Saturday, February 22, 2014

Some Thoughts on Chipotle

Many people are excited about the fast-casual restaurant chain Chipotle. They think it’s being socially responsible and doing good things for animals. But in spite of what the U.S. Supreme Court says, corporations aren’t persons. They’re merely legal entities without the cognitive capacity to either comprehend or exhibit social responsibility. And when they do “good” things, it’s geared toward maximizing returns to their stockholders. Everything else is just hype. Like it or not that’s the way corporations function through their charters and our laws.

Chipotle likes to throw around the term “naturally raised” in its advertising. It sounds good, but when it comes to food there exists no legal definition of “natural.” It can mean whatever a marketer decides it means. But whatever “naturally raised” may mean at Chipotle is irrelevant anyway because it misses the bigger point. For the issue for anyone who respects animals ought not to be how we raise animals, but that we enslave and raise them in the first place. And by that standard Chipotle is no different than any other business that exploits animals. Quite simply, a business that cares about animals would not be selling them.

“Happy animal product” marketing embraced by Chipotle, Whole Foods Market, and others—and approved by the major animal welfare oriented animal groups—makes consumers feel more comfortable about exploiting animals, and in so doing reinforces existing morally inconsistent thinking and behavior. That is exactly what it’s designed to do, lest people begin to question the legitimacy of animal use. And that’s why it’s good for marketers (like Chipotle), but terrible for animals.

Animal exploitation is ultimately about demand, not supply. Thus the solution ultimately depends on the consumer. Corporations—again, since they are not persons—cannot comprehend or exhibit ideology. So they will continue to meet our demand for animal products but are not ideologically wedded to that category of product. Should enough people stop demanding animal products, they would not hesitate to make the necessary investments and shift their marketing to vegan food.

If you wish to do something meaningful for animals, reject corporate feel-good propaganda, reject animal commodification, skip the “happy animal products,” and go vegan. Discover for yourself how easy and rewarding it is.

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