Put Your Mission Where Your Mouth Is: Menu Policies for Nonprofits

Photo: Marji Beach/Animal Place

Photo: Marji Beach/Animal Place

By Patti Nyman, Animal Place

Thanks to Cowspiracy, there is increasing awareness of the devastating effects of animal agriculture on our planet. Thanks also to Cowspiracy viewers learned that there are major environmental nonprofits refusing to recognize meat production is a major -- and by some accounts, the largest -- contributor to worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. It causes habitat fragmentation and destruction, results in loss of biodiversity and species extinction, wastes huge amounts of water, and pollutes air and waterways.

It’s one thing not to address the problem, it’s quite another to actively contribute to it. The question of whether an environmental or wildlife organization serves animals at its events is not a marginal issueit’s at the very core of their mission and work.

Fortunately, wildlife and environmental groups are increasingly adopting plant-based menu policies for official functions. Animal Place’s Food For Thought program works to promote and support these organizations, and encourage other groups in North America to ensure no animals are harmed or exploited for their fundraising events.

Food For Thought has also created a Report Card ranking the animal- and environmental-friendliness of the food each group serves. Organizations with a formal, board-approved policy to serve no animal products at events receive an “A,” while organizations that keep animals on the menu receive an “F.”  

For example, the Sierra Club, featured in Cowspiracy, received an F for having a mixed, confusing policy. At events for board members only, they have a formal policy of serving vegetarian (though not vegan) meals, but as for the rest of the organization’s events, well, they won’t bat an eye if the entrée is rainforest beef.

Speaking of the rainforest, Amazon Watch earns a C grade for its annual gala that features a vegan menu, but its staff vegetarian policy is not board-approved, so it lacks some authority.

When farmed animals are on the menu at nonprofit functions, it sends a mixed message to members and donors, as the very species and ecosystems these organizations are trying to protect are harmed by the industries behind the food they’re serving. As leaders in the environmental protection movement, these nonprofits are better positioned than anyone to lead their local communities toward more ethical and sustainable food choices.

Food for Thought endorser The Center for Biological Diversity, created an animal-friendly menu policy because they “recognize livestock production as one of the greatest threats to wildlife and the planet,” while Texas-based endorser, Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation, states in their menu policy that they “do not serve animals at [their] events as [they] are an animal protection organization that does not believe in eating animals.”

These organizations are dedicated to humane and progressive leadership and, along with the Food for Thought team, invite all animal and environmental nonprofits to address critical public concerns by aligning their menu with their mission. Help your local group get started!

Patti Nyman is the campaign and volunteer program manager at Animal Place, one of the oldest and largest farmed animal sanctuaries in the U.S. For more information visit www.animalplace.org and www.foodforthoughtcampaign.org