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


Ingrid H
Past Member about a year ago

Thank you

One Heart i
One Heart incabout a year ago


David C
David Cabout a year ago

division and contempt for those you don't agree with are not as likely to win over those you disagree with as much as finding common ground, creating a dialogue and educating...............the answer to the question is actually "yes", historically humans have eaten meat, animals have been for food in most cultures and religions (whatever you think of religion) it will take time to make all people realize what you veggie-ism and won't just happen overnight, thanks

Peggy B
Peggy Babout a year ago


Marija M
Marija Mabout a year ago


Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 years ago

thanks for the article.

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Claire Jordan
Claire Jordan4 years ago

The really difficult question, which Care2 never asks, is "Is it ethical to save an animal knowing that many other animals will have to be killed and fed to it?" Every time we save a cat or a dog - or a tiger or a wolf - we condemn dozens of herbivores which will have to be killed to keep the carnivore alive. Even when we put mealworms out for the birds, those are hundreds of little lives which we don't even think about, because we've decided that arthropods are less important than vertebrates.

Years ago, I saved an injured sparrowhawk and passed it on to the veterinary college in Edinburgh. They mended the bird's broken leg successfully, then a few days later they put him under again to fix his broken wing, and he died. Meanwhile several mice had been killed and fed to him - and I love mice. If I'd left that bird in the road to die it wouldn't have made any difference to the outcome for him, and the mice would have still been alive - yet could I have walked past and not saved him? There aren't any easy answers.

Diane L.
Diane L4 years ago

I agree, Arnold, but I think you meant to say no matter how much she wants to claim she was designed to be, not deny she is/was. Green Star your way.

Angela, who told you that you "started out as a role model"? Are you related to Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton or someone influential? The biggest role models that exist are our parents, and each of us can approach parenthood slightly differently and still be good parents. None of us enters this world as a vegetarian or a vegan, as much as they want to claim they were. Unless you were born with teeth and start chomping on carrots immediately after you were born, you were born to suckle MILK, either from your Mother or from a bottle of formula.

arnold wiseman
arnold wiseman4 years ago

Unfortunately, you are sadly mistaken, on several counts...

You are not designed as a "vegan" or "vegetarian", no matter how much you want to deny it. And the arrogance and ignorance of vegans and vegetarians is tantamount to religious nonsense... PLANTS are as alive, as feeling, as present as you or any other animal. The fact that you continue to live in absolute lack of awareness of this is KARMIC. There is a huge difference between desiring a peaceful planet on which ALL life is considered sacred, and treated with respect, and what you espouse... EAT CRUELTY FREE, YES !!!!! Subject me, or your cat or dog to your nonsense, NO !!!!