for designer Michael Kors, asking him why he continues to use fur in his designs when he knows that fur requires animals to be tortured and barbarically killed. If this topic gets a lot of hits, the general ethical issues of fur will be in Time Magazine's "100 Questions for Michael Kors."

Here are some sample posts (feel free to copy/paste if you are busy):

“How can you call yourself an original designer when you steal fashion ideas from animals by using their fur?

“Why won’t you stop using fur, even when so many hyper-fashionable people, like Stella McCartney, Vivienne Westwood, Natalie Portman, and Tim Gunn have come out against it?”

“You recently dropped raccoon dog fur from your line—why not all fur? Why should raccoon dogs be spared, and not other sentient animals?”

“Why you such a bitch to animals boy?” haha

Dunkin' Donuts Cruelty: Quick Action for Animals

As some of you may be aware, Compassion Over Killing (COK) has launched a new campaign aimed at Dunkin' Donuts to persuade them to offer vegan menu items free of the cruelties involved in the egg and dairy industries. Their new website is up and they are urging activists and consumers alike to make their voices heard and take a minute or two to call, snail mail or email the company, urging them to offer cruelty free options.

As every single donut on their current menu contains milk and eggs, COK is also urging them to offer menu items for those with allergies and health concerns.

Here's the short e-mail I sent:
To whom it may concern,

I recently learned that your company does not offer any products suitable for people who avoid consuming animal products such as dairy and eggs, which appear in all your donut menu items. As you are likely well aware, the number of individuals who avoid the cruelties and negative health effects of animal products are growing. With numerous consumers opting for healthier foods and cruelty-free goods our retail market is shifting. As a result we ask that businesses represent our needs and allow consumers to continue their support of companies such as yours. Without dairy and egg-free options, consumers will be forced to purchase elsewhere.

I would ask that you increase the availability of items without animal products or create vegan meal items to reflect your consumers' growing concerns, opening yourselves up to a larger market. New animal-free products would be marketed as healthier options and allow your company to tap into the growing concerns of the population for health foods and improved eating habits.

I would like to thank you for your time and again stress the need for vegan menu items to be added to your repertoire, allowing consumers the chance to purchase cruelty-free items from your establishment.

Thank you
To visit the campaign's web site click here: Dunkin' Cruelty

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Fowl Play

I recently got a chance to see Fowl Play, a great new film produced by Adam Durand and Mercy For Animals (MFA). It's an incredibly disturbing but equally inspiring documentary that is super well-done. Fowl Play is also pretty short (less than an hour), so it would be good for campus screenings with plenty of room for post-viewing discussion. The film takes a behind closed-doors look at the egg industry and tells the stories of rescued hens and their courageous rescuers while touching on broader farm animal and animal rights issues. Unfortunately, the DVD is not yet available, but it should be out soon. Don't miss it!

On a related note, Compassion Over Killing (COK) just launched a campaign to get Dunkin' Donuts to stop using dairy and eggs. Take 2 minutes to take action here.