Toward A Safer and More Equitable Movement
We at Better Eating International are disturbed to learn about the continued sexual harassment and other wrongdoing by several male leaders in the animal protection movement. We are witnessing the immense pain, frustration, fear, sadness, and anger in those who have experienced this trauma directly and indirectly. We stand with everyone who has been or who continues to be impacted or triggered by these events.
We are also disturbed by the institutional and cultural failures that allowed harassment to occur and to go unchecked for so long. Furthermore, we presume that the events we are hearing about now are not isolated and instead point to a systemic problem within the animal protection movement. This current discussion is long overdue and we are grateful for those who have bravely come forward to start it. We hope that you are heard and receive full support and redress.
While working for the rights of animals against a speciesist society, we must also combat other forms of oppression that infect our culture, institutions, and relationships. In fact, we believe that without directly confronting sexism, racism, homophobia, ableism, classism, and other discrimination, we become wholly unqualified to confront speciesism. We cannot expect humanity to relinquish its power over animals if we do not also address the imbalances of power and privilege amongst ourselves.
Launched just under a year ago, Better Eating was intentionally designed with an equitable structure in order to prevent problems that stem from imbalanced workplace power dynamics, including harassment and the fear to report it. While the IRS dictates nonprofit structure to some extent, we consulted with an attorney and found several ways we could achieve a more balanced organization:
We do not have an Executive Director. Our three-person Leadership Team works mostly on a consensus basis and reports directly to the board.
Full-time staffers, including the Leadership Team, are prohibited from serving on the Board of Directors.
Since two out of three people on the current Leadership Team are male, we recruited a five-person Board of Directors that includes four women and one non-binary person. We are currently recruiting two additional board members.
To ensure the staff’s interests are represented at the board level, one board member is elected by the staff as Staff Liaison on an annual basis. The staff makes recommendations to the Staff Liaison on how to vote on major issues.
Our team is proud to be mostly people of color, first- and second-generation immigrants, and women. Our commitment to social justice is rooted in our identities; our decisions and ideas can never be separated from who we are. With this diversity of perspectives in positions of power, we are confident that we are building an organization that protects and represents the interests of everyone involved. While we know that our circumstances as a new organization differ from the challenges that more established organizations face, we hope our chosen governance model can provide inspiration or serve as an example to others.
As part of our commitment to specifically prevent and address sexual harassment within Better Eating, we developed a policy that explicitly defines behavior expectations, specifies multiple avenues for reporting complaints, and establishes clear protocols for handling violations. We are committed to ensuring that all staff members attend sexual harassment prevention, bystander intervention, racial equity, and cross-cultural communication trainings. Paired with our organizational structure built on mutual accountability and collaboration, we believe these policies and procedures help us foster a culture of enduring empathy and respect for one another.
At the same time, we remain open to ideas from other movements, other organizations, and our supporters so that we may continue to improve as well. To eradicate institutional oppression, we encourage all animal protection organizations to work together — only then can we grow into a safer, more equitable, and more effective movement.