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.
Saving animals is key to the organization's mission. Oh, and how would you like your prime rib cooked?
"I don't understand the thought behind serving meat at events," says Kristen Gerali, founder of ALIVE Rescue in Chicago. "We are so passionate about saving animals. To serve animals at an event is just ... I don't know, wrong."
ALIVE, which Gerali founded in March 2008, doesn't serve meat at any of the five to seven events it holds each year. It never has. She made it part of the group's mission statement.
"(The policy) is well-received and people respect us for it," she says.
Vegetarian and vegan menus are not always the case with other animal welfare organizations. But that may be changing.
Other groups around the country are taking a step back and re-evaluating the food they serve at fundraisers, adoption events or even volunteer recognition luncheons. For some, the time has come to back up their talk of compassion toward animals with action. Meat is out, vegetarian and vegan alternatives are in.
"Over 90 percent of animals raised for food are raised in factory farms. When that information is shared people don't want to be part of that," says Heather J. Cammisa, president and CEO of St. Hubert's Animal Welfare Center in New Jersey (www.sthuberts.org). "We're relied upon to be a leader in animal welfare standards, so we have to be active."
When Cammisa came to St. Hubert's in 2010, the 70-year-old organization was serving meat at its events. She had previously worked with other groups that went vegetarian, "and when I came here we started the discussion."
Now, St. Hubert's is meatless.
"Our mission involves the humane treatment of animals, building an environment where people respect all living creatures," Cammisa says. "And this aligns with that."
The shelters don't need a lot of convincing if a 2013 survey of people who work or volunteer at California shelters and rescues is any indication. It found that 85 percent believed it was ethically inconsistent for an organization that rescues animals to sell or serve animal products. Still, only 29 percent had adopted a vegetarian or vegan policy.
Cammisa believes that some organizations fear a negative reaction from donors and supporters. That wasn't the case for St. Hubert's, though initially some people needed to be reassured.
"People came up to us, you know, 'I thought you were telling me what I could eat in my home.' But this is great," she said. "It's about opening eyes."
Before Gerali founded ALIVE (www.aliverescue.org), she was with another group that tried to implement a no-meat policy, but there was resistance.
"A lot of people say, 'People are paying money, they'll expect meat.' Or they are meat eaters themselves. It's a lifestyle. You don't see ... the cruelty animals have to go through just to arrive on our plate. It isn't pretty. Maybe they didn't realize."
Gerali says that she has had only one complaint since ALIVE was founded.
"The gentleman was a big-time meat eater," she says. "'Where's the meat?' I told him it's just not something we support. It's cool too because it's sort of an educational tool without getting in their face. We offer the (vegetarian) options and they enjoy the flavor, and we hope they follow up."
Shelters, rescues and other groups that are considering a policy change are getting help from Animal Place, a California-based farmed animal sanctuary. Through its "Food For Thought" program (www.foodforthoughtcampaign.org), Animal Place is awarding $25,000 in grants to animal organizations that institute a vegan policy. The group began accepting applications in February.
In addition, Animal Place also gives suggestions on how organizations can explain and adopt the policy (www.foodforthoughtcampaign.org/shelters.html) and even offers plant-based menus and recipes (www.foodforthoughtcampaign.org/menus--recipes.html).
"The time has come," Cammisa says. "When it was all discussed and when we were putting together our policy — and that we'd be encouraging people to reduce the demand — there was discussion, 'Will this offend people? Will this be considered fringe?' It's like herding cats and it needs to be discussed.
"It'd be such a disservice to the animals if we came late to the party advocating for these animals. We have to be in the forefront. We shouldn't be lagging messengers for this."
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