Eating Animals at Animal Rights Events

Posted by Geoff Fleck, ALDF Attorney on May 31, 2011

Maybe I am barking up the wrong tree, but I have a pet peeve. It’s an issue that I’ve been chomping at the bit to air for some time now. Listen – first of all, I am not trying to come off like some high and mighty know-it-all. I’m not saying I am better than anybody else, or that I have an inside track on what’s right or wrong… I’m just as big a hypocrite as anybody else. But golly gee whiz folks, when we animal lovers/defenders/activists/ lawyers/caregivers get together for a seminar, why on earth do the event organizers serve meat?

I just don’t get it. We get together for hours and days sharing a wealth of knowledge about how to serve the interests of the sentient creatures with which we share the planet, we rail against those who don’t share our heightened sensitivity to their suffering and abuse, and we use our combined intelligence to fashion ways to serve the cause of animal welfare – all while being offered pieces of cows and pigs to munch on. If nothing else, what message are we sending? Aren’t we trying to raise the collective conscience of those who have yet to consider such issues?

I understand the argument that vegetarianism/veganism is a personal choice and that carnivorism is, often times, a "choice" borne out of thoughtlessness. Nevertheless, it makes no sense to me at all to serve harvested, butchered and dismembered pieces of flesh at seminars devoted to the causes of animal protection. Can’t we abandon the habit for an hour or a day, if for no other reason than to simply make a point?


12 thoughts on “Eating Animals at Animal Rights Events

  1. Kerry Pakucko says:

    I am a vegetarian. I have similarly wondered how folks that get so upset about dog/cat/horse abuse don’t see that when they have their hamburgers, steaks, etc, that they have put the cows/pigs through the same horrible abuse as the abused dogs/cats/horses they feel such sympathy for. It’s selective sympathy. I don’t get it.

  2. I hear you. Recently attended a conference on animals in Ottawa that was “vegetarian” with vegan options. 80% of the food was laced with dairy and egg products.

    The worst ever was my first conference in New Zealand. It was run by the local SPCA, and was dedicated to companion animals. It didn’t even occur to me to write ahead to get them to plan a vegan meal. To my utter surprise, the meal was (battery) chicken, the salad full of eggs, and I “enjoyed” a piece of bread – with no spread – for my lunch.

  3. Jessica says:

    As a carnivore, I have had a hard time in these situations when the only options are veggie sandwiches and cookies. I personally have an allergy to the preservatives used on many vegetables to keep them fresh longer, and so I avoid vegetables as much as possible.

    I love animals, and will fight for them until the day I die, but you don’t have to be a vegetarian to be an animal activist. I can eat a hamburger and save a dog’s life at the same time. I realize it seems contradictory, but caring about and helping animals is not an “all or none” issue.

  4. Teri says:

    I am an omnivore. I respect those who choose to be vegetarians. I offer a veggie option at my gatherings. But I eat both. Can’t we just respect each other? No one has the right to force their beliefs on anyone else. I won’t make you eat meat, if you quit calling me a murderer. I believe a healthy diet includes more than just veggie options. My best friend disagrees with me.

  5. Tina D - Reson, VA says:

    I agree with the author, that it’s beyond ridiculous that animal rights groups don’t serve only veg*n food at their events. If the group itself doesn’t get this most basic of points, they don’t really understand what they are fighting for, imo.

    Jessica, that’s actually a similar argument that many of our forefathers had to explain why they kept slaves. They claimed they were against slavery, and yet they kept slaves themselves. Now we look at that and think it was crazy that they had slaves and rightfully so, but we are doing the same thing today with our own reasons for why we kill animals. At some point, we have to look at what we are doing and face the cold, hard facts. If we are eating animals, we are not truly “animal friendly”.

    Teri, we can certainly respect each other, but we each must take responsibility for our own actions, as well. There’s no way to eat meat without an animal being killed. Just because you didn’t do the killing yourself doesn’t mean you are innocent. Your butcher is the “hit man”, but you’re providing the market that keeps the killing going.

  6. Deborah Bourgault says:

    It’s not a simple issue but I think most of us all agree that ALL animals on this planet should be protected from cruelty during the animal’s lifespan. That in a nutshell is the main issue for me. I think serving only veggies at an event that strives to protect cruelty to animals when many of those supporters attending the event eat meat is more hypocritical than serving meat. You don’t have to be a vegetarian or vegan to support a charity working hard to STOP the cruelty to animals. The animals that humans eat are being bred for just that…for consumption. There is no reason they need to suffer while awaiting their slaughter.

  7. Kathryn says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with Deborah. Well said. :)

  8. Jennifer says:

    I think there’s also sometimes a disconnect between dog/cat activists and compassion for farm animals. I know some very caring people who continue to fight for “companion animals” while remaining willfully ignorant to the plight of farm animals. It’s very selective, and I think sometimes it’s cultural (not an excuse, just an observation). A lot of the animal lovers I know who continue to eat meat come from either rural or suburban areas, and maybe the idea of even becoming vegetarian, let alone vegan, seems utterly foreign and/ or impossible to them. So they choose not to think about it.
    I wish there could be some sort of campaign to reach volunteers at dog/cat shelters and other companion animal organizations, just to get the point across that all animals have feelings, not just the ones we keep as pets.

  9. Marion says:

    Great article, thanks.

    This could be the answer:

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=inside-the-meat-lab

  10. Sarah Panullo says:

    It’s an odd thing, sort of like when people thought blacks were to be used for slaves… People get in this weird mind set, and they would swear they are right about the way they do things. A cow is no different from a cat… People should not be eating meat at a shelter fundraiser. Either you like animals or you don’t. Come on people. Wake up!

  11. Bea says:

    Hi Kerry Pakucko – “Selective sympathy” – That’s a very accurate way to describe eat (some) animals – while trying to save others.

    Hi Peter Sankoff – Sorry for your experience… It’s obvious all people in the animal protection movements haven’t accurately thought things through. :(

    Jessica – I don’t think you are a “carnivore”… You do eat some veggies right? Certainly if you didn’t you’d perish for the lack of nourishment your body requires.

    But I’m curious… Which “them” will you “fight for” until the day you die? And what criteria of their “value” do you use?

    No, I cannot dedicate every minute of my day standing in front of a slaughterhouse wailing in grief over the immense, needless, INSTITUTIONALIZED suffering inside. BUT, I sure as heck can make a giant difference in respecting all life to what extent I can, by merely leaving their stolen bodies off my plate. ;)

    Teri… I don’t agree that anyone is trying to “force” their beliefs on to you. But I do think many are hoping that people see the connection of cruelty to “food animals” as well as “pet animals”. After all, they equally enjoy their lives… And they can equally suffer from the loss of it. I don’t know how you can separate the two – honestly. (?)

    As far as a healthy diet including animal products I think you’ll find more information coming out all the time that this just isn’t so. In fact the more we learn meat/eggs/dairy are very questionable to consume even in small portions:
    http://www.eatright.org/about/content.aspx?id=8357

    Hi Tina D! “Your butcher is the “hit man”, but you’re providing the market that keeps the killing going.” Agreed! Great observation!

    Deborah – You say these “food animals” are being “bred just for that”. But that is the issue of this inconsistency. Do you feel that the cats/dogs being “bred” in Asia for “meat” is acceptable? Or that mice/rats/primates/frogs “bred” just for experimentation is okay? Just because something is instutionalized doesn’t make it right.

    If one person is unkind to an animal it is considered to be cruelty, but where a lot of people are unkind to animals, especially in the name of commerce, the cruelty is condoned and, once large sums of money are at stake, will be defended to the last by otherwise intelligent people.
    -Ruth Harrison

    Finally, Jennifer you say “I wish there could be some sort of campaign to reach volunteers at dog/cat shelters and other companion animal organizations, just to get the point across that all animals have feelings, not just the ones we keep as pets.” I totally agree this is a problem. I’ve made efforts to distribute “veg” literature to local shelter staff and to vets in my area. The disconnect with veterinarians is also an area that could use some enlightenment as to the compassionate treatment of ALL sentient beings.

    Fair enough to keep this conversation going with people who obviously want to do the right thing but are being mislead (for the lack of critical thinking) in other directions. 99% of us who are “kind” people started out with this contrary belief system – I think knowledge is empowering and things can & will change for the better for All the critters we’re trying to help.

  12. Tina S. (PA) says:

    I have been asking this same burning question for almost 30 years now…..OMG!! 1 or 2 days or a few hours will not cause you to suffer by not eating animals.
    If it’s an animal rescue, activist, rights, guardian, pet care, fundraiser, training, protest/demo, lecture/seminar, etc….do not serve dead animals! It’s plain & simple!
    Yes, being vegan/vegetarian is a personal choice but at animal-related events to educate, save, help, etc…animals, it just makes more sense to not serve dead animals. For those of you who are not vegetarian/vegan or have allergies to soy, veggies, or only eat organic, etc….plan to bring your own food. As a strict vegan, whenever I attend/participate in any animal or non-animal-related event, I always properly pack my own food, just in case there is nothing available. At many animal-related events, the veggie/vegan foods have mushrooms or pine nuts…I cannot eat either of these, so I am prepared w/my own food. If there are foods I can eat, I partake; if not, no problem. Think & plan ahead people. Just do it for the animals & call it a day!

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