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Debate Offers Food For Thought

Plan to boost sales of meat, fish sparks debate at bastion of vegetarianism


ALBANY -- Cows hold grudges and sheep remember faces, experts say. So it's no surprise that treatment of farm creatures has thrust a local food cooperative into a debate over animal ethics.

Honest Weight Food Co-op is mulling a plan to beef up meat and fish sales. Members will vote on the change later this month.

But last week, some vegetarians stationed themselves outside the Central Avenue store to express opposition and educate shoppers about animal cruelty.

"It is a values issue," said member Cia Bruno. "Organic meat does not translate into humane treatment of animals." She gave out pamphlets, then collected dozens of opposing signatures.


Managers say they need to cultivate new members to stay in business.

Which brings them to: eating meat.

While many longtime customers don't want to shop in the presence of slaughtered animals, many more say they want to buy meat, Lekakis said.

And they don't want to travel to a second store to get it. Why not sell organic meats and eco-friendly fish at Honest Weight? "The vegetarian who said meat eaters should go to the 'regular' grocery store ... should have to go to the 'regular' grocery store to buy your veggies," one member retorted on a co-op message board.


Years ago, the store was predominantly vegetarian, he said. Now, along with weekly complaints about parking, he gets requests for free-range chickens.

"It's a very hard thing. I'm not a meat eater myself and neither are a good percentage of the managers," he said. "I don't want to see it either, to tell you the truth. But this is up to the members and I want to allow the members to have a chance to vote on this."

Approval remains uncertain, Horwitz said. Most members probably eat meat, but they're not as organized or passionate about their food choices as vegetarians, he said. "They join societies, they subscribe to vegan magazines."

Meanwhile, animal rights law has grown from a handful of attorneys in 1980 to thousands today, said Steven Wise of Coral Springs, Fla., author of "Rattling the Cage: Toward Legal Rights for Animals."

The field is expansive; social attitudes differ widely depending on the topic: pet surgeries, biomedical research, rodeos, he said.