In our Menu of Outcomes blog series, we explore different interventions for achieving animal advocacy outcomes and highlight real-world examples from charities across the movement. Here, we look at interventions to increase the availability and improve the quality of plant-based and cell-cultured products.
This post highlights some of the ways animal advocacy groups are transforming the food system and other industries by increasing the availability of animal-free products. Our goal here is not to examine or compare the effectiveness of different interventions,1 but rather to showcase the diversity of approaches animal advocates can use to achieve similar goals. We hope that the programs and interventions below inspire organizations and individuals to broaden their awareness of ways to approach their work.
Cellular Agriculture Australia: Advancing the Cell-Ag Industry
Cellular agriculture—animal-derived products grown using cells instead of animals—has the potential to strengthen food security, reduce pollution and land use, and eradicate factory farming, sparing the lives of billions of farmed animals per year. But more research, talent, and resources are needed before cellular agriculture can ramp up production and achieve its potential impact.
Cellular Agriculture Australia (CAA) aims to propel cellular agriculture forward by fostering research, collaboration, competition, and innovation across the Australian cell-ag industry. Their efforts include raising public awareness about cell-cultured technology, promoting career paths in the field, and supporting novel and applied cellular agriculture research.
“There are currently eight cellular agriculture companies and six academic labs actively researching in Australia,” said Joanne Tunna, Operations Manager at CAA. “The ecosystem, although still emerging, is gaining momentum, in part due to CAA’s efforts to raise awareness and educate students as well as connect talent to research and industry opportunities.”
One of those opportunities is Seed Grants: CAA’s new seed funding program designed to attract new talent and increase the amount of open-access research in the field. Others interested in pursuing a future in cellular agriculture can visit Pathways, an interactive career exploration tool detailing in-demand majors, focus areas, and job roles required to tackle the industry’s biggest challenges.
“Despite inherent competition, there are a lot of common challenges and opportunities facing individual companies—from technical innovation and regulation through to public awareness and acceptance—that if approached collaboratively, will enable greater progress to be made,” said Tunna. “Similarly, through bridging the gap between academia and industry, we are better placed to build a future-fit talent pipeline to enable open-access, industry-relevant research.”
Dansk Vegetarisk Forening: Securing the Right to Eat Vegan
While legal change takes longer to achieve than many other interventions, we suspect its effects to be particularly long-lasting. Dansk Vegetarisk Forening (DVF) is taking the long-haul approach to protecting the rights of vegans and vegetarians (i.e., veg*ns) by lobbying to pass a national law that would require public kitchens in Denmark to offer plant-based options. DVF has worked with individual institutions and municipalities on the issue since 2014, and they’ve campaigned to establish a national law since 2016.
“While in some public kitchens, vegan food is available and excellent, in other public kitchens, there are major issues,” said Rune-Christoffer Dragsdahl, DVF’s Secretary General of Politics and Media.
According to Dragsdahl, public institutions that do not guarantee veg*n options include daycares, hospitals, psychiatric facilities, recovery centers, and homes for the elderly. In March 2022, the Folketing (Danish Parliament) voted to investigate the possibility of requiring public kitchens to offer plant-based options, but the proposal is likely to take a long time and may not apply to all facilities.
In hopes of expediting the legislative process, DVF is now pursuing the issue through the courts. They’ve raised enough money through micro-donations to file four cases on behalf of people who were denied plant-based options at public daycares and hospitals. These cases, which have attracted significant media attention, are expected to be tried in the High Court.
Dragsdahl noted that implementing the law should not be particularly challenging, given that public kitchens are already incorporating more plant-based ingredients due to new dietary guidelines in Denmark. He proposes that all public kitchens serve predominantly plant-based meals and that animal products should be available by request for those who want them.
“It would protect the rights of vegans, while also nudging everyone [to eat more] plants, but with the freedom to choose.”
Dzīvnieku Brīvība: Making Latvia Vegan-Friendly
Increasing the availability of plant-based options in restaurants can help normalize vegan foods and make it easier for people to stick to a vegan diet. Through their Augi & Draugi (Plants & Friends) program, Dzīvnieku Brīvība advises Latvian restaurants on how to cook vegan food and add vegan options to their menus. They’ve partnered with 128 restaurants to date.
“My advice to [restaurants] looking to introduce vegan options would be to not overcomplicate it,” said Lilita Kenta, Plant-based Project Coordinator at Dzīvnieku Brīvība. “Start by choosing a couple of your existing meals that can easily be tweaked, and with a few simple changes, you can have an equally delicious and nutritious plant-based meal.”
After receiving a Movement Grant in 2020, Dzīvnieku Brīvība told ACE that plant-based food was now available in all regions of Latvia, crediting their grant with helping them reach more people and making Latvia a more vegan-friendly place. However, some Latvians still face barriers to accessing plant-based options.
“There are now a lot of places offering vegan options in Riga, the capital of Latvia, however, the offer[ings] in the rest of the country is still quite poor,” said Kenta. “In addition, the vegan options that are currently available in cafes and restaurants tend to be more expensive than traditional meals. Not only does this make them less accessible to vegans, but also less desirable for other customers who would otherwise be interested in a plant-based option.”
Fortunately, Augi & Draugi will soon be expanding their efforts to target food producers and retailers in Latvia, which may help make plant-based products more accessible nationwide. In the meantime, anyone looking for restaurants with plant-based options in Latvia can find them via a map on Augi & Draugi’s website.
Reimagine Agriculture: Reimagining Canada’s Food System
In addition to animal suffering, conventional animal agriculture poses formidable threats to the environment and society. Canadian organization Reimagine Agriculture aims to mitigate these threats and improve the availability of animal-free options through a targeted policy campaign to support the development of cell-cultured meat in Canada.
“The global demand for meat severely impacts environmental and global health, social welfare, and current and future food security,” said Allison Penner, Reimagine Agriculture’s Executive Director, adding: “In 2021, Canada slaughtered 825 million animals to meet the national and growing international demand for animal products, repeating the trend of recent years.2 This number represents the staggering amount of suffering experienced by animals with minimal legal rights or protections.”
Reimagine Agriculture has written a policy brief to help Members of Parliament (MPs) understand how cellular agriculture can help achieve climate goals, prevent food-related health issues, and support a sustainable future. Supporters can also send their MPs a petition asking for specific policies to address gaps in funding, regulation, and education that are affecting the Canadian cellular agriculture industry.
Reimagine Agriculture has other campaigns to reform the food system. Project: Food Fight focuses on legal and policy-based solutions to reducing food waste, while “Our World in Drought” (a video series) covers the effect of droughts on our food supply (and, conversely, how our food choices and agricultural practices can exacerbate or mitigate them).
“These issues are fixable and should be considered massive opportunities to address environmental and social issues, including food security. Each issue abuses limited resources at severe costs,” said Allison Penner. “Through this work, we can relearn the value of our food.”
Associação Vegetariana Portuguesa: Increasing Vegan Choices in Schools
Many children are told to “eat their vegetables,” only to have little or inadequate access to healthy plant-based options at school. Associação Vegetariana Portuguesa (AVP) aims to encourage sustainable eating habits at younger ages by introducing tasty plant-based options in school cafeterias.
Through their Prato Sustentável (Sustainable Plate) program, AVP works with municipalities to implement sustainable food measures at schools in their municipal network. The program’s three measures include: a weekly day in which all students in the municipality are served a plant-based meal (like Meatless Mondays); plant-based training for cafeteria cooks; and educational workshops on sustainable food choices for students, parents, and teachers.
“We have been making good progress [with the program] and were able to sign a contract with two large municipalities in Portugal: Albufeira (in Algarve, the south region) and Almada (close to Lisbon, the capital city),” said Nuno Alvim, AVP’s Director and Project Coordinator. “[This] will ensure that one plant-based meal is served to thousands of students, once per week.”
According to AVP, food represents the largest share of Portugal’s ecological footprint (30%), and meat and fish consumption account for half of this. Increasing the popularity of plant-based foods could therefore have a significant impact on Portugal’s efforts to combat climate change. Fortunately, Alvim is confident that the country is trending toward becoming more plant-based.
“At the moment, [plant-based foods] are more popular amongst college students (18+), where about 10% of all served meals are plant-based,” Alvim told ACE. “In schools, there is still a long way to go; data from 2018 indicated that only 1% of all meals were plant-based, but we are convinced that the trend is plant-based, as there are a number of municipalities that have been working towards increasing the availability of plant-based food in cafeterias and school canteens.”
How to Support
All of the organizations featured in this post received funding for their work through Movement Grants, ACE’s grantmaking program aimed at building and strengthening the global animal advocacy movement. Support for our next round of grantees—donate to Movement Grants today.
Animal Charity Evaluators (ACE) seeks to identify the most effective strategies to reduce animal suffering. Based on available research, ACE currently prioritizes institutional interventions—those focused on influencing larger-scale systems and social norms—over individual ones, which affect change at the personal level. Despite this, we recognize that interventions can achieve multiple outcomes, and shifts in individual behaviors can help drive systemic change.