For those us who like to think of ourselves as “counter-cultural,” or “semi-counter-cultural” or even counter-culture sympathizers, Whole Foods Grocery is mortifying.
We KNOW we’re being duped by a big-ass corporation posing as, well, a non-big ass corporation.
“Would you like credit or would you like to make a donation for bringing your own bag?” the Whole Foods check-out clerk coos at us. Ahhhhhh.
We get to have the pleasure of painlessly giving 10 cents to a worthy organization.
So perfect. We don’t have to engage with a homeless person or even a bell-ringing Santa. We know our name won’t be added to yet another email list or junk mail list. And hell, you don’t have to be a genius to know 10 cents is a lot better than a dollar for the homeless person or $25 to Planned Parenthood. And all the while we get to feel good that we said “donation” instead of “credit” for bringing in our own bag.
The store is beautiful. All the colorful fruits and vegetables; all the “natural” foods; the seeming absence of Frito-Lay and General Mills, Whole Foods is a wonderful oasis from the grotesque American consumer culture.
At Whole Foods you know you’re not going to be visually assaulted by a huge display of ½ liter plastic bottles of Pepsi or by boxes and boxes of Froot Loops and Captain Crunch.
You know you’re not going to get hit with that slightly sweet, slightly rotting, slightly perfumey, overly-refridgerated grocery store smell as soon as you walk in the automated door.
And the dimmer, more “nurturing” lights? Whole Foods must have hired feng shui experts along with their architects to design the stores.
Oh, I must write something about the Whole Foods staff! Have you ever encountered a nicer group of employees? Ask where something is and a smiling and empathic “team member” will take you there. At the check-out, when they ask you how you’re doing, it seems like they might really want to know.
I love Whole Foods!
It’s the “Garden of Eden” of grocery stores, a place I’d like to go and hang out even if I didn’t need to buy anything.
When I shop there, I’m imagining I’m getting to kick all those mean nasty corporate kings in the shins, the ones who have inflicted all the plastic food-like substances on the world, causing a blight of Type 2 diabetes and obesity. I also spit on Wall Street while I’m pushing my cart (with the smoothly functioning wheels) past the big, wholesome-looking bulk bins of brown rice, raw almonds and the rest. Whole foods appeals to the hippie in us all.
But wait! Did you know that the brand with the lovely bucolic, “natural” looking label, Muir Glenn, is owned by General Mills? That the ooooh so natural toothpaste, Tom’s of Maine, is owned by Colgate-Palmolive? That Odwalla, you know, the company that sells freaking carrot juice, is owned by Coke? That the most holy of holy line of environmentally-friendly cleaning products, Mrs. Meyers Clean Day, is owned by SC Johnson? And finally did you know that Stacy’s All Natural Pita Chips is owned by yes, Frito-Lay? Real hippies know these things and real hippies know that although the produce section in Whole Foods kind of looks like a farmer’s market, it isn’t.
No, I don’t enjoy being manipulated and duped by General Mills, but Muir Glenn tomato sauce is fat free and has the lowest sodium content I have been able to find. Sure, the Odwalla carrot juice is made by Coke, but it’s still carrot juice.
I also don’t enjoy being duped and manipulated by the Whole Foods store itself but even if they weren’t beautiful, they often have the stuff I want, especially if I’m in, say, Memphis, Tenn. where there aren’t a lot of other “natural” markets.
Whole Foods is the “miracle” of what the French philosopher Guy Debord calls “The Spectacle Society,” where everything becomes an opportunity to make a buck. You’ve got a bunch a people who hate the multi-national food corporations? Well, then you start up a multi-national food corporation that is ostensibly anti-multi-national food corporations. Natch.
Whole Foods answers to stockholders, just the same as Nabisco, not to the gods of democracy, brotherly love and the Gaia principle. It’s listed on the Nasdaq as WFM.
If there’s anything that jolts the Whole Foods customer back into reality it’s the Whole Paycheck prices. Real hippies can’t afford Whole Foods.
I once saw an extremely sad yet at the same time extremely ridiculous note on a message board at Whole Foods. (Isn’t a food market message board downright homey?) Anyway, it said, “We’re seniors and we can’t afford Whole Foods prices. Please lower your prices. We want to eat healthy too!”
Hello?… Where do you think you are? The Garden of Eden of grocery stores?? Step aside old lady — make way for the paying customers. “Do you want ‘credit’ or ‘donation’ for bringing in that bag?”
— A Vicious Vegan blog post —
Are you a vegan Debbie Downer?
I know I certainly have been one at times. Take this quiz and find out if you, too, are coming off as a dum-ta-dum-daaaaaaaaaa… a vegan Debbie Downer.
Here are some questions:
1) Do you think it’s fine to talk about climate change, water pollution and/or factory farms at a dinner party?
2) Do think it’s fine to talk about “the obesity epidemic” or “the Type 2 diabetes epidemic” at a dinner party?
3) Have you ever started crying in the meat department of a grocery store?
4) Do you read the whole New York Times news section every day?
5) Have you ever told everybody at a wedding you’re not going to eat the cake because it has eggs and butter in it?
6) Have you ever posted graphic pictures of farm animal cruelty on your Facebook?
7) Have you ever told your children that Chucky Cheese was demonic and they weren’t
allowed to attend any birthday parties there?
8) Have you ever shown “Earthlings” to your party guests? Or have you ever said “If you really loved animals, you’d watch ‘Earthlings’ ”?
9) Have you ever tried to scare or guilt trip someone out of eating something you know is bad?
10) Have you read Gail Eisnitz’s book, “Slaughterhouse” and tried to tell people about it?
11) Do you sadly talk about world hunger or animal suffering to people standing in the grocery checkout?
12) Do you think about what it’s like on a factory farm at night when you should be sleeping?
One “yes” to any of these things could toss you into the Debbie Downer vegan camp. I’m not saying these are wrong things to do!
It’s just that if you want to do them, you’ve got to pull it off in a way that doesn’t send all pre-vegans running and screaming from the room.
Contrary to popular opinion, being a bummer doesn’t help animals and it doesn’t help you. It doesn’t help the health and welfare of the people you love and it doesn’t help the planet. If you’re following the “if animals are suffering, I’m suffering too” theme, you might want to rethink that.
New vegans are especially prone to slipping into the Debbie Downer syndrome. The information about the animals, public health, the environment and hunger is devastating. Finding out the world is not what you thought it was fucks with your brain and fucks with your soul.
It’s like you had no idea the house was on fire and now you do know you’ve got to tell everybody! Surely they’ll run out of the house and call the fire department. Surely once they’re aware, they’ll go vegan on the spot.
I was one of those go-vegan-on-the-spot people. Stumbling out of the theater after seeing “Food Inc.” that was it for me. No more animal foods. Then I read the “China Study,” which only cemented my commitment. I thought all I had to do was tell people what I’d found out and they’d instantly go vegan too.
Wrong. It’s also devastating to find out most people including people you really care about don’t want to go vegan, at least not now.
The situation around animal foods is depressing, but there are things you can do, things you must do if you want to better the situation for yourself, animals and the rest of us. Some stuff that sort of works:
* Take up jogging or some other vigorous exercise and try not to wreck your knees or your feet.
* To learn how to act in social situations, study the Japanese tea ceremony.
* Donate yourself to a vegan or animal rights group.
* Read Carol Adams’ book, “Living Amongst Meat Eaters.”
* Repeat to yourself: “Eating a boatload of potato chips and dark chocolate doesn’t fix anything.”
* Be nice.
* If you can’t be nice, start your own blog and call it “Son of Vicious Vegan” or “Vicious Vegan 2” or maybe even “The Vegan Pain in the Ass.”
As vegans who want to change things, it’s so important for us to be happy. Why would a carnist want to go vegan when he sees how miserable veganism seems to be for you? Veganism really is wonderful. It feels good on so many levels. It is OK to enjoy it!
A word about climate change: Currently, I’ve found that there’s now a code for “I’m scared shitless about global warming” and it’s “God, the weather’s gotten weird.” That’s all anyone seems to be able to handle right now.
Whoa. Time to go to the gym.
— A Vicious Vegan blog post —
Braggart celebrity chef and eater Anthony Bourdain volunteered to eat the last blue fin tuna: “If there’s somebody to get the last piece of bluefin toro meat in the world, I guess I’m the best candidate,” he said in a Huffington Post interview.
Yup, if we need an End Times a**hole, Bourdain would do just fine.
I’ve been Googling around trying to find out what does happen when all the fish in the sea are gone. That IS the freeway we’re on. The big fish population is now 90 percent depleted from what it was in the ‘70s and 85 percent of the world’s fisheries are either gone or nearly gone.
It would be nice if we could blame it all on BP, plastic bottles, climate change and Anthony Bourdain. They are certainly contributing their fair share to the loss of sea life. But there’s another culprit and that would be us and our forks, and, in the case of a lot of tuna, our can-openers.
Overfishing. Now, there’s a word you don’t hear too often. We don’t hear it, because we don’t want to hear it. Governments around the world are subsidizing fishing fleets to the tune of $16 to $20 billion a year.
Now that there are less fish, these fleets are having to “modernize.” They’re using radar to pinpoint fishing schools with amazing accuracy. They’re also using huge, huge nets to strip the ocean floors bare. And us taxpayers are actually paying for that stupidity.
In her recent TED talk renowned oceanographer Sylvia Earle said that a big predator fish like tuna, for example, is WAY more valuable to us alive than dead.
They call big fish “predator fish,” because, well, they eat the little fish, the ones that consume plankton. If the big fish aren’t eating the little fish and we end up with a whole bunch of little fish eating a whole lot of plankton…
YIKES! WE NEED PLANKTON. We really need plankton, it’s what’s providing half the world’s freaking oxygen. We need swimming tuna, Anthony, even that last one.
Well, why not just eat the little fish too? That’s one idea, but a bad idea. Say we eat all the little fish, what’s left? Jelly fish and bacteria. Oceans full of jelly fish. Blech!
I must admit, I loved salmon, especially teriyaki salmon. It just made me feel healthy to eat it. Even since I’ve gone vegan, I’ve thought well, maybe a fish oil capsule once in a while might be OK, just to be on the safe side. You know, omega 3’s and all.
Oh hell, I eat flax seeds instead.
There’s something about no oxygen and oceans full of jellyfish that scares me.
— A Vicious Vegan blog post —
If you want to find out where all the fish went, check out this TED talk.
— A Vicious Vegan blog post —
I know, I know, veganism is a royal pain. Go vegan and watch your social life disappear, your health disintegrate, your free time evaporate, your status in the world collapse and your food budget shatter. Then there’s the possibility of “Grain Brain” or suddenly turning gay or suddenly turning straight. Oh and having to eat only tofu on brown rice or other disgusting foods like okra, beets and kale. Ask any vegan, they’ll tell you how really awful it is.
But, but, but… You’re worrying about those sweet innocent cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys and fish who never did anything to you? About the pollution from animal ag? About climate change? About water shortages? About your cholesterol? About your weight?
I HAVE A SOLUTION!
And it’s Meatless Monday. It’s only one day out of seven. You don’t have to tell anyone you’re doing it. You don’t have to eat tofu. Instead of that burger just have a veg burger; Instead of chicken noodle soup, have lentil soup or vegetarian chili. Instead of bacon and eggs, have oatmeal, or if you live close to a Whole Foods, have a vegan doughnut and if you live close to a 7-11, have a bag of potato chips.
Oh sure, what is a Meatless Monday going to do? Well, when it comes to climate change, it will do more than driving a Prius all week. And that’s a fact. And if you go meatless for a year’s worth of Mondays, you’ll save 28 land animals and 175 aquatic animals.
One hundred and seventy-five aquatic animals? For every fish you eat, there’s something called “bycatch.” Those are the unwanted fish caught up in the net, which are usually dead or dying by the time they’re thrown back to the sea. The worst of the worst is shrimp fishing, where the bycatch ratio is 1 kilogram of shrimp to 5.7 kilograms of other aquatic life such as dophins and sea turtles. They are lost.
Meatless Monday is a big deal.
It’s true though; one Meatless Monday or even a year of Meatless Mondays won’t lower your cholesterol or make you lose weight. For that I HAVE ANOTHER SOLUTION: A book called “The Starch Solution” by John McDougall. Go vegan; skip the potato chips.
— A Vicious Vegan blog post —
Have you ever looked into your dog’s eyes and realized, that he was not the fool you thought he was? It’s true, dogs think things, feel things (such as love), plan for the future and do things, such as rescuing humans from the different kinds of jams we get ourselves into.
Well, the same can be said for pigs, who, animal behaviorists say, are even smarter than dogs. Cows are smart too, as anyone who has spent more than 10 minutes with them, knows. Even chickens who are commonly believed to be less intelligent than amoebas can recognize specific human faces. And turkeys who are also supposed to be dumb, like to have their heads petted. So be careful if you get a dog, you might start to realize…
The problem is, of course, animals can’t flush. OK, OK, some YouTube animals can, but your average chicken or your average cow cannot, even if you’re raising her in the back yard. The other problem is when an animal plops, it doesn’t just sit there waiting for Mom or Dad to somehow clean it up.
Poop and pee tend to go places – rivers, lakes, oceans and, yes, into our precious groundwater. There is nothing quite like nitrates to mess up an otherwise great cup of free trade coffee.
Oh hell, what’s a few nitrates? A few? No problemo. Thing is, our “food animals” just in the United States produce 89,000 pounds of excrement every second. EVERY SECOND. And that’s according to the UN’s 2008 report, “Livestock’s Long Shadow.”
We’ve got way more crap than can be used as fertilizer.
The EPA has come up with the troubling factoid that fully 1/3 of the underground wells in the South fall below EPA safe standard for drinking water in the South. (Nitrates are very concentrated in chicken manure.)
Glad you don’t live in the South? Well, nitrates from the California dairy industry have fucked up 100,000 miles of ground water, according to the EPA.
The moral to this story is don’t eat meat, eggs, fish or dairy. Not eating fish is becoming easier though. In a 2005 National Geographic article John Roach wrote, “Factory farm runoff causes algal blooms which deprives water of oxygen which create “dead zones” where fish can’t survive.” The writer explained that the largest is where the Mississippi River empties into the Gulf of Mexico. That dead zone is now the size of New Jersey. It’s a big freaking dead zone.
Everybody talks about how vegans are thinner, how they don’t have to take statin drugs, how they don’t have heart attacks, how they’re racking up less bad karma, but the truth is, vegans are just a lot less messy.
— A Vicious Vegan blog post —
For vegans and pre-vegans it’s never too early to start worrying about Thanksgiving. We’ve had about three and half months to recover from the last Thanksgiving, so now it’s time to start anticipating the next one and maybe even preparing for it.
It’s only natural to try and think of great zingers in response to stuff like this:
“Anyone who won’t eat turkey on Thanksgiving is a traitor to this country and this family.”
Then you want to say: If you eat animals and their secretions, you’re a traitor to the planet and a traitor to all future generations
“Your grandmother and I have been cooking since four this morning, the LEAST you could do, is eat turkey.”
Then you want to say: Four in the morning? I know; it takes a long time to cook a turkey corpse to make sure it’s not infected with e coli, campylobacter or salmonella. You don’t want to make anyone sick. Did you know salmonella can actually kill small children?
“I only put a little bit of milk and butter in the mashed potatoes – does that count?”
Then you want to say: Milk and butter OK? That depends on how much pus is in it – you see, most dairy cows have mastitis which is an infection of the udders. Pus oozes out along with the milk. I don’t think it’s a health threat, just unpleasant to think about.
“Did you consult with the doctor before you started doing this?”
Then you want to say: No, I didn’t consult a doctor. Why would I ask a drug dealer about health and nutrition?
“Depriving your unborn child of protein is criminal.”
Then you want to say: Giving animal flesh or secretions to anyone’s unborn or born child is criminal.
“What’s wrong with eggs?”
Then you want to say: How much time do you have?
“You always were a very picky eater.”
Then you want to say: How do you know that?
Where do you get your Omega 3’s?
Then you want to say: Where do you get your fiber?
“Is THIS what they’re teaching you in college?”
Then you want to say: I don’t go to college. I work for PETA.
As you’ve probably guessed, none of these so-called zingers work worth a damn. Well, they do work if you’re aiming to piss people off, embarrass them or cause them to thoroughly dislike both you and every other vegan they might meet. They also don’t work if you’re trying to end the factory farm system and help animals. They don’t work if you’re trying to help save the environment or if you’re trying to convince your loved ones to eat more healthily.
(more on Thanksgiving next week!)
Peas and love,
— A Vicious Vegan blog post —
Nobody wants to get their ass kicked out of a restaurant. It’s important for vegans to know how to act if they want to get something to eat, even in California. And it’s quite possible they’ll have something without a mother or a face. Walk into practically any restaurant in the Golden State you will see veggie burgers on the menu alongside the quesadillas and the pulled pork sandwiches.
Your waiter is cool. So you politely, but loudly, say you’d like the VEGGIE BURGER. You give him the additional information that you’re a VEGAN and tell him about the HORRIBLE experience you had at a steak house in Texas. You fail to notice the blank expression on his face when you say the word “vegan.”
After a while, he comes back with your beautiful veggie burger and your side salad with balsamic vinaigrette dressing. You take a bite, mmmm, this IS good. You take another bite. This time you notice a whitish string of something going from the burger to your mouth. “IS THIS CHEESE?” you say, again turning up the volume.
You notice your dinner companions are now staring at you with wide eyes. One of them has put her hand gently on top of yours which doesn’t keep you from starting to yell, “Waiter! Waiter! WAITER! Is there cheese on this veggie burger? I TOLD you I was a VEGAN. Are you deaf?”
“No sir, no sir, not deaf,” mumbles the waiter.
“Well, could you make mine WITHOUT the cheese?” you say.
As the waiter scurries off, it gives you time to explain to your companions why you never eat cheese and how cheese is just as bad as meat, maybe worse. You go into the horrors of the veal industry and the distraught baby calves torn from their wailing mothers. You don’t forget to talk about the pus from the painfully diseased udders of dairy cows and how they disguise the bloodiest milk to make chocolate milk. You fail to notice one of your companions was eating the pasta alfredo, but now you see she’s set her fork down.
The waiter comes back with the information that the veggie burgers are made with cheese. “They come frozen that way,” he says.
“FROZEN?!” you yell at the now totally shaken serving person. You notice that the manager has suddenly appeared. In a soft voice he says, “How can we help you?”
You’re starting to understand that you might get your ass kicked out of this restaurant you once thought was mellow, well, mellow enough to put a veggie burger on the menu. You decide to try and play on the manager’s sympathy. “Dear sir, I’m really hungry and I came into your establishment hoping for some cruelty-free nourishment. You see, the smell of cooking animal flesh is so repellant to me, it makes me want to vomit. Cheese and milk make my skin crawl. Call me overly sensitive, but even the idea of eggs also causes the gag reflex for me. I think of all those crowded chickens, 12 chickens stuffed into a wire cage, the size of a file drawer. It’s so small they never even get to even spread their wings or take a step. It’s a nightmare!”At this point the tears are rolling down your face. Then the sobs come. You’ve lost it.
The manager suggests to your dinner mates that perhaps you need a doctor and whispers it’s probably for the best that you all leave, don’t worry about the check.
Damn! Kicked out of another place, in California no less! You never see your dinner mates again.
— A Vicious Vegan blog post —