Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Meat of the Issue

Now and again, we receive comments and complaints – directly or through social media – about the fact that the OHS serves meat at our various functions. Sometimes, concerns come from inside the OHS, as many of our staff have made the personal decision to eschew meat.

It is a very interesting debate. Why eat one animal and rescue another? As an animal welfare organization, our commitment is to humane husbandry and slaughter, not necessarily to the total non-exploitation of animals inherent in most animal rights positions. But, as a humane society, we know that many standard agricultural practices would not meet the tests we would apply to the care of a dog or a cat. We will not serve meals at the cost of overt animal cruelty – live lobster, foie gras, etc. – but do we really know that the source of everything we serve was raised humanely? No.

OHS Summer Harvest Garden Party 2013

While meat is served at most, if not all, OHS events, we also make sure the vegan and vegetarian options are as good or better to demonstrate the option as viable. (I once attended a Humane Society of the United States lunch, shortly after it "went vegan." The offering was a scoopful of mashed potatoes, a scoopful of yams, and a salad. It was hardly an advertisement for veganism.)

I do know that the debate is no-win for the OHS, with some demanding to know why we aren’t strictly vegan in everything we do, and others telling us that we are distracted from our "real work" by wading into the meat debate.

I think about it a lot. At best, our position is untidy; at worst, hypocritical. I wonder if the OHS should take a philosophical stand on the consumption of meat overall. If we did, what might the implications be for our communications, education, advocacy, and other work? Is it a distraction, or does it need to be a core value? Further, would the position affect our ability to raise funds for our core work?  If so, are we now choosing chickens over dogs and cats, instead of the reverse?

At the OHS, we want to be leaders. We can and do protest, but it isn't our only tool, and we use it sparingly. We want to be credible, not hectoring. In most cases, we have lead by pulling our community rather than pushing it, choosing education and communication over confrontation most of the time.

Like with so many things we would like to do, it would be great if we had the resources to lead in this regard, not by banning, but by educating. I truly wish that those who care deeply about this issue would help, perhaps by leading a discussion group or a hosting cooking demonstration here at the OHS. I wonder if anyone would come.

I know I have asked more questions than I have answered. Maybe you could tell us what you think on our Facebook page or at

Bruce Roney,
Executive Director

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