After a 2015 Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) investigation of Diestel Turkey Ranch based in Sonora, CA (covered in the Washington Post, Slate and the Wall Street Journal) revealed what activists say is a very different reality from the idyllic animal welfare marketing of the lauded supplier, the group filed suit against Diestel for violations of California’s False Advertising Law in 2017. That lawsuit goes to trial beginning today, and is expected to conclude Thursday or Friday.
Investigators say they discovered that turkeys marketed as “range grown,” “thoughtfully raised,” and “enhanced outdoor access” were in fact living indoors in massive industrial sheds — never going outside. Many animals at the facility were diseased, dead and dying (FULL INVESTIGATIVE REPORT). They say Whole Foods’ advertising of Diestel turkey came from a non-commercial “Step 5+” “showcase” farm. Documentation obtained through discovery reveals that fewer than 1% of Diestel turkeys were raised in the Step 5 or 5+ conditions Diestel prominently advertised.
DxE’s suit demands that Diestel cease their misleading marketing. Activists say the outcome could set a powerful precedent for ordinary people to hold corporations to account.
DxE says the Diestel situation is one poignant example of a broader issue. Increasingly-conscientious consumers demand a high degree of animal welfare. But companies such as Amazon/ Whole Foods are unwilling to bear the cost to actually implement such measures, they simply must cut corners if they want to sell conscious animal products at all. Their business model is reliant on a legal system which systematically elevates corporate interests over individuals, and it’s only by virtue of ordinary people undertaking extraordinary actions (often with extraordinary risk and/or cost) that things can be made right.
“Diestel and Whole Foods are distorting consumer perceptions,” said Kitty Jones, one of the investigators of the Diestel facility. “Consumers and animals both pay the price for that fraud.”
Aside from the Diestel case, multiple investigations challenging the Whole Foods’ animal welfare claims have resulted in aggressive legal action not against the company but against the whistleblowers. Most recently, Whole Foods filed for a statewide restraining order, banning DxE activists from protesting at all CA stores, following San Francisco demonstrations at Whole Foods and Amazon locations last month, which resulted in 37 arrests.
“We believe ordinary Americans feel compassion for animals. That’s why they are willing to pay a premium for what they think is ‘humane’ meat,” said Diestel investigator Priya Sawhney. “But the truth is the birds at Diestel’s farms suffer tremendously.”