Search Our Site

Search form


Response to John Mackey In Re the Animal Compassion Foundation

January 20, 2005 | Animal Rights

The following letter from Priscilla Feral is in response to a letter from Whole Foods CEO John Mackey. Mackey's original letter follows the FoA response below.

January 20, 2005

Dear John,

Thank you for you reply. You write that you are sorry we are so unhappy about what Whole Foods is trying to do to help farm animals, and you assure us that you are a vegan. But is it vegan to reassure the consciences of concerned shoppers by encouraging them to consume certain kinds of flesh?

You tell us that it is beyond your power to coerce other people to share your vegan philosophy against their will.

It seems that your financial success has led to some cognitive dissonance. It doesn't seem to be beyond your power to coerce animals to share a meat-eating philosophy.

You inform me that "[e]verything that is alive will die including you, me and all farm animals."

True indeed. But you and I aren't spending the primes of our lives being sautéed. We don't die in the manner and at the moment that someone else decrees. We aren't procured by people who insist on speaking for us in order to prove the point that selling our bodies can be an ethical choice while we have no choice about anything at all. We aren't brought into existence for the sole purpose of enhancing some corporate bottom line.

You say, "What matters most is the quality of life while we (and farm animals) are alive."

No, John. What matters most here is that we have the ability to decide whether to keep bringing other animals into existence simply to be sold as food, while using up land and water resources that could be left to animals who really could have free and full lives. Ironically, some of the welfare groups agreeing to make the Whole Foods meat section look good are the very same people who decry the slaughter of the free-living horses and other declining species.

You agree that "it would be better if human beings would stop killing, eating, enslaving, and exploiting animals" and yet you, John, with your Animal Compassionate Standards, are investing millions so that those human beings can think in precisely the opposite terms. You are sugar-coating, and thus promoting, what you personally acknowledge as enslavement.

Evidently, you don't expect your customers to develop the resolve to stop killing, eating, enslaving, and exploiting other animals. Even if they don't, John, that doesn't mean you and your business must become part of the exploitation. Yes, we are fully aware that other grocers sell flesh. Indeed, you've found a niche market by pointing to their business practices as a foil. It's a poor reflection on the decisions of Whole Foods Market when the CEO defends them by arguing that there are worse grocers.

Surely, no matter what conditions we see, there could always be something worse. The worst conditions and the most hideous abuses are only permitted because most people -- including you and those pious welfare experts who go along with you -- think of other animals as commodities in the first place. Animal exploitation -- no matter how pretty the package and how high the mark-up -- perpetuates the concept that dominating other animals is our right.

Yet you tell us that Whole Foods is going to "help improve the quality of life for millions and perhaps eventually billions of farm animals." That might be a CEO's dream, but we view it as an ethical nightmare.

Just as surely as any other meat market will, Whole Foods Market will continue supporting an industry that leads inevitably to deforestation, drought, famine and ultimately war, demonstrating the truth of Tolstoy's warning that "so long as there are slaughterhouses there will always be battlefields."

Perhaps Sam Walton wouldn't understand that. But you, John, really ought to know better.

Very truly yours,

Priscilla Feral Signature

Priscilla Feral
President, Friends of Animals

John Mackey letter to Friends of Animals

January 19, 2005

Hi Priscilla,

I'm sorry you are so unhappy about what Whole Foods is trying to do to help farm animals be better treated while they are alive. I am personally a vegan, but it is beyond my power to coerce other people to share my vegan philosophy against their will. I believe you will find the same thing to be true for yourself and that judging and attacking others who differ from you will not help animals. Everything that is alive will die including you, me and all farm animals. What matters most is the quality of life while we (and farm animals) are alive. It this spirit of improving the quality of life for farm animals and helping them to flourish while they live that is the motivation behind Whole Foods work with our Animal Compassionate Standards and our Animal Compassion Foundation. I agree with you that it is not ideal or perfect. I agree with you that it would be better if human beings would stop killing, eating, enslaving, and exploiting animals and I'm personally committed to that very philosophy. However, until everyone becomes a vegan (and that seems highly unlikely to me) we still have to deal with the reality of farm animals lives and how they live while they are alive. What Whole Foods is doing is going to help improve the quality of life for millions and perhaps eventually billions of farm animals. That will be no small accomplishment.

Do you honestly prefer the Factory Farm system that exists today to the more compassionate model that Whole Foods is trying to develop? If so, then why? If not, then why are you attacking us? Why not direct your energies in opposition to Safeway, Kroger, Albertson's, and Wal-Mart instead of Whole Foods? Surely you know that 100% of the animal products these companies sell have come from Factory Farms of horrible exploitation and cruelty. Isn't that a better target to go after than Whole Foods who is dedicating millions of dollars to try to improve the quality of farm animals lives?



To view the press release which generated this exchange goto:Whole Foods Promotes "Responsible" and "Compassionate" Flesh Foods


In addition to posting my previous message in the Whole Foods Market discussion, I sent John Mackey a letter and detailed information explaining that Responsible Policies for Animals' 10,000 Years Is Enough campaign promotes basic rights for nonhuman animals and a vegan diet whereas the Compassion Foundation does not and is likely to do significant long-term harm, including undermining RPA's campaign, which takes the right approach to research for the flesh, milk, and egg industries by aiming to eliminate it entirely. I urged him not to allow any WFM or Foundation funds to go to any university "animal science" program. I've also asked directors of some of the largest organizations that signed on to support the Compassion Foundation to read my previous posting. One who was interested enough to phone me to discuss the matter and whose organization had already signed a statement supporting the goal of the 10,000 Years Is Enough campaign agreed to urge Mackey not to allow funds to go to any "animal science" program. A problem throughout the 15 years I've worked full-time advocating for nonhuman animals has been a tendency to jump on the bandwagon of any effort that purports to "help animals." I think by establishing the rights of nonhuman animals in law and custom, we can help far more animals over much more time and space than we can by supporting in any way programs that merely use language related to "helping animals," "promoting compassion," and so on. For establishing the rights of nonhuman animals in law, we'll have to recognize that even promoting veganism per se won't be sufficient. While the number of vegetarians (I define that term as vegan and don't consider people vegetarian merely for not eating flesh) has increased, the number of flesh, milk, and egg eaters has increased much more rapidly. As Howard Lyman agreed on the 10,000 Years Is Enough Go Vegan Texas! broadcast (he knows a lot about the land-grant universities and the industries), the flesh, milk, and egg industries will crash economically when their institutional and governmental support is removed. That is what we must accomplish, regardless of who may or may not get it. Years of research convinced me the land-grant universities (LGUs) are the most important institutions to remove from the flesh, milk, and egg industries. That is because the huge the "animal science" programs are huge subsidies to the industries; many segments of society can influence the LGUs; the LGUs intermittently need to cut their budgets; industry propaganda programs aimed at younger students, such as 4-H and Future Farmers of America, will become largely irrelevant when the LGUs no longer provide training for the flesh, milk, and egg industries; many elective and non-elective government entities are relevant to the "animal science" programs -- USDA, state agriculture departments, Congress and theie agriculture- and education-related committees, the state legislatures and their agriculture committees, and more; teaching untruths as is essential for maintaining "animal science" programs is scandalous for a university (even though few people have yet heard of this particular scandal) and all relevant substantive facts (as opposed to petty institutional facts) favor a plants-only diet for our species; the LGUs teach and give degrees to large percentages of our society's most influential people; many people who are not persuaded by interpersonal approaches to adopt an plants-only diet will be more likely to do so when they see we're demanding that the universities originally dedicated to agriculture to sever ties completely with flesh, milk, and eggs; and food choices are heavily influenced by educational institutions and people whom many people see as "role models," etc. -- not just by facts regarding animal exploitation, ecosystem destruction, and personal health, so when significant needed changes occur at the LGUs, I think a huge number of people will reconsider some food choices. Meanwhile, I literally have an infinite amount to do, so I can't dwell on this one thing for a large portion of my time, even though I think it's important. If I receive a reply from WFM, I'll post a description of it. Best wishes, David Cantor Responsible Policies for Animals, Inc.

David, you say that Howard Lyman agrees with you regarding pressure to end government facilitation of animal agriculture. OK so far. Yet Howard Lyman's site,, indicates that Lyman actually disagrees with the main point of the intervention we are discussing here. We are confronting the wrongheaded notion that humane farming is a plausible route to a society which lets other animals live on their own terms. Contrast Howard Lyman, who writes: "I'm enough of a realist to know that [an end to slaughter] won't happen in my lifetime...If I'm able to help move us to a more sustainable, humane agriculture, I'll be happy. Family farms are generally much more humanely and sustainably run." David, if we think animal agriculture is sustainable -- and that seems to be the very argument Whole Foods is accepting -- then all the pressure on government you like would appear to make no sense. You say that vegan advocacy is insufficient. Why don't animal advocates actually try sustained vegan advocacy and find out? After all, these government activities come about because of the consumer interest in animal products. It is up to the people to stop this. The government has only the power that we the people vest in it. We ought to start assuming responsibility for our actions, rather than engaging in that circular buck-passing technique of expecting the government to act rightly. In short, the two ideas - (a) that we can have sustainable, humane animal agriculture and (b) that we can stop government facilitation of animal agriculture - are incompatible. If Howard Lyman has had a change of mind since the above material was posted to, please advise. Lee Hall,
Friends of Animals.

I appreciate Lee Hall's response to my most recent posting as I did Lee's previous one. I also keep thinking I should find lots of people entering into this discussion as it seems to me to have so much to do with important aspects of animal advocacy. I believe there is no such thing as humanely raising any animal for food or humanely slaughtering any nonhuman animal. I believe some aspects of these practices can be made less cruel but never humane. Humane means having the best human traits -- compassion, mercy, etc. -- and those are never reflected in animal exploitation. I also believe there is no such thing as sustainable "animal agriculture" and that Howard Lyman is probably correct if he said he doesn't think he'll see an end to animal slaughter in his lifetime. I think both of those notions -- that "animal agriculture" can be either humane or sustainable -- are mistakes Whole Foods Market is making in establishing its Compassion Foundation. Obviously, my referring to Howard's knowledge of the land-grant universities (LGUs) and the flesh, milk, and egg industries as a reason his agreeing with my and Responsible Policies for Animals' (RPA's) assessment of the likely economic impact of getting the LGUs out of those industries contradicts none of my beliefs as stated above. And I thought I was already entirely clear that I and RPA oppose the Compassion Foundation. Nor do I believe there is any such thing as animal agriculture. That is why I and Responsible Policies for Animals (RPA) have been changing our usage from "animal agriculture" to "animal agribusiness" or using other terms where other terms are accurate. "Agriculture" derives from words meaning the cultivation of fields. Raising animals for food is not the cultivation of fields. Raising plants for food isn't inherently inhumane, and raising animals for foods is. So "animal agriculture" is a euphemism that conveys a false notion that raising animals for food can be humane. Use of that term also implies serving the flesh, milk, and egg industries is a legitimate function of he LGUs' colleges of agriculture, since Congress established them to teach and promote agriculture. Some people concerned about these matters may also wish to know that some states -- I don't yet know how many -- have laws requiring the LGUs to serve the flesh, milk, and egg industries. RPA will appreciate receiving text of any of those laws anyone is able to make time to obtain. In my view, those laws are not as significant an obstacle to the 10,000 Years Is Enough campaign as they may seem, but one LGU president has used his state's law as an excuse not to cooperate. As time and priorities permit, we'll be addressing those laws. I don't agree that the government only has the power we the people vest in it. I constantly observe that things the government does are at the behest of industry, not of any people in the usual sense. I do think, though, that we the people have the power to have the government serve us and the nonhuman animals -- but only if we organize and act effectively. Those two understandings are not contradictory. Big business and other wealthy interests constantly pursue their concerns with government in ways we the people know nothing or little about. They're much more effective than we the people, who've always been understood to be unorganized for most purposes. As stated in a letter I just submitted to a newspaper, I think we face taxation without representation -- that's how weak, poorly organized, uncertain, and complacent I think we the people have become. Isn't that why we animal advocates have to work constantly just to see our cause lose ground? And isn't that why the legislatures will only consider animal welfare adjustments, not the rights of nonhuman animals that would eliminate many of their big industry patrons? Thanks and best, David Cantor Responsible Policies for Animals, Inc.

Thanks, David. We are agreed that animal agriculture (agribusiness, if you prefer) cannot be humane. I really don’t think it can be less or more cruel either. Businesses and consumers don’t necessarily mean to be cruel -- just efficient. Yes, there might be degrees of suffering inherent in various practices, but Friends of Animals will not get involved in ranking them. The point is not whether people are “cruel” or whether a practice is an “abuse”—it’s all *use*, and it’s all unnecessary suffering regardless of degree. And on that basis we oppose it. “Agriculture” derives from words meaning the cultivation of fields. Raising other animals for food *does* rely on the cultivation of fields -- and far more fields. The question, from an environmental point of view, is whether we ought to be furthering agriculture that cultivates fields in unnecessarily large, wasteful amounts; and that increases the amount of nitrous oxide and methane in our global atmosphere. As climate change looms increasingly large, concern with what is less or more cruel is akin to fiddling during the burning of Rome. Finally, supporting agriculture whose end goal is animal commodities will have far-reaching effects on the world’s financially poor. Most such people eat grain protein directly, not through flesh products. We are seeing big businesses overpower small farmers, influencing them to switch over to being useful to the global trade in animal products. For all of these reasons—animal rights, environmental and social justice—Friends of Animals encourages a plant-based diet. As for the prediction that an end to slaughter will not be seen in Howard Lyman’s lifetime, that might be so, but it is beside the point. If we all put our energy into what our vision *is,* reasonable people will hear us and act accordingly. Each one who does makes a revolutionary change, and a revolution that arrives at respect for other beings and our global commons will come one person at a time. Lee Hall,
Friends of Animals

hey all. I'm SO glad this is surfacing and being circulated, you have no idea. How many times have I gone into whole foods in the past, walking out disgusted by the amount of meat and animal products in there, people just as fat and satiated as they are in safeway, puffed up on dairy, feeding their poor children cheese, milk, yogurt, ice cream, "organic" hamburgers.... what a farce. "oh but it comes from whole foods, its more humane and better for us, we're helping...." bullshit. I've stopped shopping there, because all i see is a another hypocritical corporate monster salivating in his office at how he's one of the biggest growing ceos with more and more stores opening every year around the world. If he truly stuck to his supposed "vegan philosophies", he would listen to us all, and he would pull all those animal products off the shelves this very minute making the statement of the century, apologize to the world, risk his ego and his finances, and be remembered for it! Murder is murder, no matter what, we all know that. I LOVE the response letter written to John Mackey. Thank you Priscilla!!!! SOOOOOO true, he is just sugar coating it all, while still demeaning these precious animals lives and all their beauty. Vegan my butt. He doesnt see sentient beings, he sees money going straight to the bank. I wouldn't doubt if he's a full blown carnivore. Cripes, look at our president, FULL ON liar and hypocrite, but does he come clean about anything? NO! John Mackey has as much compassion as Bush as far as I'm concerned. If he came out and was honest that he was a carnivore, and had no vegan philosophies, Ok, then i can understand he's just a killing machine like the rest of the corporate world. But to have a natural food store with that much exposure and power to influence folks, and to claim to be vegan, and STILL he stocks his store with as much animal products as safeway and costco, it makes me sick.

I don't love the idea either. But hey, give John a little break, He is a new "Vegan" and making efforts to improve the situation. He does not have total control over Whole Foods Markets. Would it be better if there was no "Vegan" at the top? All change takes time e.g. Constitution, Emancipation Proclamation, Civil Rights. Keep making your points, but no need to attack especially folks attempting to make a positive change even if small;-)

In the past I have supported two groups on that list that support WFM. That support shall cease come Monday when I can cancel it. One ... shall receive a letter from me explaining why I am ceasing my monthly monetary support deduction from my account. The reason is simple: I don't wish to support any group that claims it is seeking to alleviate animal suffering and yet supports the continued consumption of them. This is a farce of massive proportions. Give me a break! I have been a vegan for 25 years and I thought I had heard it all. Sheesh!!

Thanks to long-time vegan Ron H for expressing the difference between going along with the crowd and doing what's right. Ron, the other day I say a sign up at Whole Foods about the "more than $550,000 to Create a Non-Profit Fund Aimed at More Humane Farm Animal Treatment" which was collected out of their profits from shoppers' purchases on 25 January --$550,000 reportedly to promote a couple of Canadian universities as they continue their studies on animals used for meat production. We're researching this connection, and will issue a report through our summer edition of ActionLine. It's downright bizarre that people can witness over half of a million dollars spent on meat promotion and think that has something to do with veganism. And, in a world where animals raised as food outnumber humans 3-to-1, while water and arable land is fast depleted largely because of animal-based agriculture, it's amazing that more progressive people have not pointed out that these trendy new marketing ploys make as much of a mockery of ecological values and humanitarian values as they make of vegan values. Lee Hall,
Friends of Animals.

OK, I am not an animal welfarist. I am an animal rightist. I am so sick of the bipartisan b.s. If whole foods stops selling meat they will go out of business, that means everyone will continue to buy tortured meat from King's, albertson's...etc, etc...If John's vision happens and we can work to create ways that whole foods can sell truely non-abused, non-tortured animals then it is hopeful that the market will shift. I would surely rather have the chance to reduce the number of animals that are tortured and live in misery to none (even if it still means people will eat meat) than to think that anytime soon eating meat will be outlawed. I don't eat meat, people do, if we can kill animals humanely rather than inhumnaely tomorrow, rather than waiting 100 years hoping everyone will stop eating meat while we continue to torture animals, I choose not to wait. Civil rights took years and steps...many of both. If you read anything at all you will see that civil rights more resembles "civil welfare" than it does "civil rights." DO you think african americans were saying, "ok, if we can't have both anti-lynching laws and the abolition of the poll tax, then we choose neither"??? If whole foods can create an environment and an awareness that will outlaw factory farms then I think that is far better than puting WFM out of business so the other companies (safeway...etc, etc) can decide how much meat they want to feed us and how much faster they can torture animals. The problem with most AR people is they are not that smart and frankly they are quite arrogant and self righteous. You want to be the next great thing. If I have to choose between saving the life of 1 out of 2 cows or saving neither, I choose saving the one.

Mickey don't be stupid...I know your vegan your perfect!!!If WFM goes out of business then any hopes of reforming the meat industry are lost. you all should be hopeful and optimistic that someone with that much power cares...its just so sad that people can be so viciuos...arrogant. John is giving animals a chance to live a life free of suffering (now if he doesn't do that, then it is a different story) and you would rather have nothing. Things take time as I previously posted...I can't believe I am wasting my time with this, I can't believe your wasting your time attacking WFM attack KFC (oh wait...that's right there is a peta imposed moratorium on attacking KFC) well attack McD's (oh yeah they treat chickens 'better') attack someone else. This guy means well. DO you know how commerce works, do you understand at all anything about business and market responses. Take whole foods out of the EQ and you take a major step in animal liberation away from the table...


Add new comment