Whole Foods Market Has Award-Winning Animal Rights Activist Arrested for Handing Out Leaflets!

laurenFood Empowerment Project Founder and Executive Director lauren Ornelas was arrested by Whole Foods Market on November 16, 2014, for handing out educational pamphlets in front of Whole Foods Market (WFM) in Sebastopol, California. The store manager had complained to police, and when the officer did not make the arrest, the manager chose to make a citizen’s arrest.

Note to my readers – this is a press release from the Rabbit Advocacy Network. It’s stories like this that make me reconsider all of the purchases I make at WFM.

Ms. Ornelas was a participant in a peaceful, legal protest by longtime Whole Foods Market shoppers and animal advocates as part of a national boycott asking WFM to stop the sale of domestic bunny meat—a new item recently added to the WFM meat case.

Ms. Ornelas, who runs a vegan food justice non-profit and has been vegan for over 26 years, said after her arrest, “The Whole Foods Market manager had me arrested because they don’t want their customers to know about their bunny ‘meat.’ WFM does not need to be responsible for the deaths of even more animals.” Margo DeMello, President of House Rabbit Society, adds, “Whole Foods Market has consistently hidden behind their wholly inadequate ‘humane standards’ and unsubstantiated claims of customer demands when rolling out their new bunny meat program. They have also chosen to source their rabbits from Iowa—an Ag-Gag state that does not allow outside verifications of conditions and standards. Whole Foods is attempting to create a demand for bunny meat and is not being transparent about how these animals lived and died.”

The Rabbit Advocacy Network, an international coalition of organizations, animal lovers, and activists led by Mill Valley’s SaveABunny and Richmond’s House Rabbit Society, has been protesting WFM’s June 2014 decision to begin selling bunny meat—the country’s third most beloved furry companion animal. In response, WFM has replied with form letters promoting their humane standards, has blocked social media users from posting comments about bunny meat, and has deleted negative customer feedback on WFM’s Facebook pages.

Marcy Berman-Schaaf, the Founder and Executive Director of SaveABunny, Inc, a San Francisco Bay area-based nonprofit rabbit rescue and adoption center, says, “New Zealand white rabbits are a gentle, loving, docile breed often referred to as the ‘golden retrievers’ of bunnies. They are as intelligent and sensitive as cats and dogs, can use a litter box like a cat, and live with millions of Americans as beloved family members. We expected better community values from Whole Foods Market.”

Ms. Ornelas’ leafleting activity in front of the store was legal, in accordance with the Supreme Court ruling Pruneyard Shopping Center v. Robins (1980), which established that, in California, private shopping centers become de facto public space when it comes to the exercise of an individual’s free speech rights, and California Supreme Court ruling Ralphs Grocery Company v. United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 8 (2012), which narrowed Pruneyard to those areas which are designed to encourage shoppers to congregate and relax, like the Sebastopol Whole Foods Market’s outdoor seating area.

Arresting a peaceful protester who was exercising her constitutionally protected free speech rights reinforces the fact that Whole Foods Market has something serious to hide in their rabbit meat program.

If you would like to help support lauren and the Food Empowerment Project, and have a great vegan dinner, come to the Veggie Grill in Corte Madera Saturday, November 22. 50% of the proceeds from their supporters’ purchases will be donated to Food Empowerment Project!

What do you need to do?

1. Come to the Corte Madera Location; Saturday November 22, anytime between 5:00 and 10:00 P.M.

2. Order lots of yummy food. (Don’t forget dessert!)

3. Provide your cashier with our flyer OR simply mention that you have come for the Food Empowerment Project fundraiser. (Very important.)

4. Enjoy!

Be sure to stop by and say “Hi” to the F.E.P. volunteers! (there until at least 9:00)

RSVP on Facebook

The Law of Unintended Consequences – GMO Edition

Non-GMO Project

Poor General Mills. In January they announced that original Cheerios would be Non-GMO. However, getting there wasn’t easy, according to an article by Reuters – “U.S. food companies find going ‘non-GMO’ no easy feat

U.S. food companies are rushing to offer consumers thousands of products free of genetically modified ingredients but are finding the effort costly and cumbersome in a landscape dominated by the controversial biotech crops.

The hurdles are so high that the growing “GMO-free” trend could result in a price spike for consumers, industry experts say. Eighteen years after GMO crops were introduced to help farmers fight weeds and bugs, they are so pervasive in the supply chain that securing large and reliable supplies of non-GMO ingredients is nearly impossible in some cases.

According to the article, General Mills spent a year tracking down the ingredients they need – particularly corn and sugar, there are few GMO oats grown – to make Cheerios non-GMO free.

General Mills said it spent millions of dollars installing new equipment for processing non-GMO ingredients and setting up distinct transportation and handling facilities to keep non-GMO supplies from mixing with biotech supplies.

This says a lot about how pervasive these GMO crops have become. When a company with the buying clout of General Mills has to spend a year to find the ingredients it needs, no wonder the average consumer has a hard time finding and verifying non-GMO food – and why we need a national, mandatory verification and labeling standard.

Absent a national standard, many companies are using the Non-GMO Project‘s verification standards. According to the Project, the number of verified products has grown quickly.

The number of such non-GMO “verified” products surged to 14,800 in 2013, up from 4,000 in 2011, and 1,000 more products are in the verification pipeline, according to the Non-GMO Project Executive Director Megan Westgate. Sales last year of verified products hit $5 billion, up from $1.7 billion in 2011, she said.

“We get about 80 new companies enrollment inquiries every week. People want non-GMO,” Westgate said.

One driver for this is the announcement by Whole Foods that all products on their shelves will need to be labeled for GMO content by 2018. Other companies like Chipolte and Post Foods are moving to more non-GMO products.

While it is great to see companies reacting to consumer demand for non-GMO foods – although General Mills said they came to this decision independent of pressure from consumers and non-GMO advocates – it is frustrating to think that there will be a premium paid by consumers for these products – while Monsanto and other GMO seed companies keep pushing their products to more and more farmers.

More than 90 percent of the corn and soybeans now grown in the United States are GMO strains. This means the pipelines for harvesting, storing, transporting, mixing and purchasing the commodities are awash in the biotech supplies.

To supply conventional crops, farmers must plant non-GMO seeds, prevent pollen or other contaminants from drifting in from neighboring fields, and store and transport the grain separately from GMO crops. The separation must be maintained all the way to the finished product.

As consumers, we need to vote with our wallets and buy non-GMO products and ask the stores where we buy our food to push their vendors to make their products non-GMO. It is the only way we’ll be able to loosen the grip on the food market by Monsanto and the other GMO seed producers.

The tide is starting to turn, let’s keep it going.