The New Frontier


Activists in San Francisco suddenly converge on a Chipotle and perform a "die-in" to protest the company's violence against animals and deceptive marketing. 

Chipotle is one of the largest and fastest-growing restaurant chains in the world. Its market capitalization is over $15 billion. (A single share of the company’s stock, as of today, is a whopping $511.) And in its most recent 3-month quarter, it took in an incredible $827 million (18% growth from the year before), at a time when comparable restaurants are struggling (e.g. Ruby Tuesday’s comparable store sales declined by 11.4%). In the words of the prominent investment report, The Motley Fool, it was a “killer quarter” for Chipotle.

The investing community is right to describe Chipotle as “killer” – but in a decidedly less metaphorical way.

Here is the truth. Chipotle is on a genocidal mass murder spree.  Up to 95% of Chioptle’s sales involve the murder of animals, and millions upon millions of living, breathing non-human people – individuals with the same emotional lives as the dogs and cats we love in our own homes –have had their throats slit and bodies carved up to fuel the company’s bloody engine for profit.

But it’s even worse. Because the company has the audacity to claim that it is killing with “love” and “integrity.” It financed the distribution of a “pro farmer” documentary called American Meat that was well-received in theaters all over the country and described by the Village Voice as “exemplifying the history of meat production in the U.S., especially its innovations, by arguing that the industry is essential to the sustainability of our civilization.” It put on a nationwide Cultivate Festival that purported to show how the company was making a better world by killing animals, while featuring chefs who have been publicly unapologetic about their disdain for animal welfare. (“You put tripe in a bowl and tell them it’s from a humanely raised cow, and they’re going to eat it,” said one to the New York Times.)  And most recently, it invested millions into an animated short, The Scarecrow, with idyllic scenes of humane and sustainable farming—but, notably, no images of slaughter. The film, which was viewed by millions, was decried by press as “rife with chicanery” and ridiculed for its absurd marketing claims by Will Ferrell’s outfit, Funny or Die, in a powerful parody: The Honest Scarecrow.

Chipotle, in short, is at the forefront of an Orwellian movement to turn killing into kindness (along with other mega-corporations such as Trader Joe’s and even Safeway). And yet even meat industry publications have noted that the company purchases meat from the same concentrated animal feedlot operations (so-called “factory farms”) as other buyers. Despite this, Chipotle’s marketing ploys are succeeding. Its sales of murdered animals are exploding, and its genius marketing strategy has inspired other restaurants to mimic its Orwellian methods. Taco Bell, for example, just started its own Cantina Bell line, with the marketing theme, “Every Ingredient Tells a Story.”

This, quite simply, must be stopped.

The animal rights movement has been growing all over the world. The flagship newspapers in our country are publicly questioning the ethics of killing non-human animals, and pondering whether we might one day (and soon) look back on our treatment of animals as a calamity of genocidal proportions. And the most brilliant and influential public intellectuals are, increasingly, on our sideThere is change in the air.

But in every country where the animal rights movement has success, industry’s response has been the same: to shift the debate from “killing” to “humane care.” The 269life movement in Israel, for example, which is part of a surging animal rights community that has jolted the entire nation of Israel into a massive increase in veganism, has been met with industry claims that farm animals confined in feedlots “feel good” and that animal eaters should therefore feel comfortable, even proud, to eat their flesh.

The forces of tradition and inertia are incredibly powerful. And if the animal rights movement does not respond to these industry deceptions, we cannot hope to effect real and permanent change. As I saw in Chicago when I worked on the now-repealed foie gras ban, even significant legislative victories will be ignored or reversed without a wider shift in cultural and moral sentiments, a shift similar to the one that was achieved in the 19th century antislavery movement.

The key point, though, is that we can cause that shift.

We can devise a strategic and compelling response to industry propaganda that will put the animal killers on the retreat. (DxE, in only a few small actions, has already triggered a massive response by the company including a half dozen or so frantic emails from their corporate HQ in Denver and a corporate spy following our webpage and events). We can mobilize activists all over the world against the humane myth. And we can tell the animals’ stories, confidently and honestly, and succeed in creating a real public dialogue, and real change in our society.

This weekend at Chipotle, we had six cities across the country (San Francisco, Chicago, San Diego, Phoenix, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles) participating in a dramatic and provocative “die-in” against violence. We need many more cities and activists, however, to create the national dialogue that the animals so desperately need. The humane myth can be popped. But only if we come together, in a strong, confident, and uncompromising message for animal liberation.

And there will be many opportunities to come. The Chipotle die-in is just the first of many coordinated direct actions that DxE will organize every month. And in early 2014, DxE will be launching the big one:  for one month, we will release a series of creative disruptions every day -- disruptions that show the power of directly confronting speciesism anywhere and everywhere, with a strong community at our back. At the end of that month, we will execute another international demonstration with the Earthlings Coalition (which rallied thousands of activists in 41 cities around the world) and launch a powerful campaign – replete with haunting investigatory footage, careful research, and a strategic plan of action –against perhaps the largest animal killer of them all: a company whose penchant for violence is matched only by its proclivity for deception.

So stay tuned and be in touch. Challenging the humane myth – with impactful images and stories, and provocative demonstrations -- is the new frontier of animal rights. And there are great things to come. But we need your help in making them happen.

Until every animal is free. 

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