Written by Crystal Kozlak, Food for Thought West Coast Coordinator
Animal welfare and environmental protection organizations often overlook how the food served at their events and fundraisers may conflict with their missions. Animal shelters will serve animals such as cows, pigs, and chickens as food (e.g. burgers, ice cream, or even a pig roast) to raise funds for the cats and dogs they rescue under the missions of promoting compassion for animals or reducing the suffering of animals. Likewise, environmental and wildlife groups will serve animal products at their events even though animal agriculture is one of the leading causes of climate change and species extinction. The organization Food for Thought works with these organizations to align their menu with their missions.
Food for Thought is a program of Animal Place, one of the largest and oldest farmed animal sanctuaries in the United States. For years we have helped animal shelters, wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centers, and environmental protection nonprofits adopt an organizational policy stating that they will serve only vegan food at their sponsored events and fundraisers. We offer free consultations, resources on vegan recipes, product donation suggestions, a catering directory, and grant opportunities for organizations to throw their first vegan event. Currently, we have identified nearly 400 organizations in the United States and Canada who already have a policy to serve vegan or vegetarian food at their events.
There are many reasons why an animal protection organization should adopt a vegan menu policy. Here are a few examples:
Act in accordance with their mission: Animal rescue and adoption agencies are driven by missions to help animals and reduce the harm done to them by humans. Farming animals to be killed and eaten causes immense suffering to these animals. Farmed animals deserve to be protected from cruelty as much as dogs or cats. With more plant-based options becoming available, it is easier to eat vegan and avoid unnecessary harm to farmed animals.
Show humane leadership: Our society expects animal protection organizations to set the bar when it comes to humane standards. Farmed animals suffer tremendously on farms and when slaughtered, so it makes sense for animal protection organizations to adopt policies that don’t support this suffering. As a humane leader, it is an organization’s responsibility to operate as compassionately as possible.
Practice responsible donation use: It is essential that nonprofits act with integrity by using their donations in service of their mission and in ways that cause the least harm. Using donated funds to buy plant-based foods for events is responsible and ethically consistent.
Be inclusive: A vegan or vegetarian event makes all supporters feel welcome. Many supporters of an animal protection organization are undoubtedly already vegetarian or vegan, and while someone who is not vegetarian or vegan can still attend and eat plant-based foods, a vegetarian or vegan person cannot eat animal-based dishes. Offering exclusively vegan foods makes events inviting for all.
Save wildlife and the planet: Animal agriculture is one of the largest sources of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, causes habitat fragmentation and destruction, results in loss of biodiversity and species extinction, wastes huge amounts of water, and pollutes the air and waterways. Removing animal products from the menu at events significantly lowers an organization’s ecological footprint and it is more friendly to wildlife.
If an organization needs more reasons or encouragement to adopt a vegan menu policy, Food for Thought offers exciting grant opportunities as an incentive!
Our vegan event grant is a great option for organizations who want to try a vegan event without the commitment of adopting a policy right away. We reimburse an organization’s food costs up to $1,000 at their first vegan event. Similarly, we offer a ticket subsidy grant, where we will reimburse half of the vegan meal tickets up to $1,000. This option is perfect for a larger fundraiser or gala where meal tickets are sold in advance and where there is a vegan option on the menu. With our policy grant, organizations will receive a one-time gift of $1,000 for adopting a vegan menu policy or $250 for adopting a vegetarian menu policy.
Even though Food for Thought offers resources and grant opportunities, it’s important for these animal protection organizations to hear from their community. If you’d like to get more involved, you can join our advocate network or volunteer program!
By joining our advocate network, you will be contacted when Food for Thought needs help with a campaign. If you are interested in working with Food for Thought internally and gaining professional experience in the animal rights field, we would love your help as a volunteer! Projects you can work on include organization search and database management, organization outreach, editorial writing, or social media.
If you work, volunteer, or otherwise support a local animal protection organization and you want to see them adopt a vegan menu policy, then you can use our advocate toolkits resources on our website! Some actions you could take include signing and sharing our petition, promoting Food for Thought on social media, contacting your local shelter directly to ask about their menu policy, or writing a letter to the editor.
Animal protection organizations are more willing to adopt a vegan menu policy if their community encourages it. We can make this powerful change if we work together!
Featured image: a pig and a dog. Why work to protect one and eat the other? Image courtesy of Food for Thought.