The Hypocrisy of Virtue Signaling

During the third week in November, Whole Foods announced that it would suspend (boycott) the Maine lobster industry in response to pressure from environmental groups who fear the demise of the “right whale.” (For those of you who cannot afford to shop at Whole Foods it is a high end national grocery chain populated by those who indulge in holistic medicine, off brand foods and pre-made tasteless desserts. For those of you forced to endure a teachers union led education in the Portland Public Schools the “right whale” is not a conservative whale deserving of scorn by progressives but rather is a large whale whose population, according to environmental groups, has fallen to three hundred and forty whales.) In large part the environmental groups have laid the blame at the feet of the fishing industry – the use of nets and boats that can collide with these behemoths. So they demanded that people stop patronizing the Maine lobster fisherman and the woke Whole Foods stepped right up.

That’s it. Whole Foods made the announcement, the mainstream media dutifully repeated it nearly verbatim. No questions, no independent verification. In fact, no apparent curiosity even to its effects on the New England lobster industry. But that is how it is amongst the woke community. The environmental community, or the other sub chapters of the media/progressive/liberal consortium speak and the woke community immediately falls in line.

But hold on for a minute. There’s more to this story than reported by the mainstream media – more than the press release by Whole Foods,

First there have been a number of right whale deaths according to a survey by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – three right whale deaths between 1997 and 2017 due to entanglements– three. And at that they cannot determine whether the entanglements occurred in the Maine fisheries or further north in the Canadian fisheries. Three death in twenty years. There have been less deaths by accidental collisions with ships – none in the Maine fisheries area. In fact the last reported death was in February of 2021 in Florida – not Maine.

There is no question that encounters between man and mammals – including right whales – can end in death or injury. However, there are technological innovations that will minimize that contact and they are today being deployed. The most promising is a device that will allow the lines tied to lobster traps to sink to the bottom and be recovered by remote inflation of a buoy on the end of the line. The idea that you have to shut down an entire industry to satisfy the environmental community is the moral equivalent of closing the forests to timber harvesting because of the spotted owl. Thousands of people were put out of work and closing the forests had little impact on the spotted owl population which was hunted by other raptors (Northern Goshawk, Golden Eagles, Great Horned Owls and even Peregrines).

Nearly 5,600 people are employed each in the harvesting and processing of Maine lobsters. Others along the Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey coasts would also be effected if Whole Foods actually boycotts the product and not just the state. But the elites of the liberal/progressive movement never think beyond the press release, the photo-op or the dramatic impact of a dead right whale – that is if they can find footage in their film library.

But even at that, this isn’t the whole story. The real story is about the hypocrisy of the woke corporate community.

Whole Foods was founded in Austin, TX in 1980 by a group of “natural food” grocers who combined Safer Way Natural Foods with Clarksville Natural Grocery and joined the chase to create natural food supermarkets. The chain grew in a series of fits and starts. Opening in new markets, acquiring existing natural food stores in other markets and adding vertical integration with production acquired along the way. However, in 2017 Jeff Bezos’ Amazon acquired Whole Foods for about $13.5 Billion. It was about the same time that Mr. Bezos personally purchased the Washington Post. Those twin acquisitions put Bezos’ empire in the enviable place where he can point in one direction (Whole Foods) as being a pillar of the woke community and point in the other direction with the Washington Post to silence those who criticize the empire. (That point may have been considered by Elon Musk in his acquisition of Twitter as an offset to some of his less woke enterprises – space exploration, weapons development, etc.)

For most of us, Amazon represents the best of economic opportunity – a small business based on electronic book selling growing into an economic engine and bringing with it spectacular value to its investors. But not so the liberal/progressive community and their publicists in the mainstream media. For them, size matters. Big is bad. Admittedly Amazon has been an historic growth engine and a change agent for the entire retail market, but it has done so with a spat of labor disputes, disruption for small businesses*, and the ever present damage to the environment in the form of its transportation arm. But in reality, for those in the liberal/progressive phalanx, particularly those in its media contingent, success breeds contempt, animosity and suspicion. In a corollary to the ancient adage about the teaching profession, I would speculate that those who can, do, and those who cannot become journalists and criticize those who can do.

But even those embedded biases are no excuse for the level of hypocrisy reached by Whole Foods in its announcement about boycotting the Maine lobster industry. While Whole Foods may no longer sell Maine lobster, its parent will sell it at even a faster rate. Thus, no financial damage overall to the Amazon empire but lots of virtue signaling to maintain its position among the liberal/progressive elites. Go figure.


* While many small businesses have failed because they cannot compete with large businesses such as Amazon, others have taken advantage of sales channel opportunities through large businesses like Amazon.