I became a vegetarian about 25 years ago, and I did it out of
concern for animals. But I immediately began having more energy and
feeling better. ~Bob Barker
The so-called Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) is at it again. This
time, they're not attacking groups like the American Medical
Association or Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Now they're targeting
individuals, celebrity chef and restaurateur Wolfgang Puck, and
Florida-based philanthropist Nanci Alexander. But what are these
people doing against consumer freedom? Why do they merit the attention
of a powerful national lobbying group like the CCF?
According to the New York Times, Wolfgang Puck's business includes
"fine-dining restaurants . . . . more than 80 Gourmet Express
restaurants. . . and sells frozen pizza, soups, kitchen cookware and
The CCF's recent attack on Puck came after he announced plans to
revamp his menu to make it more animal- and planet-friendly. He plans
to immediately remove the most objectionable items, like foie gras,
crate-raised veal, and battery-eggs, and then work against cruel
farming-practices by implementing broad changes using only meat and
eggs from animals raised under strict humane standards. "It's time for
us to make a statement and a time for us to see how we treat what we
Nanci Alexander, the ex-wife of Houston Rockets owner Leslie
Alexander, is a philanthropist and founder of the Animal Rights
Foundation of Florida (ARFF), a non-profit organization devoted to
promoting respect and compassion for non-human animals. According to
their website, ARFF reaches "out to the public through demonstrations,
letters to the editor, paid advertising, and personal appearances . .
. on radio, television, and in school classrooms." They also provide
free rabies vaccinations and spay and neuter services to low-income
So what's wrong with that? It sounds much like the work that legendary
TV game show host Bob Barker supports. Barker, now 83, retired
recently after 35 years as the host of the Price Is Right, where his
signature sign-off was "Help control the pet population. Have your
pets spayed or neutered". His DJ&T Foundation, contributes to "spay
and neuter" shelters nationwide. He also devotes large sums of money
to animal issues and his endowments to support the study of animal
rights law are going to top law schools like Harvard, Columbia,
Georgetown, Duke, Northwestern, UCLA and Stanford. Barker is a very
wealthy philanthropist who says the major part of his
multi-million-dollar estate will go to animal advocacy.
The misnamed Center for Consumer Freedom is a group of lobbyists
masquerading as consumer advocates. Founded in 1995 as the Guest
Choice Network with a grant from Big Tobacco, the CCF has never
strayed far from its roots. Consumer freedom is not nearly so
important to them as corporate bottom-lines.
Simply put, they're a front group for the restaurant, junk-food,
alcohol and tobacco industries, and they run elaborate media campaigns
opposing the efforts of scientists, doctors, health advocates, and
animal and environmental groups, on a regular basis. They attack
anyone who exposes the hazards of the products of their corporate
sponsors. Animal-protection and environmental groups that advocate
vegetarianism both for health and ethical or for environmental reasons
are favorite targets of the CCF.
According to SourceWatch, a project of the Center for Media & Democracy:
"Anyone who criticizes tobacco, alcohol, fatty foods or soda pop
is likely to come under attack from CCF. Its enemies list has included
such diverse groups...as...the American Academy of Orthopedic
Surgeons; the American Medical Association; the Arthritis
Foundation;...the Harvard School of Public Health; the Marin Institute
for the Prevention of Alcohol and Other Drug Problems;...the National
Safety Council . . . Ralph Nader's group, Public Citizen; and the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."
The bottom line is simply that these groups, along with individuals
like Wolfgang Puck and Nanci Alexander, threaten the profit margins of
the CCF's sponsors.
But attacking Wolfgang Puck lets the cat out of the bag. The CCF can
no longer disguise their agenda under the cloak of "consumer freedom".
The CCF supports consumer-freedom only so far as it positively affects
the bottom-lines of its corporate meat and dairy sponsors. When it
doesn't . . . well, goodbye, consumer freedom.
Three cheers to Wolfgang Puck for his decision to steer his business
in a more environmentally friendly direction. And three cheers to
Nanci Alexander for her philanthropic work helping the animals. And
good luck to Bob Barker in his retirement and thanks for his
continuing efforts to help the animals.
As for the CCF . . . well, ordinary people are wising-up to the
tactics used by PR firms and lobbying groups like the CCF and--more
and more--responsible businessmen like Wolfgang Puck are joining
compassionate folks like Nanci Alexander and Bob Barker and coming to
the conclusion that profit-margins are not the be-all and end-all.
Maybe there's hope for us all yet!