Does What We Eat At Events Matter?

Patti Nyman, Animal Place
Geoff Urton, Senior Manager, Stakeholder Relations, British Columbia SPCA
Nicholas Gilman, Executive Director, Montreal SPCA


Food for Thought: Adopting Animal-Friendly Menu Policies (Patti Nyman)
In 2013, Animal Place, one of the oldest and largest sanctuaries for farmed animals in the U.S., conducted a survey of 157 shelters and rescue organizations across the state of California to test where shelters stand on the issue of serving animal products at their events. Polling indicated that 40% of SPCAs have meat-free policies in place, and 85% of the wider public believes it is ethically inconsistent for an animal shelter that rescues dogs, cats, and other animals to then sell or serve animal products at shelter-sponsored fundraising events. Animal Place’s Food for Thought program was created in response to this concern as an organized effort to encourage and assist non-profits - specifically shelters, humane societies and other animal agencies - to adopt animal-friendly (vegan or vegetarian) menu policies for their events. Ultimately, we must demonstrate that supporters will welcome the change and donor dollars will not be lost as we unapologetically, but non-confrontationally, help to inspire a renewed sense of the sheltering community’s fundamental goal, to help animals. This presentation will provide an overview of the campaign, reasons to adopt an animal-friendly menu policy, and campaign successes and challenges.

Key Learnings:
1. The importance of ethical consistency within the animal protection community
2. How to adopt an animal-friendly menu policy
3. Reclaiming the meaning of humane and compassionate food choices

Pros and Cons of Food Policies in Shelters (Nicholas Gilman)
Animal welfare organizations struggle with the issue of serving food at their events. Should they serve meat? Dairy only? Vegetarian? Vegan? A combination? Twenty years ago, this was not as contentious an issue as it is in 2016. Today, more people than ever are aware of the human and animal health issues involved in eating animal products. More and more of our stakeholders are aware of the cruelties involved in animal agriculture. But what about the event attendee who wants a choice? What about our Board of Directors, none of whom is a vegetarian? 

Key Learnings:
1. How to institute a humane food policy for your organization
2. Answer tough questions about food choices at your events
3. Build a consensus in spite of a wide variety of opinions”

The Challenges and Rewards of Implementing a Food Policy (Geoff Urton)
In 2006, BC SPCA adopted a food policy to encourage increased uptake of higher welfare farm animal products and vegetarian choices by British Columbian consumers through leadership in BC SPCA’s own purchasing practices. In 2015, BC SPCA conducted a feasibility assessment of a new enhanced food policy to align our purchasing practices with our values and further increase our ability to inspire change in consumer perceptions and purchasing choices.

Operating more individual locations (41) than any animal protection organization in North America, implementation of any new policy is most effective when good buy-in with our staff and supporters is secured through clear communication of our objectives and the provision of practical resources to adopt new practices and change consumer behaviour. This presentation will outline the steps taken through BC SPCA’s feasibility assessment to arrive at a new policy that advances our commitment to the welfare of farmed animals.

Key Learnings:
1. Setting a food policy objective that is consistent with your organization’s principles
2. Conducting a feasibility assessment to gauge impact and secure organizational buy-in
3. Implementing your new food policy on the ground


Patti Nyman, Animal Place
Patti Nyman holds a Master’s degree in Social and Political Thought from York University where she specialized in theories of liberation. She has taught undergraduate courses at York University on critical social theory and dominant ideologies of the West. In 2014, she wrote Why Veganism: An Introduction (Vegan Publishers), a short but comprehensive educational tool for both vegans and non-vegans that outlines current issues pertaining to the consciousness of animal use, the ethics of veganism, animal agriculture and environmental destruction, and eating animals and human health. A writer and activist, Patti has written scholarly articles on feminist theory and the philosophy of religion, regularly writes for One Green Planet and The Dodo on environmental issues and animal rights, and can occasionally be found leafleting across Ontario universities with Vegan Outreach. In addition to working on the Food for Thought campaign, Patti works on Animal Place’s social media, and has helped develop the interactive Museum of Animal Farming at Animal Place’s sanctuary in Grass Valley, California.

Nicholas Gilman, Montreal SPCA
Nicholas Gilman has been working on behalf of animals for over 30 years. He has worked at the local level at animal shelters doing everything from direct care of animals to executive director. His work experience ranges from national disaster relief to cruelty investigation, consulting and shelter design. He worked for three years for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), and for seven years for the American Humane Association (AHA) where he served as Director of Animal Programs. Gilman has appeared on the NBC Today Show, CBS This Morning and National Public Radio. He has authored numerous articles in humane trade magazines and has presented hundreds of workshops on humane issues both in the United States and abroad.  He was a founding board member of the National Federation of Humane Societies.

Gilman is the 2003 recipient of the Dennis J. White award for excellence in instruction and training presented by the American Humane Association (AHA). Gilman was also presented the 2006 Humanitarian of the Year Award by the Wisconsin Federation of Humane Societies. He lives with a dog and a cat who wish to make it clear that they were not consulted on whether Gilman deserves any awards. Since late 2010, Gilman has been the Executive Director of the Montreal SPCA.

Geoff Urton, British Columbia SPCA
Geoff Urton is BC SPCA's Senior Manager of Stakeholder Relations and represents the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies (CFHS) on the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC). Geoff’s background in Animal Welfare Science (UBC) and recent credentials in Dialogue and Negotiation (SFU) have helped him make informed contributions to NFACC’s work, including participation on the Canadian Beef and Dairy Code of Practice Committees.