Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Whole Foods Myth: Shopping with a Clear Conscience?

I must first of all confess, I do shop at Whole Foods. Here are my reasons: 1) it's on the way home from work, 2) it has a good selection of vegan and organic items, plus the bulk section which I don't know what I'd do without, 3) the produce looks sooooo much better than other chains in the area (that's almost all there is in Houston by the way...chains and strip malls), 4) they don't always look at me like I'm crazy for bringing cloth bags and reusing the plastic produce bags, 5) I enjoy subjecting myself to long lines and impossible parking on a Sunday afternoon. I should make more of an effort to get organic and often local produce at the Central City Co-Op or the Bayou City Farmer's Market, but the hours are sometimes challenging and I am an avid meal planner so I usually know the produce I want, but enough excuses. Still, as part of my vow to decrease my ecological footprint and to get away from shopping at Whole Foods so much, I will make a better attempt at supporting these local places. If you are looking for farmer's markets near you, a great resource is Local Harvest.

As a self-confessed customer at Whole Foods, I feel it is my duty to voice my opinion (i.e. complain) since that is the American way. Awhile back I was shopping for a new brand of toothpaste to replace my usual Colgate (wasn't sure if it was vegan or tested on animals, plus wanted to support a smaller company). After a few minutes of browsing the selection and reading labels of a few different brands, a Whole Foods employee approached me and asked if I need any help. I responded that I was looking for a vegan toothpaste that was not tested on animals (although I think that is implied in vegan, but I wanted to be clear). She giggled at me for a moment, as if my questions was quite ridiculous, and said, "Oh, none of these are tested on animals. At Whole Foods you can shop with a clear conscience!" My jaw almost hit the ground. From where I was standing I could see rotting flesh on proud display at the butcher's block and I didn't have to strain my neck very far for the stinky, pus-filled cheese section to come into view. A clear conscience? Hardly. What an amazing impact it would have if Whole Foods announced today that it will no longer sell any animal-based products. After all, their CEO John Mackey is a vegan himself. Back in January, when Whole Foods threatened to pull POM Wonderful products from their shelves because they tested their products on animals, POM almost instantly vowed to end the testing. I don't understand why Whole Foods will fight to protect those animals that are tested on, but will not defend those that give their lives for human consumption, and are treated horribly for the time they do spend on this Earth. Seems like a double standard to me. At the Whole Foods where I shop, today is marked "animal compassion" on their calendar as one of the 30 ways to reduce your carbon footprint and end global warming. I'm waiting for them to live up to those words.....


Veg-a-Nut said...

I just finished reading part of a book, that had to go back to the library. It was very interesting and has an entire chapter devoted to Whole Foods Market and the owner. It was good to read his views and what he has done and what he plans to do by 2008. If you get a chance you should read it. It is called "The way we eat, why our food choices matter" by Peter Singer and Jim Mason. It helpme me to understand many things. The book is really good.

deepali said...

oh come now, aren't you being a little melodramatic? the meat isn't rotting, or it wouldn't be fit for consumption. if you eat meat, you can shop at whole foods with a clear conscience, because their meat is held to high standards of ethical husbandry. as a vegan myself, it saddens me to see how inaccurate, close-minded, and self-centered most other vegans are. humans are meant to eat meat, in the same way polar bears are. get over it.
the REAL problem is in how the meat is raised - industrial animal production is wrong. period. eating meat in general, however, is just biology.