Whole Foods issues restraining order on animal rights activists

Jenna Wong/Staff

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Whole Foods on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley successfully placed a restraining order on the animal rights activist group Direct Action Everywhere, or DxE, in response to the group’s demonstrations on Whole Foods’ property.

Whole Foods filed a complaint against 150 members of DxE, saying that the group had “illegally trespassed.” The complaint names Wayne Hsiung, DxE co-founder and CEO, as the only named defendant alongside up to 150 unnamed trespassers. The restraining order was issued Friday by the Alameda County Superior Court.

“DxE members have repeatedly entered our stores and property to conduct demonstrations that disrupt customers and team members by blocking access to our aisles, departments, and cash registers, interfering with our business and putting the safety of both customers and team members at risk,” Whole Foods spokesperson Betsy Harden said in an email.

According to DxE press coordinator Matt Johnson, DxE has done research concluding that Whole Foods sources its animal products from factory farms and subjects animals to “cruel” conditions.

DxE is an animal rights organization based in the San Francisco Bay Area. According to its website, the organization engages in “movement building,” “nonviolent direct action” and “open rescues” to further its cause.

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Johnson said a recent focus of the organization has been researching Whole Foods’ sourcing and advocating for increased transparency about the animal welfare standards to which the grocery store chain claims to adhere.

“For over four years, we’ve been researching Whole Foods farms, and they tout their farms as free-range and humane,” Johnson said. “What we’ve found is that Whole Foods is sourcing from factory farms, something that you would expect from someplace like McDonald’s.”

Johnson said DxE members and supporters held placards in the store and that someone would do a “speak out,” talking about what they alleged was happening in Whole Foods’ source farms. He said sometimes demonstrations involved chanting and props and that they were always nonviolent.

Whole Foods originally wanted the restraining order to be statewide and permanent, but the court approved only a temporary ban on the Telegraph Avenue Whole Foods location, according to Johnson.

Johnson said DxE is still pursuing action to increase transparency in Whole Foods’ practices but is also targeting Amazon and grocery stores. He said DxE is currently in the middle of “Occupy Whole Foods Week,” with activists planning to educate customers and protest on the sidewalk outside the store.

Additionally, DxE is working on “right to know” legislation, which would require Whole Foods and other stores to make available to customers all information about the food they are consuming.

“Ordinary people don’t want to support cruelty towards animals. We’re actually in contact with the Berkeley City Council,” Johnson said. “We are working with a lot of candidates. … We’ll see who gets elected.”

Contact Sri Medicherla at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sri_medicherla.