by Joan Reddy
Categories: Film/TV.

Burt Shavitz, the founder and president of ‘Burt’s Bees’ has been forced into retirement because he has been a very ‘busy bee’ in the romantic department. Shavitz claims that he was asked to step down from his position by the corporation’s co-founder Roxanne Quimby after he had an affair with an employee.

The seventy-nine-year-old recluse, whose simple life became complicated by his status as a corporate icon is now the subject of the documentary ‘Burt’s Buzz.’ In the film, Shavitz says that “Roxanne Quimby wanted money and power, and I was just a pillar on the way to that success.”

Quimby, who made more than three hundred million dollars when she sold the company, disagrees with any suggestion that Shavitz was treated improperly. She says that “[e]veryone associated with the company was treated fairly, and in some cases very generously, upon the sale of the company and my departure as CEO. And that, of course, includes Burt.”

Although director Jody Shapiro regards Shavitz as “an authentic character” he is still not sure about who this man really is. “After hanging out with him for a year, I stopped searching,” he said. “Is he more complicated, or am I trying to make him more complicated?”

“I had no desire to be an upward-mobile-rising yuppie with a trophy wife, a trophy house, a trophy car. I wasn’t looking for any of those things. I already had what I wanted,” he said in the documentary. “No one has ever accused me of being ambitious,” he joked.

Although he says he was not ambitious, he was not too humble when he used to stay in four-star hotels during promotional trips, or when he was greeted like a rock star in Taiwan, by fans wearing faux beards and bee costumes.

Director Jody Shapiro said his documentary presents contrasts. Shavitz is a humble man “who wants a simple life but also likes to travel and experience new things; a vegetarian who likes to shoot guns; a man who’s content to sell honey but also helped launch a big business.”

Shavitz said that he is not complaining that he is retiring. He is content with his three golden retrievers and his land. “In the long run, I got the land, and land is everything. Land is positively everything. And money is nothing really worth squabbling about. This is what puts people six feet under. You know, I don’t need it,” he told a filmmaker on the property where the company was launched back in the nineteen-eighties.

It is too bad that money was not worth anything to him when he first launched the company. It would have saved the lives, and hard work of billions of bees who worked overtime to accumulate food for their young, only to have their children’s food turned into face creams and lip conditioners. The only people who were fed and profited from ‘Burt Bee’s’ were the founders and shareholders of the corporation.

Keeping bees for commercial or hobby purposes violates the bees’ rights to be free of human exploitation. Breeding, buying and selling bees is no different than what is being done to farm animals. It violates the animals’ rights to live free of human use and exploitation.

In addition to keeping bees, taking their food supply is also exploitative. While beekeepers will say that they leave plenty for the bees, the food belongs to the bees.

Also, some bees are killed every time the beekeeper smokes the bees out of their hive. These deaths are an additional reason to boycott any products that are associated with bees.

Although, the man on the ‘Burt’s Bees’ logo claims to be earth-friendly and humble, he is now enjoying retirement with thirty-seven acres of land in Maine and an undisclosed sum of money.

The documentary ‘Burt’s Buzz,’ opens Friday in cities including New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, Phoenix and Cleveland.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons: courtesy of WestportWiki

About Joan Reddy

Joan Reddy is a professional photographer, writer, animal rights activist, and environmentalist. Joan holds a Masters degree in English Literature from the University of Toronto, and a Masters of Environmental Studies from York University, in Toronto, where her thesis focused on Animal Rights. Through her writing, Joan wants to help to educate the public about the way animals are abused and exploited, in cultures around the world. Joan is also founder and president of the Federal registered non-profit organization "International Communication for Animal Justice." Her organization's website can be found at www.internationalcommunicationforanimaljustice.org, and her professional profile on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/pub/joan-reddy/22/999/449.

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