The opening of BurgerFi has initially been exciting for many in our community. The Vassar Animal Rights Coalition (VARC) invites readers of The Miscellany News to take a second look at the BurgerFi franchise and the new wave of restaurants it is located within; doing so reveals that companies like BurgerFi present great harms obscured by marketing and often overlooked both by society as a whole and also by the self-described socially aware members of Vassar College’s community.
In recent years, the marketplace has seen a rush of companies and products that, like BurgerFi, can be described as green-washed or humane-washed. Recognizing that consumers care about the environment and about nonhuman animals, marketers have worked to present their clients as the ideal choice for conscientious consumers, regardless of actual practices put in place.
The food sector has been a prime site for green- and humane-washing because of its ties to environmentally disastrous and inherently cruel animal agribusiness. This rhetoric has been incredibly successful, allowing corporations like Chipotle to see their profits soar, while the products they sell continue to wreak havoc on the planet and its inhabitants. BurgerFi is a prime example of the success of this tactic even among the sharp and skeptical Vassar College community.
Visiting the BurgerFi website, one is greeted by a banner boasting buzzwords like “natural,” “fresh,” “organic” and “local,” all partially obscured by a large burger. The irony of this image should not go unseen. The burger is there to distract us, remind us that we don’t have to think about the implications of our food as long as marketers tell us it is a-okay. As long as our taste buds are happy, they tell us we needn’t worry that much.
These buzzwords are not only misleading, but also blatantly inaccurate. BurgerFi has revealed that the animals killed for its burgers and hot dogs are actually raised in Montana and Idaho. How BurgerFi defines local is unclear, but surely 2,000 miles from Poughkeepsie is not local to Vassar.
These feel-good words also mask the mass violence from which BurgerFi profits. Thousands of individuals are murdered for BurgerFi’s burgers and hotdogs and no buzzwords can make their needless deaths acceptable. It does not matter to these individuals what they ate during their lives or where they were located at the time of their slaughter: They were still bred and born to live short lives imprisoned before they were finally killed in fear. Restaurants like BurgerFi claim to be sustainable and call their products “natural” to normalize and make us feel good about eating them. But we should not. VARC firmly holds the position that there is no “humane” way to breed, confine and kill others and that for those with access to alternative food options, these practices are a choice in support of violence.
While VARC recognizes that BurgerFi is not alone in its exploitation of non-human animals, we also see Vassar as in a unique position to have an impact on what BurgerFi does and what they sell. VARC Co-President Alessandra Seiter ’16 has created a Change.org petition asking BurgerFi to add its first vegan option to its menu. The petition can be found at the following address: www.Change.org/p/burgerfi-put-a-vegan-option-on-the-menu.
One vegan option at one restaurant is certainly not enough to change the entire animal-industrial complex, ending the annual killing of over 150 billion individuals worldwide. But it is a first step in encouraging people to reexamine their consumption and in making less harmful choices accessible. We hope Vassar College will accept our challenge to both consider the implications of food choices and ask restaurants like BurgerFi to do the same.
—The Vassar Animal Rights Coalition is an organization at Vassar College.