As an alumni of The George Washington University who only eats plant-based food and advocates for people to allow animals to live freely, I read your cover story “Food for Thought” in the Summer 2013 edition of GW Magazine with great interest and disappointment. You prop up Chef Jose Andres on a pedestal of virtue without giving consideration to the tragic hypocrisy of his message. “Food for Thought” made me wonder why you’re not encouraging GW students to think critically about food and it inspired me to share a serving of the truth.
In the article, Chef Andres lectures students about the importance of healthy and environmentally sustainable eating while joking about enjoying hot dogs. His menu consists of a variety of abused animals unhealthy to eat, including diseased livers from tortured ducks and geese used to produce foie gras, a food so cruel that it is illegal to make and sell in 14 countries and California. Mr. Andres led the charge to keep foie gras legal in California. In this interview, he states that there is no reason to stop selling foie gras because “we are at the top of the food chain” and we have been “doing it for 2,000 years.” Using his logic, there is no reason to stop genocide or slavery. He states there are “bigger issues in America like making sure children aren’t hungry” as if we can only solve one problem at a time and without acknowledging that unsustainable factory farming contributes to that hunger. Mr. Andres states all he sees at Hudson Valley Foie Gras and other farms are “happy animals.” Watch this 2013 cruelty investigation at Hudson Valley and decide for yourself if these animals look happy. Mr . Andres also touts the sale of cheese as part of his menu. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine describes cheese as one of the most unhealthy foods in the world that leads to obesity, heart disease, and other health problems.
Mr. Andres embraces the axiom: “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.” Fair enough. I’ll play along. Mr. Andres promotes and profits from cruelty to animals, human diseases, and the degradation of our land, air, and water while hiding the truth about animal agriculture for financial gain. He laughs about eating animals that endure the most egregious and wanton abuse. Given the reality of his menu, he may want to adhere to a different axiom (“Honesty is the best policy” seems more fitting) and prepare plant-based food that provides people a legitimate reason to admire him.
You state that Mr. Andres teaches students to “think about food in a new way” and “to use that knowledge to become agents of change.” How exactly is eating animals thinking about food in a new way or leading change? To the contrary, Mr. Andres teaches students to preserve the status quo of cruelty, disease, and catastrophic threats to our environment. Further, you describe Mr. Andres as an “activist through food” because he kills animals to feed people in Haiti. Such a myopic approach doesn’t make Mr. Andres an activist; it reveals his failure to provide food to people while simultaneously showing compassion for animals and our environment like Josh Tetrick at Hampton Creek Foods, who provides an example of what Bill Gates refers to as “the future of food.”
If you would like to write a story that provides our diverse student body with real ways to improve human health, show kindness toward animals, and reduce global environmental devastation, I invite you to cover our upcoming 2013 Florida March Against Cruelty to Animals that promotes global health, environmental sustainability, and mercy. You may also request an interview with my friend and GW alumni Paul Shapiro, the Vice-President of Farm Animal Protection at the Humane Society of the United States, to provide GW students more accurate insight into how to use food to promote health and compassion or Marisa Miller Wolfson, the Director of Vegucated, a life-changing documentary on the importance of eating plant-based food. If you want to educate students about factory farming, consider interviewing Mercy for Animals Founder and Executive Director Nathan Runkle. Foggy Bottom and surrounding D.C. neighborhoods are also the home to many wonderful veg restaurants. Consider interviewing a chef from one of these restaurants to inform students about the benefits of plant-based food. These are the selfless and heroic visionaries that deserve our respect, admiration, and attention. You have a moral obligation to tell the truth about food to the GW community. I hope you will embrace the challenge, put compassion on the menu, and shine the spotlight on the axiom by which these dedicated leaders live their lives: “Treat others as you want to be treated.”
On behalf of the tortured ducks and geese at Hudson Valley Foie Gras,
Andrew Kirschner, Ed.D.
Alumni, The George Washington University
11/19/13 Update: The GW Alumni Magazine published an abbreviated version of this response in their Fall 2013 issue and agreed, at my request, to interview HSUS Vice-President and GW alumni Paul Shapiro to discuss animal agriculture and the benefits of plant-based food.
12/16/13 Update: The GW Alumni Magazine staff are interviewing Paul Shapiro for an article in the next GW Alumni Magazine.
4/18/14: The GW Alumni Magazine published this article with Paul Shapiro.