Chipotle Goes Telepathic

» July 17th, 2014


Chipotle’s recent marketing stunt is so bold—so weirdly bold—I almost want to respect the depth of their gall. Although the company has been under fire for claiming that it serves “food with integrity” when in fact it serves loads of factory farmed meat, it has reacted to the negative publicity by promoting Niman Ranch’s pig guy and Chipotle supplier, Paul Willis, as a man whose understanding of porcine welfare comes from “communicating with them telepathically.”

No joke here.

Or is it a joke? I honestly don’t know. Wayne Hsiung, of Direct Action Everywhere—the organization that has led a brilliant series of protests against Chipotle—wrote the following earlier in the week: “You know a company has gone off the rails when it starts talking about telepathy with its victims. But I suppose when your entire business model is founded on a fraud, there’s not much else you can do.” Or could it be that the company is owning its fraudulence, internalizing its own lies, throwing residual caution to the wind, and saying “what the f***”? Let’s have some fun!” Lord knows their CEOs, who earned $25 million a piece last year, are laughing to the bank.

Joke or no joke, there’s something deeply insulting in the telepathy comment. It’s in the worst possible taste to claim empathy for animals that you purposely kill in order to make burritos. Does Paul Willis commune with the pigs when they are being shunted into the slaughter chute? I doubt it. Hell, even home slaughterers have the decency to do their handiwork under the guise of ersatz gravitas.

I’ve spoken to Willis in the past and he does not strike me as the kind of person to say such a thing. Did Chipotle put these words in his mouth? Who knows? Anyway, if there’s any good news in this stunt it’s that its absurdity suggests desperation. Chipotle is high on its own fumes. But the party will come to an end.

6 Responses to Chipotle Goes Telepathic

  1. Pauline says:

    Not being from the States and also not being in the habit of eating at fast food joints, I had never heard of Chipotle until I started reading of Direct Action Everywhere’s activities. I love that piece by Wayne, both for the fact that he’d created a semi-transformation in someone within a 5 minute conversation, and also that this person came running out of Chipotle waving this almost surreal nonsense about telepathy! Brilliant – except it’s also tragic in that there are no doubt many people who will buy into this stuff.

    I wholeheartedly applaud Direct Action Everywhere for what they’re doing generally, regardless of Chipotle’s pretensions. If their visibility attracts attention and engages people in relation to how their food gets on their plates, about the appalling plight of other animals at our hands, surely, it’s all positive. Back in the day, when I was young, there seemed to be public protests every other week about one thing or another: the rights of this group or that group or against some type of oppression or disadvantage. It was what you did. I see absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t be on the street now protesting for animal rights. One to one advocacy, articles in public forums, writing to the mainstream media, peaceful protest on the streets all complement each other and are all good.

  2. Maire says:

    The meat suppliers are so paranoid they will react to anything they see as a treat to lower consumption and thus lower profits. How pathetic !!!

  3. Mountain says:

    Has anyone tried to clear this up? I didn’t see anything on the Direct Action Everywhere site. James, have you contacted Willis or Chipotle about this? I can’t believe Chipotle is intending to make this claim. Assuming the card isn’t photoshopped, I would assume it was a typo and the intended word was empathically.

    Of course, if he really is claiming to communicate with animals telepathically, that isn’t any more ridiculous than people who claim to “speak for the animals.”

    • Dylan says:

      The image was tweeted at the Chipotle twitter account which has been pretty good at responding to questions. I would be pretty interested in their response.

      I am pretty curious, too.

  4. Maire says:

    And why is it ridiculous to “speak for the animals” ??
    “Speaking for the animals” means speaking out against cruelty and working to improve the treatment of the voiceless, which is so abominable in so many ways. Why do you find that ridiculous ?
    Cruelty, says nothing good about humanity.

    • Mountain says:

      I don’t think speaking out against cruelty to animals is ridiculous– in fact, I think it’s admirable. But claiming to speak for the animals is ridiculous because you don’t know what the animals would say if they could speak. The Lorax, for that matter, was ridiculous in claiming to speak for the trees.

      The truth is, people speak for themselves, not for others. And that can be a very good thing when one is speaking out against cruelty or mistreatment of others.

      I’m probably overly sensitive on this matter. I grew up on welfare in a poor neighborhood, and I remember seeing “poverty advocates” speaking on the TV news. It was offensive because these advocates were not poor, had never spoken to me or any of the poor people I knew (though they probably had spoken to some poor people at some point), and what they advocated had very little to do with what we actually wanted.

      So, when I see anyone claiming to speak for anyone or anything else, it instantly strikes me as a lie. A well-intentioned lie, in all likelihood, but still a lie.

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