DxE: Challenging Chipotle With The Truth

» May 17th, 2014

“Over 98% of Chipotle’s sales involve violence against animals, which amounts to billions of dollars in blood money.” So declares the animal activist organization Direct Action Everywhere.

And they’re right. It is one of the harder realities to accept for those who want to believe that Chipotle is a fast food restaurant aiming to change the food system for the better. Fact is, nothing could be further from the truth. It merely taps popular discontent with conventional fast food to profitably purvey a greenwashed and “humane” version of slaughter. Additional anger might derive from the recent news that the company’s two founders raked in $50 million last year. Blood money indeed. (See my previous work on Chipotle here.)

Direct Action Everywhere is drawing attention to the abuses hidden by Chipotle’s savvy advertising campaigns and shamelessly misleading “Food with Integrity” gambit. It writes, “while its corporate propaganda has succeeded in making it one of the most successful businesses in the world, it has also left it vulnerable – particularly when even meat industry publications have noted that the company purchases meat from the same concentrated animal feedlot operations (so-called “factory farms”) as other buyers.”

To make these claims stick DxE participants have gathered in 37 cities and 13 countries under the banner of “It’s not food, it’s violence” and staged peaceful flash-mob protests at Chipotle stores, in some cases causing early closures with their civil disobedience.

I spoke to lead DxE organizer Wayne Hsiung several weeks ago. The impression I got was that Hsuing, a recovering law professor who has studied at MIT and the University of Chicago, had mastered the art of being everywhere and nowhere at once, passively leading a massive grassroots effort to challenge Chipotle with something it knows very little about: the truth. Any journalist looking for a perfect subject for a profile should seek him out.

Meantime, get involved by going here.

17 Responses to DxE: Challenging Chipotle With The Truth

  1. John Maher says:

    These people are animal terrorists and must be arrested and sentenced to the federal Supermax prison for violating the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act! Actually I am kidding — this DxE form of protest — a Deleuzian swarm attacking the multiplicity of capitalism — is exactly appropriate as it calls attention to Chipotle’s inclusion of violence and abuse in its product — the social hieroglyph that most customers refuse to see while saying “thank you” to the cashier. This is disruptive of the most critical chokepoint in capitalism: the cash register but also disruptive of accepted and normalized patterns of animal instrumentality.

  2. Sailesh Rao says:

    Thank you for highlighting the work of DxE! I joined their protest at Chick-fil-A in Phoenix yesterday and I felt that the protest really got the consuming masses thinking. In the few minutes that we were in the facility, I could see that several parents were forced to have a conversation about this issue with their children. Additionally, when our protest moved on to public property after the establishment asked us to leave, several passing vegans were honking their support and thanking us for affirming their choices so publicly. This was truly priceless.

    Whether it is for human health, or animal rights or the environment, it is the animal food consumers that need to made to contemplate their choices. The consequences of their poor choices are inflicted upon all of us, not just themselves.

  3. Laura says:

    Capitalists, socialists, they all eat animals…politics are outside this issue.

    Chipotle almost had me hoodwinked as well, back in 2005 or so… I’d gone back to dairy & eggs for awhile, in fear for my life due to the lurking devastation awaiting me if I continued down that vegan path…said warnings supplied by WAPF types infesting vegetarian forums, letters to editors and such. It really scared me to hear of them going blind, losing all their hair, etc., because they were starved of animal products. It’s embarrassing to admit that.

    So I bought Chipotle’s cheese-filled burritos and such back in the day when I was quite the lard bucket after some years of dairy consumption, and I remember feeling all “good” and “responsible” eating there.

    Since getting my digestion back after years of severe constipation from such a diet, as well as reducing my alarmingly high blood pressure to normal, I’m really angry at how they’d fooled me and how they continue to fool others into thinking there is “happy” animal farming and that we need those foods.

    So Wayne and his group are heroes, truthists, and would receive honorable medals in a just world. Well, in a just world there’d be no need for such protests.

  4. Isabella La Rocca says:

    I cannot speak more highly of Direct Action Everywhere, a truly grass-roots network that connects activists all over the world who share a beautiful dream of total liberation. We may not be able to beat the corporations and the corporations at their own game of lies and money, but we will certainly achieve our greatest aspiration with truth and integrity. If you, too, believe in our beautiful dream, whoever you are, wherever you may be, please join us.

  5. TheArdentVeganAdvocate says:

    Definitely a fan of this group. So glad you wrote about their important efforts.

    BTW- James was that reference to Direct Action Network intentional or did you mean Direct Action Everywhere?

  6. Pauline says:

    Thanks for raising this. I have been following the “It’s Not Food, it’s Violence” campaign recently and have been realising that declining to consume animal products myself and advocating for other animals and their right to life, on an individual and ad hoc basis, is not sufficient to make any impact. I think this type of protest could be held anywhere that sells animal products. I doubt that Chipotle is any worse than any other (although I appreciate that they may convey a misleading message regarding welfare, etc.).

    I definitely think there needs to be more visibility of animal rights issues, so that people at least stop in their tracks for a moment. So much of their lives is hidden and invisible, with few people giving a moment’s thought to their miserable, imprisoned existence and then brutal killing, simply for a few moments of pleasure. Nonhuman animals are generalised and never individuals when it comes to consumption. The connection between the animal on the plate and the one who sits on the hearth is so infrequently made. So, raising the profile of the struggle in a public and nonviolent way is a positive step, I feel.

    I thought this article by Wayne was excellent and very pertinent:


    “… the most reputable polling firms outside of our vegan echo chamber, e.g. the esteemed Gallup Poll, show that animal-free eating has not significantly increased in the US; indeed, it has dropped from a self-reported 6% of the population in 1999 to 5% in 2012. And while there was a mild slowdown in meat consumption due to the financial crisis of 2008, the most recent numbers show that the massive growth in slaughter, even in a country as saturated by dead animal flesh as the United States, continues unabated.”

    I don’t know what the statistics are, but I suspect things are considerably worse outside the US, who I have felt has been recently leading the way in animal free eating (I’m from the UK and, incidentally, hadn’t heard of Chipotle until I came across this campaign). But, with animal consumption on the rapid increase throughout much of the world, and more animals being bred, imprisoned and killed than ever before, the struggle has a very long way to go.

  7. Mountain says:

    “Over 98% of Chipotle’s sales involve violence against animals”

    They make a good point, but they got their math wrong. It’s actually 100%.

  8. Bea Elliott says:

    When I had my awakening in horror I had my close friend and neighbor watch the video I had seen. She was horrified too. She even wanted to call the police or some law official to report that pigs were being crammed in cages on those “factory farms” featured in the video we watched.

    The very next day I went as vegan as I knew how given the abrupt short notice of my life change… Within a week afterwards my neighbor cheerfully announced that Chipotle sold “humane” pork. That was just the slippery slope she needed because after that concession anything could be compromised. Six years later I’m certain that anything that even pretends to be “humane” isn’t even on my (ex)friend’s radar.

    I deplore Chipotle for their self-serving, calculating, sneaky lies. Praise to DxE for calling them on it!

  9. Mountain says:

    It’s actually an interesting question what effect Chipotle is having on animals.

    1. For most customers, it probably has zero effect– whatever factory-farmed meat they eat at Chipotle is probably a substitute for factory-farmed meat they would have gotten from Taco Bell or Denny’s or the supermarket.

    2. For customers who choose humanely raised meat (to the extent that means anything) at Chipotle rather than factory meat from elsewhere, it improves (marginally) the lives of animals, but doesn’t actually save the lives of any animals.

    3. For customers who take the animal-welfare PR seriously, and choose vegetarian or even (the well-advertised) vegan options, actual lives of actual animals will actually be saved.

    4. For customers who don’t normally eat meat but see the animal-welfare PR as a justification for eating meat (or a vegan who sees it as justification for eating dairy), it will actually increase the number of animals killed.

    5. And finally, there’s the massive difference in how deadly different meats are. The vegetarian options at Chipotle are more deadly than the vegan options, and the beef & pork options are deadlier than the vegetarian options. But the deadliest option by far, by an order of magnitude, is chicken. Even a small change in chicken consumption would swamp in gains or losses caused by the other possibilities. Any animals saved by customers choosing vegetarian or vegan options would be more than offset if customers– feeling bad for cows and pigs– choose to eat less red meat and more chicken. Alternatively, if customers feel more comfortable eating beef or pork because it’s “humanely” raised, and ate less chicken, it would save the lives of a vast number of animals.

    There’s no theoretical answer, just empirical questions.

    • Isabella La Rocca says:

      Respectfully, even choosing a vegan option does not “save” any animals. A vegan option simply does not increase the number animals enslaved and slaughtered. Though it’s accepted en masse, why further normalize the consumption of animals?

      • Mountain says:

        Hi Isabella, it depends on how you look at it. You can start with a baseline of zero, and analyze how many animals are killed by different eating choices. Or you can start with a baseline of the harm done by the average diet, and if an eating choice causes less harm, you can describe that reduction in harm in terms of the number of animals saved. You’re certainly welcome to use a baseline of zero, but I find it more useful to compare choices against the average American diet.

        Each year, 10 million farm animals are killed to feed Americans, which works out to about 31 animals per person. According to Animal Visuals, a pro-vegan website, another 6 or so field animals are killed to grow the feed for those farm animals. Add in another 2-3 field animals killed to provide plant food to Americans, and the average American diet kills about 40 animals per year. That’s probably an underestimate, but those are the best numbers I have available.

        If a person gave up chicken, but made no other changes, their diet would only kill about 11 animals. To put it another way, she could save the lives of 29 animals each year simply by giving up chicken. Of course, she could do better. By going vegan, even getting her food from conventional farms, her diet would only kill 2-3 animals per year. And if she grew her own vegan food, or purchased it from small veganic farms, she could even get that number down to zero. Or at least very close to it.

  10. Wayne was instrumental in knocking me out of my vegan complacency. It took a while to sink in but his Boycott Veganism* article 5 years ago made an impact helping to shape the villainous crank I am today. (to his regret I’m sure ;) )

    The Chipotle campaign is a great example of the schism between veganism and animal rights. I admit a bit of schadenfreude watching vegans squirm as DxE makes the scene taking the front lines back.

    *Hosted at Vegan Chicago: http://files.meetup.com/160880/Boycott%20veganism.pdf

  11. Mountain says:

    “Direct action, it beats legislation.” –Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises.

  12. Laura says:

    Polls can be handy reference tools but they’re wildly variable…Gallup has been shown to have the worst error record of all the many polling companies, so I wouldn’t give their “decrease in veganism” too much legitimacy. Here’s a rating of all the polling companies:
    …showing Public Policy Polling to be a bit more reliable, and they say self-reported vegans in the US are about 7% of the population as of 2013:
    …So I’m more inclined to believe that, going by the increased availability and sales of vegan products in mainstream stores, even Walmart.

    I read here that vegans were less than 1% in the US in about 2000:
    The more recent 7% is also from an American poll, but since there are more vegans outside of US, the total number worldwide now is likely far higher than 400 million. A small minority of 7 billion people, but up from a very tiny minority.
    (Before anyone says people will lie to claim they’re vegan: It’s unfortunately still somewhat of a social stigma to be vegan, so I doubt people will falsely claim to be if they’re not.)

    I just think the “vegan” movement self-condemns/blames too much, and that there are positive changes happening around us, thanks in large part to the younger generation (from children through 20′s). New vegans seem to be popping up all over. But then there’s the backlash of course. Unfortunately, the opposition (e.g. the “happy-free-range-organic meat” crusaders) has it’s freedom to fight back, and they do, deceitfully and unethically, naturally, and the public is largely conformity driven and easily swayed by their conditioned appetites, so we’re continually set back by things outside our control.

    I like the new direction that seems to be happening now, but some positivity once in awhile is also needed. We’re already too depressed over these issues, at least I am… blaming ourselves for the whole human race is just far too much hopelessness.

  13. Laura says:

    *I forgot to put @Pauline at top of my last post.

  14. Ellen K says:

    I couldn’t agree more with their message, and especially the need to confront the humane hoax head-on.
    I have one question about an aspect of the protest itself, though: might a silent protest, done outside in front of Chipotles, have more impact in terms of swaying the public, generating positive and broad media coverage, and pressuring the company with activism they can’t simply dismiss as brief incendiary invasions but acts of satyagraha they must take seriously? Same signs, same message of course. More in keeping with the precedents they look to (lunch counter sit-ins, e.g.)

    Recent MFA example targeting Amazon, which gets great spin on a Fox channel no less: http://video.q13fox.com/Amazon-protest-26141021?ndn.trackingGroup=91052&ndn.siteSection=kcpq_localnews&ndn.videoId=26141021&freewheel=91052&sitesection=kcpq_localnews&vid=26141021#.U33rF61dUap

Leave a Reply to Bea Elliott