DXE protest. Photos and video by Michael Goldberg

By Leslie Goldberg

I’ve never yelled inside a Whole Foods Market or in a Safeway or in any grocery store. I’ve never even wanted to. When I’ve walked past (quickly) the neon-lit graveyards they have in the back of these stores, which showcase the dead animals or their chopped-up flesh, I’ve felt a grief and revulsion that makes me quiet.

Yet despite my despair at the obvious animal cruelty that’s taken place, I have to admit I’ve always kind of liked Whole Foods. I like that they have a gazillion different plant-based milks (that taste good); that they have a pretty good bulk section; that the employees are nice; that one of the store’s founders, John Mackey, was persuaded to become a vegan; and I always liked that the checkers would ask me, “Credit or donation?” when I brought in my own bag. I’d get a little warm feeling when I’d say, “donation.”

Yet there I was – pissed and yelling my head off with the other protestors in the meat department of Whole Foods on Sunday: “It’s Not Food, It’s Violence.”

I joined a group of Direct Action Everywhere (DXE) members to protest Whole Food’s truly bizarre, if not Orwellian, $20 million ad campaign: “Values Matter.” The ads feature such slogans as “Know What Kind of Life Your Dinner Lived” or “Choose a Fish, Cook a Fish, Save a Fish.”

Welcome to the house of mirrors world of “humane meat.” Or “sustainable agriculture.” Or “cage free.” Or “cruelty-free food.” Or “grass-fed.” It’s a wonderful dreamy world where the environment is pristine: no water pollution, no climate change, no destruction of wildlife. You can still kill and eat animals and/or consume their secretions and feel good about it. Hell, you can eat animals and save animals at the same time!

Ask most people to envision a “cage free” egg farm and they will tell you about open green pastures with chickens playing and frolicking in the warm sunlight. I once heard a natural foods co-op customer describe it as “like summer camp.” And if you can’t imagine a summer camp for so-called food animals, Whole Foods has a picture of one of these places on their website.

It just ain’t so, folks.

Cage free is just that: cage free. OK, farmers aren’t cutting off a chunk of chickens’ beaks and stuffing the birds into cages so small they can’t move. Instead they’re cutting off a chunk of their beaks and stuffing them into darkened sheds encrusted with feces, filth and dead body parts. These places are so crowded the chickens can barely move. Yet on the Whole Foods website, the store insists their chickens aren’t mutilated and that each and every one of them has access to the outdoors. Also Santa Claus lives at the North Pole in a house decorated with candy canes where he makes beautiful toys for all the children in the world.

Here’s an undercover video taken by DXE at one of Whole Foods’ cage free egg suppliers.

I watched it. It won’t kill you. You’ll see chickens in crowded sheds with missing feathers and with bruised, distorted bodies — chickens seeming so sick and weak they can’t even get up or open their eyes.

Ok, photos and videos can lie. Maybe you say, well, if Whole Foods can create a fantasy world with pictures, why can’t animal rights activists create another fantasy world with pictures?

You might say, what if Whole Foods is actually a non-profit organization devoted to bringing healthful foods to The People and really makes sure its farmed animals are loved and cared for? And what if the grocery chain hires multitudes of employees, gives them a living wage and health insurance and asks them to gently put these cared-for animals to sleep after they’ve lived long and happy lives?

Truth alert: Whole Foods is a for-profit company that answers to its shareholders. If they can make money selling junk food, they do it. If they can make money selling animal body parts and animal secretions they do that too.

Nobody puts these so-called food animals “to sleep,” otherwise the eaters of such animals would also get “put to sleep.” They don’t live long and happily – that costs too much. No, as soon as these “humanely-raised” animals reach “market weight,” they’re killed in slaughterhouses, same as any other “food animal.” It’s terrifying and excruciating for all. “Grass-fed” beef cows are killed. “Free-range” turkeys are killed. “Humanely raised” ducks are killed. “Sustainable” goats are killed. “Organic” rabbits are killed. Monterey Bay Aquarium-approved fish are killed. “Cage free” laying hens are killed. “Happy” dairy cows are killed. There’s no retirement farm for dairy cows or laying hens. Dairy cows become hamburger and the chickens often become fertilizer or even animal feed as soon as they stop producing.

It’s an outrage that Whole Foods would rip off the Black Lives Matter slogan and use it to sell animal suffering to people who are concerned about farm animals. I truly believe those customers do care about animals. Plus, why would anyone give all that extra money to the shareholders of Whole Foods if they didn’t care?

DXE founder Wayne Hsiung at protest.

About 30 or 40 of us walked into a Whole Foods Market in San Francisco from a nearby park where we’d all met up. Trying (probably unsuccessfully) to look like customers we entered the store with our “It’s Not Food, It’s Violence” signs kind of hidden under our shirts or rolled up in our hands.

For a few minutes we kept sort of trying to look like normal customers despite the fact that none of us bothered to get a cart or a basket and we were all hanging around near the meat department when we heard the voice of one of the DXE’ers, shouting “Excuse me, could I get your attention?’

That was our cue to assemble in front of the meat counter and hold high our signs while other protesters gave short speeches about the suffering of animals whose bodies were now lying dead in the glass case. One of the speakers held a carton of milk and talked of dairy calves and baby goats torn from their mothers shortly after birth so that humans could steal their milk. Another speaker spoke of a lucky goat, Domino, who had been rescued and was now able to live in safety and to love and be loved by others. She talked about how Domino was an individual, no different from anybody’s dog or cat.
Despite the stories, a woman with a shopping cart seemed irritated as she made her way to the meat counter through our crowd.

Standing there with my sign I looked down to see a galvanized steel tub filled with shaved ice and fish bodies. The fishes’ eyes stared at me. The fish were packed in the ice as if the tub was a little pond and the fish were looking up out of the water. They seemed alive, friendly and playful, decorative, even. As the protest continued, I wondered if customers just picked up the fish themselves or if they got someone from the meat counter to come around and do it for them.

I thought it might be easy for someone to forget that these fish actually suffered cruel and unnecessary deaths. These silent sentient beings who remember and have companions painfully strain to breathe for as long as a half hour after they’ve been caught in nets; or they writhe in agony as the most sensitive part of their body which is their mouth is pierced with a senseless merciless metal hook and they’re dragged out into the air to their deaths.

Outside Whole Foods Market Street store in San Francisco.

As our loud animal rights speeches continued and the Whole Foods employees looked either passive, bemused or annoyed. A lot of the customers looked the same way, but somebody in our group said she heard some customers chanting right along with us. “ANIMALS SUFFER – JUST LIKE US.” “ANIMALS FEEL PAIN – JUST LIKE US.” “ANIMALS WANT TO LIVE – JUST LIKE US.” “WHAT DO WE WANT? – ANIMAL LIBERATION.” “WHEN DO WE WANT IT? – NOW!” “WHAT DO WE WANT? – ANIMAL LIBERATION.”

We must have chanted loudly for nearly 10 minutes while the security and police officers just watched us and then, still chanting, we walked out.

Crossing San Francisco’s Market Street, we went into a Safeway store: “ANIMALS’ LIVES ARE THEIR RIGHT – WE HAVE JUST BEGUN TO FIGHT.”

– A Vicious Vegan blog post –


Security guard stands by during protest at the goat cooking demonstration. Photos by Michael Goldberg

By Leslie Goldberg

We were at the annual Goat Festival in San Francisco to cause a disruption Saturday. Yup, this morning I wasn’t pecking at my keyboard spouting off about animal rights or about the environmental disaster caused by animal food consumption, but rather I took it to the streets with the animal rights groups DXE (Direct Action Everywhere) and BOAA (Berkeley Organization for Animal Advocacy).

The disruption was successful: By chanting (loudly) and holding up signs we managed to make it almost impossible to give a cooking goat sausage demonstration.

A small group of foodies had gathered under a tent in front of the Ferry Building to watch John Stewart-Streit show how to fry up the flesh of a goat and to also have some samples. Stewart-Streit owns a restaurant in Oakland that serves “house-butchered porcine delights.” The onlookers sat on folding chairs apparently unaware they were about to experience an animal rights protest up close and personal.

Security, on the other hand, was aware there was to be a disruption. There were about eight San Francisco police officers and private security guards standing around. The cops kept talking into their radios. The security officers seemed annoyed.

As the goat cooking demo got started and the chef started talking about the “pleasures” of goat consumption, one activist who had been sitting in the audience stood up, and holding a poster of a dog kissing a goat, faced the audience and explained (loudly) about how goats feel, suffer, experience joy and love their families just like us.

She was so strong and forceful, Stewart-Streit who had a microphone could not make himself heard above her. Then another activist stood up, also holding a poster and started shouting about the suffering of goats and yet another activist did the same.

Then a chant began with about 30 activists standing around the seating area. We whipped out our signs reading “Stop Violence” from under our shirts and from out of our bags.

It was loud. Yet, amazingly, for the most part, the audience just sat there. At first when individual activists were speaking there was laughter but later the expressions turned blank as they stared at us with our Stop Violence signs. Despite the intimacy (we were quite close) it was as if they were watching TV.

Also amazingly, they passively ate the sausage that was handed out from a big platter while the ruckus was going on. I have to say, I did see a few angry faces in the audience and heard one woman say, “We have rights too.”

Chef John Stewart-Streit hands out sausages made from dead goats.

I didn’t respond to her with what I would have liked: “Your rights end at a goat’s throat.” I’d been instructed not to engage with individuals, so I didn’t.

I’m a new member of DXE. I had trepidations about joining. I’d seen the group’s videos where they walk into grocery stores such as Whole Foods and/or restaurants such as Chipolte and start chanting, “It’s not food, it’s violence.” They hold up signs depicting either really cute and sweet animals frolicking in sanctuaries or depicting horrendous animal cruelty.

Is this the right tactic I wondered. Wouldn’t we succeed in simply pissing people off by getting in their faces like that? Why wouldn’t they decide that animal rights activists were just crazy assholes and vow never to stop eating animals?

Then I heard a short lecture from one of the DXE organizers a couple of weeks ago who explained that DXE wasn’t really about converting individuals but rather, impacting society as a whole and making the effort to get our message out into public consciousness.

He also said that DXE is firmly committed to non-violence and if members are asked to leave by the police they leave.

I decided, what the hell, maybe this will do something. Maybe this will stop the slaughter, save the environment and restore public health. My husband Michael and I joined.

Before our action we had gathered at an apartment where some of the DXE organizers live. There I was stunned to learn that a DXE protest at a circus in LA had gone very badly and that circus employees set on non-violent DXE members and beat them with flashlights. One of the DXE members who had been attacked and injured had also been arrested and charged with felony assault.

Oh god.

They had advertised the Goat Festival as a place to “bring the kids to play with adorable baby goats” and attend the “goat-themed cooking demo.”

What? Play with the goats and then turn around and eat sausage made from their flesh?

OK. We’ll go to the Goat Festival where they are eating goat flesh and secretions yards away from where they are playing with living, breathing goats. Our presence as animal rights activists will suggest, if nothing else, “There’s something really bizarre about this.”

The Goat Festival was also “Humane Meat Ground Zero.” The event was sponsored by the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture. Folks troubled by the killing of animals for food could find some comfort in the belief that “Well, at least they had a good life.” And those worried about the environmental devastation caused by factory farms, could soothe their souls with the idea that the meat is “free range” and “sustainable.”

For this post all I want to say is “humane meat” and “sustainable meat” and “cage free” are advertising slogans aimed at people who have money and who care about animals. Those slogans are not the truth, folks. Undercover video of some of these “farms” are almost as gruesome as factory farm footage, but even when it’s nice and the animals are grazing in pastures, it’s not the whole story.

Why I’m not on board with the so-called humane meat or the humane dairy trip:

1) Killing animals and causing them pain, terror and suffering for trivial reasons like “It tastes good” or “Humans have always eaten meat” cannot be defended ethically even if a person paid three times the normal price for that meat or those eggs or those dairy products (yes, they brutally kill dairy cows and egg chickens for meat when they’re “spent.”)

2) Meat and dairy consumption is not “sustainable.” There is simply not enough land and not enough water on this earth to produce enough meat and dairy to feed everybody.

3) No matter how “food animals” are raised they cause planet-threatening pollution and planet-threatening green house gas.

If you still want to argue, write me a letter.

– A Vicious Vegan blog post –


By Leslie Goldberg

Why does PETA insist on using exhibitionist hotties in its campaigns? Is it to prove that animal rights activists aren’t stuck-up, no-fun, prudes? Is it to show how unbelievably sexy and attractive it is to eat plants? Is PETA trying to suggest that if you go vegan you’ll probably get a date with Pamela Anderson?

Yes, PETA is saying you will get to know Pamela personally if you go vegan! Or, if you like, you can become Pamela Anderson (try THIS green smoothie). At the very least you’ll certainly get to trade jokes with Ricky Gervais if you give up eating meat.

After I went vegan I got to stay at Paul McCartney’s house in England (yes, he paid for me to fly over there.) Whoa, was that fun! But maybe my most exciting plant-based experience was getting to go on Ellen DeGeneres’s show. Was that better than having dinner with Morrissey? Hard to say.

I like Morrissey and I like Tobey (Maguire). Still I did get kind of bored hanging out on the set of “Spiderman” eating vegan cupcakes. He made up for it, by giving me a mint copy of the first Spiderman comic.

Who cares about saving animals, lowering your cholesterol, losing weight, saving water and mitigating climate change? I want to go on a cruise with Bill Clinton.

Bill Clinton – is he really a vegan? Well, not totally, which is why PETA will not hook us up. He says he occasionally eats salmon and sometimes eggs.

When you think about it, it’s a little scary – the once most powerful man in the world can’t be counted on to say no to eggs and fish. While you might want to applaud his efforts at going vegan, he’s also sending a message out there that being vegan is just too hard – even for the once most powerful man in the world.

I’ve come to realize celebrities aren’t always solid when it comes to pushing veganism. It’s really disappointing. I so wanted to go hiking with Reese Witherspoon! She was nominated by PETA to be the 2005 World’s Sexiest Vegetarian. It was lucky she lost, since the next year she was on the Ellen Show, cooking up some chicken flesh mess, saying “Everything’s better with bacon.”

The sketchiness of celebrity vegans or vegetarians gives me pause. That’s why when I get down to it, I tend to prefer some of the dead vegan/vegetarians for idolatry and advertising – Tolstoy and Einstein for instance. You’re not going to see them blowing it on “Dr. Oz.”

– A Vicious Vegan blog post –


By Leslie Goldberg

Since Gov. Jerry Brown has announced that the little people now should cut back their water consumption by 25 percent, the folks in the animal food industry must be popping the champagne corks. Not only has Brown declined to ask agriculture, including animal agriculture, to cut back, it looks to me like none of the major American media outlets are focusing on livestock and calling it out for the mega-sponge it is.

Instead, the press recently has managed to suggest the idea it’s fruits and vegetables that are the culprits and if we want to do right we should not only turn off the sprinklers but ditch the almond milk and maybe skip the salad. Ok, ok, we should definitely turn off the sprinklers and phase out those oversized spa bathtubs, I agree. But there has been scarcely a hiccup about animal ag with a few exceptions and that’s a serious bummer.

Animal agriculture deserves more than a hiccup! And hamburgers are costing us way more than $1 a piece. Forty-seven percent of California’s water is used for meat and dairy products, according to a study by the Pacific Institute.

California’s biggest crop happens to be not almonds, tomatoes or lettuce. It’s alfalfa. Michael Pollan said during an interview with, that about 25 percent of our water is going to raise alfalfa, which is primarily for animal feed – not avocado sandwiches.

And possibly the worst of it is that a lot of that alfalfa is being shipped from California to Asia and the Middle East, areas that have started to glom onto the West’s genius animal-food-heavy diet.

“A hundred billion gallons of water per year is being exported in the form of alfalfa from California,” said Professor Robert Glennon from Arizona College of Law, who was quoted in a BBC article. “It’s a huge amount. It’s enough for a year’s supply of water for a million families – it’s a lot of water, particularly when you’re looking at the dreadful drought throughout the south-west.”

So the animal agricultural water footprint is, yes, the animals themselves, but also growing feed crops for not just California’s meat and dairy industry but that of China and the Middle East.

“Wonderful,” I sarcastically write.

However, I think there may be hope. I’m one of those pesky lefties who believes almost nothing happens in this country unless the mega-corporations want it to happen. Somehow I can’t imagine all the non-animal agricultural corporations standing by and watching this one economic sector, animal agriculture, take us down.

And of course, as consumers of these animal products, we can do something too: not be consumers of animal products. “Changing one’s diet to replace 50 percent of animal products with edible plants like legumes, nuts and tubers results in a 30 percent reduction in an individual’s food-related water footprint,” wrote James McWilliams in a New York Times op ed piece back in early March. “Going vegetarian, a better option in many respects, reduces that water footprint by almost 60 percent.”

It’s time, New York Times, to, at the very least, run another McWilliams piece.

– A Vicious Vegan blog post –


By Leslie Goldberg

Wouldn’t you know it? It’s the health food freaks, the almond milk guzzlers who are fueling California’s water shortage. Did you know that it takes a whole gallon of water to raise one almond?

A whole gallon.

Those self-righteous vegans who think they know something!

Since I happened to have a pound of almonds in the refrigerator I decided to count up those little water suckers and see how much water it takes to produce a pound of almonds. It was bad. Four hundred and thirty-three gallons of water.

Four hundred and thirty-three? Wait a minute. How about a pound of beef? (I dare say it’s a lot easier to eat a pound of beef than it is to eat a pound of almonds.) According to the folks at it takes between 3,000 and 5,000 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef.

“More than half the entire US water supply goes to livestock,” says the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

“It takes a lot of water to grow grain, forage, and roughage to feed a cow, as well as water to drink and to service the cow,” says the US Geological Survey Water Science School.

“Meat processing, especially chicken, also uses large amounts of water,” says the Environmental Working Group.

“The more plant-based foods we eat versus animal-based foods….the less water, energy, and other natural resources we use,” says the San Francisco Water Sewer.


If animal foods are such a big deal in terms of water usage, why, why, why did the New York Times, in their recent mega two-part series on California’s drought, not mention animal foods? Why did they instead focus on the water required to grow almonds?

I have four suspicions.

1) The reporters, like practically everyone on the planet, consider animal food eating “normal, natural and necessary.” (Thank you author of “Why we Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows,” Melanie Joy.)

2) They consider almonds to be maybe normal and natural, but definitely not necessary.

3) It’s kind of a sexy angle to zero in on almonds – almonds seem so innocent, but now we find they’re evil. (“Hey! Did you read this? It’s almonds that are using up all our water.”)

4) Pressure from the animal food industry, particularly the dairy farms which have been facing a serious challenge from the almond milk industry.

One of the big things The New York Times drought stories didn’t mention was water pollution, which by the way, is a rather large water suck. Turns out, according to the EPA, the animal foods industry is THE biggest cause of water pollution in the United States.

California’s Central Valley, which is dominated by huge dairy farms, has suffered serious ground water pollution caused primarily by cow waste. A study by the central valley water board found that 40 percent of the dairies in that area – more than 550 facilities – reported that they had nitrate levels in their own wells of at least twice the drinking water standard and it’s become a health threat to those who have the misfortune of living nearby, especially babies and pregnant women.

No, the Brita won’t take out nitrates.

Also I have to say, that’s an interesting concept: “their own wells.”

When it comes to water pollution, nobody’s talking about almonds as far as I can tell. Still, California is producing a lot of almonds, most of which are exported abroad. I’ve read that 10 percent of California’s water supply is going to raise almonds. And 47 percent of California’s water is going to livestock, according to a December 2012 report by the Pacific Institute, titled “California’s Water Footprint.”

I won’t say whether anybody should drink almond milk or not. I will say, though, people should eat (one of my favorites) lentils instead of meat.

“By making one meal a week with lentils instead of beef, a family of four can save the equivalent of 17 bathtubs of water,” says Oxfam International.

Seventeen bathtubs. One meal.

PS: Despite the holes in their story, the New York Times reporters do deserve some credit though for finding possibly the most intellectually challenged man in the entire state to give his reaction on the water crisis: “I’m not going to stop watering,” said Matthew Post, 45, referring to the gardens around his Benedict Canyon home. “The state does not know how to arrange the resources they have, and so we have to pay for it,” he said. “They say that they will raise the prices because there is a drought, but when the drought ends, will they reduce the prices?”

Ok, fine, Mat, but how about cutting down on the burgers?

– A Vicious Vegan blog post –