The Chipotle Dilemma. ~ Karissa Ostheimer

Via Karissa Ostheimer
on Oct 9, 2013
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Recently, Chipotle, the popular fast-food restaurant, released a short film on factory farming (view it here).

It stars a sullen farmer on his path to realizing the vileness that occurs behind each package of “100% beef-ish” products that the company that employs him produces. 

Shortly after the airing of this video, the website released a spoof version of the film portraying Chipotle as nothing more than a mega-corporation with the sole intent of increasing profits via manipulation of the conscious consumer. “The Scarecrow” is merely a well thought out advertisement, according to the spoof.

“We can hide the truth, there’s nothing to it,” it sings. 

Is it truly improbable for a large corporation to operate on genuine ethics? Is Chipotle just pulling our animal-loving heart strings over to their nearest location?

Or could it be possible that they, like many consumers, are finally awakening to the origins of industrially produced food?

It is simple and convenient  to disassociate omelets with the chickens that they came from. A cheeseburger and the face of a cow are likely at completely opposite locations in our brain’s registry. We are able to pet and coo over our dogs while we cook up a steak dinner.

In Carol J. Adams’ 1990 book, The Sexual Politics of Meat, Adams introduces the psycho-social detachment that occurs between the consumer and the “Other” when people eat meat that has become known as the absent referent:

Behind every meal of meat is an absence: the death of the animal whose place the meat takes. The “absent referent” is that which separates the meat eater from the animal and the animal from the end product. The function of the absent referent is to keep our “meat” separated from any idea that she or he was once an animal, to keep the ‘moo’ or ‘cluck’ or ‘baa’ away from the meat, to keep something from being seen as having been someone.”

However, there is an animal-rights movement brewing in our communities, and its impact is beginning to be seen in mainstream food products. We are now grasping that the animal products that we purchase actually come from animals. Living, sentient beings lie behind each and every product in the meat and dairy aisles.

We cannot expect fast food chains to go from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) sourced junk food to healthy vegan menus overnight.

There have to be first steps, and Chipotle is making them. No, they are not perfect. However, change has to start somewhere. People are waking up to the reality of the food that they eat. For those with a conscience, that image of the frightened cow in “The Scarecrow” film will likely pop into their heads the next time they go through the drive-thru.

Despite this, animal-rights activists are raising concern about the inconsistency with Chipotle and their film due to the chains meat-heavy menu. While Chipotle does source their meat and dairy products from humane farmers that do not use antibiotics and hormones rather than from CAFO’s, as all other mega food chains do, it does not matter to some. According to many vegans, there is no such thing as humane practices when it comes to animal food products. 

I agree the truth must be told about where our food comes from (and all of the disturbing agony that goes along with it when it is conventionally sourced).

But if someone can’t shake their desire for a steak taco, I would much rather it come from Chipotle than Taco Bell.

A cow or a chicken living in its natural environment, grazing on a pasture, is a far cry from the animal slavery that occurs inside the walls of CAFO’s. Expecting every person on this planet to be vegan is a far-fetched goal. Making it known where conventional animal products come from and making other options easily accessible is a far-more reasonable goal.

Those that identify as ethical consumers that partake in animal products are often faced with animosity from the animal-rights community. While I am firmly against any and all forms of animal abuse, I am also realistic about what to expect from people. Look how long it has taken to question where burgers and milk come from.

If you force people to commit to a vegan lifestyle, or vehemently attack them for their food choices, then guess what? They are going to say “Screw you!” and continue to eat their cheap beef.

Changing how people eat will likely be a slow process, but it is happening and I feel that any small step in the right direction should be encouraged.

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Ed: Sara Crolick


About Karissa Ostheimer

Karissa Ostheimer is likely somewhere petting and/or giving treats to a dog or a cat or a squirrel or a donkey or a goat or a horse… You get the picture. She has been a pet care provider for 10 years and is continuously spreading her love of animals all over New England.


15 Responses to “The Chipotle Dilemma. ~ Karissa Ostheimer”

  1. latterenee says:

    "In Carol J. Adams’ 1990 book, The Sexual Politics of Meat, **link book (you can use goodreads as a source) Adams introduces the psycho-social detachment that occurs between the consumer…" Copy Writers didn't get their coffee yet? 😉 Otherwise, really interesting article. I absolutely agree that a vegan Chipotle is pretty unrealistic, however I wonder what else they could do to help spread awareness about these kinds of issues.

  2. Dstack says:

    I was thinking the same thing about their new ad campaign. They are easentially the only fast food chain to offer a respectable and delicious vegan meal and for that I applaud them. That being said, there is a huge divide between the message they are sending out and what’s on the menu. Ethical slaughter is a myth, and perhaps by talking about it more that will become more apparent to some. Based on that reasoning, I appreciate their new campaign and will support them as a business. I don’t believe that widespread veganism is a far-fetched goal. It is simply a matter of shifting a fundamental paradigm in our culture and that will take time. The message Chipotle is sending out is the sort of consciousness that is needed to make the shift, regardless of whether or not they act on it.

  3. Dstack says:

    I appreciate Chipotle's new campaign, regardless of whether or not they as a business truly live up to the ideals they are promoting. They are one of the few fast food restaurants around that offers a hearty and delicious vegan meal and for that I applaud them.
    I disagree that a vegan majority is a far-fetched idea. To shift the current paradigm regarding diet and health ideas like the ones present in scarecrow must become prevalent in the mainstream. Even if they aren't practicing what they preach now, I have hope that they will move in that direction (as they already have by removing bacon from their pinto beans). They are still a business, and would certainly have trouble surviving without meat.
    Humane slaughter is a myth, and sooner or later humanity will come to terms with that. Social awareness of the cruelty involved in our habits is growing and Chipotle is playing a part. I say overall, it's a very positive thing.

  4. kiki says:

    It's so nice to FINALLY hear the voice of reason. I agree with everything here 100%! THANK YOU for saying it so well!!

  5. yogihick says:

    As someone who raises meat albeit humanely and sells direct to local consumers, I often feel the brunt of vegan/vegetarian/animal activist judgement – especially if I tell them I'm a yogi. They wonder how I can possibly exist with MySelf. We also grow vegetables for a CSA in our area. Nonetheless, we are known as meat farmers. I have been a vegetarian and made the conscious decision to eat the food we grow and have been blessed to have the space to grow grass which we turn into protein via our cattle and hogs.

    I look at the soy-based over packaged food that makes up most of the vegan/vegetarian food options in big chain grocery stores, such as TJ's or Whole Foods out here in the west, and think about the harm that monoculture farming does to the soil and the millions of microorganisms growing there (yes, life forms, just not as big as cows but very essential to life and the health of the planet). Not to mention the fact that most soy crops are GMO and there is no telling what that will do to one's body. Then there is the over packaging, which is another story, and the importation of food from far away and the carbon footprint – it goes on and on.

    How many of those animal activists or vegans are actually growing their own food? Talk about disconnect with your food source. Try growing soy in your backyard. Most people aren't growing any of their food anymore let alone cook whole foods that aren't prepackaged.

    Ah, thanks for letting me vent in my own self-righteous way. BTW, I still don't eat at Chipotle, especially when there are wonderful locally owned restaurants that serve food from local farmers. But, power to them for at least moving away from CAFO raised meat and bringing the issue to the forefront of mainstream culture.

  6. Auki says:

    Yogihick's relationship to food sounds keenly aware. He/she made excellent points.

    My wife & I used to raise & sell meat goats on our farm, but were never inspired to slaughter one of our goats. It's emotionally painful enough just to kill an occasional rattlesnake or squirrel while defending one's livestock or crops.

    After watching Forks Over Knives we decided to become vegans. However, veganism is almost impossible when dining at restaurants so we practice "vegetarianism" by including fish, shrimp & dairy when dining out.

    I look forward to trying Chipotles. Sounds as if they're taking steps in the right direction.

  7. Alex says:

    While there may be no "humane slaughter" it is just a simple fact that people do and always will eat meat. It's delicious, and if we are going to do so shouldn't it come from a place where we at the very know what they are eating and how they are being taken care of before they are slaughtered? I never judge Vegans for their choices, actually quite the contrary I applaud them for their dedication to their practice. I just don't get the holier than thou attitude that many of them have, what I decide to put into my body is my decision and just because people eat meat doesn't make them any less human. We aren't monsters for eating meat, Chipotle isn't irresponsible for serving it.

  8. Cesca says:

    Thank you for raising this side of the discussion. I live in the UK and have missed both Chipotle's campaign and Chipotle itself, but the ethics of food is a subject that has engaged me for many years. I was vegan for five years, and discovered that I simply do not thrive without animal protein, and that to be really healthy I need to eat some meat. I'm fortunate in living 3 miles from a biodynamic meat farm where the animals are cared for beautifully, and slaughtered as humanely as the law will allow. There is no one-rule-fits-all on this subject, but it's important that we can exchange views and learn from each other.

  9. Sarah says:

    What vegan activists fail to recognize is that even fruits and vegetables come with some measure of suffering. There’s a fair bit of human slavery that goes into factory farming, and it’s easy to ignore since there’s no clear proof that death is involved. Even local farms might not be paying living wages to their workers. Short of growing your own food, there’s no way to ensure it’s humane.

  10. Courtney says:

    I first want to say that I have no bad feelings towards vegans/vegetarians… etc. But animals were put on this earth to feed other animals. Are we not animals? I definitely think we are. Animals are both omnivores and carnivores. We are omnivores meaning that we can eat both meat and plants. Just because we can survive off of plants alone does not mean that we have to or even should. Would it be fair to tell a tiger to stop eating meat? That the tiger from now on can only eat grass? No! Meat and protein is very important to our diet! Now just because someone does eat meat does not mean that they are a cow slaughtering Satanist which it seems that's how most vegans/vegetarians view most of us meat eaters.

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