Animal Rescues: Is it Ethical to Save One Animal and Eat Another?
Recently, a medical nonprofit decided to go vegan in order to adhere to their mission for health. Should animal rescue organizations also “practice what they preach” and stop serving meat at their events for ethical reasons?
Two animal sanctuaries definitely think so and are asking animal organizations, like rescues and humane organizations, to go vegan.
Nonprofit Goes Vegan for Health Reasons
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,” the nonprofit, “which advocates for healthy eating, preventive medicine and ethical clinical research,” ditched the donuts for healthier vegan alternatives. However, the new policy doesn’t extend beyond the office.
PCRM took their new vegan practices, along with weekly instructions, over to Geico’s Chevy Chase headquarters. Over a 22-week period, Geico employee’s reported that they had “lost more weight, improved physical health and said they saw a decrease in food costs.”
Some Food for Thought
As reported in Cleveland, Gia Campola, an animal activist, explained, “There is never any recognition or discussion of the correlation between the grievous, merciless suffering of factory farmed animals and the suffering of cats and dogs.” Campola also added: “Why is one animal more deserving than the other? They are all equal, all sentient, all defenseless, and all need us to protect them.”
Animal Place, an established farm animal sanctuary, has its Food for Thought program. The program’s objective is “to help SPCAs, humane societies, and similar rescue organizations adopt an animal-friendly menu policy for their shelter-sponsored events.”
In the Animal Place press release, Kim Sturla, Animal Place’s executive director, explained that there is a “division” between saved and non-saved animals, and programs like Food for Thought “encourage shelters to see that farmed animals have the same value as companion animals.” Ironically, many of the rescue organizations also rescue percentages of farm animals (e.g., chickens, turkeys, goats and pigs).
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.” Some of the organizations consciously excluded fish, or pescatarian, options on ethical grounds.
Overall, 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.”
Setting a Humane Standard
Rick Thompson, from PETA Prime, feels, “It is inconsistent and hypocritical for animal shelters and rescue groups to raise funds to help some animals by serving other animals as food.” He likens eating meat to buying a dog from a puppy mill. He also feels that animal rescue organizations should set educational examples.
For Thompson, creating a more humane standard also has monetary benefits. An ethical consumer is more likely to donate to an organization aligned with their moral compass. There can be a dissonance between help save this dog, but come eat this pig.
Can We Blame Animal Organizations?
I don’t think so. There’s a disconnect between food to fork across the board, and animal rescue workers aren’t immune; they are consumers, too. How many Americans do you think flinched, or even questioned, Jack in the Box’s #Bork (beef and pork) and #Moink (moo and oink) SuperBowl commercial? It’s safe to assume that most viewers laughed along with the commercial.
According to Pro Bono Australia, a Central Queensland University researcher from an animal welfare and consumer study found that, “Although consumers declare they are willing to pay more for welfare-friendly products, these intentions are not often translated into practice at the shops.” Yet there is evidence that consumers are more “willing to pay more for high-profile, easy take-home message products such as ‘Freedom Eggs.’” The 2013 study also found that while most Australian consumers say that the care about animal welfare, many are seeking more information.
The dynamic of personal autonomy, office culture, serving a target audience and serving the greater good is complex. Animal rescue and humane organizations often play a positive role; it is encouraging to see how many members within these organizations are open to more ethical and humane choices at their events. It’ll be interesting to see how, or if, these organizations evolve.
Photo Credit: Animal Allies Rescue Foundation