Thursday, April 29, 2010

PETA and HSUS Tag-Team to Take on Pizza Industry? Hardly!

The trade website Pizza Marketplace ran a piece yesterday about how supposed "animal rights" groups PETA and HSUS are tag-teaming to take on the pizza industry. According to the site, both organizations "are 'crashing' Papa John's and Domino's shareholder meetings". What they mean by this is that HSUS has recently used its supporters' dollars to become a shareholder in Domino's Pizza and that PETA has done the same with Papa John's. PETA has, of course, been doing this sort of thing for years. I remember back in 2003, for instance, when it proudly announced its having become "part owner" of Tyson Foods, Inc., the world's second largest processor and marketer of the flesh of chickens, cows and pigs.

Why on earth would two organizations that promote themselves as advocates for animals and let others misrepresent them as "animal rights" organizations choose to profit from animal exploitation?
Both PETA and HSUS claim that these actions were taken to give them each an official say in the decisions each pizza company makes (via shareholders' meetings) with regards to the animal flesh and secretions it uses to garnish the products from which it profits -- the animal flesh and secretion covered products from which supposed animal advocacy organizations PETA and HSUS also now profit. So will PETA and HSUS try to convince these companies to stop exploiting animals? Nope. Will PETA and HSUS maybe opt for the token gesture of trying to convince these companies to incorporate some animal-free substitutes for the dairy cheese and animal flesh they use on their pizzas? Nope. A half-hearted attempt to get them to use less animal flesh or secretions? Nope. According to Pizza Marketplace :

The Humane Society of The United States' Kristine Middleton said she would address what she said is [Domino]’s practice of using pork from suppliers that confine breeding pigs in gestation crates.
So HSUS bought stock in -- and is profiting from -- a company that uses the flesh and secretions of cows, the flesh of pigs and chickens and the flesh of fish. And why? To talk to Domino's about using gestation crates? As Gary L. Francione stated in his 2007 interview with Eric "Happy Meat" Marcus, enlarging or getting rid of gestation crates is like offering someone a "string band on the way to the gas chamber". Furthermore, aside from the fact that it does nothing to address animal use, it would only serve to make people feel more comfortable about eating pig's flesh on their pizza. This is how HSUS justifies profiting from the use and exploitation of non-human animals. As for PETA, the self-described "animal rights" group:
Stephanie Corrigan from PETA said the group would like to work with Papa John's on the company's dairy standards. "We're looking at the dairy farms they're using and encourage pizza companies to make sure their suppliers implement the most basic animal welfare standards," she said.
While PETA is profiting from the use and exploitation of animals, it wants to try to ensure that the companies exploiting the animals in question at the very, very least offer those animals "the most basic animal welfare standards". How charitable of them! While this is going on, the people over at the industry-front Center for Consumer Freedom (via its HumaneWatch site) are having a really good laugh, chortling that "PETA has been doing this for years [and that] [t]hey never got more than about 3 percent of support from any shareholders." I wonder, on the other hand, what percentage of the world's third largest pizza delivery company's profits PETA will get; with Papa John's over $1B in revenue in 2007, I'm guessing that it could be a nice chunk of change.

Of course, one does have to take what spews out of the Center for Consumer Freedom with a grain of salt, since they do also insist that in seeking to regulate various companies' use of animals and in choosing to profit directly from the use and exploitation of non-human animals, that somehow, HSUS has a "vegan agenda". It seems to me, however, that if HSUS actually had anything even vaguely resembling a "vegan agenda" that it would actually spend some of its millions seriously advocating for veganism. It doesn't. Furthermore, as long as HSUS can trick its financial supporters into allowing it to sell them indulgences while profiting from the actual hands-on exploitation of animals -- its bread and Earth Balance, why on earth would it have any interest whatsoever in actually advocating for the actual end of animal exploitation? Why on earth would it seek to educate consumers about not providing demand for animal exploitation, if doing so would ultimately affect its own profit margins?

I love pizza with the sort of ferocity that most people reserve for chocolate or reality TV shows. Thankfully, my pizza fix comes animal-free quite easily now
. Between the vegan cheese and meat substitutes available on the market right now, the frozen vegan pizzas and the hundreds of other plant-based ingredients available to use as toppings, there's no need for a single animal to be enslaved and then slaughtered for anyone to indulge themselves in a slice.

Of course, you won't be hearing about that from HSUS or PETA, now, will you?


Matthew Finateri said...

Uhh, I think I just threw up a little in my mouth...

Also (and as Francione has pointed out several times), "working" with industry- whether that industry be animal agriculture or pizza- in attempt to effect the supply of animal foods, will never work so long as the demand is there.

The reality is that anybody who wants cheese on their pizza is going to have cheese on their pizza. Sure, some health-foodies may opt for the new alternative, and maybe these chains will even gain new customers (vegans, lactose-intollerant's, etc), which could actually increase their net profit, allowing them to open more restaurants thus increasing demand for more animal foods. ...blah blah blah... its not even worth analysing.

Selling your soul and profiting off the skin and bones of animals who's "rights" you claim to stand up for, in attempt to get a few customers to order soy cheese or veggie sausage on their pizza (who will then go home and have chicken for dinner) is wrong on so many levels, that I don't even know where to begin.

Thank-you for this post!

M said...

The pathetic part is that according to this article, HSUS and PETA have absolutely no interest in influencing demand for the animal products used by the companies of which they're now shareholders; they're only seeking to regulate how some of the animals being exploited are treated. What's worse is that even if they do get those virtually meaningless changes to take place, they'll claim it as a "victory" and probably bestow some sort of "humane company" award on Domino's or Papa John's, thus endorsing the companies and getting even more people to feel comfortable eating their pizzas. Instead of trying to lower the demand for these products, they will very likely end up causing it to increase.

Anonymous said...

This article is SUPER MISLEADING. When you buy stock you can attend a meeting and influence the main stock holders who ultimately control he company. So they can buy ONE share- in the case of dominoes- this would be $15. I wouldn't call that supporting them, or profiting off them. Now if a lot of AR people do it, they will ultimately choose who runs that business and vote on how it's run. So technically if all the vegs buy it - its gonna have a heavy veg influence and turn over.

Some of you really need to Google "shareholders influence on a business" before jumping to conclusions. It's easy to assume - hard to think for yourself.

Matthew Finateri said...

I don't know what the intentions of PETA and HSUS are, exactly in respects to this article... but even if they're intentions are to gain control over these companies and thereby influencing what goes on the menus, WHO CARES?! History has show us (loud and clear) that PETA and HSUS are not interested in putting VEGAN items on the menus. These are welfarist organizations who continually put their efforts into influencing large companies (ie. KFC, Whole Foods, Burger King, etc) to introduce "happy" animal foods to their customers.

There are many many ways to spend your money that ACTUALLY influence social change in the name of animal rights... buying stock in Domino's Pizza in order to get gassed chickens or "free-range" eggs put on the menu does not- and will never- influence any sort of social change.

Anybody who claims that money is not part of the incentive, by joining hands with billion-dollar companies like Dominos, does not know the history of the welfarist movement. PETA and HSUS know that pushing for vegan menu options is not a plausible goal, so they intentionally push for higher welfare items to attract the interests of a welfarist society, therefor gaining public support/interest. More public support and interest = more cash donations in their pockets. These organizations are businesses... and businesses are reliant on money.

You can read a recent blog I wrote on animal rights and money here:

M said...

saui, this article is no way misleading. If anything, the activities in which PETA and HSUS are engaging to profit from animal exploitation are misleading. They are not going to influence other shareholders to do anything other than what bring the other shareholders more money. In many cases, regulating how animals are treated can actually lead to higher profit margins. So while HSUS and PETA may be able to convince those companies shareholder to agree to changes that would increase profits and lead to phony "happy meat" PR that will make consumers feel more comfortable eating their products, the truth is that this benefits nobody but the shareholders -- HSUS, PETA or otherwise -- by filling their pockets with money. As long as their is demand for animal products, those companies will continue to use animals.

On the other hand, PETA and HSUS could spend some of their millions focusing on the demand side of things to educate humans about no eating or otherwise exploiting non-human animals. But no, they'd rather invest in their companies under the pretext of being able to change things from inside, while they each profit off the continued use of animals. If you don't understand the problem with this, then I think that you should consider reading Gary Francione's "Rain Without Thunder" to gain some insight into why regulationism -- new welfarism -- doesn't work.