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Protesters disrupt meat-eating debate


A group of animal rights protesters disrupted the debate between Whole Foods Market CEO John Mackey and The Good Food Institute director Bruce Friedrich, representing the argument that meat is unethical and unhealthy, and Stanford debaters Jack Affa ’18 and Jimmy Zhou ’18, representing the negative. The event, which was scheduled to begin at 7 p.m., was delayed 20 minutes by the protesters.

Event organizers — which included Stanford People for Animal Welfare (PAW), Stanford Center for Ethics in Society, Speakers Bureau and Students for a Sustainable Stanford — had some awareness that there might be protesters at the event.

The first interruption came from an individual woman who asked the crowd to be quiet for a moment. The woman held up pictures of closely-confined chickens she claimed to be from a meat vendor that sells to Whole Foods. The woman emotionally implored the crowd and Mackey to do better.

The woman was escorted out of the room by security. As she exited, she asked Mackey if they could talk, to which Mackey responded “not now.”

Soon after the first protester was removed, another group of eight protesters from Direct Action Everywhere, rose from their seats, chanting and walking to the front of the room. The protesters carried signs reading “What is Whole Foods hiding?” and progressed through a variety of chants.

The reaction of the audience was generally unsympathetic, with several audience members booing or yelling back at the protesters. After about 10 minutes of chanting phrases such as “it’s not meat, it’s violence,” the debaters left the room.

Security officers filmed the action but did not otherwise interfere. After 20 minutes, the protesters left the room.  

Both the security officers and PAW representatives declined to comment, but PAW did confirm that the protesters were from Direct Action Everywhere. Prior to the debate, signs were posted declaring that protesters were not allowed in academic buildings, and security guards were spread throughout the Law School to check for Stanford IDs.

In his opening speech, Mackey commented that if the protesters had stayed, they might have found out they were on the same side.

There were no further disruptions at the event.


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Ada Statler '18 is an earth systems major hailing from Kansas City (on the Kansas side, not Missouri). She's most passionate about environmental journalism, but cares about all things campus-related.