Censored: Ad Exposing Whole Foods’ Antibiotics Deception
May 24th, 2022
Apparently Whole Foods’ “no antibiotics, ever” marketing really means “antibiotics, sometimes.” Farm Forward recently exposed Whole Foods’ humanewashing after we uncovered drugs in the Amazon-owned retailer’s meat. Now, as Amazon’s annual shareholder meeting kicks off, the cities of Austin and Seattle have decided not to run Farm Forward’s new humanewashing public service announcement. We believe that the ad’s censorship by the two cities—where Whole Foods and its parent, Amazon, are headquartered—is unconstitutional, on First Amendment grounds.
In our appeal, we explain that placing the PSA on publicly operated spaces like the Seattle and Austin airports and public transit would provide an important public service. The ad informs consumers and shareholders about research by Farm Forward and research from George Washington University that uncovered prohibited antibiotics in Global Animal Partnership’s (GAP) Animal Welfare Certified™ program (the certification used by Whole Foods), including in meat sampled directly from the grocery chain’s shelves.1
Farm Forward found prohibited drugs at Whole Foods because factory farms depend on them to keep animals alive in filthy, crowded conditions—which are permitted in all but the highest tiers of GAP’s certification. Yet shoppers expect labels like GAP to ensure animals are raised on pasture, and a third of Americans actually believe—incorrectly—that this is the case when they see GAP’s label, according to a recent survey we conducted through YouGov.
Farm Forward’s censorship appeal references two previous successful legal challenges of local governments suppressing issue-based ads that were initially deemed controversial, with one federal appeals court writing, “The City, which owns the Airport, says the policy helps it further its goals of maximizing revenue and avoiding controversy. … Because the ban is unreasonable, it violates the First Amendment and cannot be enforced as written.” According to legal precedent, Farm Forward has just as much of a right to inform the public of this information in its totality as major companies have to display their latest products in airports and on buses.
Amazon has previously cast doubt on its own grocery chain’s humanewashing animal welfare certification by excluding GAP from Amazon’s online Climate Pledge Friendly store after conversations with Farm Forward. If GAP’s not good enough even for Amazon, why is Whole Foods, which prides itself as a leader in sustainable food, still using the GAP certification to deceive consumers about the factory farmed products on its shelves?
As Farm Forward awaits a decision on our appeal, we have taken steps to make sure the public learns the truth by deploying our ad to tens of thousands of cell phones within a 1-mile radius of both Amazon and Whole Foods’ headquarters, as well as the offices of Amazon’s top 10 corporate shareholders, to offer investors a glimpse into the factory farming practices permitted on Whole Foods’ shelves.
If Amazon and Whole Foods can’t be honest with their customers and shareholders about the truth behind their animal welfare labels, they need to ditch factory farmed products completely. Sign our petition today.