As a kitchen manager at Chipotle, I never expected to find out that I was feeding the public a lie.
I spoke proudly with customers and trained new employees, dutifully repeating corporate talking points about our 'food with integrity'.
Then I saw an investigation done by Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) of a Whole Foods 'humane' egg farm. Activists found sick, injured and starving hens crammed into filthy industrial sheds by the thousands.
My trust in our humane marketing began to unravel. I started to question our own claims about animal welfare, which were very similar to those used by Whole Foods.
It all started with a 'Bell & Evans' label on a box of chicken. Inspired by the Direct Action Everywhere investigation, I tracked the supply chain to a Bell & Evans slaughterhouse.
Searching surrounding cities, I identified supplying farms, which had prominent company signs near the driveways. I took pictures of the outside of the barns - where no animals were present - and sent them to DxE.
I knew that with DxE's training, I too could go inside and expose the truth to the masses. Soon I found myself at my first Animal Liberation Conference (ALC), an annual event organized by DxE to train activists in open rescue, community-building, and more.
It was there that I gained the skills to walk inside one of Chipotle's farms to find that, like Whole Foods, Chipotle was lying to its customers. With a camera and a biosecurity suit, I entered the Bell & Evans farm to document thousands of birds crowded together, many of whom had injuries like splay-leg, in which babies are unable to support the weight of their rapidly-growing bodies.
I saw that Chipotle was profiting off of the same abuse of animals as other companies, and sourcing from the same conventional factory farms.
Corporations like Chipotle and Whole Foods take advantage of compassionate consumers who don't want to support animal cruelty. They're not just torturing animals, but also lying about it to the public and making billions in the process.
But passionate people are seeing through the facade. 200 people attended the 2016 ALC - at this year's conference, we're expecting over 2,000. The DxE investigatory video I saw reached thousands - now I am featured in DxE's most viewed open rescue video with over 4.6 million views.
Other former Chipotle managers have contacted me following my investigation, saying that they, too, left Chipotle, feeling betrayed by their lies. The same inherent compassion of ordinary people which Chipotle exploits is, in fact, our greatest asset in challenging Big Ag.
Industry deception is continually exposed as the power of the animal rights movement is on the rise. We will continue to take direct action everywhere, exposing violence and inspiring growth in a movement with the power to transform places of violence into places of peace.
My hope is that my story has played some role in chipping away at the humane myth, and the massive industry of violence which so desperately relies on it. We must continue to fearlessly take action to expose the truth, inspiring the masses to liberate the most vulnerable amongst us, never compromising in truly demanding 'food with integrity'.
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Rachel Ziegler is an organizer and investigator with Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) and leads the develop and trainings team where she helps activists acquire various skills in order to grow in their activism capacity and leadership ability. She is currently facing seven felony charges for attempting to rescue animals from a poultry farm during a DxE mass open rescue last year.
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