Chipotle, I am skeptical of your “revolución!” »
So, Chipotle is calling for an end to the mistreatment of pigs, and now I feel conflicted.
My attention was alerted to this call to arms by the very excellent Suicide Food Blog, which has written up the Mexican food chain in its Monday, Sept. 20 post. Chipotle has a new ad campaign, and it’s all about feeling good about what we eat. The ad in question is actually printed on Chipotle’s bags and features a hip, hand-drawn-looking manifesto, complete with cute little drawings and flourishes. The text reads:
“¡Viva La Revolución! Okay Pigs, It’s time for us to get together and start fixing this system. We see the way that our pig friends get treated at their factory farms, and it’s time we fight so all pigs can have the same rights we have! No more tight, confining pens! No more antibiotics or non-vegetarian feed!!!!!!!! We can do it! Yours Truly, el Pig”
Now, I’m all for a total pig revolution, and failing that, I’m all for reforms that lead to better lives for pigs, but I’m not sure I buy it coming from Chipotle. As this post on vegan.com points out, major companies that consume a lot of animal product calling for better treatment for pigs is a good thing with the potential to positively impact a lot of piggies’ lives. And that’s all well and good, but a slick, focus-grouped advertisement on a fast-food takeout bag does not an actual, accountable commitment to animal welfare make. Is Chipotle going to use meat only from pigs who were not raised in confining pens and were given vegetarian feed? Who knows!
I find this ad to be more of a call to complacency than anything else, which disturbs me. A major restaurant chain is co-opting revolutionary language and imagery to sell “ethical pork” to what it must know is an uneducated population—how many of Chipotle’s customers know about harmful pig-farming practices, animal welfare issues, or animal agriculture at all.
The Chipotle website dedicates a full section to “Food with Integrity,” which functions basically as their dictionary. According to Chipotle, “Naturally raised” means “raised in a humane way, fed a vegetarian diet, never given hormones, and allowed to display their natural tendencies.” There’s a lot that that warm-n-fuzzy definition doesn’t cover: the contents of the vegetarian diet; how often the pigs are bred; how long they’re allowed to live before being sent to slaughter; and what kind of stockyards and feedlots they are sent to come slaughter-time. By creating their own animal agriculture lexicon, Chipotle gives customers license to feel good about eating their Chipotle pork products without any verifiable reasons to. The company’s ultimate goal is perfectly clear: “We believe pigs that are cared for in this way enjoy happier, healthier lives and produce the best pork we’ve ever tasted.” And there you have it. While Chipotle may want pigs to lead better lives, their bottom line is how good the pigs taste, and that isn’t something I can get behind.
I’m not writing off this campaign completely. As I mentioned, if this move toward more humanely raised pigs is sincere, then it is a good thing; and more than most fast food chains are willing to do. Further, as the vegan.com article points out, sometimes this kind of incremental, populist movement can be the thing that starts people down the road to veganism, and that’s great. Still, though, as a vegan, I’m uncomfortable with trumpeting a corporate happy-meat ad campaign as a real step forward, not to mention that I’d feel like a hella sellout carrying my vegan burrito in one of these cheeseball bags.
Interview: Paul Shapiro of The Humane Society of the United States! »
Paul Shapiro is kinda like…the greatest guy on earth. He’s the senior director of HSUS Factory Farming Campaign. He also founded Compassion Over Killing when he was basically 5. Okay, more like 7, but still. He works tirelessly for the animals while remaining the nicest, coolest guy ever. Honestly, if I did what Paul Shapiro does every day, I’d probably just go around setting things on fire and eating babies. I KID, EVERYONE RELAX! But I’d be one grumpy lady. He’s just the raddest best and you should read all about him and then follow him on twitter if you want the latest breaking animal news.
Plus, he’s adorable, right?
How long have you been vegan?
Since 1993. Old school. My recollection is that it may have been before the world was in color.
Are you vegan for health, environmental, animal rights reasons, human rights reasons, or a combination?
I wish I could say it was because in Carl Sagan’s novel Contact, our species’ first communication with non-Earthlings was with a civilization near Vega, but it’s really because it reduces animal cruelty and environmental degradation. [Ed., AHH! Jonas wrote about that too! Dorks unite!]
What is your favorite animal?
My late dog, George. Late as in passed away four years ago; he was generally very punctual. You can watch a seven-minute slide show of his life if you’d like. (Give it a few seconds to start and turn your speakers on.)
Do you have any super cute photos of animals to share with us? I just ask because this is something we’re super into. Elephants, piglets, and pit bulls are a plus.
George was a pit bull-shar pei mix, so I hope that slide show counts. Or you can see my two cats at facebook.com/paulshapiro.
Favorite vegan food to make?
Really anything that can be put inside a tortilla/wrap. It’s a very fast and clean way to eat.
Favorite vegan cook book or website for recipes?
I’m partial to humanesociety.org/recipes
Favorite vegan dish at a restaurant/fave vegan restaurant?
Currently, the vegan “chicken” burrito that’s being tested at a DC Chipotle is rocking my world. Since you’re in SF, I tip my hat to Herbivore’s shawarma, too. (Note that both of these are in a wrap.)
You travel a lot for work. Based on food options alone, which is your favorite city to travel to?
NYC is pretty hard to beat. That said, I was at Araya’s in Seattle recently and loved it. All-vegan, all-you-can-eat buffet for $8. Respect.
Any eating tips for traveling vegans?
Get the Veg Out app for your iPhone. [Ed.: we’ve got it! it is awesome!]
You started an all-vegan band in high school? Please elaborate.
I didn’t start the band, but I was the singer of the DC hardcore band Crime Against Humanity. We put out a demo tape and played about half a dozen shows in 1994 before breaking up. We were this close to making it big. And by “this close,” I mean not close at all.
We recently met Jonathan Safran Foer (we call him “JSF” around here) who mentioned that he went to high school with you? Were you guys friends? What was he like then? Was he in the band!?
Jonathan is an awesome guy and his success with Eating Animals makes me so happy. I regret to say he was never in Crime Against Humanity. We did go to high school together and knew each other back then, but we didn’t become friends until long after that.
If you weren’t working for HSUS, what would you be doing?
Begging Vegansaurus for a blogging job. [Ed., Great, now we have to get you fired! WHY DID YOU TELL US THAT!?]
Who are the movers and shakers in the animal protection world who people might not know about, who to keep an eye on to do great things?
It always surprises me how few people in the movement are familiar with the late Henry Spira’s work. If you haven’t read his biography, you should. In terms of living activists, I’m always amazed at how groups like Mercy for Animals, Vegan Outreach, and Compassion Over Killing get so much done with so few resources. Of course, I love VegNews too, and think they provide a great resource for the movement. Finally, if you don’t follow Jason Matheny’s work on in vitro meat, check it out; it’s something I think has a lot of promise for animals.
How do you think new technologies, like Facebook and Twitter, are changing the game?
They allow me to share photos of my cats and find out who’s dating who. They also enable folks to reach a lot of people fast, which is helpful for people who want to help animals. BTW, you can follow me at twitter.com/pshapiro (Ed., FOLLOW HIM. Best breaking AR news and also, he’s funny. Bonus points.)
What advice would you give people with a budding interest in animal protection?
The reality of how deplorable the scope and nature of our abuse of animals is can be depressing. Don’t let that sorrow consume you. I’m not the first to say that if you’re upset by a societal problem, don’t agonize—organize!
Animals can’t organize and advocate for their interests, so they’re dependent on us to speak up for them. It’s an immense privilege to be able to work full-time on their behalf, and it’s inspiring to see the progress that’s now being made, especially for farm animals. That said, you don’t need to be an employee of the movement to make a difference. Go at your own pace – pass out leaflets, write letters to the editor, support your favorite animal charities, get your local restaurants to add vegan options to their menus, call your legislators, be a positive example for your friends and family, and so on.
Are you a good cook?
Are you willing to have Vegansaurus over and cook us a vegan feast? If so, what day?
Any time we’re both in DC, consider the red carpet rolled out. [Ed., BOOKING TICKETS!]