Isn’t It Time To Stop Serving Meat At Animal Fundraisers And Humane Events?

Animal Place found that 78 percent of the organizations “already have in place an animal-friendly policy or are receptive to creating one.” This finding mirrors other polls where 85 percent of participants felt “it is ethically inconsistent for an animal shelter that rescues dogs, cats, rabbits, horses, goats, and other animals to sell or serve animal products at the shelter-sponsored fundraising events."

Animal Place found that 78% of the shelters and humane organizations “already have in place an animal-friendly policy or are receptive to creating one.” This finding mirrors other polls where 85% of participants felt “it is ethically inconsistent for an animal shelter that rescues dogs, cats, rabbits, horses, goats, and other animals to sell or serve animal products at the shelter-sponsored fundraising events.”


Under what circumstances should a humane organization unnecessarily cause pain or death to an animal?

When it’s dinnertime?

When we feel that not to cause pain and death would be seen as radical?

 When we are willing to ignore our mission in order to serve?

…. or never?

~ Montreal SPCA Executive Director Nicholas Gilman



Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

The dynamic of personal autonomy, office culture, serving an audience and serving the greater good is complicated. Twenty years ago it would seldom have been a consideration that perhaps serving meat at humane or fundraising events was ethically inconsistent with the goals of the animal protection community. But shelters, rescues and humane animal groups are now re-evaluating the food they serve at fundraisers, adoption events or even volunteer recognition luncheons.

Organizations that want to create or change a food policy are getting help from Animal Place, a California-based farmed animal sanctuary. Through its “Food For Thought” program, Animal Place is awarding $25,000 in grants to animal organizations that implement a vegan policy. The campaign currently has broad support – 200+ endorsers including HSUS, Animal Justice, Piebird Farm Sanctuary, Cedar Row Farm Sanctuary, Canadian Coalition for Farm Animals, and the Vancouver Humane Society.

Per Animal Place’s research, “29% of the humane societies and SPCAs (Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) had a vegetarian-only policy for their sponsored events.” Animal Place also found that when they also considered animal control and similar entities that “the percentage of vegan and vegetarian policy-holding organizations was 18% of the total surveyed.”

The Montreal SPCA’s “Best Practices” for holding successful all-vegan events means that they don’t lend their name to any

Saving animals is key to the our mission. Oh, and how would you like your burger cooked?

Saving animals is the key to our mission. Oh, and how would you like your burger cooked?

humane effort that serves meat.  They don’t allow meals to become the focus of any event – no sit-down dinners.  Instead they offer the best vegan food prepared by vegan chefs, served buffet-style, tapas, as hors d’euvres and amuse bouche.  Free booze helps too, says Executive Director Nicholas Gilman, who has overseen hundreds of  SPCA events that did not serve any meat.

Not only humane societies are adopting food policies.  As reported in The Washington Post, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a nonprofit office, decided to implement a new office policy stating that “only vegan food may be eaten in its office,” in an attempt to “practice what they preach.”

What are the advantages of a meatless food policy?

  • Align your menu with your mission
  • Be truly humane
  • Be an example for others
  • Operate sustainably
  • Offer healthier foods
  • Make all supporters feel welcome
  • Value animal sentience and intelligence
  • Increase awareness
  • Stand with other nonprofits
  • Reflects your values
  • No disconnect between the mission of protecting animals and eating lunch
  • No explaining to people why we’re eating one animal in order to raise money to save another
  • No one has to be vegan to eat a vegan meal
  • Even omnivores are beginning to expect their meals to be both healthy and humane

Implementing vegan or vegetarian food policies are not without risk or controversy either, and it can be difficult to answer tough questions about the meaning of humane and compassionate food choices.  There are still disconnects between food to fork across the board, and animal rescue workers aren’t immune; they are consumers, too.  How many people laughed at the Jack in the Box’s #Bork (beef and pork) and #Moink (moo and oink) SuperBowl commercial?




Commercials like the above demonstrate how challenging it can be to promote new animal-friendly consumer behaviours.  Perhaps that’s why only about 40% of SPCA’s have meat-free policies in place.  Groups also feel challenged to:

  • Address concerns about public perceptions of vegetarianism and veganism as being “extreme” and that your organization has become “radical”
  • Distinguish between institutional change and personal politics
  • Facilitate ideological confrontations between certified humane proponents and meat reduction proponents
  • Deal with the perception that non-meat based meals means a bowl of carrots and a few sticks of celery
You want to support your favorite shelter or rescue at its annual fundraiser. But the bill of fare for the evening is a carnivore's dream

You want to support your favourite shelter or rescue at its annual fundraiser. But the bill of fare for the evening is a carnivore’s dream

The British Columbia SPCA (who acknowledge that their leadership team are not even vegetarian) has not implemented a vegan food policy.  They have surveyed their community to determine what their current dietary choices are and have decided instead to instead encourage increased uptake of “humanely” raised farm animal products by British Columbian consumers through leadership in the BC SPCA’s own purchasing practices, which includes SPCA certified foods, certified organic,  free-range meat,  cage-free eggs, and pasture raised dairy products.

Whether “humane” or not, livestock production is a major contributor to land/soil degeneration, climate change, water consumption and other environmentally destructive activities. This is why in 2010, a report released by the United Nations Environment Program encouraged a global shift to a more plant-based diet in order to combat the environmental effects of consuming animal products. Animal rescue and humane organizations often play a pivotal role, and it’s time for every humane, health-oriented, and climate change advocacy group to adopt a food policy that fits their values and mission. We shouldn’t be lagging messengers for this.


Please take a moment to participate in this short survey (results will be published at a later date):


About heatherclemenceau

Hopefully as I've grown older I've also grown wiser, but one thing I've definitely become cognizant of is the difference between making a living and making a life. Frequently outraged by some of life's cruelties, and respect diversity. But.....I don't suffer fools gladly, and occasionally, this does get me into some trouble! I have the distinction of being the world's worst golfer - no wait, I do believe that there is a gypsy in Moldavia who is a worse golfer than I. Nor am I much of a dancer - you won't see a booty-shakin' flygirl routine from me! I'm also not the kind of cook who can whip up a five-course meal on a radiator either! And I've never figured out how to get an orchid to bloom a second time. I love to discuss literature, science, philosophy, and sci-fi , or even why Seinfeld is funny on so many levels. Words move me. I'm very soft-hearted about most things, especially animals, but I have a stoicism about me that is sometimes interpreted incorrectly. I do have a definite edge and an often "retro-adolescent" sense of humour at times. I'm a big advocate of distributed computing projects to advance science. Check out if you want to find out more. I'm an eclectic plant-based eater, and as such, it's a personal practice of mine to seduce innocent meat-eaters into cruising the (salad) bars at every opportunity. You would be powerless to resist. I was recently surprised to find that a computer algorithm concluded that I write like Dan Brown, which is funny because I didn't think Dan Brown could actually write. Check out your own style - Oh, and I love impractical shoes and funky hats.

10 responses »

  1. Great post Heather! I understand organizations’ reluctance to go all vegetarian or vegan for fear of reducing the number of supporters who might attend these functions thereby reducing funds raised. Our summer camp programs (including farm animal fun and Kamp Kindness) promote ways we can help animals but stops short of preaching the message ‘don’t eat meat.’ We discuss challenges farm animals face (in an age appropriate fashion) and we talk about options such as humanely-raised meat as well as vegetarian and veganism with the hopes that we help raise the consciousness level of the next generation. When people are more aware of how their food is raised, I believe they will make better choices, including purchasing more ‘humanely’ raised meat, eating less meat or perhaps adopting a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle. Forcing a judgement on people will only strengthen the meat-eaters resolve that we ‘animal crazed’ people are fanatics and will prevent them from exploring both the ethical and science-based discussions that need to be had.
    For organizations hosting dinners, there is no question in my mind that these events should be vegetarian and/or vegan occasions, but rather having the public perception be that these are evens ‘lacking’ meat, I would put my marketing skills to work promoting the a ‘premiere’ menu of the highest quality, health and nutritional value … I would challenge the meat eaters/skeptics to come enjoy a satisfying, healthy meal “the likes that they have never experienced.” They just might get a few extra people out who will accept the challenge, if for no other reason than to try to try to prove their belief that you can’t be full with out meat. My own husband is a prolific meat-eater (bought locally) but he has to admit when we dine out at my favorite vegetarian restaurant he always feels satisfied and even better after his delicious meal.

    • Sounds like good plan Jana. I don’t think I can find fault with it at all. We had the most fabulous vegan lunch and snacks at the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies conference in April. Possibly the best I’ve ever had anywhere. I also support having vegan food and a “meat option” as well.

  2. I was watching a “Hope for Wildlife” episode where they had their annual open house. It wasnt clear what they were serving at the BBQ but I had to wonder.

    • Last summer, Hope finally recruited a vegan restaurant to do an all-vegan BBQ. To my knowledge, there was still non-vegan baked goods and ice cream.

      Previous to that, they had meat BBQs. I went the previous year and I was very upset. I watched a horse, who was there to give rides, freak out on his handler. There was a petting zoo and I felt bad for the sick and injured animals that were put on display.

      Hope is becoming more and more receptive to change. If you have a problem with what you watched, I suggest emailing her.

  3. Pingback: Isn’t It Time To Stop Serving Meat At Animal Fundraisers And Humane Events? – Making Waves Outreach

  4. I was at Cedar Row Animal Sanctuary and at Wishing Well Animal Sanctuary three years ago and was very pleased to see how many were vegans, or at least vegetarians. I don’t think they should be apologetic for this. This may actually be life-transforming to others who observe their conscientious behavior when it comes to what they eat and how their conscience has the dominant voice in their choices.

  5. Our local group who does rescue AND advocacy, decided many years ago to align our event meals with our policies and our compassion. In the years that followed, we served the food and didn’t make a big deal about the fact that it was vegan ….there was a sign on the table – no preaching ….just a sign. We had 1 (one) complaint and seriously, if someone can’t come to an event and do without meat for one event…something is wrong. I think people expected and admired us for following through and treating all animals with the same respect that we treat the dogs,cats and other companion animals that we re-home.

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