At our core, Animal Outlook always looks to find high-impact ways to move our society away from animal products and toward vegan eating. This may seem like a daunting task, given the sheer number of animals killed each year in the U.S. alone in the meat, dairy and egg industries. And let’s not forget about the loudly enthusiastic meat defenders who come out of the woodwork with a hyperbolic burger-promoting “this is America” tweet every time a whisper of the topic comes up. Look a bit deeper, though, and some unexpected and encouraging facts emerge.
Most people are pro-animal protection, and many support animal rights. Survey data shows a constant and growing support for protection for animals, including those trapped in the meat, dairy and egg industries, even among people who consume these animal products. Meanwhile, public support and interest in plant-based eating has skyrocketed in recent years, with more than half of millennials incorporating more of these foods into their lives.
So what’s the problem?
Why haven’t we passed the tipping point for takeover of animal-based products by their plant-based alternatives? Clearly people want this, and the demand is there. The values are there. A major part of the puzzle is practical. Vegan food just isn’t readily available in most people’s environments, relative to animal-based food. We need to bring vegan options to people where they are, right outside their doors, and we will see vegan options replacing animal-based ones. To resolve this efficiently with high impact, we have to go to the players who hold much of the control over what ends up on store shelves and in restaurants – corporations.
Corporate engagement victories
Animal Outlook began its corporate engagement work more than a decade ago by targeting large companies likely to change with the right kind of pressure. Our work moved vegetarian companies Lightlife, Boca, Morningstar and Quorn away from the animal products they were still using and toward vegan as standard fare. This work helped to establish vegan as the gold standard, moving beyond vegetarianism and helping put vegan eating firmly on the rise.
Once we had these successes, the next phase of our corporate strategy was to work with companies who are everywhere, bringing vegan eating to main street – and to office buildings, truck stops and strip malls all across the country. We chose Subway because the chain has more locations than McDonald’s. This led to thousands of people demanding more vegan options and Subway testing three different plant-based protein sandwiches. Our Dunkin’ and Starbucks campaigns have led to multiple new vegan options at each chain, including vegan milks and protein options, culminating in the introduction of a nationwide chickpea-based meal at Starbucks in March of 2021, and Dunkin’s European test market of dozens of new vegan donut options, which we hope to see rolled out in the U.S. as well.
We are in a rapid growth phase for vegan food availability and demand. Major food companies are bringing vegan options on board at an unprecedented scale and pace. Our work is now contributing to vegan options at McDonald’s and other fast-food outlets, and we have successfully gotten Nestlé to add vegan offerings.
What will the next wave be?
Our role as an advocacy organization is to recognize the potential of this work and to think big – very big. It’s also to add value through mobilizing public action and helping these companies add to the size and impact of this wave. Our job now is to find bottlenecks and impediments keeping food companies from adopting more and bigger proportions of vegan food offerings, to help resolve those issues, and to apply positive pressure to push vegan eating firmly into the mainstream.
To realize its potential for effectiveness, this work must include all parts of the supply chain at scale. And we’re working to transition food manufacturing companies, restaurant chains and farmers away from animal products and into vegan offerings. Ultimately, these supply-side interventions will, at a mass scale, bring to people’s doorstep the opportunity to truly live their values.
With your support, we will continue to work with major companies to bring more vegan options to the mainstream. Your donation today will help keep up this momentum – a win for us and a win for the animals.
As Executive Director of Animal Outlook, a national nonprofit animal protection organization, Cheryl is responsible for development and oversight of investigations, litigation and policy, and effecting mainstream corporate and cultural change to shift away from animal products and reduce the suffering of farmed animals.
Cheryl and her work have been featured in media outlets including NPR, The Washington Post and many others. She is a regular speaker at law schools and conferences.
Cheryl received a J.D. from UCLA School of Law and a B.A. from the University of Chicago in Environmental Studies. She is a member of the District of Columbia, Maryland, and California bars and is based in Los Angeles.