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Op-Ed: Sacramento SPCA Shows Lack of Ethics in Reversing Animal Friendly Menu Policy

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February 7, 2017


Op-Ed: Sacramento SPCA Shows Lack of Ethics in Reversing Animal-Friendly Policy

By Kim Sturla


Sacramento County is lucky to have three terrific shelters helping animals in this community, and Animal Place has worked with each of them to rescue farmed animals in need. We, along with the rest of the animal rescue community in Sacramento, are shocked and saddened to learn that under the guidance of new CEO Kenn Altine, the Sacramento SPCA has changed its policy and now serves animals on the menu at official events.


Most of us remember Rita, the pig who broke free from her flimsy metal cage and leapt from a transport truck on Highway 50. Somehow, she landed unharmed, and was brought to the Sacramento County Animal Shelter, where she surprised the staff with a litter of piglets. Animal Place brought Rita and her babies to our Grass Valley shelter, where this brave mama and her piglets now live in peace and freedom.


This is what animal shelters do — we’re in the business of saving lives — all lives.


So why, after years of adhering to a board-approved and community-supported meat-free menu policy, did the Sacramento SPCA just become the first shelter in the country we know of to reverse a progressive menu policy – at a time when hundreds of other animal shelters are extending their compassion to include farmed animals?


This is more than a step backwards for a major shelter in a state known for being ahead of the progressive curve. Not only was their animal-friendly food policy lobbied for and embraced by the community, but the Sacramento SPCA is also a member of the California State Humane Association, which itself has a board-approved meat-free menu policy for events.


Throughout California, animal shelter staff go out of their way to take in farmed animals and work with us to find loving permanent homes, rather than sending them to slaughter. We thank these organizations for extending their compassion and care to all animals that come into their care, whether they are a hen, dog, pig, or cat.


When the Sacramento SPCA took in several homeless roosters, deeming their lives worth saving, we were able to take them to our sanctuary and adopt them into backyard flocks. If the SPCA respects the roosters who enter their shelter, why don’t they extend the same compassion to those who end up on their dinner plates at events?


If farmed animals are on the menu at shelter functions, it sends a mixed message, akin to the American Lung Association putting ashtrays on the dinner table at their annual gala. If a dog were treated in the same horrific way as pigs raised for their flesh — castrated without anesthesia, kept in a crate where he could not even turn around, transported without food or water for up to 28 hours — Kenn Altine would be outraged. With this recent reversal of policy, Sacramento SPCA may serve pigs kept in these same conditions at their events.


When Animal Place found out about the radical change at the SPCA, our Campaigns Manager, Patti Nyman, reached out to the SPCA to ask how we could help them return to a more ethical policy. They declined — and they are out of step with their colleagues. More than 250 organizations in North America have adopted animal-friendly menu policies, including Best Friends Animal Society, San Francisco SPCA, SPCA Los Angeles, Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter, Marin Humane Society, and statewide federations like the Virginia Federation of Humane Societies, Maine Federation of Humane Societies, and Washington Federation of Animal Care and Control Agencies. These groups know it is unacceptable to rescue and care for some animals, while putting other animals on a dinner plate at official events.


Shelter leaders have a responsibility to be a moral compass in their communities and stand up to animal cruelty. This is about organizational policy, not the personal choice of individuals. I’m sure Kenn Altine would be horrified to see what life is like for hens on California’s egg farms: stench-filled barns with three feet of feces on the floor and an ammonia odor so strong your eyes burn. If he looked into the eyes of those who have had their nerve-rich beaks seared off, who have spent their entire lives in barren wire cages and have never touched the ground or spread their wings, I think he would reconsider whether it is acceptable for an SPCA to fund this suffering with donor dollars.


Kim Sturla is executive director of Animal Place, www.animalplace.org.