The Blog

Brainwashing, Aisle 3

Peter Singer gives Whole Foods his utilitarian seal of approval.

12:00 AM, May 18, 2005 • By ANDREW BREITBART
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

I LOVE WHOLE FOODS. I love the Austin-based boutique supermarket chain so much I find ways to go there almost every day. Sometimes I go for the Siciliano sandwich (rare roast beef, caramelized onions, Gorgonzola spread on a toasted French roll); sometimes I go for the trail mix and dried fruit bins (yogurt-covered raisins and pineapple rings). Other times I go to buy an $18 Pinot Noir on sale, so I can race home to tell my wife it was marked down to $11.99. They've got a lot of those deals.

The produce is fresh and, by demand, "organic," one of the new synonyms for "virtuous." Samples of expensive cheeses and other culinary delights make the procession up and down the aisles a gastronomic treasure hunt, and there are no Cap'n Crunch displays to impede your cart and depress your spirit along the way. With a massage therapist in the front of the store charging only a dollar a minute, the place is a veritable culinary day spa.

THE DOWNSIDE to the Whole Foods experience is that its success is driven by one of our era's more grotesque phenomena: the upwardly-mobile urban dweller, the one who wants to indulge class-conscious epicurean yearnings and save the world, too. Whole Foods is a wonderland molded to accommodate the psyche of the socially-responsible, guilt-ridden liberal--the crunchy Kucinich capitalist.

What other conceivable reason would the chain have for displaying Out magazine at the checkout stand? Even if the wishful demographic estimates of gay-rights groups don't economically justify this niche product's front-and-center placement at the point of sale. Out--with other unreadable yoga and nutritionist-approved lifestyle monthlies arrayed around it--screams: You are an open-minded, deep-feeling and wondrously spiritual person. You are now free to buy, buy, buy!

That's also why the fundraising tally for the crisis du jour--tsunamis, famines, whatever--for each individual Whole Foods store is artfully displayed near the ATM swipe. The website, wholefoods.com, is designed more in the style of a charitable foundation than a billion-dollar grocery enterprise. "Seafood sustainability" and "commitment to green" are among the subliminal slogans seeded throughout the shopping experience, as if to say, Hey, we're in this together. Your total is $117.42.

As you can see, I'm a willing participant in the dance. But even I may have reached my limit. Recently, during an excursion to pick up some pork chops, I noticed a letter posted at eye level at all the checkout stands:

John Mackey

Chief Executive Officer

Whole Foods Market

500 Bowie Street

Austin, TX 78703


January 24, 2005



Dear John,



The undersigned animal welfare, animal protection and animal rights organizations would like to express their appreciation and support for the pioneering initiative being taken by Whole Foods Market in setting Farm Animal Compassionate Standards. We hope and expect that these standards will improve the lives of millions of animals.



Animal Rights International (ARI)

Animal Welfare Institute (AWI)

Animal Place Animal Protection Institute (API)

Association of Vets for Animal Rights (AVAR)

Bay Area Vegetarians

Christian Vegetarian Association

Compassion Over Killing (COK)

Doris Day Animal League

East Bay Animal Advocates

Farm Sanctuary Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)

Mercy for Animals

Northwest In Defense of Animals

Vegan Outreach

Viva!USA



Sincerely,

Peter Singer

President, Animal Rights International

Peter Singer, of course, is the father of the animal liberation movement. The Princeton-based bioethicist rationalizes, among other things, that bestiality is morally acceptable (see his essay "Heavy Petting," in which he notes sternly that our aversion to sex with animals may reflect the invidious bias of our--well--I guess the word is speciesism: "our desire to differentiate ourselves, erotically and in every other way, from animals.") He also unapologetically advocates society's right to kill severely disabled babies.

When Princeton University hired Professor Singer in the face of rumblings of anxiety from advocacy groups for the disabled, the President's Page of the Princeton Weekly Review proudly noted that "we eagerly await his contributions to our better understanding of the complex ethical questions that surround some of the most difficult issues of our times."