Founder Denise Bitz is a rare gem in animal welfare and has developed the shelter upon a core ethic of “uncompromised compassion,” which naturally extends to their food policy for sponsored events. For their progressive stride from vegetarian to now serving fully vegan fare, Brother Wolf has earned our Shelter of the Month award for February 2015. Recently, we had the great honor to sit down with Denise and talk about chow, change, and charities.
How did Brother Wolf's animal friendly menu policy come about?
“We have always been a vegetarian organization. As the founder and president of our organization, I didn't know anything about the horrors of the dairy industry. It wasn't until I hired our Executive Director, Paul Berry, an animal activist and vegan, that I began to do some research on my own. Paul was a mentor to me in a time of rapid growth for our organization, and I had to ask myself why he was a vegan and why my organization and I was vegetarian. Once I learned about dairy and all the suffering it causes, it was an instant change. Both for me, personally, and for my organization.”
How have your supporters responded to the new menus?
“I don't think anyone really notices the difference, to be honest! What we have been doing is basically not labeling our events 'vegan events' but just serving awesome, yummy, vegan food. Eventually, we will be more public about it and our beliefs but for right now, I think we are going about it the right way.”
What about your staff?
"I had one specific employee, a young man, in his 20's, who has worked for me for a few years. He has been the most vocal about our vegan policy (in that he did NOT support it) and even bordered on insubordination by ordering meat at our holiday party when he knew that it was a vegan holiday celebration. I thought there was no hope, BUT then there was a showing of Cowspiracy in our community and I offered staff 2 vacation days (yeah, I am a good boss!) to go and see it. He attended and said he was instantly going to only eat a vegetarian diet and that he hoped he could get to vegan one day. I was shocked. And proud. Like a proud mama!"
"Knowing what I know now, I feel that it is really important for animal welfare organizations to adopt a vegan policy because we should NEVER profit off of others' suffering. It's just wrong."
Tell us about some of the events that Brother Wolf hosts.
"We have a TON of awesome events, year round. All vegan now for the past 13 months. Just to name a few, we have our: Drag Queen Bingo, Run For The Paws 5k, Resolution Run 5k, Furball, Paws To Give, and this year, a new one, VEGFEST! All of the food is vegan and is so amazing.
My favorite food, so far, has been the food that the chef at "Celine's On Broadway" has created for our Furball Event. This is a masquerade New Year's Eve gala and her soups, dips, sandwiches, and deserts are to die for! Luckily for us, Asheville is a very "vegan friendly" city and all of the businesses we have worked with have been nothing but respectful and accommodating of our wishes."
Is it more commonplace to find animal welfare organizations interested in food policies?
I think so. I know that a dialogue has been circulating around our area with other animal rescue groups who are considering adopting new food policies. It's a good thing! People are starting to think about it and that is the first step!
Any advice for shelter directors or event planners that may be on the fence about a policy change?
Get off the fence and do what the right thing is for the animals. If you lead from your heart and from a place of uncompromised compassion, everything else will fall into place. If you lose some people along the way, don't worry! You will gain others.
Can you tell us about one animal Brother Wolf is trying to place?
Bubbles has been in foster care for 4 months and I know her foster mom would love for her to be adopted. Bubbles loves snuggling with another potbellied pig in her foster home, and she gets along with dogs, too! Please contact her foster mom, Janine, today at firstname.lastname@example.org!