Western cattle ranchers often rail against federal government control of public lands, but aren’t averse to taking taxpayer-funded handouts whenever they can get them. Indeed, even famously insurgent Nevada cattle rancher Cliven Bundy took help from a taxpayer-funded public defender after being arrested on 16 charges of conspiracy to commit offenses against the United States.
Tomorrow evening at 6 p.m. Donald Trump Jr. will appear in Grand Junction at the Mesa County Fairgrounds, nominally to talk to sportsmen.
Donald Jr. likes to kill rare and endangered animals in expensive trophy hunts overseas. He is supposed to be speaking about “wildlife conservation.”
Anyone who can stand to be in the presence of a human being like this, or who can manage to do it without losing their stomach, is invited to attend.
Under pressure from a family member, I tried a Jimmy John’s sub shop last week. I had never eaten at one before. I tried their “Vito” Italian sub with few hot peppers on it. It turned out to be pretty decent — good enough, I thought, to go to another Jimmy John’s store few days later and order the same sandwich again. It tasted just as good as the first one, but this was probably the last Jimmy John’s sandwich I will ever eat. Here’s why:
As I stood at the cash register ordering sandwich #2, I noticed a huge, religious-theme sign posted on the wall right above the place where you wait to pick up your sandwiches. I asked the cashier why there was a religious sign on the wall of their sandwich shop. She just said “It’s a corporate thing.”
That was my first hint that something was very wrong with Jimmy John’s. It seems like businesses that go out of their way to push a god-and-country meme on their patrons (pdf) often have a slew of bad things going on behind the scenes that they are trying to hide from the public. It was just a hunch, a gut feeling I’ve gotten over years of observing these things, so I checked it out. I hit the internet and started investigating Jimmy John’s.
E-Coli, Mistreatment of Employees and Tax Avoidance…for starters
Sure enough, my suspicions about the chain were confirmed. I found article after article about a wide variety of things that are very wrong not only with Jimmy John’s sandwich stores, but also the chain’s owner, Jimmy John Liautaud. The more I read, the more horrified I got, and the less I wanted to eat there again.
In 2012, Jimmy John’s was found to be the source of a multi-state outbreak of E-coli that sickened 29 people in 11 states. Seven victims had to be hospitalized.
Liautaud makes his lowest-paid hourly employees — not just managers — sign no-compete agreements that prohibit them from working at ANY sandwich shop within three miles of the first shop where they worked for two years after leaving Jimmy John’s, and prohibits them from working at any other Jimmy John’s for 12 months after leaving. This makes it tough for high school or college student employees to get other jobs nearby after working at a Jimmy John’s. Former employees have brought a lawsuit against Liautaud over the practice.
A vocal critic of income taxes, Liautaud owes the state of Illinois over $1.4 million in taxes on his 2009 purchase of two corporate jets. Jimmy John refused to pay the taxes by arguing that the jets qualified for a commercial transportation tax exemption. The state of Illinois didn’t agree.
Jimmy John’s also recently settled a class action lawsuit in California (pdf) for falsely advertising over a 2 1/2 year-long period that their sandwiches had sprouts on them. They didn’t.
Jimmy John’s has come under fire for making financial contributions to extreme, anti-immigrant politicians in Arizona, like Joe Arpaio (the Maricopa County Sheriff known for racial profiling, arresting his critics and locking up innocent people) and failed presidential candidate John McCain, who selected Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008.
Wage Theft, Anti-Immigrant Policies, Canned Hunts
Two former Jimmy John employees from two separate store locations have also filed a lawsuit charging Jimmy John’s with committing systematic wage theft by forcing workers to work off the clock and refusing to pay them overtime. Jimmy John’s delivery drivers also sued the chain in 2013 charging that company stiffed them of wages and forced them to pay for their own vehicle insurance and maintenance. The chain has also been charged with crushing employees’ attempts to unionize.
Pretty bad stuff all around, and all of the above would have been plenty to put me off. But by far the most repulsive thing about Jimmy John Liautaud is that he loves to go on canned (fake) hunts and kill threatened species of large, wild animals. Canned hunts are hunts where shooters pay large fees to “hunt” trophy animals confined inside fenced enclosures. Sometimes the animals are pre-wounded to make the hunt even easier for a paying shooter. Website after website shows horrific photos Liautaud grinning proudly over carcasses of endangered African elephants, leopards and even an Alaskan brown bear that he reportedly killed inside a wildlife refuge.
The public response to Jimmy John’s killing of endangered animals has been visceral. The Facebook page “Boycott Jimmy Johns” urges people to stop patronizing Jimmy John’s restaurants in response to Liautaud’s pointless joy-killing of endangered large animals. A petition on Change.org asks people to boycott Jimmy John’s sub shops until Liautaud stops killing exotic animals for sport. The petition asks Liautaud to make a public apology and give a donation towards wildlife preservation in Africa. The petition is now closed, but Liautaud offered no apology nor gave a donation as requested.
The above is all I need to know about Jimmy John’s. However good, fast or cheap their sandwiches may be, my appetite for them has been completely wiped out by what I now know about the chain and the truly disgusting behavior of Jimmy John Liautaud, the chain’s founder and namesake.
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is working to expose the extraordinarily cruel treatment that Tennessee Walking Horses endure at the hands of human “trainers” to get them to display their characteristic exaggerated gait of lifting their front legs high off the ground when walking. The gait is referred to in the breeding industry as the “Big Lick.” In the mid-1940’s a stallion named “Midnight Sun” had a similar but less exaggerated high-stepping gait that drew people’s attention and brought people to shows to see him. Trainers started thinking that if they could get their horses to walk like Midnight Sun, they could draw more people to shows and make more money from their horses. To produce the gait, trainers began using a torturous process called “soring.” Soring is the practice of applying caustic chemicals to the horses’ lower front legs, like mustard oil, diesel oil, or even using chemicals from an ordinary grocery store that become irritating when mixed. The chemicals are applied to the horse’s pasterns, or lower legs just above the hoof, and then wrapped in plastic wrap and then regular vet wrap, so the horse’s body heat helps the chemicals get absorbed through the skin. These wraps are left on overnight. After they are removed, and just before a training session, chains are fastened around the pasterns to further irritate the horse’s front feet. The horse tries to pick his feet up high to try to avoid the pain, resulting in the much sought-after high gait. The practice of soring violates the Horse Protection Act, but the show horse industry uses a failed system of self-policing that results in a lack of enforcement.
Rick Berman, the D.C. beltway corporate lobbyist who revels in the nickname “Dr. Evil,” is at it again, this time defending a dangerous New Hampshire “ag-gag” bill that would block the ability to build solid court cases against animal cruelty in commercial agricultural operations. Berman also penned an opinion piece in the Boston Globe opposing the “Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act,” a bill that would require federal agencies to buy food products only from farms that raise animals free from cruelty and abuse. Aside from the underlying question of why the Boston Globe would print anything by Rick Berman, a corporate sell-out who lacks completely in credibility, why does Berman persist in supporting something as distasteful and horrifically unpopular as animal abuse?
Berman operates the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCR), an industry-funded front group that relentlessly attacks do-good organizations like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Berman uses over-the-top rhetoric, calling people who research and expose the causes behind obesity “food control zealots.” He uses hyperbole and slippery-slope arguments, saying animal welfare groups like the Humane Society are “fighting to get rid of every dairy, pork, egg, beef, veal, and poultry farm across America by increasing the cost of production and hence increasing the price of food.” Hogwash. Whenever possible, HSUS works with commercial ag operations to reduce animal abuses like tail-docking of dairy cows and confinement of animals in horribly small spaces. The groups has been successful in doing so, but does pursue legislation to protect animals, too.
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is sounding alarm bells about a bill introduced in New Hampshire’s House of Representatives that requires people who photograph or make video recordings of cruelty against livestock to report it to police within 24 hours and turn over their unedited video or photos to authorities. So what’s wrong with that? And why does the HSUS oppose it? After all, it sounds like it’s aimed at exposing animal abuse, right? Nope. It’s a particularly tricky form of an industry-crafted “Ag-Gag” bill meant to stifle reporting on animal cruelty in commercial livestock operations. How? When whistleblowers expose cruelty at commercial animal enterprises, a common excuse put forth by business owners is that the abuse was a one-off occurrence or a single event perpetrated by a rogue employee who has, of course, since been fired. People working to expose animal abuse in big agribusiness enterprises have learned that they must document repeated instances of cruelty in order to make a solid case against the company that will hold up in court. Such high-quality evidence is animal advocates’ only leverage to try and stop to the abuse. If people are required to turn over a video recording of a single instance of abuse the same day it was taken, it would make it virtually impossible to document a pattern of abuse to the extent necessary to make a tight enough case to stop it.
The big biotechnology firm Syngenta is facing criminal charges for covering up a U.S. study that showed cows died after eating the company’s genetically-modified (GM) corn. The charges came after a long struggle by Gottfried Gloeckner, a German dairy farmer and former supporter of genetically-modified crops, agreed to participate in authorized field tests of “Bt176,” a corn variety manufactured by Syngenta that was genetically-modified to express an insect toxin and a gene that made the corn resistant to glufosinate herbicides. Gloeckner allowed the GM corn to be grown on his farm from 1997 to 2002, and fed the resulting corn to his dairy herd. By 2000, Gloeckner was feeding his cows exclusively Bt176 corn. Shortly after, several of Gloeckner’s cows became sick. Five died and others had decreased milk yields. Syngenta paid Gloeckner 40,000 euros as partial compensation for his losses and veterinary costs. Gloeckner brought a civil suit against Syngenta over the loss, but Syngenta refused to admit its GM corn could be in any way related to the illnesses and deaths of Gloeckner’s cows. The court dismissed the civil case and Gloeckner received no further payments from Syngenta, leaving him thousands of Euros in debt. Gloeckner stopped using the GM feed in 2002, but continued to lose cows. In 2009, Gloeckner discovered Syngenta had commissioned a study in the U.S. of its GM feed in 1996. In that study, four cows died within two days of eating the GM feed, and the study was abruptly ended.
Fast-food giant Burger King announced this week that it will no longer buy pork from pig producers that use gestation crates, and will now use only 100 percent cage-free eggs. Gestation crates are confinement cages that commercial pig farmers use that are so small that pigs cannot turn around inside them. Female pigs raised on factory farms spend almost their entire lives in these tiny crates. U.S. egg producers typically cram millions of chickens into cages that offer only about 67 square inches of space per bird — less space than a single sheet of paper — on which the birds spend their entire lives. Burger King’s policy changes came about in large part due to the efforts of the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS), which has been tackling cruel practices in commercial agriculture, like the use of veal crates, battery cages and tail-docking of dairy cows. HSUS is forming state Agricultural Councils across the U.S. to promote humane food production practices on farms and ranches. The group’s goal is to move agriculture away from a system that treats living creatures as biological “machines,” keeping them confined in conditions that maximize efficiency but are extremely cruel and inhumane, to a more ethical, humane and sustainable system.
In 1983, Mitt Romney took his wife, five kids and the family’s Irish setter Seamus, on a road trip to his family’s cabin in Ontario. Romney put Seamus in a dog crate and strapped the crate to the roof of the family car. Romney proceeded to drive at interstate speeds for 12 hours, until the dog — stressed, sick and afraid — came down with diarrhea, which dripped all over the car and grossed out his kids. According to the story, Romney stopped long enough to hose down the car and the dog, and then hit the road again, with the wet, scared, wind-whipped dog still strapped to the roof of the car.
Romney does not deny the story. But to hear him tell it, the dog enjoyed the fresh air of the roof — a statement that strains credulity as much as any of his varying political positions.
The story has resurfaced this election cycle and is persuading a lot of people — including Fox News contributor Lanny Davis — of Romney’s unfitness for the presidency. Davis, a Washington, D.C. attorney, wrote that anyone who would do what Romney did to his dog “shouldn’t be president of the United States.” I have to agree, but I’m far from the only one.
In 2007, Scott Crider founded Dogs Against Romney, to publicize “Crate Gate” and spread the word about Romney’s legendary form of dog abuse. Dogs Against Romney sells poignant swag like bumperstickers that say “Get ‘Ruff’ with Romney,” and “Mitt is Mean,” official doggy bandanas that say “I Ride Inside,” and T-shirts that say “Dogs Aren’t Luggage.” Dogs Against Romney even formed a super PAC to oppose Romney’s nomination for the presidency.
On Tuesday, February 14, Dogs Against Romney held a press event outside the Westminster Dog Show at Madison Square Garden to help draw attention to Crate Gate. Dogs Against Romney says it does not endorse any candidate, but held its even alongside “Pet Lovers for Obama” — another organization working to bring attention to Romney’s mistreatment of his family dog.